B2B App Marketing – Identifying Your Market (Part 3)

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Now it’s time to really get into the meat of how B2B app marketing works.
As you’re probably starting to realize, B2B is one of the best ways to build a business, especially as it relates to apps. You get fewer, higher quality clients, you get long term revenue, and you’ll be able to scale like never before!
But, you also need to make sure you’re pointing your rocket ship in the right direction. If you don’t take time to identify your market a the beginning, you could end up pouring all your gasoline into the windshield wiper fluid container (bad metaphor, sorry).
This is Part 3 of the B2B model.  In Part 1 I explain the B2B model and why there is so much potential (particularly because the competition doesn’t exist).  In Part 2 I talk about the restrictions of developing apps for the App Store, and the mindset needed to be successful with B2B.
What you’re going to learn in this post is how to identify your market. We’ll cover:

  • Marketplaces vs Topics
  • App Store Markets and Internet markets
  • Where to find markets
  • Customer Avatars
  • Current non-app solutions
  • Competition

By the end of this post you will have a clear starting point for your B2B app marketing business.

Marketplaces vs Topics

This was one of the greatest realizations I ever had in business.
I was reading through one of Ryan Deiss‘ courses and he talked about this in depth. When you think about it, this makes all the difference.
Marketplaces are communities and exchanges with a foundation of PEOPLE. They’re what describe a large group of individuals with shared interests or passions. Examples include: photography enthusiasts, makeup artists, gamers, camping lovers. They have a specific set of demographic criteria.
Topics, on the other hand, are made up mostly of INFORMATION. It’s how the people become educated or excited about a particular interest. Examples include (as related to the above examples): photography, makeup tutorials, gaming, camping. These are measured in volume (size of market) and are a byproduct of their core consumers.
Do you see the difference?
With marketplaces, you’re catering directly to the person who’s the consumer…
..but most people focus on the topics.
“Oh cool, I want to build an app that does makeup tutorials” is a common statement that people make. You can replace “app” with website or business, the point is the same. They focus on the topic, the content and getting as much built as possible.
When you think about the marketplace, however, you realize that there is someone on the other end of what you are building. Instead of saying “What’s the hottest keyword in makeup tutorials?” you start to ask “what is the #1 thing this core demographic needs or wants?”
This is huge.
When you’re getting into B2B, you’re going to have to REALLY start thinking in terms of marketplaces. Instead of building theme focused apps, you need to start thinking about the group of people that will purchase it from you.
Stop building dental-themed apps, start building apps that solve the problems dentists’ have.
Here are two quick exercises you can do to start thinking in terms of marketplaces:

  1. Create a list of 5 people that have a similar job. Let’s say you know 5 people who are teachers (or your friends and family know these people). Write down everything you think a teacher would want in an app based on research, THEN go talk to them and ask what their problems are at work. Don’t even mention apps – just ask about problems. Your goal is to solve a problem, the app is just a delivery mechanism. You’ll see that before you meet with them you’re thinking about FEATURES and after you meet with them you’re thinking about SOLUTIONS.
  2. Start doing demographic research exercises. Here is a great tool: http://www.alexa.com/. Type in the website of a business you’re interested in and start learning about the people that visit it. Are they male or female? What age? What country? You’ll learn a lot about the customers.

Once you start doing these two exercises, you’ll see the difference between marketplaces and topics.
The point of this is to go into B2B realizing you are building your apps for PEOPLE (ex: dentists) – the more you can learn who they are, who their customers are and what their problems are, the more successful you will be.

