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B2B Growth: How Finding Your Niche Can Acclerate Growth

Featuring Neill Feather / Episode 315

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Jonathan Green:You're listening to the B2B Growth show, a podcast dedicated to helping B2B executives achieve explosive growth. Whether you're looking for techniques and strategies, or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. I'm Jonathan Green.

James Carbary: and I'm James Carbary. Let's get into the show.

James Carbary: Welcome back to B2B Growth Show, we're here today with Neill Feather, he's the president at SiteLock. Neill, how're you doing today?

Neill Feather: I'm doing well, James, how are you?

James: I'm wonderful. So, Neill we were talking offline, and I'm really stoked about the topic we're going to be covering today, I personally resonate with it, it's really how you can find your niche, or how finding your niche can accelerate your growth. And there's some specific things we're going to talk about, one being you know, kind of the need to educate the market when you're doing something like this. There's this big need to educate people around kind of, whatever it is that led you to being so passionate about what you niched into, to get other people excited about it, there needs to be some education. That's one of the things we're going to touch on. Before we do that, Neill can you explain to our listeners just a little bit about SiteLock, what you guys are all about over there?

Neill: Sure, I'd be happy to. So, at SiteLock what we do, we provide a suite of security products targeted at helping business owners protect their websites. And we're really focused on really, websites and web applications. When you think about security, it's a really big market. And there's a lot of different pieces and people mean different things when they talk about security, and we wanted to really be laser-focused on what we thought was the future of um, technology, which is really websites and cloud-connected applications. And so, that's what we really focused on since our founding, and you know, everything we do at our business is targeted around protecting websites and especially for those small- and medium-sized businesses that we have as customers.

James: Okay, that makes a lot of sense. And when we started talking about this offline, you know, you said one of the first things that we should talk about is just the importance of looking to see how you can differentiate yourself. Can you give a little bit of context for the marketers listening?

Neill: Sure, I mean I think for us, what we thought about when we started this business was, you know, security, again, is like a crowded marketplace, and a term that means a lot of things to a lot of different people. How do we create a message that is meaningful and drive value for you know, potential customers. And one of the things that was happening at the time we started this company in 2008, was there were a lot of security products available for enterprises. If you were, you know, Bank of America, or General Electric, you know, you could go find security for anything that you needed it for. For the small and medium businesses though, that wasn't really true. And it wasn't true along a lot of different axis, from, you know, complexity of products, to pricing of products, to support structures, and all of that was really targeted at larger businesses that had a lot of internal know-how and horsepower around both IT and security. So here you are a small business or a medium-sized business, and you have one or two IT guys, there wasn't really a great option for you as far as security. And for most of those folks, their website is their largest asset, their largest IT asset, it's the one they've invested the most money in, it's the most visible to their customers, and potential visitors. And so, it's an important part of their infrastructure that they really do need to secure, and need a really good option to do that. So when we built our business we said, okay, we're not going to take an enterprise security platform and water it down for small businesses. We're going to build a product that really makes sense for these small- and medium-sized businesses, and small and medium enterprises, and we're going to, you know, build features that they care about and deliver it in a way that is intuitive for them, and back it up with twenty-four by seven support in the U.S., for all of our customers, whether they're, you know, small customers, large customers, or somewhere in the middle. And so we really built the offering targeted to who we wanted to serve, and that really helped us to differentiate in terms of getting to market quickly, and you know, kind of building that initial customer base.

James: Yeah. I mean, when you know exactly who you want to serve, your messaging can be hyper-focused, the product can be hyper-focused, that like there's so many things that you can focus in on when you have clarity around the specific audience you want to serve. And so, this next piece that I want to talk about, Neill, is the thing that I alluded to at the top of the interview, I'm probably most excited to talk with you about, around this need for education. As we were talking offline about it, you just said when you go niche, when you find the niche, there's a reason you did that. And being able to educate your market so that they understand the benefit of your solution or why they should be embracing your solution, can you talk to us about what that looks like for you and your team at SiteLock?

