Vertical Marketing Strategy for Managed Service Providers

In the post about bringing value to the customers, I mentioned the need to define the customers and focus on them. This is important for designing the best services that fit the customer needs, and it is crucial to stand out from the crowd of competitors as experts in the areas essential for your target group of customers. The target groups are most likely specific industries, also known as vertical markets; therefore, we are discussing vertical marketing strategy.

Let’s start with a simple example. If you want to fix your iPhone, would you rather go to a company specializing in “electronics repair” or an “expert in iPhone repairs”? If your eye hurts, would you go to the general practitioner, or would you instead go to an eye doctor? I hope the analogy is clear. Being a specialist in a particular problem or offering specialized service helps to differentiate your offering from the competition.

Marketing to a vertical

Let’s examine what is needed to market to a specific segment of customers and then review an example.

  1. Solutions tailored for the vertical. The offering should be built based on the needs of the companies working in a specific industry — support for specialized applications, packaging of the services and service level agreements (SLAs).
  2. Pitch tailored for the vertical. It is essential to use the language that the people working in the industry use. Know the major vendors. Know the scenarios. Know their pain points with their IT systems and how to solve them. To be convincing, it is crucial to sound like somebody who works in the industry.
  3. Credentials. You need more than just claiming you are an expert and speaking like one. You can watch an excellent movie about Frank, a skilled forger who has passed as a doctor, lawyer and pilot. Customers want to be reassured they are making the right choice of partner for their business. Therefore, certifications and customer stories are essential. General IT and specialized IT training and certification for the technicians and required compliance certifications for the company (like HIPAA, for example) can be a start. As the practice grows, the success stories of other customers in the industry are adding additional credibility.
  4. Marketing and branding. The website, the social media, and the ads you post should not be controversial, with the image of an expert in one or a few industries you are trying to build. The vertical defines where and how to advertise what images and texts are appropriate and well-accepted. Look at every asset you produce or request from a marketing agency to be aligned with your target audience.
  5. Content interesting for your vertical. The best marketing tools are the articles, videos, recorded and live webinars discussing the IT challenges in your chosen vertical and how they can be resolved. Paradoxically, the more educational the assets are, and the less they talk about your expertise and services, the better they are accepted and build the trust of your potential customers towards you.
  6. Participation in the relevant events and communities. Joining industry communities and attending industry events is necessary to continuously learn about the vertical and showcase your story to potential customers.

The vertical marketing strategy requires a lot of research — interviewing prospects and customers, reading specialized resources, and following relevant influencers and industry news.

Dental practice — an example of a vertical

An MSP willing to support dental practices needs to know what those dental practices use and what they expect from MSPs. Let’s look at a few examples.

  1. Specialized software for dental practice. Management system for the practice like Dentrix. Software to manage instruments used in the practice, like imaging solutions by Dexis.
  2. Specialized software for healthcare providers. Electronic medical records solution and patient portal, like Epic. Telemedicine software like Spruce.
  3. Generic business software. Accounting, like QuickBooks. Productivity and communication software, like Microsoft 365. CRM, if not covered by the practice management system. And other systems, like inventory management, compliance management, backup and recovery, and security.
  4. Compliance. Industry requirements, like HIPAA. Data retention and clean-up are generally a headache for every business, and healthcare practices are even more complicated.

Those are a few examples of what could be a differentiator for the dental practice vertical, which should give a general idea of the direction for developing the vertical strategy.

Implementation of a vertical strategy takes time and requires continuous reviews and adjustments to be a strong differentiator against competition. And one of the best sources of information is the existing customers from the vertical. A strong feedback loop is essential to stay up-to-date with what is going on in the industry.

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