Getting the word out about your new business can be hard, especially when it’s the first of its kind in the area. Being the first in a market comes with its challenges – the last thing that you want to do is go undiscovered, and it can be hard to sell your business if the community hasn’t looked into you or your product or service yet. That being said, opening a business in an undeveloped market can come with a lot of great advantages, too. Being the first means that you have little to no competition in the area, and have the opportunity to stake your claim and create strong brand recognition if you do it right.
In 1997, we saw a lack of tutoring and test prep service options in Jacksonville, Florida. There was a significant need for these types of services in the area, which left a huge potential for a business opportunity. Once we did our research and decided to open a Huntington Learning Center, we hit the ground running on introducing the community to the brand. Now, 25 years later, our center is stronger than ever and continuing to grow.
Below are a few tips we have learned along our entrepreneurial journey for how to successfully break into an undeveloped market with a new business.
1. Market Yourself from Day One
From your first day of business, put a focus on marketing. This helps introduce the area to your services and build brand recognition. The more that people see your business in the community, the more likely they will be interested in learning about what you offer. Marketing isn’t just a one-size-fits-all action either – there are multiple types of marketing that can be implemented including mailing postcards, TV/advertising spots, social media, in-school or in-community visits, and newspaper ads.
When opening our Huntington Learning Center, we made sure to invest in marketing and started before our Huntington location was even built. As a new business, we didn’t have any clients so we were always looking for new ways to introduce our business to people, and because we started early, we ended up receiving interest from our marketing efforts before our location’s construction was finished, but that didn’t stop us. We had to host tutoring hours in a nearby hotel ballroom that we rented until we could move into our location, and this meant that we had a handful of new customers to ring in our actual location opening.
Starting out, you need to find ways to get people in the door. Get creative with how you’re choosing to market, and don’t wait to start.
2. Get Creative When Marketing Your Business
When looking to grow your business, try thinking outside of the box and explore different avenues other than just the local community businesses and organizations that you know will have your ideal customer base. Sponsoring sports teams, participating in local fairs or markets, or putting up flyers at daycares in the area and smaller nearby towns are just some of the great options for reaching new audiences.
Presenting your business to a new audience outside of your typical market takes time, research and preparation, but it allows for your reach to expand further and drive customer retention.
3. Don’t Feel Bad About “Selling” your Passion
Don’t be afraid to showcase your passion! Sharing the thing that drove you to own and operate your business in the first place isn’t a bad thing, and it shows potential clients that you are passionate about the service you’re providing.
The best type of marketing is word of mouth, and when you show your passion to students and parents, they will then share their experiences with others. When we first opened our Huntington location, we had to convince parents that we were here to stay and had the best interest of their children in mind. Sharing our story and the goal of our business to help students receive the best education that they can helped showcase our commitment to the community and our passion for helping students.
When you are a new business in the area, you are going to have to sell your product or service a little harder because people can be skeptical of the unknown. Sharing your passion with them can help!
4. Look into Current Trends in the Industry and Shift your Systems and Offerings Accordingly
The world is constantly changing, and so should your business. It is important to adapt your services or products to reflect the needs of your customers as demand changes. If there are things in the world impacting a part of your customer base, take note of that and find a way to include new services, products, hours, etc. to better serve and personalize the service that your customers are receiving.
What’s great about Huntington Learning Center is that the programs are tailored tutoring programs for kindergarten through 12th grade, which allows us to identify and work on unique needs and academic goals for each student. In our community, we saw a need for additional resources for younger students – Kindergarten and First Grade – an age group that is at a stage in learning that is pivotal for catching them up from any learning loss experienced during the pandemic, long breaks in between school years and virtual learning. Our services are meant to cater to all students, but noticing needs for one part of our customer base and inputting changes for them allows us to ensure that we’re providing not only the best, but the most relevant and important services that they need.
Starting a business that’s in a new market for the industry can be difficult, but it’s not impossible, and there are a lot of benefits if you choose to take the risk. Hopefully, these tips helped spark some ideas on how to find success for your business, whether it’s in a new market or you’re looking for different strategies to continue growing in your market.
Janet Gonzalez became a Huntington Learning Center franchisee with her late husband in 1997 and her son Christopher, a previous Huntington student as a child, later joined the team as Co-Owner and Executive Director. In 1997, the Gonzalez’ opened their Huntington Learning Center in Jacksonville, FL, an area that lacked tutoring and test prep businesses at the time. A testament to their success, in 2022 Christopher was included in Jacksonville Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 list. If interested in learning more about Huntington Learning Center franchise opportunities, you can visit www.huntingtonfranchise.com.