Business management

Extending your reach in UK markets

Top tips for expanding your business along with key insights and inspirations from industry leaders.

1. Innovate, but selectively

In cautious times, innovate around your core products. Look at innovating processes; make small tweaks; package differently. Find incremental solutions to existing problems. Ask yourself: is your customer base behaving differently – less consumption, more sustainably minded, embracing a more minimalist lifestyle? And are you responding? SMEs thrive on disruptive innovation.

Disruptive innovations are not breakthrough technologies that make good products better; they are innovations that make products and services more accessible and affordable.

The Clayton Christensen Institute

2. Clarify your marketing

Resist the temptation to reduce budgets. Examine who you are reaching and where you could conceivably move next. Broaden your definition of marketing. When life gets back to normal, consider trade fairs and networking events. In the meantime, revisit your presence on social media. Think about your messaging. Finding new markets means finding new people to communicate with.

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes… empathy always wins. Really try to understand what they want.

Gary Vaynerchuk
CEO, VaynerMedia

3. Study the competition

Who are your real competitors? It’s not just companies that do similar things to you; it’s about how they’re competing for customers’ time and money. For new markets, identify gaps that you can fill; think more locally; generate ideas about what you could do better. Can you be more agile than larger competitors? Where can you add value that others aren’t offering? Is your USP fit for purpose in the ‘new normal’?

The three main ways to achieve sustainable competitive advantage are cost leadership, differentiation and focus.

Michael Porter
Harvard Business School

4. Build new relationships

The coronavirus pandemic has shown the flexibility of different departments working together, and customers are also adaptable and responsive. Can you become part of a hub offering complementary, but not competitive, services? For example Newport Wafer Fab, a semiconductor plant in South Wales, is part of a wider chain of specialist manufacturers in a concentrated geographical area – the mutual benefits are long-lasting.

How could your innovation strategy change if you had innovation clusters spread across suburbs and small towns?

EY’s global think tank

5. Build multiple income streams

Protect yourself against potential loss by exploring different types of offering. Could you offer subscriptions to related products, or look at affiliate services? Can you create complementary digital offerings to sit alongside physical ones? Remember Harley Davidson and Caterpillar – companies that were built to make hardware, but found a market for branded clothing.

Having a variety of ways you are bringing in revenue at a wide range of price points is necessary to maintain your income, regardless of the economy.

Jennifer Allwood
Business coach

6. Positioning and pricing

Think about how you will position yourself in the marketplace in the areas you are trying to reach. Your pricing is critical here, so it’s worth taking the time to get it right. Ask yourself: do you want introductory offers? Do you have different levels for different subscription models? Can you offer bundles? Is there a premium version?

If you have a single price, it’s the wrong price.

Mark Wickersham
Profit improvement expert

7. Be technologically minded

Have you fully explored artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT)? From inventory to stock control, voice assistants to remote deliveries, warehouse storage to just-in-time delivery, AI is not just for large companies. Be canny and move ahead. The pace of change is rapid, so if you looked a year ago and found nothing, look again. 

A virtual assistant can always be tracking what’s available and immediately reorder when necessary... Track time, productivity and collaboration... Manage costs.

Forbes Technology Council

8. Look at your processes

Do you offer contactless sales? Are your staff equipped to work from home, at least some of the time? Do you need to expand your online selling presence? Are your supply chains safe? Considering all these questions will help you move into new areas.

The ability to deploy computing power, bandwidth, the cloud and cyber security will define winners. Success will depend on continuous business model innovation with agile, open collaboration.


9. Show leadership

Be strategic, not tactical. Delegate effectively; don’t take everything on yourself. Set clear goals. Be sensitive to the changing environment – of customer needs and wants, new regulations, new technologies. Weigh up barriers to market. Focus on what you are good at. Look after your staff.

If your business is growing beyond your capacity, stop being a lone ranger... two-way trust must be established for a leader to feel comfortable delegating and sharing responsibilities.

Marcel Schwantes
Founder, Leadership from the Core

10. Address your finances

Coronavirus has shown we need to plan for the unthinkable. Part of that is to be firm about the parts of the business you can control. Remember that cash is king – cash flow is the simplest, but also the most important, thing to keep an eye on. Get cloud accounting software. If you are confident about your move into new markets, consider a loan as interest rates are so low.

Create a cash-flow forecast. Decide how long you want to plan ahead; list all income and all outgoings; work out your running cash flow; then keep a running total.

11. Refresh your brand

Finally, your brand will have been built for the market you’re currently in. If you want to expand, the brand may need to expand with you. The maestro of ‘brand stretch’ is Richard Branson: from record company to airlines is not a natural career move. Understand how he made brand stretch work: have a strategic oversight while letting good employees drive the day-to-day.

Whatever you offer, “make sure it is consistent across all sectors”, “never do anything which discredits the brand” and “choose your cause, and put your purpose at the forefront.”

Richard Branson

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