When it comes to sales, I've gotten great traction through first conquering beachhead markets. The word "beachhead" itself suggests a strong metaphor directly referencing the 1944 invasion of Normandy where allied troops made a daring assault on Omaha beach in order to stage a counter-invasion of Europe and ultimately win the Second World War.
While planning to enter a new market can hardly compare to defeating the Nazis, every entrepreneur has felt the plunge into the cold unforgiving sea of competition and strove to make their claim to a piece of dry sand from which to achieve total victory. Entrepreneurs also tend to love hyperbole.
First presented in Geoffrey Moore's 1991 work: "Crossing the Chasm", the idea of a beachhead market fits comfortably into our lexicon, and is likely here to stay. Let's dive in and see what insights this bellicose buzzword has in store.
According to The Cambridge Business Dictionary, a Beachhead Market is "a position in a market that a company achieves and that it hopes to make stronger in the future." This definition is truly devoid of all usefulness, so I came up with my own:
A beachhead market is a small market with very specific characteristics that make it an ideal target for a new product or service based on unique compatibility between the market, the product, and the marketing resources available.
My definition may be more tedious to parse. However, it covers the important principles that are vital to understanding and implementing Beachhead strategies.
Understand your needs
Twitter's ability to survive was dependent on gathering a critical mass of users. Raley's Confectionary - my candy company - needed to move enough product to make rent, payroll, and purchase the next round of ingredients. Tesla needed to prove the quality and viability of its product in a real world setting.
The Beachhead market exists to serve a specific purpose related to seeing your company through the perils of infancy. That purpose is determined by the characteristics of your business, the market, and it's environment. These objectives must be kept in mind when defining your particular beachhead market.
Define your Beachhead
Are you going to be targeting under 30, early tech adopters in Midwestern suburbs? Should you focus on middle aged single men who binge watch YouTube cooking shows? How does one determine which beach to land on? I followed Bill Aulet's advice which recommends deselecting markets until you have one option left.
When I was starting Raley's Confectionary, I knew my candies were not going to end up in Wal-Mart. We didn't have the capacity. I also knew that the local market was too small to get us cash positive before the advent horizon and that shipping could add as much as 25% to the price of my product. That ruled out everywhere but the south. My products are expensive. They couldn't be sold in a market where customers would cross shop them with other candies. In the end. I targeted health-oriented independently owned boutique retailers in high income pockets located in the southeast.
Implement your plan. Be excellent. Move forward
Once a beachhead market is selected, it is important to move quickly and decisively. Companies targeting beachhead markets are often short on cash to throw at marketing. Any resources available should be examined. Look at what makes your beachhead market unique. The
reasons you chose your beachhead market can give you insights in how to start making sales.
In the early days of Raley's Confectionary, I was targeting small independent boutiques. This meant that it took relatively little detective work to contact a buyer directly. Once I was able to talk or email my way into a sample request, I knew I had a likely sale.
Your first customers are going to do a lot more than write you checks. The judgments they pass on to you will leave an irrevocable mark on your company and your brand both as you see it and as your customers see it. It is important to be excellent to your beachhead market, because they are hand-picked, uniquely suited customers. They are going to have a potential for enthusiasm and evangelism to larger markets.
One last thought
As your business venture grows, it is important to broaden your market. By their very nature, beachhead markets are generally scalable. During D-day, taking the beachhead was the means to an end, not and end itself.
Colonel George A. Taylor rallied survivors with a cry "Two kinds of people are staying on this beach; the dead and those who are going to die. Now, let's get the hell out of here!"
This post was written by guest blogger and Tallahassee entrepreneur Wes Raley. Learn more about his adventures in candy making at Raley's Confectionary.