Vertical Industry Marketing Gains Momentum But Requires A Learning Curve

shutterstock 69698566Vertical-based marketing offers a huge opportunity for growth, but it requires a deep understanding of a particular business segment that goes beyond simply adding a few “insider” phrases to generic content. With careful positioning around a benefit statement for a specific market or even accounts within a market, businesses can drive profitable long-term engagements within a vertical, experts told Demand Gen Report.

“The most common mistake marketers make in terms of vertical industry marketing is thinking that adding a few buzzwords and niche terms to their marketing collateral is enough to appeal to their desired vertical,” said Justin Gray, CEO of LeadMD. “The reality is that marketers must demonstrate a certain level of expertise in that industry — which means committing to a learning curve in which they understand the end user’s challenges and pain points.”

Jason Rushforth, VP of Industry Solutions for Oracle Eloqua, said that vertical marketing has always existed; however, the tools and platforms to support unique needs has failed to meet the expectations in certain industries. “Over the past three years what has changed and come to the forefront in the implicit needs of marketers in the space. They are using solutions that align with their core business needs and challenges which differs from industry to industry.”

Start By Building A Buyer Persona

Gray said developing a buyer persona by interviewing key individuals within the space you want to penetrate is essential to successful vertical industry marketing. “Most successful businesses start with some insight into a space or problem that is somewhat proprietary in knowledge.”

Marketing automation is a critical component of a successful vertical-oriented marketing approach, according Gray. “For a horizontal market, a company might put out a more overarching campaign that sells brand strength and wide-reaching benefits,” he said. “But to get a toehold in a vertical market, businesses will need to establish that they have the specialized knowledge and expertise necessary to be a desirable solution. This is where marketing automation can really help — through nurture campaigns that deliver carefully targeted messages and high-value content.”

To market solutions that address particular industry challenges, marketers can use customized, relevant emails and landing pages, as well as industry-specific incentives, Gray explained. “Furthermore, the metrics possible with marketing automation can help marketers specialize and refine their messaging even more, establishing themselves as educated and knowledgeable resources.”

Gray said B2B marketers targeting a particular vertical should refer to industry-relevant outlets for their messaging. “Instead of adopting a wide dissemination strategy, zero in on media channels specific to each vertical, such as online forums, tradeshows, publications or email newsletters. This all starts and ends with the buyer and their needs — and buyer personas show their immense value.”

Ellen Valentine, Product Evangelist for Silverpop, said that many of the same principles apply, whether you’re trying to reach a niche audience or a broader customer base. “Everyone has the same challenges of finding new leads and nurturing prospects through the pipeline. Those who are successful are able to identify what is different about a buyer’s journey in one industry compared to another.”

While many of the same strategies from horizontal marketing efforts can be applied to vertical industry marketing campaigns, it is important to understand how B2B buyers in the specific industry being targeted approach their jobs, according to observers. In highly-regulated areas such as insurance, health care and manufacturing, educating potential buyers about changes in their industry offers an opening to gain their trust and position your company as a valuable resource.

“Marketing to manage and cultivate long-term relationships is about delivering the right message to the right person at the right time,” said Rushforth. “This message sounds similar to traditional marketing automation for lead lifecycle management. However, where it’s different is that instead of passing leads, you are typically building a profile to continue building the relationship with the individual.”

Develop Content Around Industry Issues

White papers, webinars and other targeted pieces of content enable organizations to communicate an understanding of the needs of a vertical industry, allowing them to establish their positioning as thought leaders and trusted sources, said Atri Chatterjee, CMO of Act-On. “It starts with an understanding of the buyer’s journey for that particular industry and immersing yourself in the issues that are important to them. Then you build content and a curriculum around those issues. It is about educating them and getting seen as an expert in the field.”

Chatterjee noted that marketing automation vendors are designing their systems to make vertical-industry marketing more manageable. “It is about giving marketers flexibility to adapt to the different work flows and nuances of a particular vertical. For example, marketing automation vendors can provide marketers with templates that make sense and appeal to various markets, as well as the flexibility to build their own.”

Marketers in more complex industries require their vendors to not only understand their business but to also reflect this knowledge inside the application, Rushforth noted. “As it pertains to marketing automation it’s crucial that vendors not only understand the downward pressure as it pertains to regulation and governance, but acknowledges what use cases are applicable to their industry. Best practices or campaign management needs to reflect who their target audience is and what the desired outcomes of the program will achieve.”

As many B2B buyers look to delay their interaction with the sales staff until they are further along in the buying process, presenting content that is relevant to a specific industry will become even more challenging, experts noted.

“Being able to fill in that information is crucial if marketers are going to serve up relevant content,” said Tamara Graves, Senior Director of Demand Generation for NetProspex. “While a B2B marketer may only ask for an email to download a white paper, that email can provide information on the prospect’s company and industry. Being able to send a powerful, personalized and relevant message is a crucial component of successful vertical industry marketing.”