How to Win With Your Next GTM:

A Deep-Dive into the B2B Cluster Framework and High-Impact Tools per Group

Challenges, Solutions and Priority Tools per Cluster

Our deep experience working on B2B go-to-market (GTM) challenges, as well as our organizational structure—by competence rather than industry—has enabled us to build a top-level view of the very different challenges a new commercial strategy must address across a variety of business types.

We use a set of three simple criteria (sector dynamics; product / service dynamics; and demand for innovation) to plot businesses within the B2B Cluster Framework – Essential Drivers chart below; each cluster is named according to the essence of priority actions in that group. For example, in No. 3, Optimal Service Level, a core product or service means your clients need your business to maintain their own—but since you serve many sectors, choosing areas to specialize in is likely critical to maintaining a high level of service. As well, any change in your pricing will make a direct hit on your clients’ bottom line.

To plot your position, answer the following questions or walk through our B2B Cluster Framework interactive matrix here.

  • Sector Dynamics: does your business serve one sector or many (multisector)?
  • Product / Service Dynamics: is your product or service core to your clients’ business or complementary?
  • Innovation Dynamics: how important is innovation to your industry? Is it a matter of differentiate or survive?*

The B2B Cluster Framework – Essential Drivers

Image Map

The B2B Cluster Framework – Essential Drivers labels each cluster by the key factors of influence and choice for each type of B2B GTM. *Whether innovation is a matter of “differentiate or survive” in your cluster should be answered separately within both the core and complementary product / service quadrants.

To take a deep-dive into cluster of interest and learn more about the challenges, solutions and tools that are most impactful in your business scenario, simply click the labels above—or scroll through them all below. Although we position companies in the framework based on the demands they serve now, circumstances can always change in the future. What you do with your business is up to you, and each cluster comes with pros and cons; some organizations must constantly innovate to maintain competitive edge while others must achieve volume across multiple industries. Looking at different clusters may spur ideas within your organization about where yet-imagined opportunities still exist. Also, following the specifics of the clusters, find a full takeaway summary of all six, including example industries, key challenges, tools and solutions.

1. FOCUS AND CONQUER

The ability to differentiate products and services is low for companies in this cluster, and the products or services you sell are not essential to your clients’ businesses; the potential to differentiate will stem from the commercial model itself.

Example Industries and Sectors In This Cluster

  • Accommodation
  • Administrative and Support Services
  • Educational Services
  • Logistics Operators
  • Paper Manufacturing
  • Plastics and Rubber Products Manufacturing
  • Real Estate
  • Rental and Leasing Services
  • Transportation Equipment Manufacturing (Motor Vehicles)

Challenges

  • Different needs and opportunities among sectors: Your clients’ needs are many and varied, particularly by sector. This creates opportunities, but you’ll have to choose your battleground: “where to play.”
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  • Product has limited impact on business solutions: Your product or service is not essential to your clients’ businesses. They have a great deal of choice in whether or not to buy your product.
  • Low-entry barrier: As innovation is not a factor in this cluster, the potential for competitors who offer similar products or services to court your clients is wide open.

Priority Tools

  • Segmentation: Segmentation is the most important tool for the Focus & Conquer cluster. It enables discussing each sector your business specializes in and making choices about where you want to “focus and conquer.” As your offering is complementary to your clients’ products or services, the key to differentiation (or innovation if you choose) is concentrating on segments that afford new opportunity, or in which you can demonstrate better understanding of customers’ needs compared to your competitors.
  • Service level: Service levels are critical to maintaining your client base in this cluster. As your customers can obtain similar products or services from a variety of providers, guaranteeing smooth, hassle-free transactions is key to client retention.
  • Commercial tools: Commercial tools are important to structuring entry barriers that prevent your clients from seeking other suppliers while giving you the opportunity to foster their loyalty.
  • Sales structure: The sales structure of the B2B GTM has some relevance to your ability to specialize your commercial model by sector.

