Vertical or Horizontal Marketing? Six Ways to Use Both to Build Your IoT Brand

Apr 26, 2016 9:41:54 AM

By Sue O'Keefe

As a marketer in the fast-paced IoT market, you have a lot of decisions to make every day. One of the biggest, of course, is “where should I be spending my marketing dollars to get the ROI I am looking for?” That might immediately be followed by “should I concentrate on vertical markets (and if so, which ones?) or spend my time on a horizontal marketing approach and touch the broader IoT industry?”The answer is actually both, and unfortunately, it’s also a classic chicken and egg situation in terms of which to tackle first. Many companies are 

vertical_or_horizontal.jpgformed because they see a specific need in a particular market and know they can help solve it. (By the way, Calysto got its start the very same way!) That need may be vertical (the automotive industry really needs THIS), or it may be horizontal (IT departments and CIOs would really benefit from THIS). Either way, where you started is not necessarily where you’ll end up.

But this blog post would end here if we didn’t give you some guidance on how to best make that decision for you company. So let’s get to that.

I was managing an interview a few weeks ago between the CEO of one of Calysto’s IoT clients and a leading industry publication, and he was asked the biggest challenges cities face when deploying IoT projects that make them “smart.” I’ll paraphrase a little, but the gist of his response was this: They try to do too much at once, instead of taking things a step at a time. His advice: Keep it simple. Start one initiative, find success, and build on it.

That’s actually great advice for any company, but so often ignored when our eyes get bigger than our stomach, as can happen in an industry as exciting as the Internet of Things. As much as you need to make a strong business case before rolling out any IoT initiative, in marketing, it’s important to understand what efforts are going to have the most impact for your company short term, but also how those short-term gains can help you achieve long-term success. So, should you be spending your efforts on reaching a wide swath of media and analysts across the breadth of the industry or laser focus on one or more verticals?

The answer is still both, but it does mean you need to focus a little harder on making sure you’re reaching out to the right Influencers in every market. Unless you have a huge marketing budget and can afford to respond to every potential opportunity, you’re going to have to say no to some things. And that’s OK.

Your PR firm can help you focus on what makes sense and what will get you the most bang from your buck in terms of programs and outreach. Don’t try to do it all at once; there may be some good short-term wins, but it’s harder to see long-term success. Here are six ways you can use horizontal and vertical marketing effectively, and in tandem to market your IoT company:

  1. Pick a focus area—one or two verticals or one or two themes within the broader market—and stick with it for a few months. You can’t expect real results if you are bouncing from market to market or campaign topic to campaign topic. There’s already a lot of noise in the market; a steady message will get you further than a bunch of hype. Plan out your themes quarter by quarter and you’ll get stronger results than if you tackle things as one-off projects.
  2. Use industry events as a guide, but don’t let them drive your initiatives. Your overall marketing initiatives should instead drive what you’ll be talking about at the show. If you find yourself saying “We need a theme for CTIA,” think about that a little deeper. How can you flip the equation?
  3. Treat your approach to each market differently. Don’t just mix some vertical terms into your website and product brochures, and expect that strategy to deliver results. Vertical marketing may mean getting comfortable with working with other companies as part of an overall solution rather than acting as a stand-alone offering. Put in the time to develop vertical-specific materials that tells companies that you know their market and understand their needs.
  4. Have the key ingredients for success for any vertical or horizontal market you tackle. These include:
    • A specific page on your website (or better yet, a microsite) where you can direct potential customers from that vertical segment. Use this main page to tell the visitor WHY your company is uniquely positioned to help them in that specific market segment.
    • A video that succinctly explains your role in the industry to your potential customers. This can be a higher level overview, a video case study or a short tutorial, but it should be content that reinforces your overall message for that particular market.
    • A customer case study with a named or unnamed client. Blind case studies can be effective, but if you have a named customer, this is even better, even if they can’t talk directly to the media or analyst community.
    • One or more white papers that tackle key issues in the vertical which you are targeting.
  5. Don’t forget the value that contributed articles can have for Thought Leadership both in IoT publications and vertical ones. Get creative about how you can repurpose your general IoT content for vertical-focused publications and get more bang for your buck. Again, don’t just sprinkle in references but take a new look at the same content from that vertical’s perspective.
  6. And of course, you can use your blog to help strike a balance between topics that impact both the general IoT audience and specific vertical markets. Use tags to segment by specific audience.

By establish a strategy that adequately covers your needs for both vertical and horizontal marketing, and you’ll find your limited marketing dollars are more wisely spent in the IoT age.

Topics: IoT, M2M, marketing, Internet of Things