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Posted: March 05, 2013

Vertical reach: A route to the ultimate slam dunk

Here's why it works

Sandra Zoratti

It’s time to go vertical.

As marketers, finding new customers is always a challenge.

And in today’s saturated market, it’s even tougher to cut through the clutter, be relevant and engage prospects and customers in a sustainable fashion. 

What is the best way to take this challenge head-on?  As a B2B marketer, my team and I have worked to figure this out. We have learned some lessons – thanks to a little serendipity -- that helped us find new customers, deliver new revenue to our business and make us believers in vertical marketing. 

And nothing says proof quite like $14 million in incremental revenue. 

So, what is vertical marketing and why does it work? 

First of all, by vertical, I mean industry – such as insurance, banking and telecommunications.  Most companies and business owners today identify themselves by the type of industry they serve, i.e. “I’m an insurance company”.  There are specific agencies, associations, companies, vernacular and relationships that are built around the nexus of industry.   Vertical marketing is connecting all the relevant elements of a specific industry and meeting customers and prospects on their turf, on their terms and with content relevant to their industry.

In today’s market, carving out a vertical niche and building a marketing approach around that niche can bring deeper relationships, richer engagement and long- term success.  Why?  Because relevance drives revenue.  In our over-messaged, noisy world, the messages that resonate are those that cut through the clutter and are highly relevant.

Today, consumers dictate our brands, our dollars and the terms of engagement, voting with their online voices, attention and wallets.  This is a harsh, challenging reality for marketers and business owners. In response, businesses must adopt new and creative ways to engage their customers, and converse in a clear, compelling language.

Let’s take a look at the utilities industry, where in 2011 my company expanded our vertical marketing reach and developed a campaign titled, “Go Beyond the Meter”.  It all started with our first utility customer, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), the largest U.S. municipal utility serving more than four million residents.  The goal was (and is) to listen to the voice of the customer, facilitate interaction and establish credibility in the utilities industry. 

Believe it or not, an industry with captive customers is at a significant inflection point:  customer engagement, customer participation, customer satisfaction have become of utmost importance.  And utility companies now understand the cost of not effectively communicating and engaging with customers.

The Go Beyond The Meter campaign is an integrated, multi-touch marketing approach that builds on relevant content and contacts to culminate in an industry-focused event in Boulder, CO each year. Our vertical multi-channel marketing encompasses public relations, email, telemarketing, white papers, industry research, video customer vignettes, social media, internal communications, to name a few.  And the industry-focused, multi-day event is purely educational, as we provide the connection platform to learn and share.  Peer-to-peer interactions take place, industry experts share best practices, leading analysts discuss emerging customer communications trends and customers across a variety of industries share their testimonials.

Go Beyond The Meter ran in 2011 and 2012, and we are gearing up for 2013. The results?  As mentioned before, more than $14 million in revenue is attributed to Go Beyond the Meter, and the success of the program continues to build!

Finding the precise market to target and doing so by bonding, not branding, can lead to new revenue. I believe that a concentrated and relevant vertical effort is a blueprint for success, no matter the industry.

Sandra Zoratti is an author, speaker and vice president of marketing for Ricoh.  She is also a member of the board of directors of the Colorado Chapter of the Business Marketing Association. Sandra's book, "Precision Marketing:  Maximizing Revenue Through Relevance" is available on Amazon at amzn.to/precisionmarketing.   You can find Sandra on LinkedIn, Twitter @sandraz and on her website sandrazoratti.com.

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