Every business, no matter how large or how small, wants to sell more of its existing products and services. In order to do so, businesses must expand their market reach to acquire additional customers. Increasing sales in existing markets through advertising and marketing strategies is certainly not to be overlooked; however, the most effective way to gain new customers is to create new distribution channels that reach untapped markets. This can be accomplished by such methods as:

• adding retail locations (corporate and/or franchised)
• establishing more production facilities
• developing reseller relationships (wholesaler, dealer, consultant, etc.)
• providing online sales opportunities

Placement (a.k.a. distribution) is one of the “4 Ps” of marketing: product, promotion, price, placement. Gaining new customers through expanding distribution channels has many benefits including: a) boosted profits through increased revenues and reduced per-unit production costs; b) raised awareness among consumers improving brand recognition; and c) reduced market risks by spreading the risks over multiple channels.

The most critical step of any expansion strategy is to evaluate potential markets by comparing their attributes to those of your target market. If you are not certain of your target market, begin by examining your current customer base for common characteristics and interests. Characteristics (demographics) are things such as age, gender, ethnicity, income, education, occupation, marital status, presence of children, pet ownership, owners vs. renters, etc. Interests (psychographics) are things such as attitudes, behaviors, values, hobbies, leisure activities, lifestyles (health/diet/exercise, etc.), politics, religion, media choices, etc. Be sure to evaluate the data that connects your customers to your products and services.

Defining your target market is the hard part. Once you’ve identified who you are targeting the next step is to locate those markets with the highest concentrations of potential customers. Visualizing your data on an interactive map is one of the best ways to evaluate potential markets as well as site locations. Maps allow you to assess a variety of attributes in addition to your target data including traffic patterns, travel times, competitor locations, business establishments and more. Take a look at this month’s thematic map below to see mapped data in action.