So…. your business is at a crossroads. Sales are flat. Growth is too slow. We get it. Market expansion sounds wonderful, but it does not come risk-free. You may be successful now, but once you move into a different market, it’s a whole new ball game. You’ll be the new kid on the block, having to prove yourself all over again.
Of course, that’s putting the cart before the horse. The question at hand isn’t really about when or how. It’s about who and where.
Who is the new market? And, where do you find it?
Historically our core market at ECHOtape had been the manufacturing sector, but when that was outsourced overseas, we had to work extraordinarily hard at identifying new markets for growth. And to be totally honest, it hasn’t been easy. Every market is competitive, with existing players and newcomers wrestling aggressively for market share. But I can tell you this — focusing on growth made us look hard at how well we service customers, what more we can do for them to grow their business, and what core skills we have that can transfer to other markets. Any “new” market you go after requires commitment; NOTHING happens overnight and sometimes just sticking to your overall plan, modifying it as you go, is the best route.
That said, here are six strategies we’ve identified that may be helpful to your small business:
1. Start where you are. Begin by identifying who is currently buying your product or service, then ask yourself the following questions: Why are they buying? What need are you filling? What other individuals or groups might benefit from your product?
2. Use Google Trends. More than just a keyword search, this tool lets you see how the number of searches for a given term or phrase has changed over time. By exploring the data, you can get a clearer sense of the evolution of a trend or, in this case, market. Plus, Google Trends groups searches and phrases that it thinks mean the same thing. In this way, we can gain a better, more complete picture of what customers needs are specific to your industry.
3. Listen to Your Customers. The most obvious opportunities will come from your customers. They will say, “I wish you sold x,” “I wish you did the same thing, but with XYZ,” or “I wish you added this feature.” Provide as many channels as possible for your fans to share feedback, phone numbers, email addresses, social media, surveys, etc. They’ll open your eyes to new markets organically.
4. Check Your Analytics. It doesn’t matter how you choose to enter new markets — the signs are already present in your website data. By looking at your geographical data, you can identify the physical location of visitors and the language with which they browse the web. Your analytics data can also pinpoint other data that will help you make the most educated expansion move imaginable.
5. Grab A Partner. Partnerships, alliances and/or joint ventures can be a win-win, offering both parties significant benefits, including experience, skills, people, equipment and customer bases. Through a partnership or joint venture arrangement with a complementary, non-competitive business, you may be able to open new markets or improve your offer to existing ones.
Keep it mind, these alliances can be formal or informal. Obviously, if you are sharing marketing lists and proprietary information, a legal partnership might be best. For example, a group of self-employed workers — a carpenter, a builder and a concrete professional — could form a company, increase their credibility in the construction trade and bid for larger contracts.
6. Go Pro. Expanding into new markets involves a great deal of market research in addition to target customers. It also doesn’t hurt to have a fresh pair of eyes. Hiring a consultant can not only help you develop identify untapped markets, but they can also help forecast demand, competitors, and potential barriers to entry. This is particularly important if you are looking to enter a relatively undefined market.
We’re curious: What strategies have you used identify new markets for growth? We’d love to hear about it!
For more of our insights into growing a business be sure to check our blog for updates.