App Store Markets vs Internet Markets

I wanted to cover this because a lot of people have been researching and stuck in the app store for a few years now, living and dying by the charts and algorithm.
app store VS internet market-01
I’m here to tell you…that there is an entire world outside of the top 150 apps! Shocking, I know.
The app store markets are built on pre-qualified people. You need:

  • A device (phone or tablet)
  • Interest
  • Specific usage patterns
  • Time to use the apps

That caters really well to people who are sitting on a subway heading to work (want games or books) or even people who want a better way to get good workouts (want fitness apps).
Even though apps are very popular and growing like crazy, they cater to very specific behaviors. Time killing entertainment. Messaging. Streaming music.
When you look at your credit card statement, however, you see a LOT of other stuff you pay for besides apps. You go to the doctor. You go out to eat. You have bills to pay. Etc.
Everything you spend money on is a big market outside of the app store. You might spend $20 on a yoga class…but you’d DIE if you spend $20 on a yoga app.
What you also have to remember is that the app market is a winner take all space whereas the internet (and regular world) is much more horizontal. You may have a better chance to make $50,000 outside the app store, but a much lower chance of making $10M.
This means that there are potentially hundreds of smaller markets OUTSIDE the app store that simply  don’t cater to the app mentality as a B2C product (yet). Examples include Finance, Health, Reference, Food.
If you can build an app that allows these new markets to engage with customers in a way that’s relevant, you’re onto something. In other words, it’s hard to build a finance app + market it to people you don’t know, but it’s not hard to build a finance app for financial customers of an existing business. The apps will be totally different….because they’re in different markets.
The big takeaway here is that you need to start with markets OUTSIDE the app store, then find app solutions for them, as opposed to looking INSIDE the app store and then trying to find people who might want the apps.
Could this work? Maybe, but you’ll have way more success going outside in.

Here’s a great exercise you can do to find some markets outside the app store:
Go through the last 6-12 months of credit card statements and make a list of everything you spent money on. Categorize spending into 6-7 different buckets.
Once you’ve done this, go through each bucket/transaction set and ask yourself “Is there anyone out there who I could be paying this money to that is a small business owner?” A good example is insurance – you might use Geico, but could switch to a regional or local provider.
Next to each transaction set, make notes about small business options for that charge.
Then go on Google and see who’s within 50 miles of you. Then pick up the phone.

If you want a sample list of B2B niches, check out this article. 
Start with external markets that are making lots of money, then offer an app solution.

Customer Avatars for B2B Apps

Ok, by now you’ve:

  • Done some research and had some conversations with people to realize that you are building SOLUTIONS and not just apps.
  • Gone through all your credit cards and identified 10-15 industries or businesses that are making lots of money

Awesome. Let’s say you’ve made your decision and you’re going to tackle home energy retrofitters (NOTE: this is actually a sick market to work with, I used to consult a startup and they were crushing it). Now you need to create a customer avatar.
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A customer avatar is your ideal and most common customer. It’s your Joe Smith or Jane Dough. Clearly defining who this person is will make your marketing efforts a lot more effective.
For Bluecloud, our customer avatar is:

  • Male
  • College/Graduate Degree educated
  • USA based (LA, NYC, SF mostly)
  • Interested in new income streams + new job ideas
  • Age 21-38
  • Analytical, rational and operations focused

Etc etc. This came from having a lot of website traffic and deep analytics on all fronts, but you don’t need all that to begin with.
For energy retrofitters, you need to define who that person is. Specifically, you’re going to define who it is you’re pitching this app idea to.
First step would be to Google “home energy retrofitters (insert your state here)” and start browsing websites. Go to the About or Contact page and see who’s behind this. You might start to see that they’re:

  • Mostly men
  • Age 35-60
  • Live in the suburbs
  • Left leaning politically
  • Family oriented
  • Have a team of people working with them

I’m not sure if that’s correct, but it’s to illustrate who your “perfect” customer is.
Here’s a worksheet that you could download that may help you: Download here
This is not going to be perfect the first time you do it and it’s 100% OK to take a guess if you’re not sure on something, just realize that you’re trying to make this more and more clear as you continue your business.

Current Non-App Solutions in the B2B App World

One of the reasons why B2B app marketing is so exciting right now is because you’re adding to the “marketing arsenal” that a company already has access to. This may include:

  • Websites (and everything that comes with that like SEO, paid traffic, email)
  • Events
  • Direct mail (flyers, etc)
  • Telemarketing
  • Word of mouth

Now you’re coming in and adding a unique product offering.
BUT what most people forget is to offer a unique solution as well. The reason why so many people don’t dominate B2B is because they try to sell something that the business owner either already has or thinks they already have. That’s a problem.
With your app offering, you need to show how you’re not only different, but how you’ll add value independent of the current non-app solutions out there.

