Want to join the conversation? Share your strategies, wins, and learnings here with the Productology community.
When you’ve had early success in a small to medium sized market, it can be tempting to add new features or adapt the product to target new customers, verticals or geographies. But with limited resources, expansion often comes at the expense of deepening value and net retention with your current customer persona.
So when should you focus on expansion? How do you balance the needs of your current customers with the lure of a larger, untapped market? We asked experts from Notion’s community about their best practices.
The leaders we spoke to emphasised the importance of understanding why you want to expand from your current ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) to a new customer persona. Is having your product work across multiple segments a strategic part of your core value proposition, a tactic to increase growth, or a necessity to win a key deal? Understanding your motivation will help you allocate resources and keep your company aligned.
“We conduct a classic resource allocation exercise every quarter, deciding how much of our budget to allocate between operational maintenance and improvements – ‘keeping the lights on’ – and strategic initiatives,” says Saša Šarunić, Product Director at Mews. “New features and enhancements typically command 50-60% of our budget, and we select them based on the overall company and R&D strategy. For instance, if the company's goal is expansion into a new geography, our product roadmap will reflect this. If the focus is on penetrating the enterprise market, we will prioritise initiatives beneficial for these enterprise customers. Ultimately, our product roadmap mirrors the broader company strategy, making sure our initiatives are aligned and intentional.”
Saša also points out that if market coverage is part of your product’s value proposition for your core customers, your resource allocation might need to be more aggressive.
“In the early stages of a software startup, the usual mantra is to focus on a specific niche, nailing the product-market fit before considering expansion into other markets and verticals. However, when your starting point is a market like my home country Croatia, with a population smaller than that of London, a unique currency, and a distinct language, the need for globalisation or localisation and international growth becomes important from the outset,” he adds.
“This was reflected in our journey with Bizzon, a hospitality-focused POS. From the beginning, we focused on growth, ensuring our product was compliant with local fiscal laws and provided localisation in multiple languages, from the user interface to help articles and customer support. This approach paid dividends, helping us secure significant clients like Accor and IHG. They required a partner capable of delivering software solutions across several multiple geographies in Western Europe, a niche occupied by only a few companies.”
When you decide to build for a new market as a growth tactic, “You’re betting, not consolidating,” says Arturo Rivasainz, VP of Product at SumUp. ““On top of conducting the customary market viability analysis, you need to believe in it, and it has to fit on what you believe your team can really do. Don’t underestimate the cost required for a new bet – including everything from languages and regulation to thinking holistically about the product and the GTM. Budget a learning curve, unknowns will materialise.”
“For example, at a digital bank operating in LATAM, we launched a savings offering into a product that was originally about lending. Fundamentally, we were trying to reach to two different customers – one who has money and one who needs money – and we knew we’d need to speak to them differently. So we worked on the value proposition with marketing from the start.”
“It was a furious debate – do we cross-sell this from the beginning? Do we ask during onboarding if they’re interested in one side or the other of the value proposition? Or build an experience that allows them to choose later? Getting the messaging and experience right was key – and now the product’s doing really well.”
Beatriz Gonzalez, Senior Product Manager at Ometria, also emphasises the importance of understanding GTM nuances. “When entering a new market, we need to evaluate the buying process of new prospects and understand what they care about. Priorities vary from market to market due to factors like competitive dynamics, end-user demands or simply culture. You have to align your product and roadmap to what they expect to see.”
“For instance, the US market tends to be more innovation-oriented. Customers are willing to pay more for best-in-class software in a given category. US prospects will expect our company to be forward-thinking in the way we approach new feature development. We need to have answers to how new technologies, like generative AI, will boost our product to help them solve their largest time sinks.”
“Sometimes in B2B SaaS you need to build features and products that are essential for you to win a contract,” says Beatriz. She notes that on the surface, these requests might seem like they don’t align with the needs of your existing customer base – but more investigation might help you find an efficiency win.
“I collaborate with our commercial team to get a solid understanding of the problem (the “why”) and what pains the new customer aims to solve, then work to find the best solution to the problem that, where possible, also benefits the existing client base. I always evaluate the impact of the new product direction and features on our existing geographies to find opportunities for cross-sharing of benefits and build a value-creation loop.”
How have you weighed the risks and benefits of expansion to new markets? Got a story about expansion that went well – or badly – that you’d like to share? Share your strategies, wins, and learnings here with the Productology community.
Is there a challenge you’re currently facing with your product? Let us know and we’ll discuss it with our community of product experts.
Productology is a series of short content pieces aimed at providing insights on product-related topics. It is brought to you by Melissa Haij and Itxaso del Palacio. Melissa is a product advisor to Notion's portfolio with over 20 years of experience leading product and design at startups, agencies, Meta, and Apple. Itxaso is a General Partner at Notion and has led investments in product-led businesses such as Yulife and ForestAdmin.