So you’ve been in business for some time now, and things are going well. You’ve got a solid customer base for your core product line, and its growth is what’s made the company successful.
But while sales are still strong, the numbers aren’t moving up as much as they once were. Some of your reps are also starting to raise questions about meeting their quotas and ways to generate more activity.
As a result, you’re thinking it’s time to expand the products and services the company offers. But how do you do this in a way that stays true to your brand and what you sell now? Below are some tips to strategically add or expand your products and services.
Gather First-Party Data
The next product or service idea may come from those who are already buying from you. Nurx, a company specializing in telemedicine, initially offered patients online birth control services. The company discovered expansion ideas by listening to patient feedback about other products and services they would request online.
Now the company offers treatments for migraines and common skin conditions, in addition to at-home STI testing. These products and services align with existing patient needs and the company’s core competency: providing an accessible and convenient way to fill routine prescriptions. You can visit this site to learn more about the company’s approach.
Asking for direct feedback on current products and services is one way to acquire data on potential expansion opportunities. Sales and service reps are another valuable source of information.
Find out what people are asking for and whether the feedback indicates an interest in something new. Your reps may also have information about perceived shortcomings in your existing lineup. Use this data to augment what you’re already doing or fill in the gaps.
Try New Markets
When companies expand into new markets, they typically take one of three approaches. They introduce existing products or services to a new location, such as a neighboring region or country. A second way is by creating novel products and services for areas they currently operate in. The third and most ambitious method is to design something new for a different geographic location.
All of these strategies require market research to determine whether there’s sufficient opportunity. Sometimes those opportunities can springboard off of other strategic moves. H-E-B, a Texas-based grocery chain, ended up expanding into nearby Mexico to secure its produce supply chain. Its existing suppliers in the northeastern United States weren’t able to fulfill demand during colder months.
The grocery chain’s international expansion was seen as successful because the company secured enough produce supply to meet customer demand. Establishing closer proximity to suppliers and shortening the distribution pipeline also likely contributed to the company’s success. So did familiarization with similar demographics and consumer bases.
Look for Merger or Acquisition Opportunities
Merging with or acquiring another company is an instant way to expand your products and services. But this strategy requires a thorough analysis of how the other firm’s brand, business, and culture will sync with yours. Some of the big-name companies that make the news with mergers and acquisitions can leave the public scratching their heads.
The AOL-Time Warner merger is an example of a venture that didn’t pan out. On the surface, it made sense to combine two different types of media companies and become something bigger. But the companies’ cultures were so distinct that the two entities were never able to work cohesively. Plus, AOL’s primary service was on its way out. The company didn’t have a suitable replacement for its dial-up internet service that leveraged new technology.
Although mergers and acquisitions can yield success, the AOL-Time Warner example illustrates the importance of market research and strategy. Besides performing a deep dive into an acquisition target’s culture, examine their financials, products and services, and existing customers. Determine whether the firm has a competitive business strategy with current and future profit potential. Most importantly, analyze whether there’s enough justification for a partnership.
Use Different Distribution Channels
Companies often use a variety of distribution channels to reach consumers outside of their existing markets. Other times organizations expand into new distribution platforms to serve current customers better or try out new services. Walmart’s and Target’s site-to-store and in-store pickup services are examples. These services were mainly launched to help the big-box retailers go head-to-head with the likes of Amazon.
Other examples include Giordano’s and Mike’s Pies. Both companies sell popular food items that appeal to regional tastes and identity. One makes Chicago-style pizza and the other authentic Floridian Key lime pie. Traditionally, the only way to experience either company’s food was to frequent their locations in Illinois or Florida.
But this isn’t feasible for longtime residents who later move away or vacationers who develop a taste for their products. Both firms now offer online ordering options, in addition to distribution through some national and regional grocery chains. By using technology and negotiating with supply chain buyers, these companies have expanded their reach. People who don’t live near their restaurants can still enjoy their renowned core products on demand.
Looking for ways to expand is something nearly every company eventually has to do to stay in business. Without an underlying strategy based on first-hand data and proper market research, these moves can quickly get off track. Gathering insights from the front line and looking for synergies between new and existing opportunities will keep your offerings aligned. You won’t end up alienating current customers in the quest to seek new ones.