When you started your business, identifying your target customers for your product or service was most likely one of your top priorities. Once you make the decision to expand your business to a new market in another state, it’s all too easy to assume that the profile of your target customer won’t change. But, customers everywhere are different in large and small ways that affect how you attract and retain them. Identifying those differences and integrating them into your expansion plan is one way to help you stay relevant with customers, even as you expand across state lines.
Let’s take a closer look at four specific things you can do to help your business succeed in its new location.
Research and market to your new customers
Building a solid profile of your target customer is a great first step. Research your new location to determine the age, average income, interests, and buying habits of customers there. From this research, you will gain insight that will help you market to them more effectively and maximize your resources. It will also help you decide what products or services are most in demand in your new market.
Next, tailor your marketing efforts toward knowledge you gained through market research. Having insight into how your customers make purchasing decisions can help you spend your marketing and advertising dollars wisely. As you expand, you might change the images you post on social media to match the changing profile of your target customers. For example, if your new market is near the water, your marketing will resonate more with an image of a sandy beach than a snowy mountain. You might also decide to spend your marketing dollars in different ways, like advertising on public transportation if your research finds that many of your target customers use it regularly.
Expand your products and services to fit your new market
When you expand to a new market, it’s often a good idea to adjust the products or services you offer. Bridget Weston from SCORE advises that “The best way to meet the changing needs of customers is to diversify your product lines.” Assess your current products or services and determine if they are still a good fit for your new market. A wool sweater that flies off the shelf in snowy Vermont will probably not sell as well in sunny Florida.
If you’re unsure, consider doing a “test run” of your products or services by selling them first to a limited group of customers. This allows you to determine if they are likely going to work with a larger group in your new market. Use what your testers suggest and make adjustments in your inventory or service menu accordingly.
Develop a location-based strategy
Many of your customers will use Search to find your business. Where a customer is located determines what they search for and the terms they use, so knowing that information can both help your business get found in local searches and help your paid advertising be more relevant.
What a potential customer is likely to search for is largely based on where they are in the country. For example, people in the Northeast may search for “dry hair,” while those in humid areas may use the term “frizzy hair.” Information like this can help a hair salon, for example, tailor the services and products in its ads to what people are most likely to search for in a particular location.
Even something as simple as the common cold can uncover demand for your brand in a specific location. A few years ago, Kleenex and its agency Mindshare gathered data to identify where people were most searching for cold- and flu-related terms. They focused their ad campaigns on those areas and were able to grow sales by 40% in the first two months of the campaign year-on-year and win a Gold Lion in Media award.
Keep your Return on Investment (ROI) in mind
When you have multiple locations, proving the Return on Investment (ROI) from local marketing campaigns can be difficult. You may know sales numbers, but you may not fully understand what drives them. Also, marketing messaging is not one size fits all, so a headline that got a great response in your home state might miss the mark entirely in another.
One solution is to work with a regional marketer or marketing team. Much of a regional marketer’s job involves designing the most effective campaign for the region by considering customers’ specific tastes and habits, while still holding to the brand’s vision and guidelines. This might mean adding localized terminology or an image of a local neighborhood to an ad. A marketer who specializes in a local area will also be familiar with the particular culture and preferences of the customers who live, work, and shop there, so they will help you craft messaging that local customers will respond to.
To determine the ROI of a campaign, regional marketers should check in weekly with the local business to share insight into how they are doing, sales numbers, and customer response.
Making an effort to understand the wants, needs, and differences of your new customers will help you enjoy a smooth expansion and long-term success.