How to Expand Beyond Your Region in a Thoughtful and Efficient Way
by Amanda Wagner
Running a business requires you to constantly make decisions, from the day-to-day operations to thinking big picture about your brand, especially when you’re looking to expand beyond your region, grow your customer base, and have an impact that reaches beyond your community.
Sometimes weighing the options and making these decisions are what keep us up at night, and might sound like this:
Do I grow my brick-and-mortar business and add e-Commerce?
Do I continue to sell direct to customers or open wholesale options?
Do I expand my team to have the bandwidth to add a revenue stream, or do I add a revenue stream to ensure I can afford to expand my team?
Do I continue to find new retailers for my wholesale product, or will I saturate the market?
Do I collaborate with other businesses or stick to my own?
How do I make sure I get into many retail stores without my product becoming boring or over saturating the market?
How do I make sure I’m building positive relationships with others while still growing my business in the way that I want?
While we are always allowed to change our minds and redirect our strategy, as business owners, we also want to be efficient and make as few missteps as possible while growing in a thoughtful way.
This blog addresses three main ideas that all connect to growth and scaling your business:
- The importance of putting your customer’s needs, wants, and lifestyle (psychographic details) ahead of geography to reach more of the right people.
- The best ways to build positive relationships and avoid market saturation with wholesale partners by creating unique product offerings/collaborations for different retailers.
- Things to consider before expanding into e-Commerce to set you up for success.
1. Think beyond your customers / clients’ location.
You do not have to choose between being a rural business and supporting local consumers or building a multiple-figure empire with international sales.
Let me repeat that: You do NOT need to choose between rural or empire.
One is not better or more valuable than the other.
What you do have to decide is what you want for right now and build a plan from there.
Many businesses get their start with local customers – people they know, referrals that come their way or from word-of mouth.
This initial success makes it tempting to think that your customers come to you because of where you are located, and therefore, you should double down and make sure you get every person in the region to become your customer.
In reality, you may never serve every person in your region. In fact, if you’re pounding the pavement trying to get every person in town to buy from you, I think it’s time to rethink your goals and your marketing and sales strategy.
And rest assured, this is good news! If your marketing is trying to reach everyone, it is going to reach no-one because you are unclear about your niche, who you serve and what you offer.
It’s time to clarify who you are selling to by doing an ideal client exercise and I’ve linked to one I created with 20-questions to get you thinking past demographics.
The goal of examining your ideal client is to get into their hearts, minds, and wallets. This demands that you think beyond borders, beyond demographics (age, sex, household income), and that’s where the concept of scaling gets much more exciting! By doing this exercise, you will start to see how you can grow your impact and consider scaling outside of Alberta.
2. Avoid market saturation by creating unique collaborations and thinking beyond borders.
If you are wholesaling your product or thinking about moving into the wholesale world, getting into your first store is a huge success and can give you a rush! Naturally, you start to think about other stores in the area that you can wholesale to as well.
While it feels advantageous to be in every store in the region, it can actually have a negative effect.
Here’s the catch, when you start to sell to all the retailers in your area and your product is in every store, you run the risk of:
- Decreasing any sense of urgency to buy.
- Teaching your customers that they can find your products anywhere, anytime – so they will wait until they absolutely need something.
- Annoying business owners and making it hard for them to use your product to bring in new and loyal clients. (This is why some wholesale partners will ask to have an exclusivity agreement, asking you to commit to not selling within XX distance of their store).
Two ways to avoid this:
Get creative and start seeking out partnerships and collaborations with strategic partners.
For example: if you make beauty products, work with a specific retailer to create a product line that is only available at their store. (Think about specific fragrances, colours, packaging, designs, etc. that are exclusive to one store / partnership).
This will not only help you and your partner create something new and unique for your customers, but it will also help build the relationship with your retail partner and develop trust.
Think beyond your region and start finding wholesale stores and boutiques that are a great fit for your product.
One great way to do this is to head to google or social media and start looking for stores that your ideal customer would shop at! You can search hashtags on Instagram and look at some brands you admire and see where their products are stocked.
Do not feel like you must limit yourself to small boutiques either, all types of stores are looking for new and unique products – your job is to start asking how to get your product in front of their customers.
3. Considerations for building a website and expanding to e-commerce.
If you build it, they will come, right?
Building a shoppable website feels like it opens the doors for customers from all over the place to discover your products and services and buy from you with just a few clicks. And it absolutely can help you grow and expand to other markets.
And let’s be honest, every business owner fantasizes about hearing a ‘cha-ching’ in the middle of the night.
But not so fast.
Any type of passive income (ie. cha-ching in the night) requires massive and thoughtful marketing.
Before you jump to “I’ll just build an online store! That will make me more money”, consider these elements and your plans to work through them.
- What e-commerce platform are you going to use, how much does it cost, and what technical support is available?
- Who are you marketing to and how are you going to reach them? (What social media platforms are they on? Does your customer like to shop online?)
- How much time/effort/money are you willing to invest in growing your social media following or using paid ads to promote your website?
- What kind of pick up / shipping options must you have available? (Especially for seasonal products or items that require to be at a certain temperature so that they don’t melt or freeze during shipping).
- How will variable shipping prices and timelines impact the prices of your product?
- Do you separate your inventory (have some inventory for online shoppers and some for in-store) or have all your inventory combined?
- If you decide to have a sale, do you discount in-store, online, or both?
Most importantly, e-commerce is ONE way to scale your business, but it is not the only way. I recommend talking to someone else who has built a website and ask about their successes and challenges to get a clear picture of what you are taking on and how to make sure your effort and resources are well spent.
In summary, there are many ways to scale and something that worked for someone else’s business may not work for yours. In the name of efficiency, I recommend stepping back, asking some important questions, and really digging into what you want.
Action steps after reading:
- Think about your goal for right now and what you want to achieve (note: this does not mean that you must stick with it forever, but you do need to be clear for right now).
- Dig into who your ideal client is – what they need, what they want, and how you serve them.
- Let go off geography for a second – this includes your region, as well as the idea that you have to be selling or wholesaling within Alberta or within Canada! Think about people, not borders.
- Get creative about collaborations and think about how you can create exclusivity with your wholesale customers and partners to make something unique and build a strong relationship.
- Talk to others that you trust and who have been in your position with building e-Commerce. Ask honest questions to someone you know and respect their time and openness if they are willing to share.