AT&T at one time hatched an idea -- a fast-follower copycat plan drawn from IBM’s marketing playbook.
AT&T rolled out vertical marketing, made up of industry-specific applications for roughly 20 vertical markets. For example, some solutions were developed for healthcare, others for banking, more for automotive, and so on. The industry marketing tool worked for AT&T, like a charm. I know, because I worked on the program development.
AT&T wouldn’t claim inventor status of the vertical industry marketing model, because the company wasn’t its inventor; it had yielded first-mover advantage to IBM. AT&T thereby became a fast-follower -- second to market. Borrowing exhaustively from IBM’s hard work saved the carrier time to market. AT&T leaped years ahead of practically all its competition, which collectively possessed no vertical market knowledge or ability whatsoever. AT&T quickly sold customer value, enabled through the company’s fast-follower advantage.
Vertical industry marketing is relevant today for hosted PBX providers; so too is fast-follower. By focusing on industries that buy or need a lot of hosted PBX, vendors can separate the wheat from the chaff, distinguishing themselves from thousands of competitors. Then by selling applications that uniquely benefit specific verticals, they add customer value. In short order, a bevy of competitors is whittled down to a few; and customers get productivity-enhancing features previously available from no one or just one. I’ll address both.
Eastern Management Group’s consulting practice advises clients on vertical marketing. Five industries, out of 19 vertical markets covered in our "Worldwide Hosted PBX Market 2019-2025
" report, are noteworthy since substantial hosted PBX opportunities exist in each. They are:
- Banking and finance
- Healthcare and life sciences
- Professional services
Small, mid-market, and enterprise businesses in any of these fields now have a little bit of work to do; that is, they must short-list vendors with vertical market specialties, and applications-products tailored to the vertical. Schools, for example, need to communicate with teachers; and schools need security. Recruiting companies require applicant tracking systems.
Here’s a vertical marketing example at work: Mitel has an interest in selling to and supporting recruiting companies with industry-specific cloud applications. Two integrations that Mitel offers are JobDiva and PCRecruiter.
Mitel’s vertical market focus is different from the garden variety of productivity-improving application integrations that practically everyone sells -- namely SAP, Salesforce, and Zendesk, for example.
This is the tip of the iceberg. Vendors can further differentiate themselves with industry specialization and fast-follower applications. Market managers can develop expertise in one or more vertical markets, and product managers can work with them to create industry-specific applications.
Such specialization accomplishes two things: First, it sets the vendor distinctly apart from all the competition. Recall I used the term “thousands of competitors” at the top of this piece. Second, small, mid-market, and enterprise customers can seek out and work with a vendor that is truly a partner. And that’s something from which we’d all benefit.