I think of beachhead as a military term, having to do with how an invading army needs to establish itself in one place that it can hold–the beachhead–and then build its presence from there. It’s also a business term, related to building a business and establishing market focus.

Recently I saw a business plan developed around an interesting new nanotechnology that would create seals to make counterfeiting goods harder. Assuming this technology works, how many different industries would it apply to? Lots.

But the business plan I saw focused entirely on pharmaceuticals, as in prescription pills and such. That was a tiny portion of the applicable market, in theory; but still a huge market, way more than this small startup could credibly handle.

Better yet, the founding team had some background and contacts in that industry.

There’s genius, sometimes, in that kind of market focus. Find a good, solid beachhead to start, and go there first.

Today I read a plan involving semantic technology for digesting diverse formats of information. How many different industries does that potentially target? But in this case it was bioresearch, once again, because the value there was obvious, and the founders had some industry knowledge and contacts.

Sometimes that’s the best way to approach a large market. Pick a first segment, focus on it, do that well. Use that as a beachhead, and build a base before you go off to other markets.

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.