One of the tell-tale signs of most startup IT companies is their customers comprise a smorgasbord of markets. And, that’s understandable: When you’re just starting out, you typically take whatever new business you can earn. There comes a time, however, when you must get more focused and strategic in the types of prospects you pursue.
One way to do this is by zeroing in on a specific vertical market that you may or may not already be concentrating on. The business rationalize is easy to justify. Specialization allows for scale and in many cases, speeds success. Here are a few others reasons why you may want to take a closer look at your skill set and the markets you serve and seek to specialize:
1. Decision-Makers are Becoming More Skeptical.
One of the things that decision-makers across nearly every vertical market have in common is they all believe their business challenges are unique to them. On the surface, that claim appears false — all companies need computers, networks and servers. However, as you go beneath the surface, you will see a different story.
For example, the banking industry as a whole has a problem of an aging infrastructure, and banks have to deal with the fact that there are going to be 1 billion mobile users this year who don’t want to be limited to visiting a branch. Additionally, every vertical market has concerns about how data should be secured, but some markets, like financial services for example, take it a step further and require companies to control where (i.e. data sovereignty) their data is being stored. If an IT solution provider approaches a company in one of these verticals and name drops customers in other markets (e.g. retail, healthcare, higher education), it can backfire.
Today’s decision-makers want to work with IT professionals who are experts in their market. If these prospects visit your website and don’t see evidence that you have other customers in their space and vertical-specific offerings, it’s going to be lot harder to close that deal.
2. Provide Higher Levels of Expertise and Service.
When you focus on a specific vertical market, you become aware of the business challenges that are unique to that market. Having this knowledge is the first step to alleviate some of your customer’s burdens. Consider the following healthcare example:
One of biggest providers of EMR (electronic medical record) and practice management solutions is Epic Systems, makers of EpicCare EMR. As we’ve interviewed and surveyed hundreds of IT solution providers that sell into the healthcare market, it’s surprising to discover how few partners know anything about Epic as a company or their software.
To put things into perspective, some hospitals allocate millions of dollars to Epic-related projects alone. IT solution providers that make the effort to understand the role of EMR and other practice-specific solutions discover a whole new world of sales opportunities.
For example, when a healthcare IT-savvy solution provider talks to healthcare practice decision-makers, the provider is able to ask engaging questions about the practice’s EMR adoption challenges, insurance billing challenges, and user frustrations, which is a true pain point for many practices. Additionally, some have taken it to the next level and can provide EMR training and deeper integration between EMR, practice management, and other office applications.
I realize that the saying “become a trusted advisor” is overused in the channel, but put yourself in the position of a small healthcare practice that’s trying to keep up with all the latest Affordable Care Act and HIPAA mandates while still trying to take care of its patients. You can imagine how appreciative they are when they encounter a partner who can answer their EMR and practice management questions instead of being redirected to another company.
3. Develop Stronger Vendor Partnerships.
Most IT solution providers would agree their hardware and software vendors play key roles in their success, not only through their products, but through their help desk support, training and leads. In a similar way that end user decision-makers are looking for solution providers with vertical market expertise, many IT vendors are seeking that, too.
Recently, I met with business development executives from Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Citrix. They are collaborating in the healthcare market to secure mission-critical and life-critical data solutions and to enable clinical mobile workspaces that deliver apps, desktops, files and services to any user, on any device, over any network. They wanted to meet with Ingram Micro because they know we’re building our healthcare partner base and want to target the right specialists within the channel. Many solution providers and MSPs that don’t have a vertical market focus will miss out on these specialized solutions and opportunities, and waste months of time trying to piece together similar solutions on their own.
At our Fall 2015 Ingram Micro ONE event, I spoke to attendees about the top vertical markets analysts are projecting to grow the most over the next few years. I would encourage you to check it out (click here to read highlights from the presentation), explore one that fits your company best, and see where it takes you.