Niche markets are so last year. Just think about HubSpot, Asana or Infusionsoft. These companies haven’t gone after one niche and called it a day. They’ve focused on building a product that appeals to professionals in a wide range of industries and roles.
While focusing on one vertical can form a strong basis for a business, once that platform is built, moving into other verticals can ensure your brand’s longevity. Plus, adapting to new sets of customers and their challenges can strengthen your product or service.
My company has a diverse customer base ranging from real estate agents who need to organize their projects to pastors who want to stay engaged with their congregations. Most products and services can work across multiple industries. You just have to make the leap sensibly.
Here are a few tactics for stepping outside your niche and appealing to audiences across multiple industries:
1. Identify core motivations.
Before you approach a new industry, plot the core motivations that drive your current customers and your potential customers. Most importantly, identify where these overlap. Whether they care about saving money, staying organized or looking good, this is the magical place where your brand can attack.
2. Identify repeated daily actions.
While you’re identifying where core motivations intersect for your current and potential customers, also consider actions that both sets of customers engage in on a daily basis. This will help you keep the core functions of your brand relevant for every market you enter.
3. Move with purpose.
You need to enter new verticals purposefully. You can't just stroll around the marketplace and wander into different industries at random. Conduct research to identify the pain points of the new industry, and gear your marketing efforts toward how you can fulfill that need or solve that problem.
4. Don’t neglect your core market.
Just because you want to leapfrog to other verticals doesn’t mean you should phase out your core market. Keep a strong and stable original product that your core customers can count on. Forgetting about your old market and trying to reach too many verticals at once can really hurt your brand.
5. Think beyond “the chasm.”
Geoffrey A. Moore, author of “Crossing the Chasm,” argues that there’s a gap between visionary customers and pragmatic customers where a product is likely to fail. You need to deliver proven problem-solving products to keep these pragmatists interested because the visionaries will get on board no matter what you deliver.
6. Keep your language universal.
Whether you’re diving into the wedding planning industry or entertainment, the tone and vocabulary of your external communication and in-product messaging needs to appeal to all of your potential customers. For instance, recruiters think in terms of candidates, while salespeople are looking for leads. Instead of choosing one or the other, why not just call them “contacts”?
7. Think of your product in building blocks.
Your initial product is a platform. Once you have the right building blocks to customize your product or service, you can tailor your offering to each new industry and customer you approach.
8. Create a message with broad appeal.
Instead of stating specifically what niche you’re going after in your marketing communications, give your brand a clear message and tone that appeals to all your audiences. Consider Basecamp: Its messaging refers to helping companies with projects, but it never comes out and says what type of companies or projects.
Once you have a distinct brand message and tone in place, you can add industry-specific details, such as case studies, that will generate interest from a particular segment of the market.
While it’s important to go after a specific niche in the beginning, if you stay laser-focused on a single industry or customer throughout your company’s life, you could stunt its growth. You don’t have to dump your original customer base or buy a different novelty hat for every industry you enter. Just figure out what your potential customers need and how you can deliver, then adjust your messaging to speak about the solution you have to offer.