When it comes to expanding and then marketing in different locations, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the international opportunities that are available to you. When we established our parent company, Frank Recruitment Group, in 2006, we wanted to be a niche IT recruiter. We weren’t necessarily aware of which niche we would target, but we knew that’s where the opportunity was.
We identified areas that were underserved and had a fragmented supply system and no clear market leader. We made a strategic decision to become the dominant player in those niches. That has meant resisting recruiting for generalized IT positions and sticking to our business plan rather than getting distracted.
The strategy seems to have worked. We have grown from three employees to 2,000 people around the world, and we still very much consider ourselves a niche recruitment firm. Here's what I've learnt about replicating success over multiple locations:
1. Make it easy
You should be comfortable enough with your business and its processes to be able to copy and paste it into another country or region. Having established the business and seen success in the UK, we had a number of options. The first was to expand our portfolio of services in the UK. The other was to look at countries that were geographically close, such as mainland Europe, or to look at the USA, which has the largest software market in the entire world.
We chose the USA, given both the opportunity and the ability to market in the same language. Rather than minding our Ps and Qs it was a case of watching our Ss and Zs, which made life much easier for us when marketing ourselves.
Think about any strong brand – no matter where they are in the world, they’re instantly recognisable. You need your business to be the same. The way you communicate and the products or service you offer needs to remain consistent across all of your locations.
Stepping out in a new market can be intimidating, but don’t panic—the whole point of a niche business is targeting a small demographic that is actively spending money. You need to be laser-like with your focus. If you know your business and believe in it, don’t get distracted. Do what you do best and make sure people know exactly what that is.
When you’re expanding to new locations, it’s vital that the way you’re marketing is appropriate for your location and customer base. It would be a catastrophic failure if you invested heavily in Facebook ads when the people using your product are more likely to use Instagram. Similarly, if you’re a specialist accounting firm, just how much business do you think you’ll get from social media advertising? Your resources will likely be better spent targeting trade events for potential leads.
A few years ago, a friend of mine opened a vegan coffee shop. He understood the sort of person that would visit and invested heavily in social media ads to target them. Although he was located in a quiet part of town, they were soon thriving and opened a second store. It did okay, but no matter how much advertising they invested in online, it seemed to make very little difference to the footfall. Frustrated, he bought a sandwich board for £50 and placed it on the street with a daily offer on.
Within a week the board had paid for itself, as his main trade in the new part of town was simply people who were passing by rather than seeking it out. Different locations may require a different approach – don’t be afraid to adapt.
4. Local knowledge
It’s always worth spending time in an area and trying to get a feel for it before deciding that it’s going to be your next location. Sometimes, things crop up that you wouldn’t necessarily think of. Think of your last visit to a coffee shop in a train station – you’re unlikely to have been asked if you were sitting in, you’ll have just been given a paper cup as default. That’s because they know their location and the sort of customer they have. As a result they don’t need to spend as much money on crockery, or waste real estate on unnecessary dishwashing facilities, or waste your time by asking you.
For your business, it’s important to know who your customer will be in each location. As well as benefiting you on a practical level it’ll help inform any marketing decisions.
Perhaps most important of all when marketing your business over multiple locations is ensuring that communication is kept as open as possible across the company. If you don’t speak with your other locations, knowing how to market them will be impossible.
If I had to reflect on some of the costliest mistakes I’ve seen, I’d say they could all have been avoided with a phone call. I make a point of being contactable to as many people as possible, and speak regularly with different locations across the business. One of the biggest compliments I’ve ever received was a colleague telling me that I never seem surprised at anything; I’d like to think that’s because I’m very rarely out of the loop.
Making sure people within the business speak with each other is the easiest way to tie all of the above advice together. Good communication will ensure that different trends in different locations are being observed and fed back to you. From there, it’s up to you to make sure you’re able to adapt, whilst making sure you’re focused on being the business you want to be.
Stay focused on your niche and what makes you great and your business will thrive. Having a passion for what you do will make the entire journey infinitely more enjoyable.
About the Author
Kashif is Chief Marketing Officer at Anderson Frank and a veteran of the recruitment industry with over 20 years’ experience. His expertise in marketing has been a driving factor in the company’s expansion into a variety of countries across multiple continents.