How to Break into a New Market With No Leads and No References


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While many companies grow and scale during the economic downturn, many find their monthly revenues on the decline. Others have maxed out their market share and now look to expand into new sectors to continue to grow and scale. But if you have no contacts and no case studies, how do you get started?

When I became CEO of tec5USA, we were solely in semiconductor manufacturing equipment, and a diversification strategy was imperative to mitigate the risk and put the business on several pillars. This would mean entering new markets that we had no prior experience in, with no leads or references to help us along the way.

Given that we also wanted to expand into a wide range of sectors, including food and beverages, pharma and biotech, oil and gas chemistry, and some agriculture, breaking into new markets became a top priority for our company’s growth.

It was a daunting task, but after years of experience in demand creation, I knew that it was possible to succeed with the right approach. Here are five proven strategies that helped us break into new markets with no leads or references and find success.

Related: Ask These 4 Questions Before Expanding Into New Markets

Understand their pain points intimately

The first step in breaking into a new market is understanding the pain points of potential customers. This means conducting thorough market research and identifying the specific needs and challenges of the industry you want to enter.

By doing so, you can position your company as a solution provider and show that you understand their unique problems.

Once you understand the pain points, you can tailor your products or services to meet those needs and differentiate yourself from competitors in the market. Creating a targeted USP (unique selling proposition) that directly addresses the pain points of your new market can also help you stand out and gain traction.

When you address pain points, you enhance the overall customer experience. Satisfied customers are more likely to become loyal, repeat buyers and may even become advocates for your brand.

Establish your unique differentiator in the market

Overcoming unique challenges with new technologies was critical to our success in breaking into new markets. By leveraging our expertise and experience in serving the semiconductor manufacturing equipment market, we were able to develop innovative solutions for the needs of different industries. This allowed us to establish a unique differentiator, value propositions and competitive edges to find inroads to these markets.

If you want to break into a new market, it’s essential to identify what sets you apart from competitors and highlight it in your marketing efforts. Whether it’s technology, expertise or customer service, having a unique differentiator is fundamental to attracting potential customers and building trust and credibility.

Approach them to try it for free

Understandably, most companies are hesitant to invest in new products or services without any references or prior experience.

To overcome this hurdle, we approached potential customers and offered them the opportunity to try our products for free. This helped us gain their trust and prove the effectiveness of our solutions.

By offering a risk-free trial period, customers were able to see the value of our products firsthand, which ultimately led to long-term partnerships and references for future business.

This approach also allowed us to gather valuable feedback and make any necessary improvements before officially launching in the new market.

Related: Need Customers to Try a New, Unfamiliar Product? Give it Away for Free.

Become a preferred vendor in a highly regulated market

Targeting low-hanging fruit is an entryway into a new market. Identify industries that are highly regulated and require specific certifications or approvals to operate in.

By obtaining these qualifications, you can position yourself as a preferred vendor for businesses in those industries. This shows that you have the necessary expertise and capabilities to meet their strict requirements, making it easier to gain their trust and secure contracts.

Once you’ve broken into a highly regulated market, you can establish yourself as a reputable and reliable company, paving the way for further expansion into other sectors within that industry.

Establishing credibility and testimonies from customers in a highly regulated market can also help open doors for new opportunities in other industries.

How to find the contacts

Entering a new market without established relationships can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. In the world of sales, trust and rapport are paramount, and building connections is often the key to success. Let’s explore tactics to break into new markets from scratch and generate leads, even when you lack existing relationships.

Collaborate with distributors: Distributors are often the unsung heroes of the business world. They have long-term relationships with key players in various industries. When you’re new to a market, consider partnering with distributors who can vouch for your product or service. While this might mean giving up a portion of your margins, the trust and access they provide are invaluable. It’s a worthy investment in building credibility and reaching potential customers.

Hire salespeople with existing connections: Another effective strategy is to hire salespeople who have established relationships in your target market. Look for professionals from adjacent businesses who already have a network of contacts. They can leverage their connections to introduce your offerings to potential clients. This approach helps you tap into existing trust and accelerates your market entry.

Forge partnerships: Collaborating with companies that offer complementary products or services is a smart move. Partnerships allow you to combine resources and access each other’s customer bases. These partnerships can introduce your brand to a wider audience and bring immediate credibility. Customers often prefer a one-stop shop for their needs, so working with adjacent businesses can be a win-win.

Leverage cold outreach with a personalized touch: Cold calls may not be as effective as they once were, given the prevalence of robocalls and caller ID. Instead, build a team of Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) to engage in targeted outreach. Craft personalized email pitches, and use social media platforms like LinkedIn to connect with potential clients. When reaching out, focus on the value your solution can bring to their business. Reference articles or content they’ve authored, and highlight how your product or service aligns with their interests and goals. Be innovative in your approach to capture their attention.

Build a network of influencers: In today’s digital age, influencers such as scholars, consultants and industry experts have significant sway over customer choices. Develop relationships with these trusted advisors who can vouch for your brand. Engage with them on social media, collaborate on projects, or seek endorsements. When influencers endorse your product, it can open doors to a vast audience that values their opinions.

Meet decision-makers: To gain traction on a corporate level, attend investor meetings and conferences where key decision-makers congregate. Study their financial reports and business strategies to understand their priorities. When you approach them, tailor your pitch to address their specific needs and goals. Demonstrating that you’ve done your homework can make a significant impact.

Highlight success stories: Once you’ve made your initial sales and secured references, make the most of these successes. Document your achievements with photographs, videos and testimonials from satisfied customers. Potential clients are more likely to trust a company with a proven track record. Knowing that others have benefitted from your product or service can instill confidence and reduce the perceived risks of being an early adopter.

Related: 7 Tips to Enter a New Market and Experience Rapid Growth

Making it work

Breaking into a new market with no leads or references may seem like a daunting task, but with the right strategies and approach, it is achievable.

By understanding the pain points of potential customers, establishing a unique differentiator, offering free trials, targeting highly regulated markets and using targeted approaches to find contacts, you can successfully enter and thrive in a new market.

It takes persistence and patience, but the rewards of expanding your business into new territories are worth the effort. So, don’t be afraid to take that leap and explore new opportunities for your company’s growth.


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