What you need to know about entering the US market
Just like Hollywood is forever the end game for aspiring actors and actresses, the elusive “US market” is the ultimate goal for any burgeoning brand or company looking to solidify its success.
You know the names of the Australian companies that have succeeded in the US - Aesop, Zimmermann, Lorna Jane, Atlassian - but it’s harder to pinpoint how they did it. And how much of it came down to strategy, innovation or sheer dumb luck.
Cracking this ever-changing code has become the sole focus of people like Trena Blair, founder and CEO of FD Global Connections, whose modus operandi is to help Australian businesses expand into the US.
“Around 80% of international companies that come into the U.S. fail, because they don't understand the complexity of the market, the culture or the [business] language, which varies greatly between the two countries, despite English being spoken in both,” Blair told Forbes
For Blair, the key concerns are around scalability, commitment and a company’s go-to-market strategy. Sometimes, she told Forbes, succeeding can be just as much of a challenge as not succeeding.
“Companies can get caught out quickly because it’s such a big market, and if they are successful, they can very quickly overtake the size of their Australian operation,” Blair explained.
“If you are not prepared for that (and that’s what your scalability can draw out), not only are you putting your New York brand at risk by non-delivery, but also you risk severing Australian business because you don't have the support or operational strategies in place to support this growth.”
For Nyree Corby, the founder of Australian-born customisable fashion company Fame and Partners (which now operates out of Los Angeles after raising roughly $10 million from two US venture capital firms) nailing down a go-to-market strategy was simple thanks to a big-picture approach from the get-go.
“I started this business to be global," she told Huffington Post. "It was always our plan to first establish ourselves in Australia and then move to the United States and beyond.
"Our priority is establishing Fame and Partners as the world's first mass customised women's contemporary label. In addition to making key hires and establishing our US operations, we are also investing in boosting our supply chain and developing distribution partnerships in the US and Australia."
If your own ethos is a little harder to define, there are some simple steps you can take to ascertain whether or not you’re in a good position to make the overseas transition, and, if not, what you need to do to get there.
Writing for LinkedIn, Trena Blair cited the following key criteria for success in the US.
“Access to local market knowledge.” You can do all the research in the world, but unless you’ve been on the ground working in the United States, you won’t know the intricacies and eccentricities of the market. So, bring on someone who does and use their experience to shape your strategy.
“A realistic budget.” Be conservative when planning this, Blair advises: “Assume your plans will always be more expensive than expected to execute.”
“Understanding your potential customers and investors.” Hone your unique message and perspective and know who you want to target before you begin targeting them. This will influence the channels, tone, messages and methods you use to reach them (for example, an experiential event to launch a brand might resonate more with a younger buyer, while more targeted product reviews and classic media coverage could resonate more with an older buyer).
“A willingness to hustle.” While it might not be in Australians’ nature to be pushy, Blair says it’s crucial. “Be memorable by following up and hustling for their business. In fact, follow-up shamelessly,” she says.
“Have a long-term plan.” As with everything in life, giving a project your all and planning into the future can only aid your short-term goals.
Overwhelmingly, what Australian businesses offer to the US market is hugely appealing. They’ve got innovation, a unique perspective and a willingness to work hard and try new things.
“Culturally there’s something about the Australian psyche about having a go; not dying wondering, that actually plays a part as well,” retail expert Brian Walker told Retailbiz.
“There’s more of a mindset to international retailing now.
“The expansion is happening, the question is whether it’s led by medium-size businesses, like Lorna Jane, or by large corporates. [Either way] it paves the way to show others that it can be done.”