Solutions

  • Define your target sectors: It is crucial to map your clients’ sectors, needs and regions so that you can strategically choose in which areas to specialize. This should include evaluating the size of each opportunity and trends in growth (your ability to “win”). However, pay attention to overly complex segmentation results; the more specialized and demanding a client’s segmentation is, the more difficult implementation will be.
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  • Specialize by sector: Given the multiple sectors of your clients and their specific needs (defined above), a commercial model that includes specialization is the most effective way to achieve the differentiation that your product or service cannot. This will not only guide the sales structure, pricing, contract approach, etc., but allow you to target would-be clients precisely and convert them to customers. For example, specialization within the commercial model will require your sales force to understand demands per client and tailor commercial speeches accordingly, and approach how relationships are structured with flexibility, e.g. monthly vs. long-term contracts.
  • Focus on customer solutions and experience: Guarantee the B2B GTM is able to deliver on its commercial speech and service-level agreements. However, avoid talking only about your product or service—emphasize solutions rather than comparisons among competitors. A multifunctional approach that brings areas such as logistics, marketing, IT, etc. from your company to interface with counterparts inside the client’s business is one interesting way to add value. This could happen directly or be centralized through your sales force, depending on the client and your strategy per sector. However, above all, be practical: your product or service should enable your clients to optimize their own businesses. If you create complications for them, they can easily seek support elsewhere.
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  • Create entry barriers: Going the extra-mile and paying attention to detail are strong differentials here; for example, loyalty programs, long-term contracts, system connectivity, and creative acknowledgements that honor the relationship (top client travel rewards/prizes).

2. CONSULT TO DRIVE INNOVATION

In this segment, innovation is fundamental to maintaining competitiveness in the market, but your product or service offering is not core to your clients.

Example Industries and Sectors In This Cluster

  • Computer and Electronic Product Manufacturing
  • Finance and Insurance
  • Machinery Manufacturing
  • Media and Entertainment
  • Professional, Scientific and Technical Services
  • Telecommunications

Challenges

  • Different needs and opportunities per sector, with technical complexity: Client needs are many and varied, particularly by sector. This creates opportunities, but in this cluster you’ll be expected to understand and challenge those needs while demonstrating a high level of technical aptitude.
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  • Ability to impact results: Your product isn’t core to your clients’ businesses, but it drives their performance. Your support and ability to consult on high-level issues will be an ongoing requirement of service.
  • Innovation as an entry barrier: The market and your competitors are constantly innovating, setting a high bar for attracting new business. However, at the same time, customers are always showing you ways to better serve their needs—even if the message is unspoken. Inefficient or ineffective innovation is frequently correlated with not understanding or listening to these demands.

Priority Tools

  • Commercial model: The commercial model is the priority here and must guarantee a multifunctional, consultative, empathetic approach to your customer’s needs. This is fundamental to maximizing your clients’ performance. As their products or services are complex in nature, the road to results is not always obvious. Having an optimal commercial model in place can help keep and/or attract customers, even when matched against competitors who offer advanced innovations.
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  • Segmentation: Segmentation is a worthwhile exercise to define your target sectors, but the commercial model is more important to this cluster. The ability to narrow your focus based on sector information isn’t as great, and capital investment needs to be spread out as much as possible.

     

  • Service level: Service level is key to guaranteeing a whole solution that fulfills the complexity of the service or product. As explained above, in the face of constant innovations in the market, excellence in service can incentivize client loyalty when a new offer from a competitor proves interesting.

