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Thinking of Doing Business in America? How to Avoid the Common Pitfalls

The lure of the American market is understandable: the sheer scope, scale and diversity of the American culture makes it an enticing proposition for all sorts of niche products and services. Cracking the US market is achievable - but it takes patience, planning and perseverance to make sure the outcome is successful.

When companies look to expand into diverse cultures, such as Japan and China, they accept that there are considerable cultural, social and geographical differences to navigate. However, the US market isn’t always approached with the same thoroughness – perhaps because they speak ‘English’ and share many of the same Western ideals and values that we recognise here in the UK. Get the cultural intelligence on business in America.

The danger with assumptions is that they are often unfounded, with the result that many companies eager to do business in America are often poorly prepared. Make no doubt, the US market can be a very tough nut to crack and even strong and quintessentially British iconic brands have had a hard time of it: Marks and Spencer, Tesco and Laura Ashley to name but a few.

Another seemingly obvious but often overlooked difference between the UK and US is the sheer geographical scale of America. A relevant product or service aimed at the Southern States may be inconsequential to the North. Different States have uniquely different cultures but all too often, America is lumped together as mass market and approached as a single target.

So what can you do to make sure you’re in the best possible position to tackle the US market?

Here are our top three tips for doing business in America:

Firstly, do your research. Ask yourself what do you know to be factually true about your product, service and offering - from the perspective of your target US market - and what are you assuming? It's human nature to fill in the gaps and conclude we 'know' something when, actually, some additional, specific international market research or an extra survey could potentially save you thousands of pounds of wasted investment. The worst thing you can do is rush ahead without properly establishing the groundwork.

Don’t think of America as a single market As international business consultants, IMP has helped many businesses establish themselves in the US but it takes time and patience, which is why we always advise that less is more. The US is too big, too complex and too unforgiving to approach it as a single market. If you've done your research properly, you should be in a solid position to identify your key market(s) and have a strategic plan for how you will meet demand for expansion and growth.

Build relationships, not contacts If there's one thing you're going to need, it's the right people on your team who care about your brand proposition and want to see it succeed. That means spending time and effort with people who may not necessarily be easily available to you. Think about how often, how and when you’re going to communicate with them (including flying out and spending time in the States) and vice versa. Be prepared to go beyond transactional conversations and build up a real solid understanding of who you're working with. Be aware of their business etiquette and do things their way where you can.

Finally, it can pay to take advantage of international business consultants who've had the experience of working and succeeding in the US market. Why not contact us at IMP today?

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