Once you select a beachhead market, you have to put your entire company focus on it.
It doesn’t mean you need to drop your customers outside that segment, but there’s definitely a re-prioritization that needs to occur.
You want to put yourself in a “thought leadership” position as quickly as possible. The more customers trust that your company is an expert in the field, the more likely they are to buy from you.
To do this, you need to become one of them.
Prospects should be your friends.
Get to know them, spend time with them. You need to want to be with them, show that you care and demonstrate that you’re building for the long run.
Being an outsider is only acceptable in the early days.
For a technology company targeting the energy industry like Flutura, this meant immersing themselves in Houston, the “Silicon Valley of the Energy industry”.
Derick Jose and his co-founders did a lot of half-day Lunch and learns, they surrounded themselves with retired oil and gas SME veterans, did a lot of quick show and tell pilots and spent time where the customers were.
If you’re serious about winning your beachhead, you have to be part of the community.
How Wistia Found Their Company Focus
For a company like Wistia, selling a video analytics platform to marketers, this meant understanding where marketers spent their time.
They managed to hone in on a niche marketing segment after trying to sell to artists, compliance departments in organizations, the medical device industry and telecom companies.
Once they found product-market fit, it became obvious that they needed to better understand their segment.
Wistia co-founder Chris Savage mentioned in an interview how they approached customers telling them they were thinking about sharing their blog posts on Hacker News, a startup news site.
The reaction they got was: “I’ve never heard of this website.” After asking more questions, they figured out that their customers typically read more industry publications and major newspapers, not tech blogs.
That helped them realize that they weren’t going to be able to reach prospects without digging deeper.
They had to figure out where their customers spent time, what books they read, what blogs they checked out, what movies they went to — everything about their micro-target.
From there, the decision-maker had to become these prospect customers when writing copy, deciding what videos to make, what features to build.
How to Create Company Focus Around Your Beachhead Market
Your beachhead has to be clear both internally and externally.
Defining what you’re not is a good way of reminding your whole team of your mission.
Take the time with your team to define your bad fits and your anti-personas. Make sure everyone understands what a bad lead looks like.
Working with the wrong clients does not help your reputation, your blood pressure, your work-life balance, or your business’s overall success.
One of the most important things in a startup is the decision-making process. If it’s clear on the inside who your startup is for, it limits the scope of discussions and enables your people to make quick customer decisions.
One of the better examples of internal alignment I’ve seen is Spotfire, a Swedish data visualization company that went from an un-focused horizontal model to targeting a vertical in the chemical and biology space.
Once that decision was made, president Rock Gnatovich repositioned the entire company around that vertical. His team was even informed not to take calls from prospects in other segments or customer groups.
Eventually, when Spotfire gained a dominant share of the chemical and biology segment, they revisited the messages from prospects outside their vertical.
After careful analysis, they expanded in the energy sector, which led them to open a sales office in Houston. Them as well.
What Having ‘Company Focus’ Means
As a founder, you have to be able to tell the difference between ‘never’, and ‘not now’.
Focus helps you attract the right opportunities, allows you to spend your marketing dollars in the right places, makes your sales targets less overwhelming, and makes your marketing more effective (Read: Why Your Fear of Committing to Niche Markets Will Kill Your Startup).
The more distinctly you cater to a particular customer segment, the more important it is that you emphasize the targeted population’s needs or preferences in your website copy and graphics.
To properly target your niche market, you must craft your product messaging in a way that attracts the attention of your beachhead.
This can be:
- The testimonies you choose — Will target customers recognize themselves in the case studies you promote?
- The value proposition — Does it reflect the pains of your beachhead customers? Does it connect with them?
- The influencers your work with — Are they influential in your target segment or just influential in general?
- The images you use — Do they fit your demographic’s worldview, education, gender, race, etc?
- The tone, the style, and the language — Your tone and language will be different whether you’re targeting a 20-something group or CEO types.
- The needs — How do you plan to meet their needs in your messaging?
- The client list — Your prospects will project themselves in the customer you choose. Are they the right ones?
- The blog posts — Do they fit your ideal customer profile? Do they solve their unique pain points?
- The values and the way your company is presented — How can you make your company story connect with prospects? Does it feel like you’re ‘one of them’?
All of these elements will evolve over time as you make your way through the adoption curve.
Plan to tighten the messaging as you capture a bigger share of the market.
Businesses want to work with vendors that are in it for the long haul. Long-term commitment helps reduce their risk.
You have to commit and focus to create real growth velocity. Company focus is a big part of it!
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Further Readings on B2B Customer Development
I publish articles on B2B customer development every week on my blog:
- Can The Lean Startup Techniques Work in B2B?
- How Much Time Do You Need to Get to Product-Market Fit in B2B?
- 16 Tips for Better Customer Development Interviews in B2B
Originally published at leanb2bbook.com.