It’s never easy to get your foot in the door of a new industry. Whether you’re looking to start a business venture or simply collaborate with a brand in that market, the process of breaking in is a tricky one that must be handled with care: You can’t expect to be welcomed with open arms without proving yourself to industry veterans.
We asked eight members of Young Entrepreneurs Council about what it takes to successfully enter an unfamiliar industry. From making the right connections to offering a prototype or free services, here’s what they had to say.
All images courtesy of YEC members.
Entrepreneurs share tips for entering a new industry.
1. Talk To Industry Veterans, Potential Customers And Advisors
When it comes to getting a firm grasp on a new industry, one of the best ways is to leverage the experience of the veteran entrepreneurs in your industry. If you meet with them and ask many questions, you can learn quickly what it took them years to learn. If you combine this with reading books, the effect compounds. The next step is to meet with customers in the industry to understand their pain points to determine how you can innovate and differentiate yourself in this new space. Write down notes and reflect on the stories you hear to put the pieces of the puzzle together. The last step is to find a problem to solve and make an assumption you can measurably test to validate your business idea and meet advisors who can guide you before you go fully commit yourself. – Dan San, Meural
2. Partner With An Industry Leader
In my career, I have had many opportunities to enter into a new industry I really knew nothing about. Then I developed a mentality I like to call, “don’t buy it, sell it.” Why purchase a product or service you know you can sell, with just a little more knowledge and understanding? If you partner up with the right person or company, not only do you gain access to an unlimited supply of whatever that product or service is, but you also gain access to knowledge that you cannot read in FAQ or terms and conditions. Sometimes, the best way to break into anything when it comes to “the unknown,” is to admit your own ignorance to yourself, bite the bullet, and ask for help or advice. And, anyone will let you sell their products or services in exchange for more information. – Jason Criddle, Jason Criddle and Associates
3. Offer Free Or Discounted Services At First
One awesome tactic to break into new territory is to offer to do the project for free, or at a reduced rate, in exchange for feedback. This allows you to work with a client who will help you understand the industry. You will be upfront that this is your first project for this industry, but you are applying the same knowledge from other industries so it should work out fine. The client is getting great work, but at a discounted rate. You are getting inside knowledge on how to build a better service or platform. If there are any mistakes, both you and the client know this is a first time and so expectations are not as high. It takes a good client to make this work, but can be a success for both parties. – Peter Boyd, PaperStreet Web Design
4. Network With Anyone You Can
The best strategy for breaking into a new industry is to meet people in that industry. Research industry organizations and get involved. Become a member, join a committee, go to the events. Meet your new peers, learn about their work, care about their work and then show them your struggle. People want to help. Obviously, you don’t want to reach out to a potential competitor. However, you can reach out to just about anyone else. The best referrals that I have ever received came from someone random. Not the “big fish” everyone is always trying to meet at networking events. Especially if you are among other business owners, we’ve all been there, ask for help. – Allyson Case, Integro Rehab LLC
5. Be Continually Curious
Who said curiosity killed the cat? Following your curiosity is the key to learning a new industry. We hold the library of Alexandria at our fingertips with the internet today. It has never been easier to become more intelligent than 99 percent of the population on a given subject. I start by going down the Google rabbit hole. I open 10-15 tabs, watch the top rated YouTube videos, add the expert’s names to an Evernote file and circle the subject like a shark. If the idea is to understand autonomous cars, Google the biggest companies, top YouTube videos, “why autonomous cars will change world,” and on you go. Once you start watching experts and realize you know what they are about to say, you’re an expert. – Codie Sanchez, Www.CodieSanchez.com
6. Create Prototypes To Showcase Your Industry Knowledge
I always believe in creating some prototype software to showcase my knowledge and understanding of an Industry. When I wanted to reach out to a transportation industry, I first talked to a few people and figure out the issues they are having. Then based upon the issues, I created a prototype and showcased to C-level executives. It takes around one month to build a prototype, efforts pay off as I can use it to earn business. Don’t be afraid of barging into new verticals, all that is needed is energy to learn and solve problems. There is always a beginning. – Piyush Jain, SIMpalm
7. Make A List Of Questions You Have, Then Find The Answers
When I want to dive into a new venture, I start going to the bookstore to learn everything and anything on the subject. Then I create a list of what I want to search online and the questions I have pertaining to the venture. Before you know it, I am looking into forums and connecting with people who have already succeeded in the particular venture. I want to be able to learn from them and areas of improvement as well. For example, I was looking to create a new travel app that made it easy for young women to coordinate their travels. I connected with travel agencies, started reading books about travel journeys to get inside the head of a traveler, and reaching out to a network of well-traveled young women. The community of women was how I was able to build traction for the app. – Sweta Patel, Silicon Valley Startup Marketing
8. Connect With Trusted Influencers And Get Their Endorsement
One of the best ways to make your brand or business well-known or respected in any space is to connect with a brand, website, or influencer who is already trusted and has a massive following. This is something we are commonly seeing in the world of social media, and specifically on Instagram, where visual content is king. No matter what it is you have to offer or sell, simple brand association can go a long way when trying to connect with a new audience. The important thing here to remember is that you don’t want to go in too strong and come off as just a paid placement or advertisement. Instead, it should be able to the value provided and blending in with the user experience that is expected from the people or brands they are already following. – Zac Johnson, Blogger