What is Beachhead Strategy?
The term beachhead is derived from a military strategy that advocates that, as you are approaching an enemy territory, you should plan and focus all your resources on winning a small border area that becomes a stronghold area from which to advance into the enemy territory.
In the context of B2B tech marketing, a beachhead strategy is about offering a prospective customer audience something they want lower than market rates (i.e., free or at a low cost) with the singular aim of creating a customer.
The logic of this approach is that it costs much less to sell to an existing customer than a prospect that does not have any commercial relationship with your business.
Instead of playing the game of trying to nurture custom to your door using social media marketing, paid ad spend and running the gauntlet of the events circuit, this alternative market engagement agenda brings with it more control and more predictable outcomes at much lower cost of acquisition.
The death of garage tech startups?
Attracting new customer prospects has become almost impossible for tech startups without gargantuan marketing budgets. How can you gain the upper hand by changing the rules of the game?
We’ve all heard about the famous tech brands that started life by working out of a garage—Apple, Hewlett Packard, Google—but today, unless a garage tech startup can find funding early (and lots of it) they have scarce opportunity succeed when they follow the rules of how business to business marketing works today.
Even if a startup can ‘catch their chicken ‘ and build a great product, finding their first tranche of customers won’t be easy. That is, unless they are fortunate enough to already be intimate with the market and already have sufficient numbers of useful prospect relationships already in place! Additionally, getting customers to invest a little time to try your product or service will be a hard slog. With so many competitors out there, at least one of them will undoubtedly have swelling marketing budgets flushed by Menlo Park money.
If I take the example of Encanvas. The UK founders created the first enterprise no-code applications platform back in 2003, and it continues to be one of the most advanced platforms on the market. But in the last two years, a growing interest in No Code app development has led to a whole new line-up of well funded competitors entering the market with millions of dollars behind them. UK companies like Encanvas, that have grown organically and remain wholly owned by the founders, may have the best technology, but they face fierce competition from players with simpler products and more spending power to invest in Google and LinkedIN ads, Gartner contracts, exhibitions and events, etc.
Competing with competitors armed with a huge marketing spend isn’t easy. Our online world is tuned to buyers finding suppliers, not the other way around. In the digital age, the sluich gates that manage sales communications are largely closed to outbound sales and marketing efforts. It’s buyers who hold the cards and can choose when they want to engage with suppliers. They have technology to close off unwanted communications from needy suppliers. And don’t be surprised when they choose to try out the tech products or services from familiar brands, or those new entrants most carried in news-feeds, Gartner reports and raised to the top of SEO results by ad-spend.
But not all is lost. One weapon B2B tech marketers have at their disposal is the beachhead strategy. How can it help you to succeed against the Goliaths of your industry segment?
A few worked examples
Envision if you will:
- A kitchen company that buys a job lot of a popular brand of coffee machines and offers to sell these at a discount rate for every customer that visits their showroom, or places an online order for a kitchen in the next few weeks.
- A gymnasium that promotes a FITBIT watch at a lower than market price for every new customer that subscribes to their monthly plan.
- A tech company that offers a free social media chat platform for free, safe in the knowledge that their core offering comes from the value-adding applications 1 in 10 customers will want to enrich their platform.
These promising go-to-market approaches encourage prospective buyers to consider the offering in question ahead of other, similar offers. It creates a distortion in the normal operation of markets and panders to the wants, desires and the base emotional buying behaviors of buying influencers that lie hidden behind pragmatic and rational purchasing decisioning—even in the B2B world.
So far in this article I’ve concentrated my commentary on tech startups, but it’s not uncommon for even mature B2B tech players to want to switch direction or move into new marketing segments. In such cases, a beachhead strategy can prove mighty effective.
Designing a beachhead strategy for your tech startup
Creating a beachhead is about blending product strategy with go-to-market strategy. Each tech startup will have its own unique set of levers to push and pull in order to shape this agenda. For these reasons, it’s difficult to be too prescriptive on what a good beachhead looks like, but let’s try to put some meat on the bones!
#1. Identify pain
The starting point is identifying an area of pain that will resonate with your audience. It must be a something that represents a commonly unmet need within your target cohort. Additionally, this need must link closely with your core offering and the underpinning economic engine that turns customer value into profits.
#2. Create a conversational path
Next, step through the conversational journey that you plan to take your prospective customer through. It needs to answer the questions:
What characteristics define the prospective buyers in your target audience cohort?
Where do they go for knowledge?
What job will your beachhead offer help them to do better?
What event causes them to need a solution to improving how they get the job done?
How will your beachhead offer help them to do the job better?
Why should they invest in your beachhead now?
If not your beachhead solution, how are they likely to meet their needs? What is the next best buying alternative?
Once you’ve answered these questions…
#3. Validate the transition from your beachhead to a higher value account
To be a profitable go-to-market approach, it’s likely that any income resulting from your beachhead sales will not be enough. For that reason, it makes sense to tread very carefully when considering the upsell step between your beachhead offer and your core offering. There needs to be a close affinity between the two, and ideally, every new customer resulting from your beachhead SHOULD be a candidate to purchase your core offering.
In the tech business, you need to be just a little bit better with new customers than your closest competitor.
That’s why I’m a big fan of beachhead offerings. For me, it helps smart B2B tech startups to punch above their weight by creatively serving up extra value that beats competitors that have more marketing spend but less creativity.
Adopting a beachhead go-to-market strategy can transform your business, and build out your sales pipeline. It just takes some creative thinking. So why not ponder it on your next long walk, or get in touch with us and see what we can work out for you?