By Carole Alexander January 26, 2004 -- Putting information on a page would seem a pretty straightforward process, but there are a lot of differences in the digital printing needs of different vertical markets. Because these differences can be fairly substantial, all the major digital printing equipment vendors are actively taking a vertical industry approach to selling their technology. In fact, they have people who specialize in each vertical so they can find ways of providing what those customers need. And you can do the same. In my last article about VIM (Vertical Industry Marketing), I said being successful involves more than just calling on companies in a given industry. You have to be perceived as an expert. Some of what you should know about your chosen industry before the first call is: What their industry does, products/services, customer markets, major players, geographical concentration, general competitors. Industry segments. Basic jargon Changes in the growth rate over the past 3 years and prediction for the next 3. Latest big trends. The problems they need to solve. Trends affecting print Overall nature of their documents Key applications The buyers to target How to Get Smart Obtaining this information requires a combination of research, know-how and chutzpah (considerable boldness). If you are an active researcher (i.e. career researcher, librarian), information for #1, 2, and 3 can be gathered from a portal for researching industries, such as How to Learn About an Industry, that offers a 22-step process. Truthfully, I faded after step 3. An alternative is to buy short profiles from research companies, such as First Research, or Harris Infosource. The first will cost about $99 per profile and the second $65. Or, you can gather the information on your own with your own style. The advantage of this is that you will learn more about the industry in your quest. Feeling "at one" with your industry is, in fact, the goal. You will get better at research. Also, it is cheaper. For the do-it-yourselfers, I will only be suggesting on-line resources because I find them to be faster to access and more up-to-date than hardcopy resources. Note, if you are only so-so at research, plan to get better. If you are not at all good at research, skip to the shortcut at the end. Rich Resources Let's assume you have selected Financial Services. A good approach is to narrow the industry to one segment. That will make it easier to find information and you won't get overwhelmed. You can expand to other segments later. Start by going to the website of a potential customer or prospect in the territory, let's say WeMakeMoney Inc. Most of their website will be about selling their products, so go to About Us . Now you learn their industry segment-- a mutual fund company. To get an idea of what this industry does, in general, try a career site such as Wet Feet and click on Industry Profiles. Get all the information you can, including associations. Then go to a general business information site, such as or Yahoo! and do the same. Even though Financial Services contains a list of 15 segments, you already have a place to start. You will find Mutual Fund companies under Asset Management . In a good general business site, you will learn about industry publications, associations, education and training, conferences and possibly news. Pursue the publications and order one, attend an association's local meeting, go to a relevant conference and investigate some training. Another approach is to search on Google for Mutual Fund Publications, Mutual Fund Associations, etc. You will want to know the top 5 or 10 major players in your industry and something about them. Once you call on a major player and can talk about them knowledgeably, others in the industry are exponentially more interested in what you have to say. For major players, try association sites, and Yahoo!. A fast way to learn the industry jargon (alternatively called terminology, or glossaries), is reduced down to the 10 or 20 most important words. My source was Hoover's Online - The Business Information Authority (not the vacuum), but they have since started charging. Many sites have vocabulary listings where you can look up words you don't know. To learn the answers to #4, 5, and 6, I recommend industry portals and good old Wall Street. Companies within your selected industry and those who make a living trading the stocks have a vital interest in what is happening. Industry expansion or contraction is usually tied to the latest big trends, unless there is an overall recession. Look at the Industry Research Desk to find your industry's portal. Look through the major financial sites - MSN Money, Morningstar, CBS Marketwatch, Bloomberg or any others you like. You will get a feeling of what has been happening in the industry. To get an unbiased picture of how the industry has fared financially, go to an ETF site ( Exchange Traded Fund) such as Active Sectors. Select the ETF that represent the industry—iyf in the case of Financial Services. Click on it and ask for the 3 year chart. Now do the same for Telecom, iyz, and you will see the difference. A recent growth pattern is good, but there are exceptions. To find a good review of the past year with new year projections, you can't do better than major publication special reports such as the Business Week Industry Outlook 2004. This is one case where I would buy the magazine. Current news on all the financial websites will contain recent situations and how the industry is adjusting, such as the NY Times Special "Mutual Fund Industry Booms Despite Scandal." Watch the Trends Problems your companies need to solve--and where you may be able to help--usually follow the trends. So look to those trends and think about how you can provide solutions. For example, if an industry is contracting, companies are downsizing and probably looking for cost savings. How can you help? If there is deregulation, such as Finance and Telecom have experienced, everyone is selling everyone else's products. That means companies have to differentiate themselves, requiring better marketing and targeted, personalized communications. For companies in fast-moving industries, such as biotech, getting products to market and fast turnaround of documents is critical. If companies are merging, most documents will have to be reprinted. Now comes the hard part: Answering Questions 13, 14, and 15. What is the overall nature of your vertical market's documents? What are their key applications? Who are the buyers to target? Here, your choices get thin. Calling on every department and learning as you go is not the most effective way. The shortcut is to get the information from someone else. Printing industry consulting firms have it for a price, and others have it for free. Did you guess? It's your printing equipment vendors. If they are talking to their customers, the vendors know the most critical documents in each industry over years of experience. If they don't have up-to-date Vertical Industry Market information prepared for print providers on at least 15 industries —and this is where the chutzpah comes in— tell them you need it. In a coming article I will give an example of a high-potential vertical market industry. And for those of you in the northern part of the U.S this cold January, think of VIM research as something you can do to stay warm. Please provide feedback, suggestions or comments to Carole at [email protected]