When I first started Mydoma Studio, I intended to launch and grow my business in Canada. As an entrepreneur, I figured it would be easier to start in my own backyard. First Ottawa, then Canada, and maybe down the line I could build on that success to reach international clients. The goal of growing business without borders.
An early understanding of my target market flipped that idea on its head.
With more than 100,000 potential clients south of the border, it seems obvious now, four years on, that I would target my software-as-a-service business to U.S. customers. E-commerce offers near limitless options to sell internationally. Mydoma Studios has customers in more than 40 countries. Our business doesn’t have borders. But we do have a clearly defined B2B marketing strategy that is the foundation of our international sales growth. Here are four ways to help you grow business without borders and get started on your international marketing journey.
How to set business goals and objectives
Like many business owners, my strategy wasn’t quite so defined in the early days. But I started with three clear considerations.
- Mission: I wanted to scale my design business.
- Problem: Design entrepreneurs like me get bogged down in the running of their businesses, leaving less time to market to new clients and focus on design work.
- Solution: I had a goal to develop software that would automate business operations -- invoicing, selling goods, client communications, etc. – so designers could focus on design.
How to identify your target market
If you have a great business idea, don’t limit yourself to customers in Canada. Compared to the rest of the world, there aren’t that many people in Canada. Outside Canada’s borders, there are potentially millions of customers. If I could go back, I would start my market research without any geographical border limitations.
As it turns out, my decision to grow internationally was made when, in 2014, I couldn’t find specific market data for Canada. For the U.S., on the other hand, there was so much information available. I was quickly able to put together a profile of my ideal customer.
The market information for the U.S. included:
- The average size of a client firm
- Major locations of firms and where they are concentrated
- Sectors – how many residential designers vs. commercial designers
- The health of the U.S. industry with projections to 2020
A deeper dive into the research gave us the confidence to move into the U.S. with little hesitation.
How to create a marketing funnel
Once you understand your ideal customer, you need to target all your marketing efforts directly to them. This is one area where I wish I’d spent more time initially. We started with about 30 “test clients”. They represented our ideal customer and worked closely with them to build the initial software. If we’d focused on the marketing funnel earlier on, we could have had a much bigger group of people helping us build and launch our product.
Lesson learned? If I could go back in time I would build the product and the marketing funnel at the same time to have a bigger launch off the top.
If you’re not familiar with the marketing funnel, here’s a quick rundown of a simple one:
- Awareness: This is the widest part of the funnel. We focus the bulk of our inbound content marketing here. How do you make customers aware of you and your product? For us, we spend a good chunk of time on social media, blogging, and attending U.S. trade shows to make sure we’re considered the interior design project management software experts and constantly top of mind.
- Consideration: Once we have customer information – an email address – we can create tailored email newsletters or social media posts, and other types of engaging content that specifically meet our customer needs. Email campaigns help us collect more precise information about our potential clients.
- Conversion: It’s at this point in the funnel where potential customers buy into the product or service. If we’ve done well to establish ourselves as experts, people start to believe in us enough to purchase our services. The funnel is getting narrower at this point and we have a lot of nurturing to do.
- Loyalty and Advocacy: These are the clients with whom we form partnerships. They are users of our product and they also want to help us promote it. In turn, we help them with their businesses.
How to nurture the marketing funnel
Once you have a marketing funnel established you have to look after it and grow it.
- Form Partnerships: If you see someone that could be a partner and help get your brand out there, partner up with them. Make it mutually beneficial. People are super open to having help. We contribute blogs to other groups, make presentations and promote their online courses. In return, our clients are open to helping us where they can.
- Stay in touch: Inbound marketing is a big part of our strategy. We can’t just collect emails and let it go. We need to stay in regular contact with them. This isn’t about the hard sell of our product. We start very broadly with our communications, helping customers, as fellow entrepreneurs, to find solutions to common problems through our content. It’s about building trust with potential clients. Blogs and emails are great. If you’re just starting out or feeling short on time, Facebook groups can be a really powerful tool.
- Focus your efforts: People often ask me why I don’t attend Ottawa trade shows. Sometimes I do, but we have a small team. When we’re making a strategic decision about where to focus our time and money, we go where our customers are – mostly in the U.S.
Once you have clients in place, don’t underestimate the power of offering top customer service when it comes to growing business without borders. We know that using software can be a hurdle initially for some clients. More than 10 percent of our clients are in 40 countries outside of the U.S., and they sometimes have specific issues with the software that we may not have considered before. We respond quickly to their concerns. We’re at the point now where many things can be resolved through an automatic Q&A section of our software. But we also know, in many cases, people want to access a real person on the line. We want our clients to know we’re there for them. We also use their feedback to help us adapt our tool and make it better.