Beachhead Segments

Entrepreneurship Without Risk

This concept is a war-inspired metaphor referring to the idea that if you were to try to penetrate a bit of every army of your enemy you will likely fail. However, if you start with one adversarial army, likely the beachhead, you can conquer this segment fully and from there on move yourself to the next.

In entrepreneurship, this strategy has proven to be just as effective. Dr Geoffrey Moore has coined this term in his book Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers in which he suggests to start with a small niche before moving on to the customer segment. Moreover, the notion of the beachhead is rather a need-based phenomenon than a demographical one. Most successful companies have started with an incredibly small niche and worked themselves up from there. Reddit has started with a very specific geek-like customer type but has expanded rapidly from there and is now used just as much by mainstream users. Facebook started with one single Tinder-like service for students only at Harvard. Later it spread to other Ivy-league universities and from then on it expanded its services and started tackling the mass market. Tinder also started only on the west-coast and only by targeting college students. They promoted their app on college parties and sororities – physically. You might be surprised how many successful apps started with physical promotion.

Benefits include

1.              You can use limited resources effectively

2.              Mistakes in one segment are usually not transferred to another

3.              Within a specific niche there is incredibly strong word of mouth

Reference to Niching

However, be aware that beachhead strategy is not niching. While niching refers to addressing a specific niche and staying with it, beachhead strategy starts with a specific need, but conquers the entire market from there. Some products work better with a niching strategy and some better with a beachhead strategy. While we’d love to give examples, their value is limited. You will need to assess your individual scenario and see whether your product may be altered towards mass adoption or not.

This article has 9 neat tricks to consider when targeting your beachhead segment:

Customer Interview

Interviewing customers sounds easy but is probably one of the most difficult tasks in finding and addressing customer’s needs for any kind of business. It is the task most often done wrong, even by experienced professionals who have years of sales experience.

Because this topic is so vital for entrepreneurship and for launching new products fast and successfully, entrepreneurs and researchers on entrepreneurship have come up with a new term: ‘customer discovery’. The term stems from Bill Aulets ‘Disciplined Entrepreneurship’ and is to date the most efficient way of starting a company. Before you define your product in detail, you should first know who your customer is and why that customer may use your product. You can do that without building the product in the first place, but it is difficult to find out.

There are few resources on this topic that certainly need to be checked out, but we definitely encourage you to read The Mom Test by Robert Fitzpatrick. It is an easy read and can be read and summarised in 2-4 hours.

After you’ve read this section, there are more advanced tactics to consider, mainly drilling down for customer interviews and customer observation as an alternative to customer interviews.

Resources

Robert Fitzpatrick: The Mom Test.

Giff Constable: Talking to Humans.

Customer Observation

Customer observation is different to customer interviews in that you do not speak to the customer, you merely watch her or him. This is more difficult but can be more useful in many regards.

This article explains perfectly the essence of the technique:

https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/how-to-conduct-user-observations

This article gives a couple of examples in combination with the entire design thinking methodology, developed by the world’s best design firm:

An in-depth analysis of observation in healthcare:

http://web.simmons.edu/~tang2/courses/CUAcourses/lsc745/sp06/observation.pdf

An approach to merge this with qualitative feedback from interviews can be found here:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/283125576_Towards_Continuous_Customer_Validation_A_Conceptual_Model_for_Combining_Qualitative_Customer_Feedback_with_Quantitative_Customer_Observation