From Divido to Radical Tea Towel, HSBC to Barclays, Unilever to GlaxoSmithKline, UK businesses have been transitioning into the US markets for generations.
You can too.
To be honest, the United States should be every Brit’s dream business destination. We speak the same language. We share many cultural and economic histories. And above all else, the US government offers special privileges to brands from its mother country.
Unique privileges you enjoy in the US as a UK business owner
As a UK entrepreneur in the US, you have access to instant ESTA USA authorisation, which allows you to come into the country anytime you like.
The ESTA USA is a unique visa waiver program reserved for citizens of countries like the UK. With an ESTA, you can enter the US, spend up to 90 days, return to the UK, and then come back anytime you like.
Citizens of other countries don’t enjoy privileges like these. Mind you; you can file your ESTA application here.
That said, when you finally decide to take the giant step of entering the US markets, follow the strategies we’ve compiled in this guide.
Strategies for Quickly Expanding Your Business into the US soil
- Find the perfect “state” to enter
The United States operates a federal system. As such, every state is governed differently. What works in a state may not be permitted under the law of another.
To quickly expand your offerings into the USA, you need to first identify a state that best suits your brand.
This can be determined by a number of factors, including:
- History of businesses similar to yours in the state: Is there a business doing something similar to what your business does in a particular state? That’s an indicator that a market is already waiting for you there.
- Existence of a large audience base in the state. Do you look up the state on the internet and find exciting industry-related numbers? That’s another indicator that this is your state. For example, Mississippi has the highest adult obesity rate in the country at 40.8 percent. For a UK weight-loss brand, this should be your destination.
- Demands for your products from the residents of the state. Are residents of the state already patronizing your UK website? That’s a big indicator that consumers are already waiting for you.
That last point is what inspired Radical Tea Towel to head over to Reading, Pennsylvania, in 2018.
“In 2016 we were getting some sales via our UK site from American customers, even though none of our marketing efforts were directed at the US,” says Luke (brand cofounder). “However, they had to pay huge shipping costs and wait two weeks to receive their order. We knew that selling from within the US could reduce their pain points.”
- Build a US-based team to work with
Despite Britain and the US having so much in common, certain cultural differences still exist.
To help beat this culture gap, you need people who have been in the country longer than you. This could be simple local partners or state-level business agents.
The idea is to network with locals that can help open doors and get things going.
If you ask anyone who’s ever launched a business in the US, they’ll tell you the same thing.
You can’t expect to just walk in and dominate. You need an “American face, brain, and voice” to help you get started.
Moreover, your ESTA USA authorization only lasts for 90 days per visit. Which means you can’t be on the ground 24/7 all year round. Your ESTA stay will expire at some points, and you’ll need to head back to the UK to renew before returning to the US. While doing that – working out your ESTA – you definitely need someone to look after your interests.
- Create a US-friendly website
Unless for a few exceptions that don’t understand its importance, most UK businesses have alternate versions of their websites for US audiences.
It’s believed that creating a US-friendly website for your UK brand helps you target the US market directly.
Many brands implement this dual-website strategy for their expansion. For example, look at Radical Tea Towel; they have a UK version and a US version.
Of course, it’s not a must to create a new website to expand into the US. But we recommend it because of the following reasons:
- Improved branding. A US-friendly site can employ certain registers, slang, grammar, spelling, and marketing materials that appeal strictly to the US audience.
- Better search engine rankings. A .COM website will definitely rank better than a .CO.UK site in the US. To compete with your US Competitors, you need a US-relevant domain.
- Tailored information: Depending on your business angle, the sort of information/blog content you publish on your site may depend on whether it’s targeted at US audiences or UK audiences.
- More leads and sales: Improved SEO simply means better ranking. And that ultimately yields more leads and sales.
- Make the most of your ESTA entries
ESTA USA will allow you a 90-day stay in the US per visit.
You should maximize this privilege to the best of your ability. That is, create strategic plans and set specific goals for each of your visits.
For example, since the goal is to expand your business in the US, you can set out to organise events, attend conferences, network with local entrepreneurs, or partner with local brands on each of your visits.
This will ensure your brand name gets the recognition it needs to grow and become a household name in the US.
Of course, you may need to confirm that your ESTA USA authorisation allows you to hold certain events (e.g., trade shows, exhibitions, etc.) before proceeding. You can do that by examining the details of your ESTA status check.
- Make plans for Americanized branding and marketing
It’s not a secret that America is in its own league when it comes to branding and marketing.
Strategies that work well in the UK May fail woefully in the US. That’s a fact.
To expand quickly in the US, you must abandon your UK-focused marketing intents and design something a little bit more Americanised.
For example, you may need to be careful with your choice of words when launching a marketing campaign in the US. As a multi-cultural space, using certain “words” in your marketing campaigns may hurt certain groups or communities in America, and this may do your brand more harm than good.
H&M, a Swedish multinational clothing company, made this mistake in 2018 when they released a promotional content that featured a black child wearing a hoodie with the text “coolest monkey in the jungle.”
The brand was blasted across the globe and even lost some of its celebrity partners, The Weeknd and G-Eazy. The ad was perceived as an insult to the black community in America.
The same way a wrong choice of marketing content can hurt a brand in the US, choosing the right branding can also pull some numbers for you.
Look at Hubspot; the brand coined the term “inbound marketing.” Ever since, other brands and regular internet users have used this word. And Hubspot has benefited significantly from the action.
You, too, can use some sort of Americanized term, branding, or slang to enter the US market. Just ensure it’s something neutral – don’t be like H&M.