How to Go Local While Maintaining Your Brand Image
The day you decide to expand your company into new markets is a big one. You’ve built a strong brand and established your business’s staying power. You’re now ready to take your show on the road, bringing your winning formula to new locales.
Moving into new markets means gaining a larger and more diverse customer base, wider reach and distribution, and the ability to tailor your message to local markets rather than speaking from one place.
Macy’s recently announced its plans to open its first non-U.S. store in Abu Dhabi, and there are rumors that it may expand to China. Macy’s is relying on its global brand awareness, but it will face the challenge of tailoring its offerings to fit local tastes and customs.
When executed well, expansion will bring you new customers and allow you to increase your revenue streams. But before you take the leap, make sure your strategy works on both a macro and micro level. You want a consistent brand across markets, but you’ve got to localize to make an impact.
Focus on brand consistency as you expand
When expanding to new markets, you must create a plan to avoid inevitable growing pains. One of the biggest problems companies face when expanding to new cities or countries is inconsistency across locations. Pay attention to the following areas to uphold quality and stay consistent during your transition:
Training: Ensure that expectations and training procedures are clearly communicated to all staff, regardless of their location. Establish a specific training process, and put someone in charge of championing and updating the program.
Merchandising: All marketing materials should be up-to-date and reflect the overall brand message. Implement a comprehensive system that delivers directives and updates to each location, keeping in mind what each might need in terms of size, language, and local programming.
Inventory: It doesn’t look good when one location carries certain products and another doesn’t, or when promotional items are out of stock. Make sure you keep adequate inventory, prepare backup items to honor promotions, or offer discounts to salvage sales when inventory runs low.
Communication: When expanding to new locations, it’s critical to keep all personnel on the same page. Depending on how big your company is, consider holding town hall–style huddles and Google Hangouts to keep your team engaged.
There are other logistical issues to consider, of course. Increasing the number of stores you run means you and your team have to manage more schedules, employees, and issues. Be vigilant from the get-go about potential bad habits and performance problems, and empower your team to deal with the increased number of customer complaints.
Enchant customers by adding local flair
While consistency is key to succeeding in new markets, it’s also important for your employees and managers to be aware of local consumers’ interests and priorities. Here are a few strategies for appealing to these customers:
Use a local market research firm to gain insights. These organizations can provide your company with insights into the new location that would take much longer to arrive at on your own. It can help you ensure that your messaging is on target and aligned with local clientele.
Establish community outreach initiatives for local teams. Create opportunities for stores in the new locale to participate in or sponsor events. You can also encourage employees to volunteer with local nonprofits to become more familiar with local customs and sentiments.
Speak the language. Don’t let a language barrier interfere with your sales. Your employees should be able to communicate fluently with local customers and have a firm understanding of cultural customs and expectations. Without language fluency and cultural awareness, you risk alienating customers and losing brand continuity.
Incorporate local teams. If you visit a Walmart in Iowa, you’ll find the standard low-price offerings and Walmart branding. But you’ll also find an ample selection of Hawkeyes apparel to appeal to University of Iowa fans.
If your new store is in a college town, create signage in the local school’s colors or featuring a beloved mascot. This will generate some goodwill and help customers associate your brand with a team they love.
Recruit regional personalities. Bring in local celebrities, such as radio hosts or popular coaches, to promote your company. This homegrown seal of approval will carry weight with potential customers and solidify name recognition in the new location.
Empower independent marketing and sales teams. When running stores in multiple locations, it’s easy to create a bottleneck on marketing and sales initiatives. To keep things moving, ensure that each location has the freedom to make decisions and act on opportunities as they occur without having to run every move up the corporate chain of approval.
Expanding your business means staying true to your roots while adapting to customer preferences. Maintaining brand consistency allows you to uphold the image customers expect from your company, while tailoring your store to local sensibilities helps you appeal to a new pool of customers. Whether you’re opening a store in Milwaukee or Mumbai, this winning combination will give you a successful and repeatable strategy for expansion.