18th October 2011
It is an exciting time to grow your business in a new market, with a lot big opportunities and potential growth in the export market. Here are some tips for SMEs considering expansion to the US.
1. Know what you don't know: Speak to a company who has already sold in the U.S. market, learn from their mistakes.
2. Know your sales cycle and manage your expectations:Prepare a realistic budget for your market entry. Treat your initial U.S. sales cycle as you did your first sales in Ireland and manage expectations accordingly.
3. Understand your international value proposition: Identify what makes your product or service unique in the U.S. market as itwill generally differ from your domestic USP. By conducting research on your target market, it will give clues as to what your USP will be in the U.S. market. The USP can go beyond the product itself i.e. how your product is delivered, speed to market, personal service or easy installation.
4. Have a US marketing strategy: Your Irish marketing materials and website will not suffice. Don't try to translate what you already have, it pays to know what does and what doesn't work in the U.S. Create U.S. specific marketing materials and create a virtual presence in the U.S. Potential clients/customers must believe you are in the U.S. e.g. use American English on a dedicated U.S. website page, invest in a low cost virtual office and local phone number.
5. Be prepared to fund your U.S. sales and marketing activity: There is no sale without leads. You will need initial upfront investment to carry you through your first reference site. This will catapult you for future U.S. growth.
6. Consider a U.S. Advisory Board: Investigate the opportunity to have a U.S. advisory board made up of thought leaders and industry experts in your sector. Utilise their knowledge and contacts early in your market entry process to help define a scalable strategy. The U.S. Advisors give you valuable information for development and also open up a network of contacts.
7. Manage your U.S. Sales team as you would any other employee: Whichever route to market you choose, be prepared to put the time into managing this asset. All the same principles apply to managing your Irish sales team i.e. market visits, shadow sales representatives at meetings, visit clients. Implement and maintain a consistent reporting structure for the U.S. team such as weekly sales calls or KPI reports. Define and understand all action and inaction.
8. Pricing: Transfer pricing will be essential to your success and scalability in the U.S. Spend time and resources investigating pricing to place your product or service suitably in the market. ‘Quality at a fair price’ is now the mantra in the U.S. so ensure you are offering both.
9. Invest in Legal Advice: Beware of the ‘quick and easy’ routes available online. You need to seek the advice from a reputable law firm that provide guidance on entity set up, taxes and royalties. Seeking legal counsel is never premature, listen, learn and file. If you are not ready at the time of the initial discussion, the investment will be well paid off overtime.
10. Elevator Pitch:Finally, ensure you have a well prepared and rehearsed elevator pitch. The U.S. is built on relationships; you find that many opportunities you stumble upon are built on relationships. Without notice, you may be given the chance to pitch for business anywhere from the golf course to the subway station so it is essential to be prepared!
By Tracey Monaghan, Stateside Solutions is an Irish owned consultancy specialising in U.S. market entry. Working with SMEs from Ireland, UK and Singapore, we can provide your company with a head-start when entering the U.S. market. Stateside offers a range of services including market entry support; lead generation; contract sales; representation and executive search. For more information visit; www.statesidesolutions.com