Neill: Sure, yeah. I think you're right, I mean when you find that niche it's because no one else is doing it. And that could be, one of our board members is fond of saying, you know, you found a gap in the market, but is there a market in the gap? And so, you found this niche, and it's underserved, but the question is, do you have a product and a message that's going to resonate with these folks? So for us, one of the things that was interesting about going into this market was, there was a lot of kind, misperceptions around security for these medium-sized and small businesses where they said, look, we're not Target, we're not Home Depot, nobody's going to try to bother us, right? And we don't have security needs like these enterprises do. And in some instances there's some validity to that, because the types of attacks that affect them are different. But the reality is, that small businesses and medium-sized businesses are under attack now like never before. So we needed to find a way to communicate that message and make sure folks were really aware of the risk of leaving themselves unprotected, and do that in a way--you know, security is an interesting area--without kind of stoking needless fear, right. So we want to be very up-front and honest about the message and make sure that people are aware of what threats are out there and what's kind of in the Internet space for them to be thinking about. So one of the things that we did from an education perspective was, we said, 'Who else knows about this? And who can help us kind of, communicate this message. We're small, we're starting out, and we're trying to grow quickly, but you know, we don't want to spend tens of millions of dollars creating a marketing message around this. And so, one of the things that was important to us, kind of getting out of the gates, was finding and connecting with partners who understood this problem, and who were willing to help us educate that market. And for us, we found that in a lot of other businesses that also serve small businesses, because they had customers who were being impacted by, you know, hacking attacks and security breaches and things like that. And it was really negatively impacting their businesses and in some cases having them shut down businesses. So we found larger service providers, you know, web hosting companies, telcos, B2B service players, that were able to help us communicate that message to their client bases and their readership, and kind of get our message amplified using their megaphone. And it really helped educate that market, build a brand for us, and build credibility in the SMB space.

James: And so, did that look like doing a lot of joint webinars, did it look like them sending out emails to their list on your behalf, I'd love to dive deeper into the specifics of how you partnered with some of these folks.

Neill: Yeah, so all of the above. We absolutely did webinars, you know, sent joint emails. Kind of at the root of all that, because those are delivery mechanisms, was creating a compelling message, that would kind of hit home with their customer base, and being able to deliver that in a way that was palatable for the customers to receive that message, so we really focused on how can we build statistics and data and relevance to this customer base. So that we can really tailor our message to that niche, and so we needed to talk about what types of things do small business owners need to be aware of, what types of protections do they need, to make sure that they're not impacting them, and sometimes that's our products, and frankly, sometimes that's someone else's products. But we want to be up-front about that, and educate them and build that credibility to be able to say, 'hey we want to protect your website', right? If you want to protect your pcs, and you know, other things, here's the other things you need to be thinking about, and so we wanted to build that content that was meaningful to them, and not just talk about a vague message of security. We're very specific in terms of what we're asking them to do.

James: Yeah. To the piece about the partnerships that you formed with the larger, you know, with the service providers, and web hosting providers, can you talk to us about what were some of the things that you did, Neill, to go about forming those relationships?

Neill: For us, a lot of those were, um, we went to trade shows, we spent a lot of time doing that, we used our networks on LinkedIn to kind of build relationships with these folks and all of the things that you would typically do. I don't think there was a ton of magic in the building the relationships piece, but when you get in front of these folks, one of the things we found that was interesting was, we talk about niche, and I just started to find the right people to talk to. It wasn't a hard conversation to explain; you know, this is what we do and this is why it's important, they said, yeah we definitely need this and it's important. And what we found in those initial conversations, is our niche, you know, quote unquote niche, is really really big. We're talking about something like two hundred million potential small business and medium-sized business websites that are out there today. And, you know, a really underserved market, even today, a really underserved market. And so, getting in front of the right folks who have experience in this space was really helpful to us, but you know, we did it in a rather traditional way of, you know, of kind of prospecting and going to trade shows and bridging relationships and everything else.

