This George Bernard Shaw quote isn’t exactly accurate, at least not for UK companies looking to build a US product launch strategy. Yes, there are linguistic differences, but there are also linguistic differences between the east coast and the south of the US.
But, are these differences important when we look at how to open the US market as a UK-based company?
Generally, many Americans do believe that the UK is foreign, and extremely different from the US. This is especially true in the business culture, and the world of marketing, too.
Whether these differences truly exist or not isn’t entirely relevant. As long as American VCs believe they exist, then they will impact your marketing and product launch.
This isn’t the only challenge to opening in the US market. Travel restrictions and distance can make it difficult to really impact the decision-makers that you are targeting. That’s why you need a clear product launch strategy, to ensure that your product is just too good to pass up.
So, how do UK startups open the US market?
Have a Trusted US Presence
The first thing you need to do is to set up a US presence. Due to the distance, this can be a challenge for any UK company. You need to find a trusted party to represent you.
You also need to think about where to go in the US. 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 we needed an example). Make sure that your HQ represents you, and is uniquely based for the market that you’re looking to occupy.
This is why it’s so important to understand who your target buyers are. Where do they live and work? With the help of some local US knowledge, you can then decide the best place to set up shop for your specific business.
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 UK and European company opens a Silicon Valley virtual office. This may make sense for you, but at the same time, US VCs 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. But, if you just want to list it on your website then you should think twice and save yourself some money in the process.
Data is the King and Money isn’t a Four Letter Word
American businesses are obsessed with data, calculations, and ROI. As a stereotype, Americans often think that European Companies (the UK included) don’t focus enough on data and are afraid to talk about money. In short, they think that UK companies operate and prioritize entirely differently.
You need your marketing to be laser-focused on a business problem, which you explain using data. Then, your marketing can present a clear solution to this problem, and back that up with data and ROI calculations. Answer their problems, and make them money while doing it.
Market Like an American: Short & Sweet
It’s the economy, stupid. Think Different. Got Milk? These are just a few iconic US marketing (and political) slogans.
Your marketing, website, and content should be straight to the point and catchy, so it looks like and sounds like other US-based startups. While unique solutions are good, you don’t necessarily want to stand out as a European company.
Keep things simple with clear messaging, and a memorable slogan or pitch. Problem-solving can come later, catching the attention of decision-makers is the critical first step.
Product Launch Strategy US: Always Be Closing
You need to be obsessed with sales, like a US company would be. This means having a strong sales process and sales-orientated 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.
While this stereotype might not seem like a bad thing, US companies are driven by ROI and profit margins. You need to prove that you’re just as sales-driven as any US company, and you have the best tech to back that up.
Generally, we prefer Winston Churchill’s take: “The gift of a common tongue is a priceless inheritance”.
While British companies do have some work to do to successfully generate a product launch strategy for the US market, our “common tongue” does give UK companies an advantage over other European businesses.
At Nituno, we help growing businesses and startups expand into the US market. With experience working with both European and US companies, we understand the challenges and opportunities that the US market presents. Get in touch with us today to discuss a product launch strategy for your American market.