Many people would agree that scaling is a truly special stage of business development, which makes you think ‘out of the box’ in order to enter new markets successfully. Each scaling case seems to be unique and results in a strategy dependent on a number of specific business factors: scaling destinations, the product itself, potential audience, marketing etc. It’s cool when you consider possible business migration at the very beginning and design your product to be relatively ‘universal’ (worth mentioning, this is far from easy). However, sometimes scaling opportunities emerge somehow unexpectedly, and then you have to introduce a number of adjustments, to change the whole project vision and adapt to the new audience.
CEE startups typically expand their businesses to the west – Europe and the USA. The most popular problem with CEE products is the language. Unfortunately, English is still a weak point here. And it is not just about translating the product name and description. Scaling a startup, you take into account the whole culture of the new market, including people’s values and preferences: new slogans, exclusive features should be added. Obviously, it requires extra time and resources, which is not that easy to access for a growing business.
Another issue coming right after the language barrier is customer support. Serving clients at a distance is not a piece of cake: CEE startups have to demonstrate a service level similar to the one provided in Western Europe for example, which means totally different standards, guaranteed quality and deep interaction with customers. No secret, the concept of customer support in Central and Eastern Europe is still a little bit behind customers even do not expect any special treatment. In the West everything is different: people buying your product can be eventually turned into loyal brand ambassadors, but in return, they must be appreciated and given desired value. And yes, customer support requires additional resources, which is again a kind of business challenge.
The total value received as a complex of product features, customer service and unique experience is projected on the price demanded. As soon as you are about to enter the new market, it is high time to reconsider the product price. Seems pretty obvious, but in reality, many business owners (especially those with little experience) forget to take into account price levels that differ from country to country. Compare Poland and the UK for example: most likely, British customers are ready to pay more for your SaaS application, while Polish users would be extremely happy to get a more affordable price. To make market diversity work for you, it is worth conducting a proper market research before landing and measure the key parameters: market size, an average level of income, demand,the presence of substitutes etc.
Although CEE founders have presented a number of worthy projects in the last couple of years, these startups have to build powerful expansion strategies, which is more likely to do offering a totally new product. This issue is especially crucial when scaling to the USA, where people seem to have seen and tried everything already. You need to impress them with something really unique – be it the product itself or just the way you deliver it. If your startup succeeds, it will spread all over and people will be ready to pay for the great customer experience.
All in all, scaling means repeating the process of conquering the market, again and again, every time building the whole business infrastructure from the very beginning: sales channels, promotion activities, gathering a new team etc.
Needless to say, startup scaling is a huge step in business development, and the corresponding decision should be made at the right moment. Usually, the moment comes when the product has covered the local market and a proper customer acquisition model has been discovered. Remember that expanding beyond CEE might give your project a new breath. But don’t be in a hurry!
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