Steve Brumer, partner 151 Advisors, gives his two cents on breaking into the all-important American market.
A common misconception among international mobile companies is that commercial success in the US market relies predominantly on a strong product or service.
A solid offering is a vital component, but the key to ultimate success is establishing and implementing a focused market-entry strategy.
The US offers tremendous opportunities for companies that understand the importance of developing and executing an effective launch strategy, based on market knowledge and industry contacts. We’ve helped several international companies accelerate their market penetration into the US. Here are the five most significant contributors to success we learned along the way.
1. Understand the differences between your home market and the US market:
Language barriers, cultural differences, laws, regulations and social behaviours influence all aspects of determining the most effective go-to-market strategy, from choosing the right distribution model to selecting the appropriate manufacturer rep firm. Many international companies operate in a culture in which a relatively long period of time is spent developing personal relationships.
US companies move fast, and prolonged conversations can be perceived as a waste of time. It is crucial to quickly get to the point in business interactions. When meeting with a potential US customer or partner, the objective is to determine if a deal can be made and if so, the next steps that need to be taken in order to finalise the agreement.
2. Secure strategic relationships with network carriers early on in the process:
Identify and qualify which carriers have the sales, marketing and business development infrastructure that can best help your business succeed. Then, find the right person within the carrier, use connections to initiate conversations, and pitch them on your product, making sure to highlight ‘what‘s in it for them’.
Once a partnership is established, cultivate that relationship so you can use it to your advantage. Associating your company with a larger US brand quickly builds credibility and opens numerous sales connections. Customer references and case studies from your native country are helpful, but getting the attention of large customers and securing a meeting with them can be difficult. Associating your company with a US carrier enhances your reputation and gives you instant credibility, eliminating the time-consuming process of working through traditionally difficult approval channels.
3. Understand the certification, taxation and approval process:
International companies are not typically familiar with US certification, taxation and licensing requirements which often leads to shortfalls when budgeting for these costs, especially when dealing with government agencies, network carriers, certification houses or federal regulators.
Issues can vary greatly by product offering, whether your company sells hardware, software, web services or a combination of products and services. Navigating the process is not easy, but finding the right partner to help guide you can reduce entry costs and speed time to market.
4. Define your marketing, positioning and branding strategy:
Find target markets or vertical niches that are not yet saturated by your competitors. US competitors will have a geographic advantage, so pick an industry vertical or regional market where you can introduce your product and rapidly gain traction.
Then, clearly and concisely, explain the compelling differentiators and unique value of your product or service, and how it delivers a solid ROI for your target audience. An understanding of the US mobile market is particularly important here as your marketing approach should be deeply rooted in the demands of the marketplace. Track early signals that the US market is interested in your product or service and then emphasise those aspects of your business.
5. Identify the most lucrative sales channel(s) and pricing strategy:
Experiment with pricing, but don’t get caught up in a price war. Rather than racing your competitor to the lowest possible price point, position your product as providing a superior solution to a particular market problem at a price that supports your sales strategy. You may need US-based technical and customer support, so be sure to account for those costs within your pricing strategy.
Whether you choose to deploy a direct, indirect or online sales channel – or if you leverage a distributor or strategic partner – the associated sales, marketing and support costs must be taken into consideration as you find a sustainable price.