The latest ONS figures reveal that UK exports to the States were worth over £90bn in 2013, and as the economy continues to grow, we can expect an increasing number of firms to look to expand operations into the US market.
While America provides an attractive proposition, it is also the world’s most competitive economy, and UK firms need to prepare themselves properly and be fully aware of the key cultural differences at play within the market before committing.
B2B International have operated throughout the US and we’ve picked up some valuable key learnings along the way about how to do business successfully – here are our top tips on what to do, and what not to do.
Do: Have a geographical focus
A common mistake many firms make when they begin operations in the US is to look at it as one market. The sheer size of it dictates that if you’re thinking of exporting to the States, making sure you have a defined geographical focus is essential.
Unlike many countries in the EU – the UK’s top destination for exports – there are significant differences not only between north, south, east, west and the central region but also from state to state.
It goes without saying that you’ll need to target the specific industries and customers that your products appeal to, but in general it may be easier to start on the East Coast before moving on to other regions, rather than attempting to address the country as a whole.
Do: Take a direct approach to sales and sell the value-add
Americans value relationships but their time is precious, meaning a provider needs to get straight to the point of why their brand, products and services are better than the competition.
Given that many industries and markets in the US are sophisticated and saturated, expectations are high. It’s therefore necessary to demonstrate relevant experience and value.
Do: Respond quickly
You can expect US businesses to be hugely demanding when it comes to speed of response. In a nation that checks its emails every few minutes on an iPhone, it is not enough to get back to them ‘sometime tomorrow’.
The same goes for the sales cycle, which tends to be much shorter than in Europe, particularly in B2B markets.
Don’t: Be too modest
Modesty is not something that will win new business in the US. Generally speaking American business audiences like to hear what you’ve got and why you think it is right for them.
Being too subtle in your approach can be perceived as a lack of belief in your brand, so don’t hide any lights under bushels.
Don’t: Focus on only one type of communication channel
While some markets, such as China, place a huge focus on regular face-to-face contact throughout the whole relationship, American businesses value the importance of initial face-to-face meetings to obtain confidence in the provider they select.
Following this, they tend to be very comfortable with web meetings and doing business over the phone.
Matthew Harrison is CEO at market research consultancy B2B International.
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