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For European startups, one of the biggest challenges to success is getting traction in the US Market. Added on top of the fact that the US is literally an ocean away from European startups, the US Market has distinctly different attributes than any market in Europe. If you’re planning to bring your company to the US, these top ten tips might save you valuable months and dollars on your marketing strategy.
Many companies successfully market their wares in the U.S. and enjoy the financial rewards of their efforts. With U.S. marketing success, this can then also open up other markets that will follow once you have won the attention and respect of American buyers. Follow these tips to make your U.S. marketing efforts efficient and effective.
America is Huge – Pick Your Targets
If you go in guns blazing into the US market, you’re just going to waste your marketing bullets (i.e: money). America is huge, with companies all over the place, so the best place to start is by leveraging local contacts – subsidiaries of current clients/partners, for example. In addition, certain regions are hubs for various industries (such as Detroit for the automobile industry), so take a look at the top companies in your industry and see where they are located – this may be a great starting point.
Sales strategy drives marketing materials. Not the other way around
When building a marketing plan and deciding which collateral and programs should be developed, it is critical to consider how the sales pipeline will be built. If you are going to use re-sellers, then your marketing efforts need to focus on attracting them (not the end users). Once engaged, your marketing efforts should focus on how to help the re-seller with their own sales efforts. If you are going to use direct sales people, then understand their process so you can develop the right sales materials and tools to support their sales efforts.
There are some common fundamental marketing items that are typically needed regardless of the sales strategy such as a website, business card, brochure or datasheet; however, even before these items are developed, consider how prospects will be found or find you. For example, if prospects will typically use the web to look for products like yours, you should put effort into Search Engine Optimization (SEO) using American English keywords. If you will be doing many tradeshows or other events, consider what follow-up materials you want to send and how will that be done and monitored.
Localization is Key – Franglais won’t cut it.
There’s a fine line between “hacking” together a translation of your site and having your site look like it was done by “a hack” – and if you don’t know the difference, there’s a good chance you’ll tend to the latter, and should look into services like Hubtech21 to help you manage this.
Literal translations don’t always work – nuances, context, and meaning must be translated, not word-for-word, but meaning-for-meaning. If you learned British English, you may find yourself talking about colours instead of colors, or materialising instead of materializing – every time a site visitor has to do a double-take to understand the minor nuance of the mistake you made, they are taken out of your site experience and put in the place of a critic judging a mistake, like watching a bad actor in a film or a spelling mistake on a blog.
Preparing for an effective U.S. marketing launch
Your website should be your best sales person
You won’t always be able to do direct sales – and in most cases, you shouldn’t – so make sure your site can do the selling. If an automated sales process isn’t possible, at least make sure there is a clear education and conversion funnel for visitors. Part of this is having proper English, but part of this is a question of “looking like an American website.”
Many foreign companies try to hide their nationality – this may be a bit extreme, but it touches on the sensitive point that Americans like to shop locally. If they think they are buying from a Russian company, trust, service, and quality are three issues you’ll have a hard time fighting them on.
Dedicated English Social Media is a must
If you’ve spent time localizing your site, both in language and in feel, then the last thing you want to do is to have your social media icons lead to foreign-language social media accounts. If you aren’t doing social media exclusively in English, you’ll need a dedicated account (ideally the main account), and you’ll need it to be active (1-2 posts per week, minimum). The only thing worse than a foreign language social media account is an inactive account.
You don’t need to be in the US to market in the US. But it helps.
As mentioned above, making your site visible virtually through SEO and a properly localized site is key; however, nothing will replace the face-to-face interaction of being at a trade show, talking on stage, or sitting across the table from a potential client. Deciding when to set up a physical presence in the US is a delicate decision in terms of timing, but it can also be very expensive if not done correctly; however, there are ways to test and start your market entry without making huge investments of time and money. Consider using organizations that specialize in U.S. market entry (like Hubtech21) and specifically provide initial marketing entry support before you establish a U.S. office or employees.