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Which industry is better entry for early B2B customers for a platform startup?

I know this is sounds like a generic question but it makes sense in my case because we have a very typical chicken or egg problem.

Our product is about connecting customers with businesses, primarily for support with mobile messaging. So the idea is to help consumers avoid the hassles of calls, or emails or even chat on web, and allow text message a business easily for support from their mobile devices.

Looked at it differently,our product SnapSolv (snapsolv.com), is a business-to-customer messaging platform, meaning we need both consumers and businesses to be on the platform to let the magic happen. So the conundrum is who do we go after first - consumers on to our app (empty house with no businesses signed up yet) or businesses to signup with an up-sell that we will bring their customers to the platform. Our approach has been the latter. Since customer support spans every industry in every vertical, we are trying to figure out the first best market segment to go after.

Any ideas / suggestions from the sales & marketing experts in the house here? Appreciate your time.

Prakash
Founder@Snapsolv

10 Replies

Anton Yakovlev
1
0
Anton Yakovlev Entrepreneur
Founder of four successful businesses on two continents who can help you do the same
Prakash, first of all I wouldn't call it a generic question, as it is maybe the most important problem for your business. If you start great you'll probably will easily grow, if your start is not so great, you'll find it hard to acquire new users. From both sides.

You really need to develop a launch strategy for your company. Hire a sales guy that could create a plan that suits your particular company and product. I could offer probably 5 different approaches right off the bat, but each of them needs to be checked if it fits you.

Keep in mind that you need to create and develop your product keeping that launch strategy in mind, as you product should be ready to implement the chosen strategy.

Best of luck to you!
Jarred Hardman
1
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Jarred Hardman Entrepreneur
Founder - Crowd & Co
I think of it like a shopping centre, get the anchor tenants (a draw card business) work on securing other businesses and then target the consumer. The consumers only go to the shopping centre when there is something to buy. Jarred
Chris Kitze
1
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Chris Kitze Entrepreneur
CEO at Safe Cash Payment Technologies, Inc.
Prakash, this is a very typical web business problem. Many people have "broken their pick" in this hardrock mine.

First question. Why do the consumers want to talk to the business? A billing question or product support? That's what you think is important, but have you talked to any businesses about this? Businesses like a way to followup, identify problems and sell more stuff. Turning this into loyalty is probably the best way to get to the business, the cheapest source of their customers is simply to get them to come back again.

Once you know the reason for this, you'll have an angle to test and then look for a sales channel. You might find that having a link for a disposable chat that goes out in a text or email could drive a lot of traffic with minimal work for the business. Be mindful, they won't turn their business upside down to help you out. However, if you can offer clear benefit, i.e. "businesses that added our chat link to their outbound sales confirm emails sold X% more widgets"....that's something that's easy to implement and valuable to the business and they'll pay you for that, it's got a clear ROI.

I doubt you'll get consumers to use this messaging service just to talk to a merchant, it'll need to be something topical and used right after the point of sale. My understanding only; I'd focus on the merchants.
Lee Stein
0
0
Lee Stein Advisor
Owner, Stein Writes, Inc.
See: http://www.forbes.com/forbes/welcome/ If this doesn't work, search Forbes for the Temkin report. It ranks the best and worst industries and companies. you'd have to determine whether You'd have to determine whether the best want to get better or the worst want to improve. Then act accordingly.
Prakash Kakumanu
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0
Prakash Kakumanu Entrepreneur
Co-founder, Product Strategy & Marketing
Thanks for your responses so far. Good thoughts, but my question was also about which industry / vertical to go after first to attract businesses? Once we narrow down on a vertical and/or segment, we will have launch strategy for both businesses and their customers in that segment. Please note, since our product is about customer engagement, the industry we choose has to have interest in supporting customers pre and post sale.

Anton - would you mind sharing those approaches that you were thinking of? We are working on some ideas as well but the more the better to choose from. Really appreciate it.

Chris - we considered features for customer engagement so businesses indeed can build customer loyalty and be able to up-sell and cross-sell etc.
Chris Kitze
0
0
Chris Kitze Entrepreneur
CEO at Safe Cash Payment Technologies, Inc.
Prakash, go do some cold calls of various business types and you'll figure this out. Until you talk to live potential customers, you are living in a vacuum and everything could change once your ideas hit the cold water of reality. You should do this yourself and you will gain some very insightful information. Customers should always design your products and help with marketing!! Good luck!
5 Star Film Co.Ltd. *
0
0
5 Star Film Co.Ltd. * Entrepreneur
Agents for an Award Winning Television Channel Franchise
I would begin by conducting a survey into how others view your product,what do they think of it? list the negatives,learn from their perspectives,and see if tunnel vision has narrowed the designers ability to improve upon the design,when you have an award winning honed and recreated product,then target a fast paced business that wheels and deals a lot of traffic,how about the Advertising Industry? TV,Radio,Newspapers,Journalists,etc
Guita Gopalan
0
0
Guita Gopalan Advisor
Head of Customer Success at Stacck
Prakash, you mentioned "the industry we choose has to have interest in supporting customers pre and post sale." This is already one criteria. There may be other minimum criteria that need to be met by the merchant and its customers i.e. access to internet, have in-house customer support team or outbound sales team,volume of customer interactions, $ value of customer interaction,etc. Identify these minimums - if unmet there is no way your solution will work,

Once you've identified your criteria, identify what are industries match. List them down.
Find out which of these industries:
a. Have a strong pain? Existing solutions are not meeting their needs. (for both the merchants and their customers)
b. Have the resources to be your client? If they can't afford you then no dice. (for both the merchants and their customers)
In case of a very long list of industries, on your first round just work off your existing knowledge and research. The idea is to narrow down the list to 3-5.
If you're list is manageable (i.e. 5), look for ways to connect to 2-3 players (merchants) and 2-3 customers in that industry. Do face to face or call interviews to determine the answers to (a) and (b).

Start with the industry where you can deliver the greatest value to both merchants and customers.

This is a starting point. As you encounter more and more players in an industry, your criteria will be honed.
Tim Kilroy
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Tim Kilroy Entrepreneur • Advisor
Analytics - LTV - Boosting Profits - Digital Marketing
Hey Prakash-
You are building a two-sided marketplace. You need to stack the supply side of the marketplace first (the businesses) otherwise the demand side (consumers) won't stick around.
All of your site messaging is geared towards businesses - let them help you solve the demand-side - give them tools to promote usage by consumers and start grouping your benefits by vertical.

What is the benefit for small retailers?
What is the benefit for property managers?
What is the benefit for field service companies?
These are the three industries noted in your referral quotes on your business page. Flesh out those stories into a value proposition for each of those verticals and work with your 1st 10 customers to help them promote usage to their target audiences. That will give you enough data to tell you where this will scale and where it won't. I wouldn't focus on consumer facing messaging until you have hundreds of businesses signed up.
Bob Fucci
0
0
Bob Fucci Entrepreneur
Sales and Revenue Growth, Strategy, Advisor, Speaker

Prakash,

In my opinion, the top 3 verticals I would pursueare:

Financial Services - proven market that will purchase solutions from early stage companies if there is a compelling benefit, can be integrated into their existing portfolio, andcan be licensed in such a way that they can easily and cost effectively introduce it to their clients, partners,etc.

Education - to me your solution may well provide a compelling solution that drives student engagement. I closed a global partnership with an Education solution provider that has more than 2.8 million students under contract. Engaging them in new ways is a critical element of our partnership.

Media - the mobile consumer drives (monetized) content.

Please feel free to contact me.

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