Horizontal and vertical marketing

There are two broadly defined marketing techniques: vertical marketing and horizontal marketing.

Horizontal marketing involves targeting a wide marketplace and vertical marketing concentrates solely on targeting one, specific marketplace.

Accountants can take one of these two approaches, either aiming for sector dominance or trying to cultivate a broad range of clients. One advantage of vertical marketing is that it is far easier to dominate a narrow market sector than to monopolise a broad one. Another advantage is that it allows you to specialise, and specialists can charge higher fees than generalists.

The obvious disadvantages of vertical marketing are those of having too many eggs in one basket and being at the mercy of a single market. For instance, if all of a firm’s clients are in the construction industry and demand for building falls off, the firm could find itself without a single client able to afford its fees. Some industries are seasonal, and a firm might find itself trying to fit an entire year’s work into a short season and then having to wait for the next peak season to be remunerated.

Even though it is easier to sell your services as a specialist in someone’s industry than as a general accountancy practice, for most firms the healthiest outlook has to be a broad base of clients. When one industry is struggling, others will be booming, so there is always a potential client with money to spend.

Vertical marketing is usually a question of seizing an opportunity and taking a decision to pursue a particular market. When the decision is taken, it is best taken in the light of knowledge of the ups and downs of the industry and its history of risk.

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