B2B companies face huge challenges any time they attempt to break into new markets. Whether the company is attempting to enter into a new country, territory, or disrupt a region through product differentiation, the sales channels, distribution environment, and current buying environment will likely have question marks surrounding the strategy.
To solve for unknowns, the company may attempt the following tactics:
- Use its same tried-and-true rollout strategies that have worked in other markets
- Hire “local” sales teams and staff with knowledge of the environment
- Invest heavily in channel-specific marketing
The above strategies have merit – and indeed – one or more may have delivered results in previous rollouts, but the price of entry (and the cost of failing) are simply too risky for companies to enter a new market blindly, or at best, with unknown variables at play.
So, given the risks involved, what steps will set a B2B company up for success?
The first step to success begins with market research. Due diligence, in other words, that goes beyond quantitative studies and potential share of the market statistics. Here are three ways to use market research to help your company break into a new territory and gain a solid understanding of the opportunities and hazards that lie ahead.
#1: Determine who pulls the strings
In a new marketplace, the players who determine purchasing, influence buyers, and who may seek out new services are likely different from the current territories you play in. Or, let’s put this a different way: Don’t assume that the key players are the same. Everything from culture, to corporate structure, to the competitive set — and even politics — can change market forces, even if your new territory is just a county down from your current playing field.
Your task is to determine who you need to have in your purview that will be influential in all stages of the buying cycle; from the Request for Proposal (RFP) originators to the influencers that the buyers may talk to. If possible, pair up with local professionals, join local trade organizations, and do some intel with the regional political and business communities to help your team determine who pulls the strings.
#2: Invest in a qualitative in-depth interview study
Once you’ve identified who comprises the buying target, find a third-party market research company that will recruit and interview those in the sphere of influence. The most effective way to use market research at this stage is through the qualitative methodology of in-depth interviews. Using this approach, the market research company will first interview your team, and seek to understand the opportunities, gaps, and market environment that your business plays in. From that information, they will design a “discussion guide” – an interview study to be done with your target market that will answer your most essential business question and tertiary questions around the sales cycle. The market research firm will then identify the most important players and interview the targets in individual interviews, lasting anywhere from ½ hour to an hour. This format – from a neutral third-party company – eliminates bias, and it puts a fresh set of eyes on your business issues, giving your company a way to break through blind spots.
#3: Pair your qualitative data with quantitative data
The third steps is to have the market research company pair the qualitative interview findings with quantitative data. They will do localized market research that may include surveys and/or pull in statistics from databases. The quantitative picture will show your sales team where to focus, and the qualitative findings will give your team insight on how to focus, who to talk to, and what the process needs to be.
See the new territory with fresh eyes
By beginning the process of breaking into a new territory with market research, your company and teams will be able to dedicate resources effectively and pointedly toward the right sources that have the most potential sales output. You’ll view the new territory with a deeper understanding of the sales process and key players, and, most importantly, you won’t waste valuable time and money attempting to penetrate the market with misguided strategy.