A CEO’s Guide to Overcoming the Most Challenging Hurdles to U.S. Market Entry

In our last article of this deep-dive on U.S. market expansion challenges and opportunities, we explained the strategic importance of knowing your tech firm’s unique value. Understanding the core of your differential helps translate that value to your customers. It helps, that is, if you know how to convert across markets and honor the subtleties of cultural differences that may not seem apparent to a less discerning eye. 

Success gives us insight, but ironically, it can also create blind spots. One of the most challenging hurdles to overcome for a successful U.S. market entry is the tendency to rely solely on knowledge garnered from past or even current experience in your home market. Plainly said, market performance in Australia or the U.K. is not enough to develop a full or fully accurate indicator of what will work in the U.S. market. In this article, we’ll delve into some of the surprising blinders that may keep CEOs from seeing this until it is too late. 

Home Field Advantage Is Real 

A business that has done well in its home country — and perhaps even has a successful expansion to another European market or two under its belt — has clearly made intelligent decisions to get to a point of growth and self-reliance that their whole team can be proud of. And they should be proud! However, these feelings of success can also become a trap.

And it’s a trap that many CEOs fall into despite their best efforts. When your product positioning and marketing strategies have yielded a high ROI, the natural inclination is to do more of the same as you expand. This leads many businesses that have set their sights on lucrative U.S. shores to hire and task a sales director with creating a replica of existing practices to plug in to the American market. It’s all too easy to assume that because a product or service is successful at home and perhaps in a second European market, it will be immediately understood by the U.S. market. But this is a faulty – and potentially costly – assumption. 

A Perspective Change Can Open Market Doors

The open-minded CEO’s advantage is knowing that anything is possible and that there is more than one way to achieve a target. This broad perspective relies on assembling a team around them to point out possible opportunities but also potential pitfalls. If a leader is willing to trade assumptions for curiosity, assembling and utilizing a team to fill in the gaps, market expansion becomes a much different experience. 

You have already built success. You know you can do it again, and so do we. But CEOs looking to expand to the U.S. need more specific research and guidance to make the company’s original marketing strategy understandable and palatable to these new audiences. At Kettering, we walk alongside our clients, offering them the grounded knowledge necessary to roll out thriving and locally connected market-based offices.

Cultural Intelligence is Key to Market Expansion

Ignoring or missing the cultural intelligence piece is often the undoing of a U.S. market expansion. There is a common misconception that the business cultures of western markets are all similar enough that expansion can be successful from one to another without much thought about cultural differences. It was this lack of cultural intelligence that created a costly mistake for the behemoth Starbucks in 2018 when they attempted an Australian roll-out without considering the flavor profile of the intended market. They assumed their existing product line could simply be transplanted to the new market, but were met with a lukewarm reception that left them with no other option but to retreat and revamp. It’s a cautionary tale for all market expansion, including tech firms. Localization is a critical aspect of successful expansion to the U.S. market.

There is a school of thought out there as well that you cannot teach cultural intelligence – that it simply comes with the experience of doing international market entry. While we would never want to undervalue this essential experiential learning, there is much that can be taught and done in the preparatory phase, prior to executing on an international market project, that can mitigate against the investment in the new market going poorly.

How does Kettering Help?

With boots on the ground in the U.S. and a clear understanding of cultural intelligence challenges, Kettering works as your “eyes and ears” for a truly comprehensive integration into the U.S. market. Leveraging rich practical experience and networks of connections in specific industry sectors — technology, financial services, insurance, education, and more— Kettering extends the value of these inroads to help kick off your market entry campaign. 

We also gather feedback from different industry expansions in the U.S. regarding pain points, client demands, and more. Our experts then use that feedback as a guide to help clients retool or rethink how they position their products in the current U.S. market. With Kettering, CEOs gain a seasoned vantage point to create a clear vision, avoid potential pitfalls, and establish an authentic and profitable U.S. presence. 

Contact Kettering

Let’s talk about how we can uplevel your previous success and translate it into the U.S. market. Contact Kettering International for more information and an honest conversation about your market plan. And stay tuned for our next article, where we’ll explore what recession means for enterprise tech firms considering U.S. market entry.