Everything to Everyone
"Decisions on limiting yourself on a few vertical markets to pursue versus broadening your sales efforts across multiple markets, is pretty much like making a financial investment. If the timing is right and you're one of the first ones in, the investment could really pay off," he said. "However, if the markets you focus on are regulated or easily influenced by outside sources, your losses could be significant as well."
Grippando continued, "Conversely, broadening your focus across multiple markets would be like 'hedging your bet' and while the investment might not pay off as big and in a short amount of time, it might be a safer investment in the long run."
Lori Bauer, vice president, field sales, Norwood & BIC Graphic North America, Clearwater, Fla., also acknowledged the risks associated with identifying a targeted market (or markets). "There are many distributors who do focus on one or a few vertical markets. There are risks; however, being able to offer a depth of experience helps set you apart from the rest," she commented.
Bauer pointed to other factors that influence the decision-making process—for example, the size of the market the distributor is serving, or the presence of a particular industry nearby.
"It also depends on the distributor's interest or level of experience in a particular market that could lend them additional credibility," Bauer added.
Grippando agreed, noting if promotional products providers prove themselves to be knowledgeable and reliable, they can become a well-respected, go-to resource for a certain market. However, failure to demonstrate expertise could quickly drive their business to the ground, he said.
In addition to understanding the challenges your clients face and their clients' needs, companies must work within industry-specific regulations.
"You can't walk into a bank, credit union or investment firm not having an understanding of changing dynamics facing this industry over the last five years or how government compliance affects almost all aspects of how these institutions communicate with their customers, even with branded merchandise," Grippando stressed. "If you can't demonstrate specific vertical market expertise, within minutes of your first sales call and on an ongoing basis, you simply won't be considered."