Originally Published on Forbes.com on December 10th, 2019.

Expansion is one of the most exciting parts of business growth. However, new markets may be significantly culturally different from the company’s traditional customer base. That’s why a business should have a framework in place to gauge the response of the new audience before it releases its product or starts providing services in that market.

Because of the cultural differences, some of the tweaks to a product’s marketing may be minor, but in a few cases, massive overhauls need to be done to ensure that the buyers find the product attractive. To aid companies embarking on expansion, 12 members of Forbes Agency Council explore some of the methods businesses can use to test product engagement in new markets.

Members share their best tips for testing out product engagement in a new market.


1. Clearly Define The New Audience

To cut through the noise, it’s critical that we create products and services for a specific, well-defined group of people.  Creating clearly-defined model audiences based on things like geography, demographics and psychographics provides the testing ground to validate new audiences via marketing campaigns featuring specific offers targeted to the new audience. – Jody Resnick, Trighton Interactive

2. Test On Your Toughest Consumers

Test your product or service in small groups — not focus groups, but with people who will be your toughest customers, and do it on their turf. Take a lesson from politics: Keep it local and relevant to the communities’ needs. Meet them where they are, whether that’s a community center, diner or the mall. At the end of the day, it’s their story, not yours. – Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications

3. Compare Your Audiences’ Purchase Paths

Since funnel does not exist in the new environment, the purchase path length and retention can still be good indicators of whether the new audience is the right fit. There should be an adjustment to the adoption of your product by a new audience, but beyond that, the average sales cycle and check should be within your current key performance indicators, unless you are changing the business model or the product is new. – Oksana Matviichuk, Verizon Media at Zenith | Publicis Groupe

4. Leverage Hypothesis-Based Marketing

Hypothesis-based marketing is a strategic approach to marketing that prescriptively builds ROI by proposing: “If we [do this marketing or targeting], we will increase [this ROI metric].” Formulate a hypothesis about a variant and test. For example: “If we run social ads Monday to Friday, 9 to 10 a.m. for our daily planner app, we will positively increase our click-to-conversion ratio.” Start small, test, verify and scale up. – Edward Unthank, Etumos

5. Test Through Influencers

One of our clients wanted to test where to go next with the help of influencer conversion rates. We tested for them every market in Europe and found that Portugal, for example, had the highest conversion rate, despite being a country with low brand awareness. They were then able to put together a launch strategy to enter the market. – Emilie Tabor, IMA – Influencer Marketing Agency

6. Consider Secret Shopping

In our digital age, many brands overlook the value of secret shopping. They shouldn’t. Expanding and even retaining a customer base requires knowing and honing the customer’s journey with your brand. Secret shops give you an accurate look at what customers experience when they interact with your brand, revealing opportunities for improvement and further refinement. – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative

7. Set Up Focus Groups

A basic and very effective way is to put the product in the hands of the right people and observe their behaviors. That said, it’s worth noting that I’ve seen many focus groups go wrong due to bias. Emotions often make us blind to obvious mishaps. To overcome that, build questions to prove your hypothesis wrong. If they still like it, you may be ready for a more public experiment. – Ahmad Kareh, Twistlab Marketing

8. Invest In Paid Social

Test the waters by doing a few different A/B tests through Facebook or Instagram. It’s less expensive than traditional paid digital and is an easy way to set up and try out new audiences with several slight variations. After a few months of testing, you’ll have detailed analytics to make an educated decision on how to move forward for new marketing initiatives. – Katie Schibler Conn, KSA Marketing + Partnerships

9. Create Proof Of Concept

Tap into existing relationships and connections to build out a proof of concept before jumping in to create and launch. Do you have friends, acquaintances or customers who would be an ideal testing ground for the new product or audience? Find partners that will be willing to give open feedback on all aspects, from the message to the packaging and the product itself. – Korena Keys, KeyMedia Solutions

10. Bring The Product To Them

Experiential marketing activations are a wonderful way to engage a new customer base in a way that feels organic. By meeting these consumers where they are and giving them a chance to interact with a product one-on-one, you can authentically gauge customer reactions and favorability in real-time. An added bonus is the ability to garner data insights in order to further analyze this new audience. – Scott Kellner, GPJ Experience Marketing

11. Create A Mock Experience

One effective test is to create a “mock” experience so consumers can understand it from a real-world perspective. Inviting consumers to experience the product/service firsthand will provide in-depth insights into key areas such as receptivity, pricing, user experience, challenges, etc. This will identify if any changes need to be made and assist in the development of a marketing/strategy plan. – Angela WooWoo Brand Consulting

12. Consider A Holdout

One way to validate the results of a new product is to utilize a holdout panel as part of that test. By excluding an audience segment in your campaign, you are able to use them as a control group against those in your campaign that received the marketing. By monitoring this control group, you can measure whether or not there was a lift in the audience that was targeted versus the audience that wasn’t. – Lori Paikin, NaviStone®