I have heard from business people on numerous occasions that Walmart does not make it easy to do business with them. They make the rules when it comes to selling your product through their stores. Why then do so many companies bend over backwards to cater to Walmart’s demands to sell their product? It’s simple, for a retail product Walmart is high on the food chain, they are about as far upstream as you can go in regard to a retail distribution channel.
We have made a concentrated effort at Resolutions to identify the best way to get as far upstream as possible when selling our e-learning solutions. It has made a dramatic impact on or business and how we approach different markets. When I say selling upstream I simply mean going as far up the food chain as possible to find one company who with the stroke of a pen will provide you with access to a large portion of your market.
I had an interesting call with a prospect last week that really brought this concept front and center for me. This prospect’s business happened to overlap two of our different industry vertical businesses, Mining and Insurance. The prospect is an officer at a large insurance company that caters specifically to the mining industry. As we talked through the potential of working together he asked my why I don’t just sell our Mine Training directly to the mines? My response was simple, we do, but working with you would provide us access to hundreds of mine operators and contractors by signing one deal.
It may seem like an insanely simple concept, but think about your business. How would it change your selling strategies, and possibly even your entire business strategy if you were able to focus on just a few key prospects far enough upstream that it opened up your entire market to you with the signing of a single contract? Take some time to evaluate your customers, find out what they have in common, how your business can add value to another that is higher on up in the food chain. It may take some time, thought, research and patience, but in the long run it could change your business.
What are your thoughts on selling upstream? Can you provide any good examples?
Every business has to find their niche, it is difficult to find success trying to be all things to all people. Last year I read the 4 Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferris, he had a quote in the book, “Go niche or go home.” The basic premise being that you will find much more success marketing and selling your product to a specific niche group rather than trying to market and sell to the masses. This is a theory that we have put into practice quite extensively at Resolutions, that quote was validation, and has pushed us even further in that direction.
The E-learning industry is a highly competitive and saturated marketplace. As with anything there have been industries that were early adapters to e-learning technology and there are those that are still new to the game. Our charge, as with any business, is to find our place in the mix. We decided early on that “Go niche or go home” is a good strategy for us, but how would we find our niche? As often happens in business you go where you find an opportunity, our first opportunity was in the aviation industry. The market had few competitors, plenty of available market share and most importantly we were able to partner with someone who is an industry expert in that market. 7 years later Safety and Security Instruction (SSi), a partnership between Resolutions ownership and AviaEd (aviation training company out of Tucson), is now an undisputed leader in the development of e-learning software and course ware solutions for general aviation airports both nationally and internationally.
Most importantly, that niche helped us find our way as an e-learning company. We realized quickly our software solutions and instructional design methodologies are not the right fit for everyone, but in our niche we are best in class and an industry leader. As a result our product has evolved and grown based on specific feedback and business use cases in that industry. It has also allowed us to build an internal formula which we can use to identify other vertical industry segments that fit our company. Now, as much as we look for new clients, we look for industry verticals that meet our criteria. Niche markets where we know we can have success utilizing the tools we have developed at our company.
What’s your niche? I look forward to some discussion on this topic.