Picture this: your startup is developing a new product and you’re in the process of identifying a target market (if you’re an early-stage startup, this might even be your reality).
If your market is too narrow, you won’t have a large enough reach to meet your projections, but if your market is too wide, you run the risk of drowning in a sea of competitors.
Is there a happy medium? With a beachhead strategy, there can be.
Here’s what to know about the beachhead strategy and how to implement it for your startup.
What is the Beachhead Strategy?
Beachhead strategy in business refers to focusing your efforts and resources on a limited market area and turning it into a stronghold before expanding further into a broader market or adding more product categories. By dominating a small section first, it can slowly enter the market with more confidence and traction than before.
Developing a beachhead strategy starts with refining your target market to strengthen your ROI. It requires significant research and brainstorming and can take months to plan, but despite the resources and time it requires, it’s historically proven to be successful.
What Does Beachhead Mean?
The term beachhead originated from a military strategy used by the allied forces in 1944 as they landed on the shores of Normandy. With this strategy, the allies first conquered the beach and then used it as their stronghold. They defended it ruthlessly and slowly began to expand into what was enemy territory, eventually conquering a large area and ultimately helping to end the Nazi Reich.
How A Beachhead Strategy Works in Marketing
To implement a beachhead strategy in marketing, concentrate your efforts on a single range, such as an item category, and stay there until you’ve captured the top position in the market. As you begin to overpower that market, you can begin to expand elsewhere.
This could entail promoting an item on a city’s outskirts at first and using the responses to evaluate and improve the marketing strategy. This allows startups to test out their brightest marketing ideas on a general population without totally depleting their funding.
Beachhead Marketing Examples
If you use a beachhead strategy to steadily grow and scale into a successful business, you wouldn’t be the first company to do so. Many brands have become household names as a result of a successful beachhead strategy. Here are some of the most notable:
Founded by two university students, Facebook started with a sole focus on students at just one school – Harvard. After conquering Harvard, they moved into other Ivy League institutions, which allowed them to capture the entire university market in just a few months. From there, they expanded their university reach into other markets over the next few years before expanding to a non-university population globally.
When Tinder first launched, its founders focused their efforts on the West Coast, where they lived. Like Facebook, they segmented their market even further to focus on college students on the West Coast. As a specific starting point, they rolled out the app to a small group of USC students, who then invited their friends to use it. Understanding that these users would likely be the apps’ harshest critics, the company figured that by winning them over first, it would be much easier to win over everyone else. They were right.
The eCommerce giant we know today as Amazon started by selling just books. At the time, books were in high demand, and their business model allowed them to obtain a stronghold of this market. They eventually expanded into neighboring product categories and new markets until they reached their position today. Now, you can buy just about anything on Amazon.
Ways to Segment A Beachhead Market
Not sure how to segment your beachhead market? The goal is to pinpoint a market that is narrow and winnable. Here are a few strategies you could use:
- Geography: The geographic location of the market where you launch your product. Choosing a geographic segment requires local relationships, promoters, and an understanding of the local market’s culture. Travel costs are minimized and consumers have more trust in local companies.
- Target Customer Profile: While demographics are a good start, a target customer profile gets more specific, based on data. Examples include ex-college athletes who are healthy, play video games, and live in big cities. Choose an ideal customer profile of your early adopters who would benefit most from your specific solution and they’ll be more receptive to your product offering.
- Industry Vertical: Choose a specific industry vertical so your initial customers feel that your products are designed specifically for them. They should be able to differentiate your products from competitors’ products.
- Demographic: Build a marketing strategy around a specific demographic, such as economic characteristics, race, marital status, education, or sex.
Requirements for Successful Implementation of Beachhead Strategy
Before you begin implementing a beachhead strategy, make sure you understand the specific conditions required for a successful result:
Customers Already Purchase Similar Products
A good beachhead market is one where customers are already buying products or services similar to what you intend to offer.
Customers Have Similar Sales Cycles
Customers within the market should get the product in similar ways through similar sales cycles, creating predictable buying phases to tap into for that specific market.
Customers Use Word-of-Mouth Communication
A market where word of mouth is king provides a great foundation for a beachhead strategy. With early adopters serving as reference points to others, these markets have great potential for new businesses.
You Can Identify the Buyer Individually
Your buyer profile should be specific enough that you could pick them out of a room of 100 people. If the profile is too vague, it may not be right for a beachhead strategy.
Access to Decision Makers
You should be able to reach the buying decision-makers in your beachhead market without having to bypass layers of gatekeepers.
Sweet Spot Competition
Some level of competition in the market is good because it signals traction in the market, but too much loyalty to the competition among customers will be a steep challenge (i.e. a market of Apple fans when you’re trying to roll out a new tablet).
Opportunity to Grow
Will you be able to grow and expand into new markets from this one? If it won’t be a launchpad but rather a dead end, look elsewhere. You want connections to bigger markets you can eventually move into.
The Beachhead Process for Businesses & Entrepreneurs
The beachhead process is tried and true. Follow these steps to implement it for your startup:
- Ideate. Brainstorm potential markets and perform research to qualify them.
- Talk to them. Speak with real members of each market you’re considering starting with. Rather than talking about your product or business, ask about them, what they need, what they value, what challenges they face, and what solutions would be helpful to them. You’ll gain surprising, intimate insights that you won’t find on a Google search results page.
- Pick a market and initial product. Keep your offering limited, and use market segmentation to further narrow your niche until you have a strong hold on a specific beachhead market.
- Outperform the competition. Usually, the best way to do this is to make your product just slightly cheaper than other options while honing in on your differentiator – what makes you better, different, and more innovative.
- Get involved in the niche. Customers trust local businesses that are involved in their communities or niche industry. The goal is to become a recognized and positively perceived company in the specific market.
- Expand slowly. Only begin to expand once you have a stronghold on your current market, and do so strategically.
Steve MacDonald’s Recommendations for a Beachhead Strategy
What’s my best advice for startups initiating a beachhead strategy to roll out a new product?
Be specific. Be genuine. Be stubborn. Be patient.
If rushing into the large market is the hare, a beachhead strategy is the tortoise. In the end, the tortoise wins the race as a result of his patience and long-term focus on the goal ahead. Going slow, and going steady, is often the best strategy for startups. Just take it from Facebook and Amazon.
Are you ready to implement a beachhead strategy to roll out your startup’s offering, but need guidance from an entrepreneurial expert and funding to reach this next milestone? Contact Steve MacDonald of MacDonald Ventures.