And this scenario doesn't begin to address how many industries—including, yes, publishing—are being transformed by the pervasive impact of the Internet on communication and commerce.
What's a business marketer to do?
For many, one answer is to branch out into new vertical segments, targeting new opportunities among new customers for new products.
The key, according to marketers who've succeeded in this strategy, is "targeting."
"Instead of vertical marketing, we call it `micro-targeting,' " said Connie Weaver, exec VP-CMO at business and technology consultancy Bearingpoint, which recently unveiled a vertical campaign aimed at the government sector.
Sometimes the new market is inherited in the course of a business acquisition. Indeed, industry consolidation is an important driver of vertical strategies, as Senior Reporter Kate Maddox notes in her overview (see page 4) to this year's Vertical Insight: 2007 Guide to Vertical Industries.
To pull off these kinds of initiatives, marketers rely heavily on their agencies, a number of which have restructured to maximize their vertical expertise.
On the client side, too, there is a long tradition of recruiting senior specialists with deep knowledge of particular markets.
"It's really important to have someone with a lot of credibility," said Rod Ganiard, president of furniture manufacturer KI, which hired a VP who was a registered nurse as well as an MBA when it moved into the health care market three years ago.
"Obviously implicit in the discussion of a vertical is specific knowledge—you either bring in native knowledge or you bring someone in from the outside who will offer a perspective on that market," said John Favalo, managing partner of Eric Mower & Associates' Group B2B.
Favalo said personnel, either at the agency or the client, can be evaluated along what he calls the three "Cs" and three "Is." "The three `Cs' are connections, conversations and community. The three `Is' are information, insight and ideas," he said.
Another way to achieve credibility is understanding the fundamental trends in an industry, such as how it is being affected by international competition or domestic legislation.
For example, embracing stereotypical views of your target audience can backfire. "Many marketers still have blue-collar perceptions of construction workers and find it hard to believe that one of the best places to reach them is on the Web," writes Roger Slavens in his overview of the construction vertical.
Meanwhile, don't forget one obvious way to research an industry: Subscribe to the leading trade journals and check their Web sites. You'll be surprised how many ideas flow from this one step.
Another tactic is to leverage existing channel relationships. These partners may have insights into how your product or service can be adapted to new sectors.
The most recent idea for investigating a market? Check the blogosphere. Industry blogs not only provide a quick introduction to a market, they offer a unique way to interact with these influencers and their self-selected communities.
Vertical Insight: 2007 Guide to Vertical Industries is a collection of the Vertical Insight sections that have appeared in BtoB over the past year. While the stories, columns and case studies we've accumulated provide useful information—many have been updated—it's our Vertical Vehicles charts (publications, trade shows/events and Web sites) that make this guide especially valuable. We believe these lists will help you jump-start your own vertical efforts.
Ellis Booker is editor of BtoB and BtoB's Media Business. He can be reached at [email protected].