Solutions

  • Define your target sectors: It is crucial to map your clients’ sectors, needs and regions so that you can strategically choose in which areas to specialize. This should also include evaluating the size of each opportunity and trends in growth (your ability to “win”). It is important to note that you may also choose to not specialize the commercial design of the B2B GTM by sector, but it is still key to identify your targets so that you can make decisions about how to own and protect them.
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  • Build qualified/consulting sales and business empathy: The selling process is not obvious—your sales structure must be advanced in capability and able to manage several steps. This should cover competencies such as obtaining a good briefing from the client; decoding and challenging underlying needs the client may not be aware of; suggesting solutions for products or services in a way that meets specific needs; and delivering results-oriented pitches that emphasize service. However, these actions are about more than technical execution—having the right professionals to serve as true partners to your clients holds high potential for differentiation.
  • Create a high-performing, multifunctional sales force: To guarantee results after the sale, the commercial area must maintain the connection and relationship with the client, but also ensure the connection of other areas—the salesperson should assume the role of problem-solver and build bridges within a multifunctional team.
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  • Devote yourself to results: Your ability to impact your clients’ performance creates an interdependent relationship, which means focusing on the results of your product or service is imperative. This includes results-monitoring, training and after-sale routines.
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  • Utilize the commercial area to spark innovation: Challenge your commercial area to bring in feedback from the market, generate discussion and come up with actionable ideas for innovation. Always be thinking one step ahead.

3. OPTIMAL SERVICE LEVEL

Your product or service is essential to your clients’ businesses, but each sector has its own needs. The B2B GTM approach must determine in which sectors to specialize, create differentials for each and most importantly, generate value. Competition and pressure on pricing are high.

Example Industries and Sectors In This Cluster

  • Chemical Manufacturing
  • Food Manufacturing
  • Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction
  • Primary Metal Manufacturing
  • Utilities

Challenges

  • Multiple applications and specifics: There are multiple sectors that use your product and each one has specific applications, needs and characteristics. You must consider several different realities and serve several different worlds.

     

  • Strong correlation between product and client performance: As your product is core to all customers, any change in cost or performance will make a huge impact—the degree of specificity and requirements will be very high both before and after the sale. You must guarantee results.

     

  • High-stakes price pressure and competition: Although the product is core, innovation is low, putting intense pressure on pricing and requiring excellent revenue and cost-management controls. What you offer represents a top expense for your clients, so the effort to maintain productivity and scale-related cost optimization must be continuous. Competitors will increase pressure on pricing to lure away your clients.
  • High service-level demand: Any gaps in product supply will cost you customers, so the pressure on service level is just as high as the pressure on pricing. There is always “qualification criteria” in this cluster—a minimum level of service you must offer or otherwise be knocked out of the game. However, clients will be open to integrating supply chains and creating seamless processes between your two companies that reduce the risk of operational issues and secure the relationship.
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  • Large stakeholders and long decision-making process: Since your product makes a huge impact on your clients’ results, selling to this cluster entails a strict and detailed process, including quality-assurance testing for consistency. You’ll also need to convince senior executives that your business can handle the job.

Priority Tools

  • Service level: The service-level definition is crucial in this cluster to the ability to adjust cost-to-serve numbers and control profitability. Having a clear picture of service level by segment will guide the path for each client type, including where to avoid unnecessary over-investment in service, which can incur costs that are disproportionate to the size of the opportunity (see Solutions below).

     

  • Segmentation: In the multisector scenario of this cluster, segmentation is required to define which sectors you want to focus on. There are likely many possibilities in this group, and choices must be made about where to specialize among clients who have high demands and are tough to serve. However, despite your product being core, your clients may represent different maturity levels by industry, providing variable opportunities for profitability and innovation.

     

  • Commercial model: This tool has relevance because you’ll need to be able to convince a large, high-level group of stakeholders of your ability to meet their needs through a detailed process. A multifunctional approach can be of benefit in this scenario by leveraging expertise beyond the commercial team (technical, IT, etc.) to differentiate your value proposition from competitors.

Solutions

  • Specialize by sector: Given the multiple sectors of your clients and their specific needs, a commercial model that includes specialization is the most effective way to achieve the differentiation that your product or service cannot. This will not only guide the sales structure, pricing, contract approach, etc., but allow you to target would-be clients precisely and convert them to customers. For example, specialization within the commercial model will require your sales force to tailor commercial speeches, and approach how relationships are structured with flexibility, e.g. monthly vs. long-term contracts.

