How can a startup prepare for its first expansion into a new market?

By Jessica Vollman, Founder of the Vollman Group

The first two questions to ask yourself is whether or not your business is fundamentally sound and if you are prepared to make the financial investment that is often necessary to expand operations. Teams will need to allocate budget for travel, hiring, office space, and marketing, and you often won’t see a return initially. Companies can keep costs low by hiring employees on contract at first and working from a desk at a coworking space, but founders are often surprised at the high capital burn at the time of launch.

When determining which market to launch, teams should seek out homogeneity and first look to markets that are similar to where they currently operate. Look at where current newsletter subscribers, social media followers, and website visits are coming from -- these channels can be early indicators of a market’s success and can help you narrow down the list of cities to conduct market research.

I recommend a highly localized approach to expansion so understanding what you’ll need to change about your offering and how you’ll need to market it to a local culture is crucial. Building brand awareness and trust in a new market is key and can be established in each city by building local partnerships and generating local press.

No matter the scale of your business, each market or region will have its own unique needs and although local engagement strategies require more time and energy, building brand awareness and trust in a local community is often more effective than paid acquisition.

Jessica Vollman will be speaking about lessons from successful startups at the Global Expansion Summit in London this June.