Making the decision to launch a product or service into the US market is a consequential one. It can be one of the best decisions for the company, or it can be a costly one. The outcome rests on a variety of factors of course, but any successful journey should start with a deep analysis involving categories such as market conditions, customer behavior, competition, business models, budget trends, and market regulations.
A key variable of that analysis is customer demand, can you profitably market, sell, and service your product in the marketplace. You need to understand the customers operating environment, how they are running their business, and what is on their prioritized procurement list. Does demand already exist for your product or can you for a reasonable cost create market demand?
Even if the foundational analysis to launch your business in the US indicates favorable conditions, breaking into the highly competitive and fragmented market will be challenging. Depicted below are some key questions to answer and steps to take for a successful beachhead strategy leading towards the wider market.
Having a US reference is immensely important, especially if it is an advanced or complex product or service. If no US reference exists, general brand reputation in the industry or having a couple of highly respected international references may off-set some customer concern. Few customers want to be first with a innovative product, ‘we want to be leading edge and not the bleeding edge’ is a commonly used phrase. It is not an unreasonable position to take. Therefore, be armed with convincing ROI (Return on Investment) data from the most similar customers you have. Do not underestimate the value of user stories, especially if it is from recognizable international peers.
Know your competition well, especially if there are incumbent solution providers. If you are bringing a novel product to the market there will still be push-back from competitors, especially if the new product could make the incumbent’s product obsolete or less valuable to the customer. Know how your features match up, and make sure to high-light your unique selling points (USPs) as counter-messaging towards a potential incumbent.
Figure 1 Key Questions within a Customer Discovery Process
Within the pre-sales process there are a couple of key steps to take. A vital group that you need to identify, know, and have a close relationship with are consultants, as they often support clients with technical scouting, requirements gathering, procurement support, project management, and deployments. Consultants can be important gatekeepers into client’s information gathering processes. It is also important to know the history of the relationship between consultant and customer as there can be vested interest with your competitors by having recommended them in the first place. Having data at the ready to make sure consultants understand the viability of your product can faster provide access to key stakeholders within the customer organization.
Building a relationship and standing with intended prospects is equally important. Understanding the dynamics of the prospect and knowing how your product makes an impact and how it addresses pain points and challenges is a must. Bringing insights into their operational reality that compares to industry peers or knowledge about previous events are powerful topics for engaged conversations. However, even if user-groups are interested in your product you need to figure out who recommends procurements and who ultimately makes procurement decisions. Finding, or making, internal champion that has or is willing the push the organization towards modernization can be the ace that helps you navigate tricky organizational processes.
Without doubt you will be asked; ‘where can we see your product in action, where is it in operational use’? If there are no US references to show, powerful alternatives are different types of demonstrators or pilots. Providing highly contextualized and detailed demonstrations showing deep comprehension of the customers reality and even better a vision of a future environment is a potent attention grabber and can create instant credibility in the eyes of the customer.
There is certainly a cost to provide high-quality and high-fidelity demonstrations but having a kit that can be used at relevant industry trade shows (with generic scenarios) and at customer sites (highly tailored scenarios) is a high-yield tool that will accelerate a sales process.
Figure 2 Vital steps to win procurements
Relationships are incredibly important when pursuing a successful beachhead strategy that will lead into the wider market. For a customer to spend money and utilize a new product or service requires trust. Gaining trust takes time and effort but having good standing with key stakeholders within a prospective customer really do matter. One way to accelerate that process is to build trust with the influencers that the customer listens to.
Gaining a US reference will be gold for the continued wider sales efforts. In the absence of a US reference, it is highly recommended to make the effort, and taking the cost, to provide a high-fidelity demonstrator or perform some type of a pilot activity. Pursuing such activities with the customers that build necessary trust and credibility can dramatically speed up time to contract.
Panorama Strategies Services
Panorama Strategies can support your strategic decision-making with this type of beachhead strategy planning process for the US market and can contribute with best practices on how to set up a successful demonstrator.
Please contact me and let us discuss how I could support your business goals.