David Vermeulen, CEO and founder of The Inner Circle, a dating app that offers a finer dating experience, shares his tips on how to expand a business internationally and at speed.
Expanding your business internationally is a monumental task but, if done right, it can be a significant driver of growth. We are proud to say we launched in 20 different countries within two years, with a small team and no outside funding.
Invest in a scalable infrastructure
Build a platform that is designed to scale from day one. For example, we made sure The Inner Circle was set up with infrastructure where it was easy to add new countries, track KPIs globally and set price plans per city.
A focus on marketing channels that can scale, such as Google, Facebook and LinkedIn, can also prove useful in building a strong foundation for future growth. Whatever your budget, these platforms allow you to test the waters as knowledge of your market increases. As campaign metrics demonstrate positive growth, your company can expand budgets to grow reach internationally.
Think globally, act globally
Being in hypergrowth mode is exhilarating but there are plenty of opportunities to learn from mistakes. When you scale very quickly, there is no time to micromanage locally. Only tailor locally what has been proven to make a significant impact, for example, pricing and landing pages.
Build a small but mighty team
Crafting a small but mighty team is key to moving forward in a positive direction. Even if there are only a small number of individuals, a dynamic team can move mountains when the focus is right. Create a high passion and energetic team which is invested in the future of the business.
If you instil one motto in your team, it should be: fail fast, learn and improve. We love trying new ideas and encourage the whole team to continuously test, especially when it’s outside their comfort zone. The only requirement we set is to approach it methodically, to document the results and to share learnings with the team.
Nurture your brand ambassadors; your first and most loyal members or customers will be your strongest voices if they can be involved. We’ve been around since 2012 and have built a community that continuously stays engaged. Listen to your members or customers, speak with them every week and make changes based on your insights. As a result of listening to our members, we decided to start hosting events. There is nothing stronger than a real-life experience and it really makes us stand out from the crowd in a competitive market.
Getting more feedback from your audience can push your business to new heights. On the app we collaborate with our members, so a lot of our content is user-generated. It also makes our lives much easier! Members can, for instance, see what the most popular spots are in a certain city and who enjoys going there.
Automate time-consuming tasks. For instance, we built fraud detection with machine learning to detect suspicious behaviour better and faster. We also use artificial intelligence (AI) and image recognition to help members feature their best profile photos in order to enjoy the best possible experience.
We are now 1.4 million members strong, host events from Stockholm to Toronto and receive wedding and baby cards from happy former members every week. We believe we have a strong proposition for individuals around the world and - while there have been many lessons along the way - expanding into new markets has been one of the most rewarding things we have done.
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