Financial services. Healthcare. Higher education. Manufacturing. Marketing to a new vertical is no easy feat. It takes time, resources, and dedication. But all the hard work and investment pay off as you go from being relatively unknown in a segment to the best-in-class solution.

Rather than dedicating all their resources into broad-based marketing, many organizations are adopting a vertical approach. This enables marketers to develop a “beachhead strategy”, focusing on and winning a particular market first before moving into other, larger markets. A vertical approach can be very effective when marketing to target accounts as well, helping you and your organization deliver a more personalized experience.

Let’s look at five key steps to penetrate a new industry:

1. Understand the Market

Start by understanding the market of the segment or vertical you’re trying to penetrate and its nuances. At Marketo, we have team members who are dedicated to verticals of interest. These roles span different functions—segment marketing managers, solution consultants, and account executives—and they are tasked with different areas of market research to establish the breadth and depth of the segment—from perusing analyst reports to staying on top of emerging trends. It’s also critical to look at your own database and leverage the sales and customer success teams for insights as well.

Here are some good questions to answer to get a better understanding of the market:

  • How many existing customers in the vertical do you have?
  • What is the churn rate of the customers in this vertical vs. your overall churn rate, and what factors might contribute to that?
  • How are those customers using your product or service; in other words, is there a product-market fit?

Ultimately, your goal should be to establish the total addressable market (TAM), or total available market, which is essentially the revenue opportunity available for your product or service.

2. Identify Your Personas

Once you have a good understanding of the vertical, start identifying your personas so you can map their buyer journeys and understand how they interact with the different touchpoints at each stage.

Who are the decision-makers and influencers, and what are their demographics and behaviors? How are they different from the personas in other segments? At Marketo, for example, we found that the ideal personas in certain industries may be sales or IT leaders as opposed to marketing leaders, as they drive most of the purchasing decisions. Don’t forget about others who play a role in the purchase process as well, such as influencers or gatekeepers. Again, be sure to include your sales team in your research process—they will have valuable insights and feedback since they are on the front line.

3. Build Sales Support

This step is critical, so don’t cut corners or overlook it! Your sales team is eventually going to be doing the selling, so they need to be armed with as much knowledge and as many resources as possible. You need to enable both your inside and field sales teams with the right messaging and content so they can effectively sell into the chosen segment. For example, if you want to engage asset management firms, a term that would resonate with them is “assets under management” or “AUM.” Similarly, you may find that some of your common vernacular will not work in a new segment. For example, don’t make references to “leads” when trying to penetrate the higher education market.

Much of your messaging development for a new vertical should be based on your research from the prior steps; you should already have an idea of what kind of messages would resonate with your buyers, so it then becomes a matter of creating a cohesive and succinct messaging framework for your sales team.

Here are some segment-specific materials you can create to fully enable your sales team for outbound prospecting:

  • Call lists: List of qualified people in selected accounts for sales outreach
  • Call scripts: General guidance on what to say when cold calling prospects
  • Datasheets: One-page documents explaining how your product is a good fit for a certain segment
  • Training decks: Slide deck for internal sales enablement designed to provide basic knowledge on the chosen segment to your sales team
  • One-page overviews: High-level document addressing the challenges, pain points, and solutions for the chosen segment

4. Start Your Demand Generation Engine

To scale your vertical strategy, demand generation is instrumental in driving qualified leads for the chosen segment, engaging them, and nudging them to the next stage of the customer lifecycle.

To run programs across the lifecycle effectively, the content you have already created may not be sufficient; you need content that’s tailored to each stage of the buyer’s journey. At the early stage, content such as ebooks, slideshows, and blog posts are effective for generating awareness. At the mid-stage, webinars and case studies play an important role in nurturing leads. And at the late stage, product demos can go a long way. While this may sound like a lot, with strategic repurposing, you can ensure that each vertical has content that’s tailored to the market and buyer’s journey.

A helpful exercise is to map out the programs and the frequency with which you can run each program. It is easy to overpromise, but a framework like this will help you set expectations and stay within your budget and resources.

5. Measure Your Results

As with every initiative, it’s important to measure your results. You may not see enough traction initially since much of groundwork is focused on research, content development, and training and leads take time to mature. However, early-stage metrics are still good indicators of early success as you measure all the way through to your ROI.

Here are some important marketing metrics to track at various stages:

  • Early-stage:
    • New names: The number of buyers who are in your database but have not engaged with your company yet (e.g. acquired through a business card at a tradeshow)
    • Leads: The number of leads who are qualified buyers based on your buyer profile and are opted-in to your marketing communications through engagement with your brand
  • Mid-stage:
    • Marketing qualified leads (MQLs): The number of qualified leads based on the scoring model agreed upon by sales and marketing
    • Sales qualified leads (SQLS): The number of qualified leads who are interested in your product or service and are a good fit, based on further evaluation from your sales team
  • Late-stage:
    • Opportunities: The number of SQLs who fit the BANT criteria (budget, authority, need, and time).
    • Pipeline: The total value of opportunities created in the segment
    • Closed won: The number of opportunities that were successfully turned into paying customers. It is important to compare this metric with “closed lost” in order to ascertain the win rate
    • Revenue: The revenue generated from closed won opportunities since the programs started

While these metrics may look similar to those for your broad-based programs, the focus will be on vertical accounts specifically. Accordingly, you may want to set up separate reports and dashboards in your marketing platform to track them.

Want to learn more about industry or other areas of marketing? Attend Marketo’s Marketing Nation Summit, the premier marketing industry event, in San Francisco from April 23-26th! Join my session with Graham Gallivan on “Penetrating Industries With An Integrated Sales and Marketing Strategy”.