By Jessica Vollman, Founder of the Vollman Group
Over the past few years I've had the opportunity to discuss expansion strategies with many global companies and there’s a consistent theme throughout most of those conversations: the power of local. Although every company will have tried and true marketing tactics to use in each new city, every market is different and taking a highly localized approach to expansion is crucial.
The first step in developing a local strategy is hiring a strong General Manager who has deep knowledge of the market and a vast local network. This person needs to be able to grasp your brand quickly but also have a love of operations, spreadsheets, marketing, business development, hiring, and more as they’ll be wearing many hats at the beginning of a launch.
If your team is hesitant to make that hire right away, recruit brand ambassadors or hire a contract employee to ramp up a market before investing in a GM.
Startups have many data points they can use when determining which city to launch in next. Dig into where your website visitors are coming from, where your social media followers are located, and any inbound requests you’ve received from other cities.
Once you’ve nailed down a city determine who the competitors are, the demand in the market, who your customers are and how they live, and if or how you’ll need to localize your product. I also recommend researching government initiatives in your target city. Most local governments have incentives for tech companies and are helpful in making local introductions and providing insight on the market.
Marketing & Partnerships
Most startups don’t have large marketing budgets when expanding into new cities, but there are several ways to keep costs low and acquire customers in a new market.
Build partnerships and collaborate on events with local government, startup leaders, coworking spaces, and meetups. Design branded swag that your team can pass out at events or sponsored local community events. Pitch your launch story to local press, work with local tech newsletters and begin to build those relationships from day one. There are many ways to get creative on a tight budget to get the word out about your business.
One of the more important items to realize when launching your business in new markets is that no two markets will ever look the same. While it’s helpful to create a playbook, these are better used as checklists as you’ll need to localize your plan and will iterate on it constantly. Forming local relationships will lead to long-term growth for your business in a new market.