Rolf Jester

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Rolf Jester
Vice-President, Distinguished Analyst
16 years at Gartner
46 years IT Industry

Rolf Jester researches the business of IT services, particularly business and marketing strategy and best practices for IT services providers. He focuses on the IT outsourcing business globally, and also on the IT services market and service providers in the Asia/Pacific region. Read Full Bio

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What’s the Best Vertical Market?

by Rolf Jester  |  December 13, 2013  |  Comments Off

I’ve been known to say that if I hear that question again I’ll scream. But screaming has done no good, and the question keeps coming.

Research about size, growth and spending intentions of vertical markets alone won’t help you answer this question. The biggest, the fastest growing verticals may not always be the best ones … for you.

The best vertical market for you is the one in which you have strengths, where you have permission to play, where you have something competitive to offer that buyers value.  Sometimes a relatively small vertical is the right one for you, especially if you can dominate your category in it. You can add adjacent segments, or take solutions from one vertical to another in order to grow beyond that.  I’ve published advice on that in “Marketing Essentials: Nine Ways to Grow Your Business” (

So the simple — but not easy — advice is to do an analysis of your own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats: a SWOT. We publish some of those at Gartner (there are plenty on and do lots more for clients, with a standard methodology. It’s not easy to do objectively, but even your own analysis, as honest as you can make it, is better than none.

It’s actually the “S” — the strength — that’s the significant bit, along with the opportunities. Identifying the opportunities fully may indeed require some research input. But unless you, or your advisors, are starting from a good, comprehensive view of real and relevant strengths, you won’t get far. Strengths to think about should include:

  • market access: areas where your brand works to allow you to talk to the right buyers at the right level;
  • references: customer cases whose stories (if properly told) will resonate with the right buyers;
  • knowledge of the customers’ business: you can’t fake this;
  • value to offer that the right buyers will perceive as value;
  • an ability to articulate all that in enough depth and compellingly.

Even if you have no real vertical market approach now, or a weak one, if it makes sense for you to go that way, you may find that there are some latent strengths on which you can build.

Start working on those, and then think about a vertical market strategy. My colleagues who research industry markets have developed this: “Toolkit: Assessing Your Industry Vertical Go-to-Market Strategy position”  (


These blog posts will continue to discuss the business of IT Services, especially selling and marketing.

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