How to choose a vertical

Sent by Jonathan Stark on September 27th, 2017

Lots of people ask me how I chose credit unions as the vertical target market for my mobile consulting business. I sometimes glibly reply that “I just picked it” without doing any research. This is technically true, but it's not as arbitrary as it sounds.

When I work with people on picking a vertical, it's not arbitrary. I start by asking what industry they already have access to and we work through a process to make a list of candidate verticals.

Here's how you can do it on your own:

Make a list of people you know, starting from those closest to you and working your way out. Then, next to each name, add the names of verticals that they are in or have access to.

You'll end up with a list of people who would gladly jump on a call to provide all the inside information you could possible ask for on a wide range of vertical target markets. 

For me, this list would be:

I could keep going, but I suppose I've made my point.

Maybe my list is longer than yours would be. Maybe you think this is because I'm old (true!) or because you think I'm particularly social (not true!).

Making the list is not the problem I see with my students. By age 30 or so, most people seem to have amassed enough life experience to make a similar list. The problem is that they are too quick to dismiss all of the verticals on the list as non-viable without doing any real research.

I hear things like:

Comments like these made prior to doing any research are either based on fear, laziness, or some combination of the two.

Make your list. Call everybody on it. Ask them the magic wand question.

If after doing this you still believe there are no good verticals for you to explore, then fine.

You can give up with my blessing.

—J


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