No longer do geographic boundaries, long drives, expensive flights and suspicions around the validity of buying from a small, regionally-based business stop regionally-based business people from achieving what their metropolitan-based cousins can.
And while this opens up a plethora of opportunities to expand into new markets and attract new customers, never has it been more important for small business owners to stay focused on their smallest viable market.
When expanding into new markets, the number of potential customers that are just right for your business should naturally increase.
This means that upon expansion, you can afford to ensure that you connect with a very specific audience. So rather than try and cater for everyone who has a pulse, simply because they exist, define exactly which people with a pulse will be the best customers for you.
Here are three simple recommendations to ensure that you make a big impact, with the right people, when expanding into new audiences.
1. Remaining laser-focused on who your target audience is. And who it is not.
Your small business is not for everyone. It might be technically possible for absolutely anyone to access your product or service if they wanted to, but the reality is, not all of them will. One of the wonderful things about human beings is we are diverse in our values and our beliefs. As a population, we have different lifestyles and stages that will affect our needs and wants for certain things.
As a business, it’s our job to find the people whose value and belief system is a match for what we sell. We need to find the people who are at the stage of life that they will value our product or service, because it’s relevant and it fits into an existing need or want. These are our people and these are who we should spend our marketing dollars communicating with.
The people who don’t fall within this category are not for us right now.
For example, technically, I can easily buy a can of Coca Cola. I have the money to purchase a can of Coca Cola. I know all about the brand and would easily recognise a can of Coca Cola.
However, I’m not interested.
My value system is not aligned with it – my belief is that this can full of sugar and chemicals can add no benefit to my body. I was bought up by parents who always told me how bad it was for me and now I tell my kids the same thing.
I have a friend, on the other hand, who loves it. She is roughly the same age as me, she has kids like I do and she sees absolutely no problem with drinking it.
Now if Coca Cola was a small business, with limited marketing budget, who do you think they should spend their money communicating with?
Even if Coca Cola decided to target me with ads attempting to override my value system and reverse a lifelong habit, it’s going to be a high cost of acquiring my purchase because it will take them a very long time and a lot of money to do this.
2. When defining your target audience, think an inch wide and a mile deep
If you want to truly engage with your target audience, there is a depth of knowledge or understanding of them, that is required. It pays to know the fine detail and nuance of your subject because the more that you know about your customer, the easier it becomes to produce content that will attract their attention. The easier it will be to choose which marketing and advertising channels to invest in.
This means that you can have greater confidence in your marketing dollars being spent effectively and driving the best return by knowing your customer inside out.
If you feel like your knowledge of your target audience is limited, then it’s time to get curious! The best way to do this is to think of an existing customer that represents your ideal target audience. Now write down everything you know about that person. How old are they? What’s their family status? What’s their employment status? Where do they live? Who do they live with? Who influences them? Which media do they consume? What do they aspire to be? What are their needs? When it comes to what your businesses offer, what problems do they have that you can solve? Who else is offering them a solution to their problem? How are they buying now? What frustrations do they have when they are buying?
If you can’t answer these questions, compile a survey or even pick up the phone and ask your existing customers these questions. It’s vital knowledge.
3. Consider cultural and geographic nuances when expanding outside of your region
As a marketer based in regional Australia, one huge mistake that I see a lot of large businesses make with their regional local area marketing plans is to assume that they can roll out their city-based marketing strategy by their city-based marketing team.
In regional and rural areas, we are heavily influenced by our community. Due to the size and population of the area, it’s easy to know a lot of people and form strong relationships with a wide variety of people.
We love supporting local businesses that have an authentic connection to the local community. If businesses from outside the region want to enter the local market, they will gain a lot more traction by tapping into the relationships, the nuance and the context of the local community.
Rolling out a set and forget marketing strategy that has been designed to reach mass and anonymous audiences in metro areas will not create impact in smaller communities.
If you are going to spend the time and effort involved in scaling your business into new geographic regions, it makes sense to take a disciplined and focused approach to understanding exactly which new customers will bring you the greatest return.
Jane Hillsdon is a passionate award-winning marketer dedicated to helping small businesses reach their full growth potential. She is the founder and Managing Director of Dragonfly Marketing, author of How To Do Marketing – A Comprehensive Guide For Small Business and host of The How To Do Marketing Show. Jane helps business owners employ smart strategy and creative thinking to help ensure that their marketing delivers a healthy return on investment for their business. Jane is a Certified Practicing Marketer, a member of the Australian Marketing Institute NSW Committee and a judge for the Australian Marketing Institute Awards for Excellence.