It’s difficult to overstate how critical good timing is, especially when it comes to business expansion. Improving your speed to market (STM) can significantly increase your company’s chances of successfully breaking into a new market. In this blog, we’ll discuss why speed to market is so important and how companies can optimize their market efficiency.
What is speed to market?
Simply put, speed to market is the time it takes to complete the product life cycle from initial idea to final launch. The concept is also frequently referred to as time to market (TTM), but the terms refer to the same thing and can be used interchangeably.
There are several different STM approaches:
- Predictable: This method requires scheduling your product releases ahead of time. A predictable strategy creates a strict development timeline, making it easier to have your product available for important dates. For example, if an industry trade show is coming up, timing your release to be near the show date can be advantageous.
- Speedy: This method gets your product on the market as quickly as possible. This STM variation prioritizes a speedy release, making it valuable for fast-paced industries such as fashion and technology.
- Flexible: With this method, you plan to adjust your project timeline to take advantage of the market window and meet demand at its peak. A flexible strategy allows you to be agile and respond to market changes.
- Minimal: This method reduces labor and material expenses to prioritize cost-effectiveness. A minimal strategy is most effective for smaller companies operating on a tight budget.
The importance of speed to market
When you’re one of the first companies in your industry to enter a new market, you can develop your employer brand and maximize potential revenue for your new product.
Getting ahead of the competition can also benefit your company long term. Your initial product release is an opportunity to gain valuable insights into your customer base, opening new opportunities to meet customer demand and nurture brand loyalty within the new market.
How to measure speed to market
Understanding how your STM differs from your forecast can inform future product launches in other markets. Here’s how to determine what your STM should be:
- Plan: Draft an overall project plan and separate the workflow into individual tasks.
- Estimate: Estimate how long each task should take in days, weeks, or months, depending on what makes the most sense for your specific product. Involving all your stakeholders in this process can help you obtain the most accurate estimate.
- Calculate: Add all your task estimates together to calculate your ideal time to market. This result will reflect how long your project will take if everything goes according to plan.
- Predict: Identify all potential obstacles you could encounter at each stage of the project and estimate how long it would take to overcome them. This step reflects how long your project will delay if the worst-case scenario happens at every stage of the process.
- Total: To get your final estimated STM, calculate the average between the ideal timeline and your worst-case scenario. This result provides the most realistic forecast of your overall timeline.
Where you begin tracking is flexible — you can choose where your timeline starts based on what makes the most sense for your specific product. Typically, companies track STM from product conception to release or from development to completion.
The benefits of increasing your global speed to market
A speedy launch is advantageous for many interconnected reasons, including your company’s reputation and profitability. Here are some of the key benefits of increasing global STM.
1. Build a strong reputation.
Entering a new country quickly gives you plenty of time to build your brand and gain credibility as an innovator. This branding is especially important in highly competitive industries such as consumer technology because there is always overwhelming anticipation for the newest features and accessories.
On the other hand, being slow to establish yourself in a new market can affect your company’s reputation within the industry, as many will ignore your brand in favor of whoever beat you to the market.
2. Gain a competitive edge.
Pushing for quick STM pays off in the long term. Successfully establishing your brand in a new market puts your company in a good position to build a loyal consumer base, which allows you to secure your position by making it harder for your competitors to gain a foothold in the market.
International growth also provides an opportunity to test experimental products with different consumer bases. Some people may be completely unfamiliar with your brand, which can help you grow your customer base and establish brand loyalty within the market.
3. Increase revenue margins.
A speedy time to market maximizes your potential income. The sooner you get your product on the market, the sooner you can start bringing in revenue. Additionally, if you wait to launch or monetize your product, your competitors can pull ahead of you, reducing your potential returns.
The technology industry is an excellent example. When one company releases a groundbreaking new device, other companies working on a similar product lose their edge. After some time, the product becomes mainstream, and unless the next company’s release offers something that changes the game, it will be less financially lucrative.
4. Improve customer satisfaction.
When you’re the first to establish yourself in a new market, you can take advantage of the opportunity to conduct market research and learn what your customers want. This information can help you determine which features are necessary and which ones are extraneous, allowing you to cut out unnecessary steps in development and speed your timeline along.
A more efficient development process positions your company to meet customer demand and grow a loyal customer base.
5. Reduce operational expenses.
By cutting extraneous, time-consuming steps from your workflow, you can avoid wasting time and resources associated with traditional product development life cycles. An efficient product development plan also reduces the amount of money your company will have to spend on research and development, so you can allocate those funds to other expenses associated with breaking into the new market, such as hiring and payroll setup.
8 tips for improving your speed to market
Wherever you’re planning to grow your company, increased STM can significantly improve your chances of long-term success. Here are 8 helpful tips for facilitating a smooth launch into a new market.
1. Conduct thorough market research.
When you know who you need to appeal to with your new product or service, you attain a clearer vision for your final product and marketing strategy. In-depth market research is key to gaining these insights and important to complete before committing to any specific market.
