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Op-Ed: A brave, new market

Author Rafael Matos is professor of multimedia at a private university and director of the Caribbean Multimedia Center, a nonprofit media lab focusing on closing the digital divide. Questions should be sent to cccrafael@gmail.com.

Author Rafael Matos is professor of multimedia at a private university and director of the Caribbean Multimedia Center, a nonprofit media lab focusing on closing the digital divide. Questions should be sent to cccrafael@gmail.com.

As the economy contracts further, many small biz owners are letting their laments fly sky high. “Con el grito en el cielo.” Sales of services or products seem to stall at times like these, much to everyone’s chagrin.

But the best instinct is not to look sky high, but towards different markets. Diversification.

A search for new markets always brings fresh outlooks and untapped creative energies.

But does this might mean subtracting from the usual present business routine, so trek carefully as you focus on perhaps unproductive venues. This is always a risk, we must admit.

Yet, new markets are always alluring, pulsating with possibilities.

Moving on
With all this understood, the next premise is that today’s digital age can help young businesses expand globally and rapidly.

One first easy step is to use the global navigational capability of the Internet to help identify a novel market for your particular type of business.

This requires surfing blogs, forums, live chats and the entire gamut of the larger social media platforms that may contain lively posts about your type of commerce. Using key words related to your type of your activity will direct you to these exchanges. Also, don’t forsake the “trending” buttons in any of these venues to discover if your type of business or merchandise is in demand at any particularly moment or geographical region.

Next, any expansion, small as it may be, must be trekked carefully so as not to preclude your core clientele, the experts wisely advise.

Then, as you buildup your new business community, engage earnestly from day one with lively exchanges of email, informative content — no sales pitch yet — and constant query about what a potential client needs to solve.  Listen carefully and you will determine if such problems relate to your line of business.

In today’s connected world, this is crucial.

This idea is to spread awareness of your products and services in a soft, subliminal manner. “Evangelizing your product,” business specialist Miguel Valdés-Faur calls it. That is, quickly establish your footprint in the new market venue with the power of the social media at your disposal. And it’s free.

Basically what you need to find out is what customers want at a particular moment in time and space and determine if you can address some of those needs.

The next trick is to convince these new interlocutors that you have what they want.

This brings us back the first sentence of this column. If you’re looking for new markets, think hard about products or services that people want and are not readily available. Not hard. In one week’s time, for example, I put together a list of ten new ideas and I am not a professional imagineer.

But, before embarking on a deep brainstorming expedition, make sure any new products are in tune with your business model, brand and your existing customer base.

Also, think about the complexities of setting up new distribution channels, about cultural and currency variations, about if your customer base will absorb your new product.

Seller beware
Always remember, technology can be friend or foe. Investing huge chunks of time, for example, into social media research without a clear idea of what you need to discover, can be costly for your present business operation. Maybe social media is not what you need to look at, but rather metrics of how your or similar business are faring in the tough competitive realm of cyberspace.

But don’t chicken out. You already have the expertise, acumen and discipline of having set up and kept your present business going. The experience gained in setting up your operation can be put to use in seeking out new markets.

This instinct will tell you which e-commerce tech and apps will be of no use to your market ventures and which will help support your mission.

All and all, the Internet has made it quite simple in providing instant feedback in such actions as testing products, promotion strategies, e-commerce models, pricing, and product placing. A landing page and some metrics is all that is needed for these experiments in audience demographics.

Take heart and go for it.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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