     

  • Control client profitability: Competition in this segment tends to be high due to the lack of innovation and huge pressure on pricing, making it necessary to control cost and revenue. With cost, you must evaluate the cost-to-serve for each client and define specific roles. It is possible to serve an unprofitable client group to maintain a foothold or demonstrate expertise in a particular area. However, this decision should be made as part of a wider strategy, with your commercial model, service levels and action plans all aligned. It is crucial that the revenue management area act on the top line of each client.

     

  • Increase and/or generate entry barriers: Going the extra-mile and paying attention to detail are strong differentials here—for example, loyalty programs, long-term contracts, system connectivity, and creative acknowledgments that honor the relationship (top client travel rewards/prizes).

     

  • Sell tech support as a differential: Tech support maximizes product performance in your clients’ businesses. In some cases, there is an opportunity to capitalize on that need by offering it as a specific service. It’s an interesting strategy that can also increase loyalty and generate entry barriers. If this is a possibility, the B2B GTM is the time to capture it. Similarly, tech support plays a role in the sales process because some sectors require external approvals to change suppliers (e.g. Anvisa, FDA), including product testing, prototypes, product consistency and more.

     

  • Segment your reality: Determining which sectors require innovation and which require pricing and streamlining strategies is a critical need for this cluster. A hierarchical scheme that divides clients strategically will result in a pipeline of innovation for core sectors and create a secondary market to absorb the previous cycle of successfully implemented products.

     

  • Segment your tone of voice: Due to your product being core, there is continuous pressure to optimize performance. However, be conscious about the “tone” you take with different stakeholders. Professionals on the procurement side will zero in on productivity and costs while engineers will focus on improving quality and processes.

     

  • Innovate from within: There is no space within a core product offering or client relationship for unexpected issues or supply disruption. We recommend innovating inside existing customer accounts, with a step-by-step prototyping process and open feedback loop that supports continuous improvement.

     

4. CONVERT & PROTECT

The markets of these industries tend to be concentrated into specific customer types; the B2B GTM must include a tailored approach for large clients and long-term contracts to guarantee constant volume.

Example Industries and Sectors In This Cluster

  • Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting
  • Construction of Buildings
  • Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing
  • Mining (except Oil and Gas)
  • Nonmetallic Mineral Product Manufacturing
  • Oil and Gas Extraction and Transportation
  • Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing
  • Support Activities for Mining
  • Transportation Equipment Manufacturing (except Motor Vehicles)
  • Wood Product Manufacturing

Challenges

  • Customer concentration: The customers within this cluster are concentrated by industry, the scope of which may vary but always exists. This situation increases the bargaining power of large customers and also your dependency on them. You must conquer them—or otherwise struggle to secure bits and pieces from the remnants of a picked-over market.

     

  • Strong correlation between product and client performance: As your product is core to all customers, any change in cost or performance will make a huge impact: the degree of specificity and requirements to gain your clients’ business will be very high both before and after the sale. You must guarantee results.

     

  • High-stakes price pressure and competition: Although the product is core, innovation is low, putting intense pressure on pricing and requiring excellent revenue and cost management. Competitors will increase pressure on pricing to lure away your clients.
  • High service-level demand: Any gaps in product supply will cost you customers, so the pressure on service level is just as high as the pressure on pricing. There is always “qualification criteria” in this cluster—a minimum level of service you must offer or otherwise be knocked out of the game.

     

  • Large stakeholders and long decision-making process: Since your product makes a huge impact on your clients’ results, selling to this cluster entails a strict and detailed process, including quality-assurance testing for consistency. You’ll also need to convince senior executives that your business can handle the job.

Priority Tools

  • Customer action plans: Having specific plans for each client is crucial for this cluster.

     

  • Commercial tools: Commercial tools will support increasing the volume of large clients, and must also be matched by financial tools and capabilities.

