The US is a market that embraces entrepreneurial products, solutions and businesses, however, a certain level of conservatism is needed, particularly when dealing with the corporate and consumer markets. Things need to feel familiar and, not to put too fine a point on it, American. That is not to say that businesses need to hide their Britishness, they just need to make them feel familiar to the customer.
From the point of view of a software provider, or any products where language is a key component, clear communication and strong presentation skills are essential. American English is crucial, no more “fortnights” - and remember to use your “zees”. Another top tip is to shrink the Atlantic. Being British is no big problem when dealing with the US, the UK has a good brand in the States and is associated with quality when it comes to many things, technology included. However, not being available during American office hours and charging in pounds not dollars is a good way to turn them off.
Depending on what you are selling, a physical presence may or may not be necessary. Many businesses choose to sink heavy investment into their global expansion by launching with an American-based “sales office”. For some enterprises, for example if you have a consultancy business, this is an essential overhead but for many it will create a business unit that will require significant management and not insignificant cost. Not only will it take time to reap a return on your investment but, no matter what you do, the sales office will, to some extent, feel isolated from the main business.
It’s much better to start off with some or all of the following:
- Undertake regular business trips that will allow you to engage directly with key markets.
- Ensure that websites, emails and all corporate communications are on a global domain like .com rather than a UK-based alternative like .co.uk.
- Develop local partnerships, for example a reseller network, to help broaden your local knowledge and expand sales opportunities.
Ultimately innovation is key - a great, well differentiated product will sell well.
By Richard Dorf, CEO, PXtech