By Lorcan Malone

In this overcrowded, ultra-competitive market, you’d think you’d need a megaphone or bulletin-sized billboard to stand out. The truth is, small businesses can skip all those flashy gimmicks – and still enjoy heaps of success – simply by going vertical.

Going vertical allows businesses to specialize in a niche market by offering products or services that meet the needs of a specific group or demographic. It’s a powerful strategy for strengthening marketing campaigns, meeting annual sales goals, and attracting new customers.

Find your niche

If you’re the owner of a small- or midsized business, you may have been too busy running the shop to even consider potential business verticals.

The good news? It’s not too late to start.

There are plenty of opportunities to serve your customers – both within the business-to-business (B2B) community and beyond – by working in niche markets. The first step is determining which sectors to target. If you’re a software developer, focusing on finance-sector startups could be a great start. Or, if you’re a florist, etch out a reputation in the always-lucrative wedding niche, or maybe look to target local hotels in the markets you serve. Think about your business, what it does best, and how you could best position it to conquer a particular niche.

Remember, in today’s oversaturated market, customers expect to be catered to. They want to know how your product or service will benefit them directly. In fact, the majority of shoppers say personalization is likely to influence their buying decisions.

Revisit and reevaluate verticals

In the business world, failures are often predecessors to great successes. If you’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to pursue specific verticals in the past, don’t give up. The verticals you previously targeted could be more relevant today than in the past, so consider giving them with a fresh perspective and consider giving it another try. Demands are cyclical, and customer needs are constantly changing. A previous failed attempt doesn’t necessarily spell disaster for the next one.

On the other hand, if you believe those already sought-after niches are now outdated, find new markets to pursue. In today’s quickly evolving marketplace, you’d hate to be investing advertising, marketing and sales resources into a vertical that’s no longer in demand.

When identifying your business verticals, focus on those that are likely to bring meaningful new revenue and business to your business. Do research and your due diligence to ensure the niche you’re targeting is large enough to be worth your time. The gluten-free market for example, is projected to reach $759 billion by 2020. And did you know the dietary supplement industry has contributed more than $122 billion to the U.S. economy?

The opportunities are out there – you just have to find them.

Monitor changing needs

As I’ve mentioned, being aware of – and responding to – evolving customer demand is critical. It’s an extremely valuable way of attracting new customers, while identifying fresh opportunities with your existing patrons.

Reflect upon the products and services you offer, and connect them with the short- and long-term needs of your customers. Perhaps you have a product that would be of value to the green energy sector, or offer a service that aids the content marketing field. If you’ve done your research, you’ll know that such verticals are projected to see significant growth. Positioning your offerings to meet customers’ needs is a powerful tactic for achieving meaningful net new customer growth.

Capture information

It’s impossible to effectively determine your business verticals without first identifying the needs of your current and prospective customers. Utilize your customer relationship management (CRM) strategy to gain insight into your customers’ inquiries, requests, spending habits, and areas of interest.

An effective CRM strategy captures valuable, current data that can help you market and sell your new verticals to both current and prospective customers. According to an Accenture study, 75 percent of shoppers are more likely to buy from a business that recognizes them by name, recommends products based on previous purchases, or knows their purchase history.  Simply put, offering a personalized service is a statistically-proven way of generating higher sales. A CRM strategy can help your business offer that service.

Let’s face it: We’re not living in a cookie-cutter world where all customers are looking for the same products or services. Conversely, no business can serve as a one-stop shop for customers across the spectrum. While going vertical doesn’t change those facts, it can give your business the focus it needs to succeed with the right group of customers.

Targeting specific verticals to serve current and prospective customers provides an excellent opportunity to generate net customer growth in 2018 and beyond. And if there’s one thing all small business owners can agree they’re looking for in the New Year, it’s new customers to grow their business!


Lorcan Malone is SVP and COO at Swiftpage