3 Important Learnings About Exploring Other Markets to Grow and Scale
Scaling any business requires either increasing revenue or lowering expenses. For the revenue side of the equation, this usually means expanding beyond the initial market. Some traditional services companies do this by expanding towards nearby cities or even across borders. Whatever the geographic decision becomes, you should keep an open mind.
1. Listen to the market opportunities
So why expand in the first place? Likely we want to increase revenue. Initial marketing efforts tend to focus on one area. We have limited resources, so we rely on personal networks in our geographic area. In hindsight, it helps to keep options open.
In our business, we focused on Washington, D.C. Coincidentally, most of the revenue now actually comes from the broader Mid-Atlantic Region. We found this by chance from a colleague who needed some marketing help based out of Northern Virginia. They happened to lead one of the biggest Google DevFest conferences in the Americas. It was totally unexpected, but it catapulted us to having a big name brand in our portfolio.
This led to another referral also in Northern Virginia, but now they've expanded to New York City and us along with them. Case in point: Keep an open mind about where your clients can come from.
2. Keep the vision 'global'
Many entrepreneurs spend so much time stuck in their local bubble that they fail to see the bigger picture. The goal is to grow and expand, so don't get stuck spending your time exclusively there. Other countries may be easier to service.
We visited Colombia and, thanks to some founder roots, began to explore the market opportunities. We set up shop down there and are beta testing some client leads. What is getting us noticed is the uniqueness we bring to the region–most of what we learned back home is foreign and sort of novel to them.
Sometimes tapping into other countries is tough, and that's okay. Partnerships can help. In our case we banded with three other organizations to build a 'base' in Hong Kong and tap into the Asia market.
If the goal is going 'Global', how you get there isn't as relevant. Just get there.
3. Do some market research to hit the ground running
As some of our team travels across central Europe and Asia, we've been visiting WeWork locations (quick note, WeWork makes the off-site workspace access process easy) and learning about different entrepreneurship (ESHIP) ecosystems. One of the common challenges for any entrepreneur is lack of adequate market research, and this is no different for other locations. So use this to your advantage. With even basic research you'll be at a more strategic advantage than the local businesses.
We recently upped our research to include non-client organizations, and we learned a common problem that is actually niche, and 'blue ocean.' By blue ocean we mean that there's very few companies in the space speaking to it directly; mostly because the market was nascent before, but it's growing now and good opportunity to shape the narrative, or content language in marketing speak, towards it.
Now along the travels we are collecting case studies and examples to showcase a more global portfolio. We are becoming a 'Global' business. And that sounds much more powerful than being simply a local business.