To understand the demographics of your target country and determine whether your product is a good fit, try to answer the following questions as part of your research:
- Who is your target audience within this market?
- Is there a clear need for your product or service?
- What domestic competition are you up against (if any)?
- Do your offerings align with your target country’s culture?
- What barriers to entry are present?
Visiting your target country in person and conducting surveys with locals can round out your research and allow you to directly engage with the people who will use your product or service.
2. Launch an MVP.
Developing and releasing a basic prototype, or minimum viable product (MVP), allows you to perform a trial run before your official launch. Releasing an MVP can help you attract investors and generate public interest, streamlining the final release. Include only enough features to showcase what is unique about your product so your audience has a clear idea of what to look forward to.
Accept feedback from your audience while your final product is still in the development phase to establish a positive feedback loop. What you learn from your early adopters can help you determine what adjustments you need to make to meet customer demand. This information is also helpful for planning future products, which is important for ensuring long-term success.
3. Leverage technology that streamlines global growth.
Historically, entering a new market involved establishing a subsidiary or a branch office in your target country. While some companies may benefit from this step, it is often a risky move for companies that are testing the waters in a new market.
The process of establishing a subsidiary is generally long and expensive, taking two to six months on average. This extended lead time can slow down your STM and strain your finances, which will be stretched even further by the various unexpected expenses often associated with establishing a legal entity.
Once your subsidiary is active, you will need to pay many ongoing maintenance expenses, which add up quickly and take away from your product development budget. With less money available for your product, your STM could extend even longer.
Instead, prioritize agility by using G-P’s Global Growth Platform™. Our SaaS-based technology helps you improve your STM by taking care of time-consuming processes such as hiring, onboarding, international payroll, and legal compliance so your development teams can focus on getting your product ready for launch.
4. Maintain focus.
When you begin a new project, you need to know where you’re going and how you will get there. Create a detailed, proactive action plan and stick to it.
Your plan should define:
- Responsibilities for each team member
- Required materials and components
- A reasonable development timeline
- A list of potential risks and obstacles
Additionally, you should determine whether you want to focus on resource efficiency or workflow efficiency. Here’s the difference between the two:
- Resource efficiency: Each individual team member is the only one who can complete their assigned task, making the timeline heavily dependent on each team member’s efficiency.
- Workflow efficiency: In this system, you focus on the team as a whole. Everyone holds the same level of specialization in each area, so anyone can do the work. This strategy allows team members to work simultaneously on independent tasks rather than wait for the previous step to be completed.
5. Facilitate clear internal communication.
Product development involves many different teams and individuals working together. Effective communication is critical to creating a high-quality product and ensuring a smooth launch.
Make multiple channels of communication available to your teams. Cloud-based communication tools such as Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams are especially helpful for international workforces because they allow communication from anywhere as long as users are connected to the internet.
6. Invest in marketing.
Having an effective marketing strategy can smooth your entrance into a new market. Announce launch details on your website and social media, and give press releases to relevant media organizations.
To attract more customer attention, consider offering special discounts or events to those who subscribe to your marketing feeds. Time zones are another important consideration for international marketing, depending on how far you are from your target country. Schedule posts for peak hours in your target country to improve your chances of being seen.
Additionally, it’s critical to understand the culture and customs of your target country. Companies cannot afford to be culturally insensitive when so much information is readily available. Familiarize yourself with local holidays, religious customs, and cultural norms. Depending on your company size and overall growth goals, it may also be worth setting up social media accounts for each market you plan to enter.
7. Outsource as needed.
If some of the resources you need are expensive or difficult to obtain, consider outsourcing certain processes to third parties.
Some examples of commonly outsourced processes include:
- Payroll and human resources
- Shipping and logistics
- Customer service
Your outsourcing strategy will vary depending on your overall business goals and budget. Work with a company that fully complies with your target country’s laws.
Make sure to get in touch with outsourcing companies before signing on with them, and note how they communicate with you. Do they respond quickly and understand your goals? Ultimately, you want to partner with a company that aims to help you, and you can usually determine whether this is the case through your initial interactions.
8. Expect the unexpected.
Change is simply part of the product development process, which is why agility is so important. Expect that circumstances will change and be ready to pivot when they do.
For example, the material you originally intended to use could become unavailable due to supply chain disruptions. A contingency plan can help you quickly move past this obstacle without settling for whatever is available at the last minute, keeping your operations moving.
You may also need to add resources later, including new team members. This preparation is especially important for international growth, as additional insight into your target market’s demographics and desires is essential. For example, you might find that you need to hire customer success experts in your target market to improve local engagement with your new customer base.
Increase your speed to market with G-P.
Rapid speed to market is critical to successfully expand your global footprint. Our industry-leading Global Growth Platform™ streamlines the entire international employee lifecycle, enabling you to build your everywhere workforce starting in minutes, not months, with ease and confidence. Keep your team focused on developing your product and prepare for a smooth launch with G-P.