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D'Oh! The Top 5 Mistakes of European businesses attempting US Market Entry Written by Jennifer Vessels on 6. December 2012

American dog

Ok, so you’ve got a sucessful European company and you’re ready to break into the States – but just like unpasteurised cheese, bad customer service and small cars some things are difficult for the US market to understand. What can you do to minimise your risk when facing the American frontier?
Jennifer Vessels, CEO of Next Step, a company that provides practical consulting services in sales, marketing and people development for international companies expanding into the US let us into some of the most common slip-ups when trying to make it Stateside…
Jennifer will be hosting a workshop on Successful International Growth at Betahaus Berlin on 21 February.

American dog

Over the past five years, many northern European companies have eyed the US market as an opportunity for sales expansion and profitability. However according to recent NVCA statistics, less than five per cent of these companies are successful in gaining revenues and market share within their first year. Interestingly, an even smaller percentage continue to pursue US business after year one.
Despite this, NOW is the time act since as the US economy is recovering from the Great Recession, there is an openness to new ideas and funds available in the US market today. To take advantage of these opportunities, avoid the top five mistakes of US market entry…

1. Underestimating the requirements for success

In Next Step’s experience the amount of time from initial market entry to revenue in the US is a minimum of 12 -18 months. There are techniques which can be utilised to minimise this. But any executive team considering the US market should be prepared for time and financial investments for 18 months prior to generating a steady revenue stream.

2. Lack of focus on ideal market segment

The US is a very large country with many different demographic market segments and areas. For success, it is important that the European company identify one to three key market segments either by industry, geography or other demographic as the area in which the company’s products and services can bring the greatest value. After gaining market success and penetration in one area, this success can be replicated to new US markets in an efficient and profitable manner.

3. Not having a compelling value proposition

While there is an openness to new ideas and funding available for strategic purchases, US business decision-makers and consumers today are highly attuned to “schemes”, “me too products” and other offerings that meet only a portion of their needs. To gain customers, revenues and market traction, your company or product must have a clear, unique and compelling value proposition.
All communications to the market (through marketing promotions, sales activities and all customer interactions) must clearly state and demonstrate how the product or service will deliver real value in financial, functional and emotional terms to the buyer/customer.

high five dudes

4. Going it alone without fully leveraging US partners and alliances

While you may have great resources for growth in the European market, US buying patterns, legalities and modes of doing business is are quite different from those in Northern Europe.
To speed penetration in the US market, successful international companies seek and leverage partnerships or alliances with US service providers, sales channels and customers. Individuals in these organisations know the US market dynamics, understand the buying criteria and decision making processes and often have the networks to provide faster access to prospects, customers, investors or other valued market partners.

5. Ineffective sales execution

Many unsuccessful companies had a great business plan, clear market focus and value proposition as well as good supporting partners, but just never succeeded in closing a steady stream of revenue from a diverse customer base. The majority of these failures can be attributed to ineffective sales execution.
Sales execution issues often arise due to ineffective choice of sales channel or team (ie using inside sales or a hired “sales rep” when the target customer prefers to buy online or through known distributors or partners) or through lack of a clear, effective sales process through which ideal target customers are identified, qualified, and developed before conclusion of the sales campaign through negotiation of mutual value to build a long-term relationship.
As the US economy is recovering, Northern European companies have a great opportunity to plan and execute their international expansion into select segments of the US market. Through awareness of these common mistakes and making plans and developing the relationships required to overcome these fallacies, savvy business executives and entrepreneurs can leverage the opportunities today to develop a steady US revenue stream within 18 months.
Picture credit: Helloturkeytoe

Global strategy

For related posts, check out:

“Are you going to be the Twitter of Poland or are you going to think big?” How to tackle Europe’s “big idea” problem
Don’t be a Silicon Valley tourist – 5 marketing tips for startups from LinkedIn’s founding VP