     

  • Sales structure: Sales structure is of moderate importance yet requires a relatively sophisticated level of capability—a dedicated senior salesperson should be able to have strategic commercial discussions, design action plans and manage commercial tools. It is possible to leverage a multifunctional approach here by bringing in expertise beyond the commercial team (technical, IT, etc.) to differentiate your value proposition from competitors. Being able to offer a one-stop shop for your clients is a strong lever for increasing revenue and profit in client segments or accounts that represent higher levels of market saturation.

Solutions

  • Tailor the approach to large clients: The commercial model must be custom-designed for each large client—understanding their needs in detail is the first step to acquiring their business. This requires the sales team to function as a true consultant to your clients, including knowing the locations of their plants, how their logistic operations work, their financial results and more. A senior salesperson should be exclusively dedicated to each client and able to support strategic discussions without any of the conflict that would come from also serving competitors.

     

  • Create long-term contracts and/or offer “progressive discounts”: Once you “conquer” your large target clients, securing their volume for as long as you can is the goal. Considering that service-level agreements are critical in this cluster and there is a strict procurement process, if you can guarantee both of these elements, the client will have an interest in maintaining the relationship. From this position, you can develop fair long-term contracts that cover all needs—service-level agreement, pricing formula, estimated volume and so on. Progressive discounts can incentivize the customer as well, concentrating their volume in your business and minimizing the role of other suppliers.
  • Control client profitability: Competition in this segment tends to be high due to the lack of innovation and huge pressure on pricing, making it necessary to control cost and revenue. With cost, you must evaluate the cost-to-serve for each client and define specific roles. It is possible to serve an unprofitable client group to maintain a foothold or demonstrate expertise in a particular area. However, this decision should be made as part of a wider strategy, with your commercial model, service levels and action plans all aligned. It is crucial that the revenue management area act on the top line of each client.

     

  • Sell tech support as a differential: Tech support maximizes product performance in your clients’ businesses. In some cases, there is an opportunity to capitalize on this need by offering it as a specific service. It’s an interesting strategy that can increase loyalty and generate entry barriers. If this is a possibility, the B2B GTM is the opportune time to capture it. Similarly, tech support plays a role in the sales process, as some sectors require external approvals to change suppliers (e.g. Anvisa, FDA), including product testing, prototypes, product consistency and more.

5. INNOVATION OBSESSION

In this cluster, your offering is highly interdependent on your customer’s profitability, differentiation and thus, success—your clients are experts in your product. The B2B GTM must foster innovation and technical skills to meet the demands of constant turnover in the market.

Example Industries and Sectors In This Cluster

SINGLE SECTOR

  • Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing
  • Medical Equipment & Supplies Manufacturing
  • Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing

MULTISECTOR

  • Electrical Equipment Manufacturing
  • Information Technology and Services

Challenges

  • Constant innovation: Your product or service is core for your customers, and at the same time, the market is constantly innovating, generating a continual fight against becoming obsolete—either you have the latest product or you are behind everyone else. This creates an opportunity to conquer new clients through innovation, but as soon as your competitors innovate, you’ll need to protect your clients from them.

     

  • All new concepts require teaching and proving: If your offer is new to the market, you’ll need to teach your clients about it, prove its differential and also support use after the sale. It’s important to consider that customers begin looking for new suppliers because they need better results, so ensuring your clients very clearly understand the benefits of your product or service is a top priority.
  • Innovation as an entry barrier: The market and your competitors are constantly innovating, setting a high bar for attracting new business. However, at the same time, customers are always showing you ways to better serve their needs—even if the message is unspoken. Inefficient or ineffective innovation is frequently correlated with not understanding or listening to these demands.

Priority Tools

  • Sales structure: In this cluster, the sales structure should focus on identifying the correct profile and role of the salesperson, so as to boost the B2B GTM. After-sales support is required due to the demand for a high level of technical competency, in turn leading to the need for a well-qualified sales force.

