The US market is a large, competitive, noisy and challenging one. Let’s just say that it presents a unique set of features and characteristics that are certainly quite different than what most Nordic companies are used to. To be successful in the US, companies must understand where they fit in the market, what specific problem they solve, what value they bring to the table and how they differentiate themselves.
What is Market Entry?
Market entry is not about selling products. It’s really about understanding and solving someone’s (i.e the market) need. Do your homework in order to understand what problem in the US you solve and who will benefit most from your product or service. Who are your customers? Find out where your niche is. You must also know what the rules and regulations are to participate in whatever business segment you deal with. This entails talking with a US-based attorney prior to doing business and making sure you have the right insurance and IP protection.
The US market doesn’t care about your technology….there is plenty of it around! It’s about providing solutions and value for market needs. Know what problem you solve and for whom, and you just might be very successful!
What’s your story?
No one wants to hear all the boring details about how your product works. They want to hear a compelling story about what you do and how you can provide market value. You’ll typically have about 30 seconds to convince someone to give you 30 minutes for a meeting. You need to convince them that you understand their business and can help them generate revenue by working together with you. Ask questions to find out what the real pain points are and tell them the benefits you will provide to address their pain. If you see their eyes start to close, you’re in trouble!
Americans like to get to know who they are buying from or partnering with. Relationships are important so take the time to find out about your customer or partner as well and you’ll develop a better business relationship.
The US is a BIG COUNTRY!
Geographically the US is a large country, nearly 5000 kilometers from coast to coast and three time zones! You will need to plan on how to deal with your customers or partners who may be in New York, California, Florida or Texas. Flying takes time and money so plan accordingly. Make sure you have a realistic budget that will enable you to meet with your target market on short notice.
Even though it is one country the US is generally recognized as having 11 different regions, each with its own unique culture. Buying and selling styles vary depending on the region so understand that you may have to adapt your product and marketing to better fit the region. If you want to sell in Texas, wear boots!
Do you need to be here?
Having a presence in the US is important. Your partners and customers want to know that you’re committed to the market and can provide support and service in a timely manner. Establishing your own office and staffing it can be expensive so in most cases working with a partner is a good first step to market entry. But make sure it’s the right partner, not the first person who tells you they love your product and can make you rich! You’ll meet a lot of people and shake a lot of hands your first year, so be sure the partner you choose is credible, has the staff and resources to get your product into the market and, most importantly, understands what you do and the value you provide.
Yes, it will take time. Give yourself at least two to three years before you start to see real sales. Be patient, persistent and smart and you will reap the benefits of the biggest market in the world!
Who’s the Guest Writer?
Len La Vardera is the Senior Partner at La Vardera & Associates located in Norwalk, Connecticut. He has been helping Finnish companies enter and succeed in the US market for over 20 years. He focuses on a number of industry segments including the maritime, cleantech, automation, software and retail technology. When not working Len enjoys travelling, hiking, skiing, reading and working on his 100 year old home.
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