As an American who’s spent the better part of the last decade living and working in Europe, I personally don’t see much difference between the US and European ecosystem in terms of the quality of the innovation. There are, however, differences in how European companies sell and market. Marketing in the US is a different affair from European marketing. These differences can create challenges when you open the US market but the biggest challenge you will face is perception and stereotypes in the minds of US VCs and companies. Based on working in both regions and with start-ups on opening the US, here are some simple tips to help you get started.
Marketing in the US: Have a US Presence
The first thing you need to do is to set up a US presence. American cities spend millions to try and lure foreign investment, so don’t be fooled by their polished sales pitches and offers of free office space. You don’t want to end up with your US HQ in Sheboygan, Wisconsin (sorry to pick on Wisconsin but I needed an example).
Instead, you need to do the work to build personas of who your target buyers are, and where they live and work. Then, with some local US knowledge, you can decide the best place to set up shop, as they say. It takes time to open a US company, so you need to start that before you get in front of customers, American companies are very reluctant to pay overseas for anything, so you need an Inc. before you sell.
As a final aside, every European company opens a Silicon Valley virtual office. This may make sense for you, but at the same time, US VC’s would rather see your US office closer to where your real market is. If there is a reason to be in Silicon Valley (access to talent, or you sell to customers there) that is one thing, if you just want to list it on your website, then you might think twice and save some money since the cost there are astronomical.
Data is the King and Money isn’t a Four Letter Word
American businesses are obsessed with data, calculations and ROI and marketing in the US is focused on “the bottom line” or the financials of any deal. As a stereotype, Americans often think that European Companies don’t focus enough on data and are afraid to talk about money. You need your marketing to be laser-focused on a business problem, which you explain using data, and then present a clear solution to and back up with data and ROI calculations.
Short & Sweet: Sound More American
It’s the economy, stupid. Think Different. Got Milk? These are just a few iconic US marketing (and political) slogans. To succeed, marketing in the US needs to be short, sweet and memorable. Your marketing, website and content should be straight to the point and catchy, so it looks like and sounds like other US-based startups.
Always Be Closing
You need to be obsessed with sales, like a US company would be. This means having a strong sales process and a sales-oriented company culture. The stereotype you’re coming up against here is that European companies are seen as “engineer-led” with a focus on building great technology not “sales driven” with a focus on closing business. Honestly, this stereotype isn’t bad news, if you can show that you’re sales driven then you could be seen as having superior tech and a sales-driven approach.
When you go to open up the US market, you need to do some homework first and you need to make sure your sales process is scalable. You will be hiring new employees who are 5,000 kilometers (3,106 miles in American) away, so you need to have a clear process they can follow to be successful.