How to Truly Own Your Beachhead Market in B2B

How to Truly Own Your Beachhead Market in B2B
© Control Alt Deceit: A Game of Lies, Betrayal and Questionable Business Strategies

Absolute Focus Wins

In B2B, you need to change your mindset to truly dominate your beachhead market.

Your marketing, your distribution, your whole product, your focus — everything has to change.

Your value proposition has to change from ‘look at all the great things that can happen with our product’ to ‘here are the specific problems we can solve’.

It’s a very different game.

You need your one sentence benefit; it has to be crystal-clear.

As entrepreneur and author Tim Ferriss says, “People can dislike you or your business but they should never misunderstand you.”

You only get one shot at positioning per prospect. Your positioning should answer: How do we help customers like them. What’s so great about it? And so what?

It’s essential.

The great thing is that once your message is consistent and targeted, it becomes a lot more impactful.

Once you’re able to take on your prospects’ perspective, wants and challenges, you can speak to their reality.

At LANDR, where I used to work, it was not uncommon to see the performance of messages and landing pages double when switching from generic messaging – speaking to all customer types – to speaking to a targeted audience.

You can do the same.

At this point – and based on your new positioning – you’ll want to do a complete rework of your website, your sales collaterals, your ads, your landing pages, your social media accounts, your whitepapers, your testimonies, your client lists and case studies.

In all likelihood, you’ll need to go a lot further than that.

How to Find Candidates for Case Studies in Your Beachhead Market

Case studies are an essential currency in B2B. Along with in-person events, they’re often cited as the most effective B2B marketing tactics.

They’re good for quickly building credibility and giving you an edge over competitors, which is just what you need.

To find the right case study candidates, you should look for:

  • Customers with good product knowledge – They’ve used your product for a long time or use it extensively;
  • Clients that achieved exceptional results – They got a significant return on their investment using your product;
  • Customers with recognizable names – And here, it’s not names that are recognizable to you, it’s names your ideal customers would recognize. Who do they respect?
  • Customers that came to you after working with a competitor can also be good candidates; they’ll help highlight your competitive advantages and the ease of switching from another vendor.

Case studies are usually best included in contracts. Melanie Crissey, product marketer at FullStory, recommends working case study discounts into renewals, not new contracts, because when you sell a deal, you can’t know with certainty that the product will work for the customer.

Once you’ve identified a few candidates, you’ll want to reach out, find common ground and interview them. You can use this case study question list to make sure you’re asking the right questions:

How to Write Case Studies for Your Beachhead Market

A reasonable length for a case study is around 500 words. You want to make sure your case study has a logical flow and tells the story from start to finish.

A great case study allows someone to really get to know the customer.

You’ll want to:

  1. Explain the problem
  2. Introduce the company/product
  3. Describe how the challenge was overcome, and
  4. Sum it up, giving it a happy ending

You’ll include real numbers, talk about the specific strategy and quote your customer in their own words to make the case study relatable.

Now, getting case studies won’t always be an option. Some clients – even real early advocates – are limited in what they can say or share publicly.

In those scenarios, you can negotiate to use the company name and logo on your website, write a short testimony, publish a joint press release about the deal, write a blog post or technical paper about the experience, get the customer to take occasional calls from prospects or do a joint presentation at a conference.

There’s many ways to get creative here.

But even after having created compelling case studies, you’ll want to go deeper:

How to Truly Own Your Beachhead Market in B2B

You lose a lot of time learning a domain which isn’t yours. You’ll have a hard time being as credible as an expert from the market with established contacts.

As a founder, you should always think: Who in the industry already has the knowledge we seek? And, who can I recruit as partner, advisor or employee to gain that credibility?

Those people can be:

Advisors – People with influence or working for influential companies in your beachhead market OR market experts with the right connections.

When we were targeting our security beachhead market at Psykler, the name of a certain security specialist kept popping up.

It was clear that a lot of our prospects looked up to this person and that he had a lot of influence on the market we were targeting.

We invested a lot of effort in convincing that influencer to join us as an advisor. We made some headway, but it was still a work in progress when Psykler ran out of money.

Experts and salespeople selling or working in your beachhead market – There’s most likely people already selling to your prospects or working in other capacities to service those customers.

They already know what’s sellable; they know the levers and pain points. Chances are, they also have connections. They’re the people you want to hire to speed up beachhead market dominance.

