Want to Create a Successful Business? Stop Trying to Be a Swiss Army Knife

When I first started managing lead generation initiatives for the B2B technology companies in OpenView’s portfolio years ago, my expectation (or hope) was that every program we implemented would turn out to be a wild success. But, like many things, it didn’t always work out that way. Some excelled in creating a healthy pipeline of highly qualified leads for the business, others struggled to ever truly develop into a revenue driving machine.
While there were many reasons for those successes or struggles, I began to notice one common trend shared by the most prosperous sales and marketing teams: they were laser focused on the handful of segments and buyers that they were most confident they could win.
Importantly, that focus was fueled by real data and analysis — not some sort of arbitrary gut feeling about who those “best”segments or customers were.
On the other hand, the expansion-stage technology companies that struggled the most with outbound sales and lead generation efforts — and just about everything else — also reflected a common trend: They thought they could be everything to everyone.

Think Your Product is For Everyone?

That’s a nice thought, and there are indeed some products whose applications are ubiquitous. But in order to scale at an accelerated rate, your company’s focus can’t be broad.
A good example of this philosophy is online storage and backup company Backblaze. In a 2013 interview, Backblaze founder and CEO Gleb Budman told The Next Web that while his company could have tried to sell its product to anyone who would buy it (who doesn’t need data backup today?), he realized that wasn’t the best way to achieve critical mass. The better option: Focusing on a smaller niche segment of people who share the same needs, pain points, and budgets.

The Importance of Efficiency and Focus

That advice is particularly prudent for sales and marketing leaders who are focused on top-of-the-funnel lead generation efforts. Here are just a few reasons why targeting specific verticals can improve sales strategy efficiency:

  • It allows you to create, customize, and share valuable content for a specific audience’s needs at each stage of the buyer journey
  • Your overall messaging will be clearer and more succinct
  • You can share a greater number of success stories that are hyper relevant to your target prospects

In an age where buyers are flooded with sales content and competitive messaging on a daily basis, prospects have become adept at filtering out the junk that too broadly addresses their interests, needs, or pain points.
At the end of the day, trying to hit a target with one-size-fits-all messaging is like throwing a marble into the ocean. You’ll hit something, but it isn’t likely to have much of an impact. Throw a boulder into a puddle, on the other hand, and the results will be much different.

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Photo by: James Case

Devon McDonald
Devon McDonald

Devon McDonald is a Partner at OpenView, where she sits on the firm’s investment committee and oversees OpenView’s Growth team, a group of Research, Sales and Marketing Strategists responsible for helping its portfolio companies acquire more customers and scale at an accelerated rate.
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