Let’s use the obvious example of a website, especially since I dealt with this in the B2B world the most.
The #1 reason small business owners want a website is to get more leads. For lawyers, it means that people found them on Google and picked up the phone. For restaurants it was people seeing awesome photography and making a reservation. Websites are delivered so that businesses get FOUND. That was the pitch. Website = more people.
With an app, if I walked in and said that I could get somone more leads, the first thing an energy retrofitter would say is “I already have a website, why do I need an app?” This is the critical moment – I would need to explain how an app would do so much more to ADD to a website, not replace it.
I would talk about how it would do things like:

  • Be immediately available for all existing customers to have easy access to your contact info
  • Offer an easier way for clients to pay you
  • Integrate awesome social sharing functions (ex: after the job is complete, you send an email or push notification that asks them to share your experience with friends)
  • Send targeted alerts with push notifications to bypass the email inbox clutter

And so on. All of these solve problems for the energy retrofitter – customer satisfaction, cheap marketing, engagement. These also cannot be solved with a website or even website marketing packages – it’s all specific to an app.
You can apply this logic to anyone.

The reason I titled this section “Non-app solutions” is because I couldn’t put together that bullet list of solutions without knowing what my potential customer already had and what they were using it for.
Restaurants may have websites and use them for specific reasons, Lawyers may use them for completely different reasons. Travel agents may rely on direct mail more than their website.
Each person has problems that their marketing systems are trying to solve. The more I know about those systems, the more I can show how unique mine is. The sale is a piece of cake at that point.

Here’s how you can do this:
Take your market target and hone in on 5 potential leads – 5 potential energy retrofitters. Go through their website and sign up for email, offer all your information and get a free consultation. See who calls you. Ask them to send you all the materials they have. Ask if they go to trade shows. Find out everything you can about how their business works so that you can craft your pitch accordingly.
By doing this, you’ll be able to fit perfectly into the marketing systems they have. You’d be surprised at how much money “magically” appears with small business owners when you offer something that solves a unique problem.

Competition In B2B Apps

Lastly, it’s important to watch for competition in B2B. This is a different beast than the app business because it’s less about rank and first to market and MUCH more about relationships.
When I was building websites for lawyers, I was a small fish in shark infested waters – huge, national companies were lobbying hard to get new lawyers in town. If I looked at the market from that standpoint, I never would have taken a chance.
But once I started talking to lawyers, I realized that it wasn’t apples to apples. A lot of people don’t want to buy from some sales guy on the phone who lives 1,000 miles away, they want to buy from someone they have lunch with and shake hands with.
There was plenty of website competition, but there wasn’t much relationship competition. That’s why I was able to grow so much, because I found the one area no one could compete with me on – personal affinity and trust.
When you’re looking at your new market, realize that your potential clients are probably not sizing you up against other app solutions. In a few years, maybe, but for now, they’re looking for:

  • A great solution that provides lots of value
  • Someone they trust and can work with

Most people focus on the first piece when they think of competition. Realize that you can ALWAYS win on the second. No one ever went broke by cultivating awesome relationships in business.
That being said, you still want to know who your competition is so that you can stay sharp. You need to have a product that is comparable for your relationship to really help you.
What’s awesome about your position right now is that you know more about apps and the app business than 90% of the sales people out there trying to close B2B app leads, which gives you a great reason to get on the phone or take someone out to coffee. You’re already ahead of the competition.
Now you just need to get an awesome product.
Part 4 – Creating The Solution (Apps)
Communication and interaction are going to be the hardest part of the B2B model for some of you.  In the next post, we’ll walk through how you’re going to create something that you can offer to your new leads. There’s a TON of options which is exciting and it’s usually not nearly as complicated as you might think.
Here’s a link to Part 4 – Creating The Products (click here)
Thanks for reading! Excited to keep this going.


  1. Endodoug

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