For companies struggling to compete and keep revenues flowing during this economic downturn, here’s an idea you may want to consider: reach out to new markets. It may seem a counter-intuitive strategy at a time when many companies are retracting, but expanding to new markets might not require a significant investment and can make good business sense:
- Your products and services may be a good fit for industries that are still doing well during the recession
- If you market primarily to struggling industries, you may be able to re-allocate budget to more viable industries
- You may be able to re-purpose existing sales materials for new markets
Research Potential Markets
When planning expansion to new markets, the first thing to consider is which markets are the best fit for your products and services. According to the GlobalSpec Economic Outlook Survey of engineering, technical, manufacturing and industrial professionals conducted in January 2009, some industry sectors are weathering the economic slowdown better than others. Automotive, semiconductor & electrical components, and computer, systems & peripherals are hardest hit by current economic condi¬tions, while biotechnology/pharmaceuticals, utilities/energy, aerospace/defense, along with packaging machinery and medical equipment/instrumentation are the least impacted.
Your products and services may be a good fit for these or other more viable industries. However, you’ll want to perform some additional market research before reaching out to any new markets. You can engage in both direct and indirect market research without incurring a lot of costs.
Here are some ideas on how you can conduct direct market research:
- Conduct surveys—you can post an online survey on your Web site, on industry Web sites, or push a survey out to potential prospects in new markets through e-newsletter sponsorships in the industries of interest. Two low-cost survey tools are surveymonkey.com and Zoomerang. Both will help you develop surveys and track the results so you can derive intelligent conclusions from the data you collect.
- Research internal data – Identify current customer industries to extract what industries you may have sold to in the past but haven’t specifically marketed to. This could be low hanging fruit as far as identifying new markets.
- Make phone calls—you can call noted experts in industries that interest you; editors or reporters; industry associations; prospects you may have in your database; or partners who sell into other markets and that have complementary offerings to yours. Listen to their opinions on what’s happening in these industries and what customers are buying.
- Attend live or online events—meet with others in new markets and gauge the interest and need for your products and services. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to exhibit or sponsor events, just register and show up and put your networking skills to good use.
As for indirect market research, try these:
- Read industry reports—acquire reports published by industry analysts that follow the markets you are considering.
- Analyze competitors—check out your competitors’ Web sites to discover what markets they sell into. Assess price points, feature sets and requirements.
- Talk to potential end users- Ask what their key pain points and needs are as well as what are their product and service performance expectations.
Prepare Your Marketing Message
Once you identify target markets for expansion, you need to look at the possibility of re-purposing existing marketing materials for those markets. Review collateral, white papers, application notes, technical articles, webinar presentations, case studies and other sales collateral. Sometimes it’s just a matter of changing some of the language to match the new industry. You’ll also want to add industry-specific pages to your Web site or develop specific landing pages to support a new campaign and capture leads.
Choose Your Media
You’ll need to re-allocate some budget away from underperforming programs and markets to go after high-value prospects in these new markets.
Two reasons to consider online marketing:
- For any market in the industrial sector, your prospects specifically search online for products, components, services and suppliers
- Take advantage of online opportunities to pull in qualified prospects while they are searching and also to push your message out to targeted prospects in the new markets
To pull in qualified prospects, market within the Web sites, online directories and search engines used by engineering, technical and industrial professionals. Online banner ads across a network of industrial sites are also valuable marketing opportunities. Because banner ads are highly visible and attention-grabbing, they work well as lead generators and also help build brand awareness, which is especially important when entering new markets.
To push your message out, try sponsoring highly-targeted e-newsletters published specifically for the audience you want to reach. Be sure to ask the e-newsletter publisher for a profile of its readers to make sure you are reaching the right customers and prospects.