     

  • Service level and customer action plans: You need to guarantee a strong level of service for your customers, so they have the necessary support to achieve competitive results with innovative products. Specific action plans for each customer are key to acquiring their business and being able to adjust your solutions.

     

  • Segmentation: In a multisector scenario, segmentation is needed to define which sectors you want to focus on.

     

Solutions

  • Maintain a strong, technically robust sales force: Your product is core and innovation is constant—your sales force must be able to explain innovations in a simple yet detailed way to truly make them clear for the client, and also because the client will employ tech experts to understand your product. As the impact of your product or service is critical for your (potential) customers, tech innovations must be substantial enough to justify a supply change.

     

  • Guarantee after-sales support to ensure results: Related to the above, embedding tech support into the B2B GTM will ensure best possible use of your product or service and maximize results for your clients. This service step also minimizes the risk of substitution or losing customers when another innovation comes along.

     

  • Preserve balance: Ensure the B2B GTM design optimizes the time and competencies invested in the relationship with the client, including the time you’re willing to spend on technical support, marketing, business development and transactional activities. You may have to segment teams according to these competencies to boost (and maintain focus on building) value for both sides.
  • Increase and/or generate entry barriers: Going the extra mile and paying attention to detail are strong differentials here—for example, loyalty programs, long-term contracts, system connectivity, and creative acknowledgements that honor the relationship (top client travel rewards/prizes).

     

  • Utilize the commercial area to spark innovation: Challenge your commercial area to bring in feedback from the market, generate discussion and create actionable ideas for innovation. Always be thinking one step ahead.

     

  • Define target sectors and specialize (multisector): For companies that serve multiple sectors in this cluster, defining your targets and evaluating the size of opportunities (your ability to win customers) requires specializing your commercial model per client to understand their needs and connect them to a more effective sales process.

     

  • Make or buy—but ensure you serve the market: Guarantee you have a good grip on solutions and your product portfolio, but also a roadmap for innovation. New ideas and solutions can arise from start-ups, meaning you may need to choose strategic partners to avoid losing space or pace in future discussions.

6. MIGRATE OR BECOME EXPERT

In this cluster, there is a risk is of vertical integration: it may be feasible for large clients to buy a product or service that becomes representative in their cost structure. The B2B GTM must consider that scale in this scenario requires global or international expansion, with solid market and/or niche expertise—or the company needs to become multisector.

Example Industries and Sectors In This Cluster

  • Support Activities for Logistics Operations

Challenges

  • Naturally challenging: Being complementary and offering your product to a single sector exposes you to financial risks and critical-mass limitations, which is why fewer businesses are found in this cluster.

     

  • Requires detail, depth and unique expertise: Clients will seek your products or services to support demands they cannot solve—this often entails urgency and the need for intervention, requiring broad technical and practical understanding of your specific sector.
  • Handle “make or buy” decisions: The client may be able to do what you are doing or choose to contract your product or services continually. Over time, they will have to make long-term decisions about whether to buy or offset your offering.

     

  • Leads to dependence: As you depend on a single source of revenue, you will naturally be exposed to market fluctuations.

Solutions

  • Continue building your track record, experience: Your knowledge of your field needs to be wider and more detailed than your clients and competitors—this means constantly deep-diving into technical aspects, innovation and being forward-thinking.

     

  • Maintain a strong, technically robust sales force: Your product is core and innovation is constant—your sales force must be able to explain innovations in a simple yet detailed way to truly make them clear for the client, and also because the client will employ tech experts to understand your product. As the impact of your product or service is critical for your (potential) customers, tech innovations must be substantial enough to justify a supply change.
  • Network, focus on developing your profile as an influencer: Develop a profile as an influencer—someone who knows, drives and projects trends within your field of expertise.

Don’t see your industry or sector, or have questions? We look forward to any opportunity to discuss our work further with you. Learn more about our Marketing & Sales practice and how to get in touch here.