Entering a new B2B market is like being the new kid at school.
Making friends from scratch is hard. Choosing a seat at lunch is a minefield. And knowing whether you’ve connected with a good egg or a wrong’n is nigh-on impossible.
Both situations require courage, conviction and continuous learning – otherwise you’ll quickly feel overwhelmed and underprepared in a marketplace or playground you’re not familiar with.
Your new target market presents endless possibilities. But entering it successfully is hard! One misjudged proposition or misaligned partnership could sink your strategy before you’ve even begun.
Whether you’re targeting a new audience in your current market, or launching a completely new offering, you need to understand how industry nuances and customer preferences will impact your objectives, before you then know how to position your proposition in a way that will resonate with your new audience.
So what does this look like in practice?
If you ask Google Bard or ChatGPT ‘How to enter a new B2B market’ both recommend following similar steps to success:
Complete market research
Understand the market landscape, identify your ideal customers and analyse the competition.
Build your market-entry strategy
Decide which segments to target, how to talk to them, and what channels to use.
Seek out relevant partnerships
Connect with industry publications and networks to build your credibility in the new market.
Update your assets
Adapt your marketing materials – website, adverts, pitches – to resonate with your new audience.
Run targeted marketing campaigns
Go live! Tell your audience what they want to know about your offering, how, where and when they want to hear it.
While these steps offer good, general advice, they’re not exactly inspiring or insightful. They’re the sort of tactics that would come to mind for most B2B marketers. Common sense, yes. Cutting edge? Not really.
To get to the golden insight, we spoke to our very own Strategy Director, Lisa, who shared her proven approach to market entry – and how it’s been thoughtfully applied at Don’t be Shy.
Start with the objective. Always.
Before you do anything, you need to set out what you want to achieve: your objective.
Your objective should never be ‘to enter a new market’. You have to take it back to the stage before – an objective related to your business goals, not your marketing tactics.
Perhaps you want to increase revenue, improve awareness, or launch a new offering. When you know your objective, you can then understand whether you need to enter a new market to achieve it – a new segment in your current market, a new sector, or a new region altogether.
We recently worked with ANS – an industry-leading digital transformation partner – who had lofty business targets to hit. They wanted to significantly increase revenue, and knew they had to deliver a 100% increase in form submissions to meet their goals.
ANS already had high market share with UK enterprise businesses, so to meet their objective, they had to expand into a new market. There was huge potential within an unexplored sub-sector of their current market: SMBs. This fruitful opportunity required holistic rethinking and a transformative market-entry strategy (although it wasn’t as heavy a lift as, say, entering the US market from a standing start).
We worked with ANS to reposition their website and launch their offering to the SMB audience – always tying efforts back to their objective.
The results? 218% increase in form submissions. Over double their original target.
Get to the golden insight
If your objective has led you to enter a new market, you now need to define that market in devilish detail.
On top of the much-touted tick list of topics covered in most market-research activities – such as competitor analysis, persona mapping and growth potential – getting to the golden insight requires a much more thoughtful approach.
Interview stakeholders and customers to learn from those who already have experience and expertise to share. Speak to experts across niche sub-sectors to uncover deep insights and market anomalies. Host workshops to allow open discussion into differences and commonalties in experience. Collate this information and make it make sense for your market.
These golden nuggets of insight will be highly valuable when you come to set your strategy, but they won’t transplant you into the market. You need to funnel it into your marketing – always saying the right thing, at the right time, in the right way.
“A go-to-market strategy that isn’t backed by deep insight simply won’t work. People build GTM strategies without knowing their audience. But if you don’t know who you’re targeting, where they are, or what stage of readiness they’re at, how can you speak to them in a way that will resonate? It’s going to fail. That’s why we’re always insights-first.”
Lisa Crowther, Strategy Director | Don’t be Shy
Use data to drive your strategy
If you’re entering a new market, it’s probably safe to assume that you don’t have swathes of relevant audience data stored in your CRM. But you can use various tools to gather the data you need to drive your strategy.
Google Search Console is a great place to start. You can use keyword research to understand audience maturity in your new market and determine whether there’s already demand for your product or service.
Are people searching for your specific offering? Are competitors’ sites ranking highly for terms related to your products or services? Or are there long-tail terms that indicate that people have a problem you’re able to solve?
If not, you’ll need to focus your strategy around demand generation.
If the demand is there, but no one’s searching for your branded terms, you can use this data to feed into your brand awareness strategy.
And if demand is there, and your brand is known, you can focus on lead generation.
Once you know whether you’re planning a content marketing strategy to drive demand gen, a brand strategy to drive awareness, or a hyper-targeted marketing campaign to drive leads, you’ll be able to measure the success of your strategy against a data-driven objective.
Make sure you maintain a feedback loop between marketing sales to understand how you’re impacting the market and whether you’re delivering on your overall business objective.
Holistic reporting that closes the loop.
Is building your market-entry strategy sending you under? Something else keeping you awake at night? We asked marketers across the country, 'What's the matter?' Here's what they had to say.