We were recently hired to rebuild a website for a European client. They were interested in expanding their business into the United States market place and came to us for help. This was a smart move, as we have a lot of experience with this. Though as we helped the client to strategize in preparation for this leap, we realized that there are several recurring themes that arise every time we’re advising clients whose aim is to enter a new marketplace, especially from outside of the United States to inside the United States. So while there are far too many subtleties to outline exhaustively in a single blog post, we thought it might be helpful to share some of the most important factors when gearing up for American expansion.
The overall lesson can be summarized as: have a game plan. Not the most ground breaking epiphany, I admit, which is why I’ll go into some more detail about what this entails.
Here are what we found to be the 4 most crucial elements for game planning an American market expansion:
1. Have a game plan for your finances. This doesn’t simply mean, “have money first” (although, of course, that helps). But this is about doing your research, making projections, and essentially “looking before you leap.” Even if your product or service will remain mostly, or entirely, the same, the logistics of an American expansion can be complex and extensive. Make sure to have a financial reserve and expect the unexpected. This can include appropriate marketing channels, delivery systems, or even third party logistics providers in many cases. Over-preparation beats under-preparation any day.
2. Have a game plan for your particular market. Even if you’ve had incredible success selling your widgets prior to your expansion, the nuts ‘n’ bolts of the American market can differ wildly, not only from your native market environment, but even as compared to other markets within the U.S. Know your market inside and out! This can mean anything and everything, from tax laws to customer service expectations, from marketing trends to languages spoken, and so on. The American market is nuanced, fickle, and the characteristics can seemingly change by the square mile. Even if you were to get lucky and find that your status quo is perfectly reasonable in your new market (possible, but not likely) you must be as sure of this as possible before going in!
3. Have a game plan for your branding and marketing. If I sound like a broken record when I say, “do your research,” good. Do your research. A great branding initiative can transcend international variance, but do you want to bet your business that yours is that strong? If so, great. If not, study your chosen locations, competition, and industry trends. Find a way to stand out among what already exists and give your potential customer base something new and effective to get excited about. In some cases simply the fact that you are new, and “foreign” can even be your marketing and/or branding angle, but again, know that kind of thing going in.
4. Have a game plan for your technology. Technology, in this case, can mean both internally as far as your day-to-day operations, or as in how you interface with potential and existing customers. In some cases, like with your web presence, this can go hand-in-hand with the branding and marketing game plan. But the majority of American consumers have certain expectations like Ecommerce channels, delivery turnaround, customer service, multi-lingual functionality, etc. Be sure to anticipate and then cater to those expectations. And then internally, make sure you have the proper software and facilities in place to manage what can often be a full blown logistics operation. A sound plan for your technology will not only make you more efficient and adaptable, but will make you more profitable in the long run.
Look Before You Leap
These were some of the key things that made the aforementioned partnership with our Europe-based friends, as well as a host of other clients with similar expansion goals, a success. As mentioned, this was not a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination. However it serves to provide an important primer for getting into the proper mindset to give your company the best possible odds for success when transitioning into the American marketplace. Our years of experience facilitating both the planning and execution of such moves has enabled us to streamline our processes and procedures immensely, making those ventures go much smoother and painless for our clients than they would have otherwise. Definitely contact us if you’re contemplating taking that sort of step, as there are many more details to take into account. Still, we wanted to offer some critical base-line advice so you can go into the real nuts ‘n’ bolts knowing the right things to think about, and the right questions to ask. Because, like the old adage says, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.