Are in the Niches
by Candyce Edelen | CEO, PropelGrowth
Are in the Niches
by Candyce Edelen
A niche strategy is the second step to leapfrog your competition and speed up the growth and profitability of your business.
The previous chapter on leapfrogging your competition covered how to figure out your unique value proposition. It is based on your unique business strategy, your ideal customer profile, your revenue strategy and the skills of your team. Now let’s talk about how to maximize your value and further refine your go-to-market strategy.
Nearly all the most successful Acumatica VARs are finding that a niche focus allows them to grow faster and more predictably. This type of strategy can bring huge business advantages.
For example, a niche strategy allows you to tightly focus your messaging, marketing and sales outreach.
A niche strategy also simplifies recruiting and training effective salespeople. Instead of trying to hire people who can cover multiple verticals, you can find specialists in your target niche. A focused approach enables your sales team to develop specialized knowledge and become trusted advisors with your prospects.
A niche focus narrows your target audience, which dramatically simplifies your content needs. This can reduce marketing spend compared to a broader market approach. You’ll need less content, and it will be easier to make the content really specific to your target audience’s needs.
This is important because buying processes have changed.
Practical Steps to Success
In this video, our CEO Candyce Edelen goes deeper into how to select a niche based on your existing customers and your team’s expertise.
Tim Rodman, ERP implementation consultant at Aktion Associates, explained, “Before Google, resellers could get away with a geographic focus.” But now, buyers go online to find vendors, so your competition is much broader than just those in your region. Rodman continued, “You have to focus on niches because that’s how you get found.”
A niche focus also allows your implementation consultants to focus and get really good at solving complex business problems. That’s much harder to do as a generalist.
But when you look for a niche, think smaller and more targeted than just an industry vertical.
For example, the construction industry is very broad. There are commercial, industrial and residential builders, manufacturers of building products, concrete installers, various trades, solar installers, HVAC, and the list goes on and on. So instead of picking “construction” as a niche, figure out what special capabilities, experience and relationships your firm brings to the table. For example, if you have some experience with manufacturing and distribution, consider looking at niches of construction materials manufacturers.
Niches are Not Just Vertical
But niche strategy can mean more than just targeting a vertical market. It’s much more precise than that. For example, AKA Enterprise Solutions chases only enterprise deals. Amy Spencer, AKA’s director of marketing said, “We focus on generating enterprise, not SMB leads. Our expertise is in the big, complex, digital transformation projects that might last two years.” Consequently, AKA’s deal size is quite large, even though their transaction volume is lower than many VARs. They look for quality of leads and deal flow, not quantity.
They have a very specialized team and work on specialized projects. “ERP for eCommerce is difficult for most vendors, because they need to know modern approaches to commerce, international trade, etc. Very few ERP VARs focus here.” By specializing, Arcus is able to enhance their market visibility and speed up sales cycles. “Each project increases our credibility and makes it easier to win the next client,” Sloboda explained.
Kensium also focuses on eCommerce. Rick Stefanone, Kensium’s Director of Sales, explained, “Kensium frees customers from the burden of tech-knowledge and having to work with multiple partners as they implement Acumatica, Magento, or BigCommerce. This requires a lot of specialized knowledge because you have to know how all systems work together, how they scale, and more importantly, how to articulate the over- all solution to clients so they use everything correctly. It’s a complex space.
“In addition to understanding ERP and Commerce platforms, we have to know how payments, taxes, shipping, EDI, PIM’s, other marketplaces, etc. all fit together. The knowledge in this space is very detailed and technical, and that’s our differentiator.”
This focus also allows Kensium to generate a lot of sales from strategic partner referrals.
You can also look for other commonalities in the businesses you already serve to identify a specialized niche. For example, Acumatica’s Geoff Ashley writes on the Acumatica blog that “an oil and gas field services maintenance company, a local HVAC company, and the truck driver for a snack food company” all have several things in common: They all have fleets of trucks, carry inventory, use GPS, need to be able to reassign drivers’ routes easily, and need to communicate changes to drivers and customers along the route. You can use this type of similarity to look for firms that have a common set of problems that your team is really good at addressing. That’s a great niche strategy.
Pick a Niche Where You Have Credibility
When developing your niche strategy, make sure to pick areas where your team has specific expertise. Because to be successful as a VAR, you have to build a reputation for successful implementations. You also need customer stories to help gain credibility in a target niche.
Jeff Banks, Director of Sales & Consulting Services at Bennett/Porter & Associates reinforced the importance of relevant expertise, “Make sure you have the skill set in whatever area you’re going into. It might be great to partner with Acumatica for a demo, but your team has to implement it. Go into areas where you know you can be successful.”
Limiting your firm to a specific niche may seem risky. But that kind of focus actually reduces your business risk. You’ll find that it makes everything else simpler. It’s simpler to create your messaging, simpler to make sure you’re findable on Google, simpler to pick conferences to attend, simpler to train your sales team, simpler to hire and train implementation staff, and simpler to gain referrals.
Geoff Ashley points out that, “Not focusing makes it really hard on your people. It’s brutal, because they have to learn a new industry and a new business for every implementation. Both sales and implementations are infinitely harder when you’re not focused.”