James: Got it. I'm glad that you mentioned that, that was actually the third thing that I wanted to talk to you about, it's this idea that going niche doesn't mean that it's going to be small, a lot of the case going niche is there's gigantic opportunity there Did you pick the niche, did you go into this because you knew that this was going to be a massive opportunity, or did you pick it because you wanted that focus, you wanted that clarity around a specific thing that you guys were going to hone in on, and then after the fact realized, there's massive opportunity here?

Neill: I think it's a little bit a combination. So, we picked it because we felt like we had a team and a focus that was going to provide value to a specific customer base. So, security and data, you know, that's supporting that, you know, and analytics and things, were areas where we knew we had great expertise. Small business is an area where we knew how to serve that market, and we knew how to deliver solutions to those folks on our team. So we kind of targeted it based on our expertise, where our passion was, what we wanted to do as a business. As far as the size of the market, we had some idea, in terms of the size of that market and, I guess in venture capital terms, the addressable market, you know, what that looked like. What we didn't necessarily think through or understand was how well we would get picked up once we got into that niche and started to deliver our message. So fast-forward to today, and we have around seven million customers out of a huge market of two hundred million or what we talked about. You know, we're talking about really quickly accelerating growth, you know, year on year, and kind of seeing that. So we had an indication of the size of the market, but you know, I think what's interesting to see is the adoption rate we've been able to drive and sort of get people educated. We're also seeing that people kind of have started a little bit of a snowball effect, where now that you've hit a certain scale, you've hit a certain kind of point, and that flywheel starts to kick in and you start to see things kind of continue to grow quickly and accelerating. So that's been important for us, I think we got into it and I think you have to, for what you're passionate about and what you think you can do better than anyone else, but, from a business perspective, for us, we were in a market that was really big and growing really quickly. So that helps, that tailwind definitely helps.

James: Neill, so, is there anything else related to your story of niching down, you know like I said before, I resonate with it greatly, with our shift from blog-writing into specifically producing podcasts for B2B brands. Is there anything else around this concept of finding your niche to accelerate growth that you think listeners should hear before I let you go this morning?

Neill: Yeah, I mean I think the only other thing I would say is, as we look to the future, you know we're really, we do think about how to be very specific and focused in our direction. So, even as we continue to grow and continue to look at new markets, what we try to do is avoid these broad messaging statements. And so, you know, another way to think about niche is to think about vertical marketing too. And that's one thing we're really big on, is if you're going to go talk to a doctor, have a message that's specific for doctors. And I think, you know, there's a huge market out there, but it's made up of a lot of niches, all right, so you know, when you're talking to your customers, going at them with a generalized message, is just less likely to resonate than going to them with a very specific message tailored to them that is meaningful to their business. So, that's kind of the way we think about the future as well, we think about how do we deliver these website security products to our customers. You know, you can deliver a product that works for any type of website, in our case, but you still gotta be able to tell people why they need it, and make that information and that message specific to them so that they understand it and it is meaningful to them. So, that's been kind of our focus historically, delivering that kind of message and moving forward, we need to kind of think about the world in niches.

James: I love it, I love it. Now this has been fantastic, if there's somebody listening to this, maybe they want to connect with you and dig more into this, or they want to learn more about SiteLock, what's the best way for them to go about doing that?

Neill: So, if you want to connect with me, LinkedIn is the best way. Um, you can look me up on there, Neill Feather on LinkedIn. To connect with the company, we're sitelock.com on the Internet, and on all the social media platforms we're just SiteLock. So you can find us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, so we're all over the place on social media, but yeah, it would be great to connect with your listeners, James, and continue the conversation.

James: Love it. Awesome, Neill, thank you so much for your time today, I think, again, I think this is going to be super helpful, so I appreciate it.

Neill: Yeah, thank you.