The following post is a guest contribution from Steve Brumer, Partner at 151 Advisors.
A common misconception is that commercial success in the U.S. mobile market relies predominantly on a strong product or service. The truth is, while having a solid offering is a key component, many companies fail because they lack an understanding of how to formulate a comprehensive market entry plan and the knowledge and contacts to execute on it.
The U.S. offers tremendous market opportunities for international mobile companies that establish and execute a focused market entry strategy. 151 Advisors has helped several emerging and international companies penetrate the U.S. market. Here are some tips we’ve learned along the way:
1. Understand the differences between your home market and the U.S. market.
Language barriers, cultural differences, laws and regulations and social behaviors will influence everything from how to select the right go-to-market strategy, such as deciding on a direct sales model or partnering with a channel of distribution partners, to choosing the appropriate manufacturer rep firm. Many international companies operate in a culture in which a relatively long period of time is spent developing personal relationships. U.S. businesses move fast and prolonged conversations can be perceived as wasting time, so get to the point quickly in business interactions. As an international company, enter a meeting with a potential U.S. customer/partner with the intent to determine if a deal can be made and what immediate and strategic steps are involved to finalize an agreement.
2. Secure strategic relationships with network carriers early on in the process.
Identify and qualify which carriers have the infrastructure within their sales, marketing and business development that can help the business be successful. Then find the right person within the carrier, use connections to initiate conversations, and pitch them on your product making sure to highlight “what is in it for them.” Once a partnership is established, cultivate that relationship so you can use it to your advantage. Associating your company with a larger U.S. brand builds credibility and numerous sales connections. Customer references and case studies can all help with this, but getting large customers to speak can be difficult so associating your company with a carrier can help your reputation without having to go through traditionally difficult approval channels.
3. Understand the certification, taxation and approval process.
International companies are not typically familiar with U.S .certification, taxation and licensing requirements. This often leads companies to not properly budget the cost of addressing these needs, especially when dealing with government agencies, network carriers, certification houses or federal regulators. Issues can vary greatly by product offering, whether your company sells hardware, software, web services or a combination of products and services. Navigating these issues is not easy, but finding the right partner to help you can greatly reduce your market entry costs and time to market.
4. Define your marketing, positioning and branding strategy.
Find target markets or vertical niches that are not yet saturated by your competitors. U.S. competitors will have a geographic advantage, so pick an industry vertical or regional market where you can introduce your product and gain rapid traction. Then, clearly and concisely explain your product or service and how that offering delivers unique value, and a solid ROI for your target audience. An understanding of the U.S. mobile market is particularly important here as your marketing approach should be deeply rooted in the demands of the marketplace. Track early signals that the U.S. market is interested in your product or service and then emphasize those areas of your business.
5. Identify the most lucrative sales channel(s) and pricing strategy.
Experiment with pricing, but don’t get caught up in a price war. Rather than racing your competitor to the lowest possible price point, position your product as providing a superior solution to a particular market problem at a price that supports your sales strategy. Depending on your product, U.S. based technical and customer support may be needed and you’ll have to account for that within your pricing strategy. Whether you choose to deploy a direct, indirect or online sales channel – or if you leverage a distributer or strategic partner – the associated marketing costs and resources required to make each channel successful should be taken into consideration as you find a sustainable price.