I just got back from the terrific “Breakaway 2010” event put on by CompTIA, the leading computer industry association, and I was glad to see the big emphasis that was being placed on opportunities in the healthcare vertical market for IT solution professionals.
Healthcare has been a choice vertical for IT solution providers for a decade or more, due to the constantly and rapidly developing technology in the medical field – and the abundance of money spent in that industry. At CompTIA, much time was devoted to educating IT professionals about what it takes to get a piece of the health-care action, along with some useful tools to help insure success.
The healthcare vertical is tricky. It has some very unique requirements that create challenges for many solution providers… and that’s EXACTLY why it also creates opportunities for solution providers willing to invest the time and resources to become experts in this area. Being able to walk into a prospect’s office and talk their language, to understand their problems before they tell you about them, to have compelling solutions, and client references from others just like them… well that’s the formula for success.
And while the healthcare market may not be for you, the lesson here is in the value of specialization:
- Scaling your business more predictably - Aligning workflows, business practices and metrics more closely
- Building and leveraging specialized expertise more easily
- Avoiding the need to re-design business processes with each new client
- Identifying one or more vertical markets that you can dominate…
not just locally, but nationally, and, if it’s specialized enough, globally.
At our own Autotask Community Live 2010 worldwide customer conference earlier this year, we took a survey to find out what vertical markets our partners were serving and specializing in. There were dozens mentioned, but the top three were: healthcare, legal and financial services. You can see the diversity of opportunities that exists in vertical marketing from the graph below.
So, how do you pick a vertical market that you can be successful in?
I think the best advice is to start with what you already know, rather than starting at ground zero and competing against providers who already know twice as much about their market as you’ll ever learn.
Begin by taking a census of your own clients – past and current – and see where they line up in terms of types of business. Then, look at their service history to see what specific solutions and services you have delivered for them. Chances are you’ll begin to see patterns.
Once you’ve identified what you think might be a promising vertical market based on your past work, contact your customers in that market and get permission to write up a case study or testimonial describing what you did for them. Most clients will be more than happy to cooperate, and they will value the exposure.
Remember to keep asking questions and spend most of your time listening. You need to genuinely understand their business as well as you understand your own, and be able to speak their language naturally.
Developing that strong expertise in your vertical market will breed referrals, and all it takes is a handful of similar case histories in a common market for you to establish yourself as an expert and specialist in that market.
Of course, there’s a lot more involved in attacking a new vertical. But if you’ve identified those areas where you already have specialized expertise, you’re more than halfway there. And, once you go vertical, you’ll find there’s generally going to be a lot less competition, and the work you do will be more repeatable and more profitable.