US Business Expansion: How to test your market with a Virtual Office
Updated April 26, 2021
Expanding to new markets and being reachable to new customers is one way to drive significant growth for your business. Whether your business offers products or services, you will want to test it before you can launch to that new market or segment and invest more resources. More startups and even established businesses are using Virtual Offices in the United States to establish a credible business identity in a new market and build trust and visibility toward their future clients.
After the 2020 pandemic, it’s even more advantageous to use a virtual office to test and start your expansion to the US.
First, let’s take a look at the steps that any business should be taking before looking to expand their target market before showing Virtual Office fits into your business launch plan.
1. Understand your current target market/customer
If you try to be everything to everyone, you will end up being nothing to no one. We have all heard some variation of this before. But when you’re in the driver’s seat of your businesses, this may be easy to forget. You may worry that you are missing opportunities if you only target a specific segment of the market. However, the only way to communicate and connect with an audience in a meaningful way is to speak specifically to their individual needs and how your business can meet those needs.
Before you can ever look to expanding your business to new segments or markets, you must first define your current customer target market. Your target is typically defined by certain demographics, behaviors, and/or psychographics. Once you have successfully defined, targeted, engaged, and maintained loyalty with your target market, then you can look at new segment and/or market expansion opportunities.
To read more about defining your target market, check out this article from Shopify.
2. Define new Segment Opportunities
New segment opportunities can be as simple as rolling out to new markets or more complex. More complex can be based on new demographics and/or psychographics. For example, you may launch event planning services to Brides for weddings. But later you may want to target businesses planning corporate events. These are two very different customer targets with different needs. While your services may be extremely similar for both customer targets, the way you target them will be very different.
Defining all of the potential new segment opportunities is the next step.
3. Size the opportunity to expand to new segments
Next, you need to narrow down the opportunities. If you are looking at market expansion, you need to size up the opportunity by location. Miami will have a very different outlook than Chicago. You will need to look at the population of customers within your target. The number of competitors and how difficult it will be to penetrate the market is also a big factor. Understanding all other barriers to entry is key in this analysis as well.
This is true for looking at new segments as well. Targeting Women age 20-30 will look very different than men 40-50. For more strategies for determining market potential, click this article link.
4. Research to validate the opportunity and product-fit to the new segment
Once you have narrowed down the opportunities to the top 2-3, it’s time to go out and conduct some primary research. This means speaking directly with your potential customers to determine (1) if your product/service is a fit (2) how best to communicate your product/service (3) what the likelihood of purchase it. Primary research can be in the form of Qualitative research or Quantitative. Qualitative could mean focus groups, one on one interviews, in home visits, or usage studies. The findings from this type of research are often very detailed and enlightening. They can shape your communication strategy as you get to the underlying feelings and beliefs from potential customers.
Quantitative research is more data driven and seeks statistically significant results. Surveys and questionnaires that can go out to 100s or 1000s of respondents are the typical methodologies here. The data you get from this type of research can help to validate volume projections. Because this data is across a greater population, it can also be used to refine your product or service offer itself.
You can of course conduct this research on your own through Small Business research tools, like SurveyMonkey. You can also work with a Market Research agency that is familiar with your type of business and customer target. Check out the Small Business Administration article on Market Research for more information on this.
5. Develop a plan and timeline to test in-market
Once you have narrowed down to the expansion market(s) or new segments, you will need to have a team in place to develop the launch plan. The launch plan needs to include all details related to the launch, including the customer target, product/service positioning, marketing plan, timeline, and metrics for success.
Using Virtual Offices to start selling, testing, and validate market launch plan
Last, you will want to test the launch plan. In other words, soft launch to test the activities you have in your plan before you place huge amounts of investment into the launch. This is where Virtual Offices can make all the difference!
A Virtual Office is a low-risk, low-cost way to enter a market during the final validation stages of your expansion plan without the high investment costs of physically moving your offices there.
What are Virtual Offices?
If you are new to the world of virtual offices, let’s first review what they are. A Virtual Office is a service that provides businesses a physical address without the high costs of physical office space. You get the benefits of a physical office without having to pay leasing costs, hiring administrative staff, paying services and equipment, etc.
Using Virtual Offices to Test a New Market
Virtual offices combine the physical aspects of having a real office address with many more benefits of working remotely. For a low monthly service fee, you get a physical address along with many other services, such as local office space, mailing services, messaging, reception services, and more.
Once you have narrowed down the city or cities that you want to expand to, you can establish a presence in those markets with Virtual Offices. Remember, you have already sized up the opportunity. You have already tested the product or service with potential customers through market research to confirm there are a need and a market fit.
Now you are in the final validation phase where your business begins to sell its products or services to customers. That means you are…
- building your local market pilot sales & marketing team.
- testing sales tactics, marketing activities, and customer communication.
- validating the plan that you will roll out to this market during the full launch.
Here’s how Virtual Offices can help you to most efficiently test and validate the optimal launch plan.
Presence & Credibility
As mentioned, virtual offices allow you to establish a presence without the high costs of fully moving your business into a physical office. You can have remote workers both from your corporate office as well as locally. Coworking offices and conference rooms are available for day-to-day work, sales meetings, client meetings, agency meetings, or any other needs. Receptionist services are also available to make sure you never miss a call from local partners or potential customers.
Credibility and reputation are important when testing markets. If potential customers perceive that you are not serious about them, they will not trust you. If they believe you are not there to stay, they will not trust you. A local business address and phone number can give you the credibility you need and establish trust.
Building a Team
As you build your local team for validating your launch strategy, it’s likely to include both corporate and local players. The expertise for your product or service resides with the team members that have been with the company at its current location. That location could be across the country from the test market or it could be across the globe. Virtual offices allow all team members to work remotely, as needed. Virtual Offices also allow them to come together in person as needed! It’s truly the best of both worlds where you can take advantage of local office spaces that your Virtual Office provider has.
Ultimately, this means that you can tap into expertise wherever that expertise resides!
Grow with Your Business
Once you validate the test market and viable launch plan, you can stay with your Virtual Office as long as needed! The flexibility of a virtual office allows you to grow your team without having to expand a physical space. If you need to ultimately establish physical offices, your Virtual Office can help to seamlessly make that transition.
At Starthub, we offer comprehensive virtual office solutions We’ll even give you your first month FREE. Just click here to get started. You’ll receive a prestigious mailing address in downtown Miami, dedicated mail handling services from a talented team, and an innovative digital platform to receive and direct your mail. Plus, 24/7 customer support. For more information on why Starthub is the best choice for your virtual mailbox, click here.