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Preparing for success in the US

Friday, 6 July 2018 17:49 PM

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America is a graveyard for British businesses that don't do their homework - but a land of opportunity for those who know how to enter this growth market

“It is easy to fail in the US, and we know this because so many people have done it,” said Martin McCourt, chairman of Glen Dimplex and the former CEO of Dyson who successfully led its US growth despite fierce competition from big local brands.

Martin joined a panel of pioneering members of The Supper Club - and a specialist in adapting brand for the US market - to share insight on how to grow in the USA. Crystal clarity on what makes you different, and how to adapt it to US culture, were key themes.

“Marketing your business on a ‘me too’ basis is not the way to succeed in the US,” said Martin.

“Unless you’re taking something in there that’s never been thought of before or creating a whole new market, then you’re going to steal share from established competition – so you need crystal clarity on why you will stand out.”

But it's important to remember that Brits and Americans are divided by a common language, so think about how to adapt spelling, size and terms that might be unfamiliar in the US.

“The assumption that Americans are just like the British is an expensive one,” warned Allyson Stewart-Allen, the Californian CEO of International Marketing Partners, who has advised more than 200 businesses in 26 countries on how their brands can succeed in the US.

“Americans will really relate well to something that has been adapted for them rather than imposed upon them from the UK. So do your homework, immerse yourself in the culture, because the culture is going to make or break your success.”

So how do you adapt a UK business for a US market? “Culturally, you don’t need to pretend to be a US business,” said Patrick Eve, MD of ZigZag Global who successfully led a build and buy strategy to establish his former venture, TransferWise, in the US.

“You can remain a British business, but you need a very US centric offering. Only use case studies of where you have succeeded locally, whether it’s with local partners or talent, to prove those US credentials.”

Balancing the culture that helped you scale in the UK with what will help you succeed in the US is a challenge that Dominic Joseph, co-founder at Captify, took on personally. Two years ago Dominic moved to the US to launch Captify’s New York office. Since then, the company has experienced rapid YOY growth, winning major US advertisers such as Comcast, Target and Directv.

“To embed our culture in the new business we looked for people in the US with the same values and work ethic – and there is a great synergy between the US and UK teams,” he explained, adding that he built an English pub in his New York office to bring a taste of home to the US that is valued by both cultures.

His US venture has also had a big impact on the UK business. “A tremendous amount of our strategy, and how we will grow in all countries, is really led from the US,” he added.

“The US is ahead commercially because there is so much money being spent and there are different market dynamics in each region. If you can carve out your place in the US, it helps you understand what’s coming next in the UK.”

The final thought goes to Allyson Stewart-Allen, who urges founders to prepare for success. “You have to be ready to plug in all the components needed to scale. Have the water supply ready so you can turn the tap on when you need it.”

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In our latest Speaker Boutique, three members of The Supper Club and a specialist in adapting brands in the US shared their tips for success in the US.