Recently one of the Hubspot Partners I work with asked a great question. "Are most Inbound
Agencies focused across industries or are they focused on a single industry?" He followed up that he is having trouble deciding which vertical his firm should go after. Let's break it down.
Question #1: Do most successful Inbound Marketing Agencies focus on all industries or a single industry?
What matters is not what most agencies do but the right approach for your agency. An agency needs to start somewhere. If you are a web designer with a large list of past customers that might invest sufficiently in online marketing, start there. If your strength is in local business and that is where you want to stay, then start there with Inbound Networking.
If however, you are building out an agency and want to go after mid-size clients who can invest in marketing, I strongly suggest targeting verticals. It doesn't have to be your whole strategy, but should be at least part. This blog post is not about why to go after verticals. For more about that see Marcus Sheridan's 7 Reasons Why Blogging is Failing to Generate Leads For So Many Marketing Agencies.
This article is about how to go after them.
Questions #2: How do I go after verticals?
Okay, so you want to go after verticals. Here are 5 tips that will help make you successful.
1. Pick a vertical where you have knowledge...or get some knowledge NOW
Don't just pick out a vertical that appears lucrative but where you have little knowledge. Try to find verticals where you have some basis of knowledge and comfort. For instance, Wes Powell of TMR Direct identified he had experience in construction and felt comfortable speaking with builders. Thus he targeted builder marketing.
What if you don't feel especially knowledgeable in any industry? Then become knowledgeable - a good way to do this is through a close friend or family member who is knowledgeable in an industry. Do an informational interview, then ask for introductions to others in that industry. Ask good penetrating marketing questions. Soon you will feel more comfortable and have a new wealth of knowledge, which is going to set you apart in blog articles, on sales calls, and in conversations.
By the way, make sure the industry is a good fit for inbound marketing. The industry should have a decent transaction value and the concept of a sales funnel.
2. Show actual industry examples! This will set you apart and make your content remarkable.
This is perhaps the most important of the 5 tips listed and the one most often done wrong. Most agencies that go after a vertical do so with perfectly optimized page titles and plenty of advice and guidance.
Here's the problem. Advice and guidance are cheap, especially on the internet. It also doesn't stand out very much and usually doesn't get shared. What's not cheap is real life examples and demonstrated best practices. It takes extra time to put it together, it can be hard to find, and its much harder than just writing a simple blog article. But it will differentiate you.
Put yourself in your prospects shoes. If you were in the non-profit world, which article do you find most valuable below? Which do you think you would share with colleagues?
Here is #1 - 12 Social Media Tips for Nonprofits
3. Determine where your vertical prospects live online
Just like with any inbound marketing strategy, it is not just about creating content, but taking that content out to where your prospects live. In what online forums are they exchanging information? On what LinkedIn boards are they asking quesitons? What influencers are they following on twitter? What blogs are they following? Keep a list of these locations handy and make sure to schedule time each week to visit, interact, and draw people back to your site by contributing remarkable value in your comments.
If you need a handy place to keep track of all the social media forums associated with a vertical, check out the Vertical Targeting Worksheet.
4. Don't forget to create offers
Don't just put content up without creating offers. In fact, you should have your offer in mind first. This is exactly how Hubspot puts together campaigns. Your offer doesn't have to be complicated. Readers on a mission love checklists and guides, which can be simple but helpful (such as the Vertical Targeting Worksheet :-)).
You can also put together a fuller offer such as an ebook. Here is a great example of a vertically focused offer for manufacturers by Impact Branding.
...and how they promote it at their blog ...
5.Don't stop with one
As Marisa Smith of The Whole Brain Group, an Inbound Agency, mentioned recently and I wholeheartedly agree with, do not just target one vertical. This advice does NOT apply if you have overwhelming experience and/or relationships in one industry and that industry is a good fit for inbound marketing. However, with that exception, do not put all your eggs in one basket. If you do, the industry you pick could have a hard time getting the concept of inbound marketing, you could not be a good fit for the persona, or the industry could hit a downturn. You don't want to find yourself 6 months down the road only to have to go back to square 1.
Yes, it is a ton more work to go after 3 industries instead of one. It does require more content, more thought, and more hours. But more work also spells more opportunity. Most agencies are not going to go to the trouble. If you do, and do it in a thoughtful and diligent way, you can set yourself up for success.
Want to plan your attack on new verticals? Download the Inbound Agency Vertical Targeting Worksheet.