Other companies selling in your market – You may be the first with this solution in the beachhead market, but there’s certainly other companies servicing the same customers. Get close to these companies.

They can help open doors, provide insights and, maybe, even partner up to help you capture market shares.

Finding Watering Holes in Your Beachhead Market

To integrate even deeper, you’ll want to discover the watering holes and go where the customers are. Where do prospects gather for pleasure or for work?

It can be a conference, tradeshow, seminar, restaurant, bar, hotel or professional association networking event.

Swedish data visualization startup Spotfire even set up their company’s sales office in the same building as the two restaurants where their targets – energy industry executives – met for lunch and drinks.

You need to go to the places where your target customers already are and piggy-back on those places to attract them.

Events and conferences are fast-tracks to communities / target markets. What events do your prospects value? Where do they go to learn?

Box CEO Aaron Levie jokingly says that every B2B company has a conference and that your company isn’t serious if it doesn’t have one. ;-)

That’s because it works. You want to build the community between customers; be the place where they want to be and learn.

Figure out what interests they share and how they buy.

You need to adapt to that reality.

It’s a lot of effort, but the more deeply you integrate in the beahchead market, the more it will pull you towards the things that truly matter.

More on Beachhead Markets

How to Find Early Adopters in B2B – The Complete Guide

If you can’t find early adopters, you can’t build a business.Trevor Owens, Lean Startup Machine CEO

In previous posts, we talked about how to spot early adopters and covered a few tactics to find them:

Now, let’s talk about how we can use expressed needs – problems early adopters are aware of and are actively seeking a solution for – to find early adopters.

As Lean Entrepreneur Author Brant Cooper said, it’s important to understand that being an early adopter isn’t a personality type. Your product’s early adopters will be uniquely-related to the business problem you’re addressing.

Let’s dig in.

Finding Early Adopters’ Watering Holes

A watering hole is where your prospects or early adopters gather for pleasure or for work. It can be a conference, tradeshow, seminar, restaurant, bar, hotel or professional association networking event.

It can be offline or online.

Find Advocates for your Business – Get the Early Adopter Evaluation Grid (Free)

To find early adopters using expressed needs, you have to go where they look to find solutions to their problems. In other words, where do they go to learn, complain, exchange ideas, leave/read reviews, ask questions, etc?

Where to Find Early Adopters Online

The watering holes will be completely different from one problem set to another. You need to find the right channels and right platforms where prospects seek solutions to their problems.

You can start by going through:

  • Forums & Communities: One of my close friends works in the airline industry. Everyday, he logs into Chances are, you’ve never heard of this forum, but if you work in aviation, that’s where you ask for help.
  • Quora: Quora is part forum, part social network. It’s true gold for user research. I’ve used it many times before when I was seeking solutions. It’s very easy to message users there.
  • Groups: LinkedIn and Facebook groups are great ways to find expressed needs. VarageSale founder Carl Mercier discovered local groups of people buying and selling items on Facebook. He created a better product for them and actually managed to convert them to his platform.
  • Blog posts: If you can find blog posts on the topic you’re investigating, you can find early adopters. Maybe the author experiences the pain? Maybe the people sharing the posts? Maybe the people writing comments? How-to posts are clear expressions of needs. Comment threads are usually a good starting point.
  • YouTube: YouTube is the home of How-to videos. The same model applies on there. Except, you’ll probably find even more people on YouTube!
  • Personal ads: Craigslist or even personal ads in newspapers are great places to find expressed needs. AirBnB notoriously used Craiglist to find early adopters. Many others followed in their footsteps. Enough that, investors called it the unbundling of Craigslist.
  • Reddit: Reddit also had its own unbundling. Many users visit Reddit seeking advice or looking for solutions. You can find early adopters on Reddit (ProductHunt, HackerNews, etc) just by reading through the comments.
  • Twitter: People share things on Twitter that they would not share on LinkedIn or Facebook. Maybe communications feel more spontaneous there? No matter the reason, pains and problems are more likely to be shared on Twitter. Setting up a few “Saved Searches” is a good way to passively find early adopters.
  • Amazon: Although this might apply more to B2C, Amazon and specialty e-commerce sites are great platforms to find expressed pains. Through comments, reviews and reading lists, you can find early adopters. I’ve never used it myself, but maybe Alibaba is also a good platform for B2B entrepreneurs.
  • Related problems: If you have a good understanding of the problem space, you can find early adopters through related apps or services. For example, if you’re exploring problems around translation, perhaps companies that implemented international payment gateways have related needs. The best part of this is that, case studies often tell you exactly who to speak to. :-)
  • Open Customer Service: Websites like Get Satisfaction or feature request boards are great places to find unmet needs and hone in on early adopters looking for solutions. This is actually what analytics startup Amplitude did to outdo the competition.

Find Advocates for your Business – Get the Early Adopter Evaluation Grid (Free)

Finding Early Adopters – An Example

Suppose you’re exploring a solution around A/B testing. You’d try to find where Data and Marketing people hang out. A community like GrowthHackers – focused on agile marketing – might give you access to hundreds of potential early adopters.

Looking at questions being asked on the site, a thread like this one would be a good indicator of someone with an expressed need:

How to Find Early Adopters - A/B Testing Question

From there, you can see that the question got traction; the question is not a random edge case. Other users might be interested in solving the same pain point:

How to Find Early Adopters - A/B Testing Followers

Looking at the comments, you can find other users interested in the solution:

How to Find Early Adopters - A/B testing Follower

And you can find influencers on the topic:

How to Find Early Adopters - A/B Testing Influencer

We can add all these people to our list and keep searching for more early adopters.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind to Get Early Adopters

  • As with customer interviews, you want to follow emotions. References to “Love”, “Hate” or other strong words are important indicators of pain. Prioritize those.
  • When scouring blogs, forums and communities, it’s important to differentiate the roles of participants. People asking questions and following answers are potential early adopters whereas people answering the questions are more likely to be influencers or (already) satisfied buyers.
  • It might not be easy in B2B, but threads with more comments are better. They’re good indicators of the problem connecting with many people.
  • It’s important to look at the date of publication. You’re looking for people actively seeking a solution. Not people who have moved on or have already found a solution.

Find Advocates for your Business – Get the Early Adopter Evaluation Grid (Free)

This guide should be a good start to help you put together a list of early adopters. From there, we’ll look at finding the influencers and reaching out for problem interviews.

More on How to Find Early Adopters

How to Find Early Advocates for Your B2B Startup

Early adopters are great for opinions, but they’re lousy for growth. The best early adopters are early advocates or champions for your startup (“earlyvangelists” in the words of Steve Blank).

Advocates want to be first using a product and they like to brag about their discoveries. They’re in a position to benefit from fresh innovation and have the visibility and influence to bring your solution to attention.

Working with the right early advocates can substantially reduce the effort needed to sign your first customers, get case studies and convince other companies to follow.

How to Find Early Advocates for your B2B Startup

At this point, if you’ve been doing your research properly you should have 50, 100 or more early adopters on a list and this list should look a bit like this:


Example of a list of early adopters

Since you’re looking for early adopters with the potential to become evangelists, you’ll separate the prospects that are setting the trends from the ones that follow them.

There are two aspects to this:

  1. Personal influence — how many people can this early adopter influence?
  2. Company (or employer) influence — how many companies can be influenced by a case study from their employer?

Find Early Advocates for your Business – Get the Early Adopter Evaluation Grid (Free)

For each early adopter on your list, you’ll look at:

  • The number of followers they have on Twitter;
  • The number of followers of their followers on Twitter;
  • The number of contacts they have on LinkedIn;
  • The rank, role and network size of their contacts on LinkedIn;
  • Their activity level in groups on LinkedIn;
  • The number of articles or publications they have;
  • The number of talks they gave (# of SlideShare presentations);
  • The number of blog posts they’ve written;
  • The popularity of their blog (comments, shares, etc.);
  • Their visibility on search engines (# of links on Google);
  • The number of times other people have quoted them (e.g., Google search “James McCarron”);
  • Their Klout score;
  • The word-of-mouth in the industry; etc.

Although Klout scores are not a perfect measure of social influence, they capture a lot of these metrics for a fast assessment.

Find Early Advocates for your Business – Get the Early Adopter Evaluation Grid (Free)

You’ll assign a grade from 1 to 5 to your early adopters, ranking them by their personal influence level. The more reach, visibility and references your prospects have, the higher their grade should be.

You’ll also highlight the most influential companies on the list. The actual grading is not as important as the priorities you assign to your prospects.


Example of a prioritized list of early adopters

Armed with your prioritized list of early advocates, you’ll be able to focus on recruiting from the right companies for problem interviews and get the right influencers to work with you.