Posted: 8 January 2019
The United States of America. A population of over 300 million people. Across 50 states. GDP per capita of more than 57,000USD. It’s an appealing place to launch in to, it’s ‘the land of dreams’ after all. Yet, somewhere between 70-90% of new products fail in the US market. Why such a high figure? What challenges do brands and retailers face when launching to the US market? What goes wrong? And most importantly, how can you do it right?
The movies are ubiquitous with US culture, so we have turned to the stars of Hollywood to see what we can learn from them to ensure your launch to the US market is a success.
"When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."
When Harry Met Sally, 1989
The reality is that there is usually a lot focus on developing the product and not enough on the preparation required for getting it in to the US market. You are excited about your product, you are excited about hitting it big in the US. But rushing headlong in to the market without proper preparation is a disaster from the start.
So, what do you need to do? Read on for our top tips to ensure your launch to the US market is a success.
“Magic Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?"
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, 1937
Before any other launch work, conduct market research. Depending on your budget you can hire a professional firm or do your own, either way don’t skip this step. Through market research you will identify your target audience, your potential market size in the US, gain competitive analysis, pricing information, and the profile of your customers – specifically including their media behavior and key drivers of their purchasing behavior. Your market research will steer the rest of your launch campaign; it will drive how you position your product and how to market it – what mediums to use, what tone to use.
"If you build it, he will come."
Field of Dreams, 1989
Well, actually, in this instance, no he won’t. Is there a market for your product? However good and exciting your product is, if there’s no market for it then it won’t sell. You need to objectively assess the results of your market research. You may have a dream to become a great success in the US but don’t waste your dollars by launching the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"You is kind. You is smart. You is important."
The Help, 2011
What is your USP? What are your differentiators? Why are you better than what is currently on the market? Have you a patent? Consider a US or global patent before you begin your launch campaign to protect your intellectual property. But whether patented or not, you must be clear of what makes you unique and educate your target market about these USPs.
"Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads."
Back to the Future, 1985
In the good old days of product launching you’d write a press release and hit the road on a press tour to meet with key reporters. Maybe throw in some print or radio ads, and some direct mail along the way. But then…
In steps social media stage left. Social media has levelled the playing field for brands of all sizes and from all industries enabling you to reach your customers in a way never seen before. However social media also gives your customers a voice which they can share freely and widely, which can provide a huge hurdle for your brand messaging.
First you need to consider which social media platforms your target audience is using. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram….your choice will depend on your audience and is likely to involve a combination of many of these. Your social media strategy should aim to provide a ‘drip effect’ to feed information to your target market in the run up to your launch, and beyond.
When tracking the impact of your activity, the number of followers is good to inflate the ego but little else. Consider the meaningful engagements. Who is talking about you? Connect with them, how can they promote you further? Use a hashtag on all your posts to drive chat around your launch and also help you track that chat.
"What we've got here is a failure to communicate."
Cool Hand Luke, 1967
A social media strategy is essential but makes up only one part of a successful communications plan. Your comms plan should integrate your social media strategy with other marketing tools to maximize your reach. Consider using traditional print ads, direct mail, radio and web, as well as interviews and bylined articles in key industry publications. The optimum mix will depend on your target audience, brand and budget.
And of course, it isn’t just about how you are communicating, it is about what you are communicating. This is where your work on your differentiators becomes super important. Your comms plan should set out clear messages and different ways to communicate these. You need to educate your market and keep your brand front of mind.
Don’t forget about your sales force either. Educate them so they are up to speed before launch. They are the voice of your brand, and they will have direct access to your audience. Make sure your team has a proper understanding your USPs and key messages.
"Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me, aren't you?"
The Graduate, 1967
Identify your influencers - key prospects, journalists, bloggers, analysts. Contact them. Be clear why they should speak with you. It needs to be attractive and worthwhile of their time. Seed products with your influencers. If you can get them to start talking about you it widens your reach to more channels.
"You complete me."
Jerry Maguire, 1996
OK, so maybe ‘complete me’ is a bit strong, but how does your product help your existing customers? Can you utilize any of these customers to tell your story for you? Any customers you have, particularly from globally-recognized brands, can be used as a case study. How do they use the product? What improvements has it made to their businesses? Can you calculate any ROI?
Also partners. Do you have any partners that can publicize for you? What about their customers?
"There's no place like home."
The Wizard of Oz, 1939
Or in this case, your home page. Your website needs to be ready with all the information about your new brand or product, easy to find straight from the home page. It should be fully functional, and if you are selling a product, with the ability to place orders via the website. Whether you utilize your existing website or create a microsite will depend on your individual circumstances, but either way you need all the information on the website ready for people to find.
Downloads, online info, demos, videos. People like to learn in different ways, make sure you have your information in a variety of formats to reach everyone.
Blog posts will help keep your web content fresh, and you can use them as content for your integrated comms plan. Blogs should educate first, publicize second.
Ensure you have CTAs (call to action) – download a guide, register for a free sample. CTAs are a way to collect email addresses from interested prospects.
Take time to set up SEO (search engine optimization) for your website. Identify Google key words to see what users in the US are searching on. Budget according to the cost of those words that can lead people to you.
"You ain't heard nothin' yet!"
The Jazz Singer, 1927
With the email addresses you collect via your CTAs, you need to set up an email campaign. Create a series of emails to send out over the weeks, gently but consistently keeping your product front of mind until they are buy-ready (or even try-ready if you have samples). There are many software vendors on the market that can automate the running of these campaigns.
Your drip campaign should introduce readers to the problem, educate them, explain how you will fix the problem, lead them to your website, encourage them to try or buy…you want to drip this information through to them over time.
Track the people that are opening the emails and the click throughs. Have your sales guys follow up with these people. Tracking at a top-line level will also help you assess the success of each email to help you find the right tone of voice. Continue to modify your messages and ad words, and the general tone of your voice over your campaign and following months. Track your results until you achieve the optimum language and message for your US audience. There is no one American voice.
"Good morning, Vietnam!"
Good Morning, Vietnam, 1987
It’s launch day, and this is the feeling you are aiming for. All your hard work paving the way culminates in the ever-important launch day. Launch during a trade show or industry event to gain maximum exposure, but do your homework – the choice of show is vital to make sure you hit the right people.
Plaster your launch all over your home page, your social media, have a press release and blog post ready – this is your day to shout from the roof tops, throw the streamers and join a marching band.
"Just keep swimming."
Finding Nemo, 2003
When all your metaphorical streamers have been packed away, this is the hard bit. You need to keep the momentum going. Don’t just launch and wait. Some key journalists or publications will only pick on your news after the launch day so ensure your communication continues well after the official launch date. You need to keep on with all the work you were doing pre-launch in terms of social media activity, blogs, email campaigns…all of it has to continue or your brand may fall off the radar.
"You're gonna need a bigger boat."
You need to have the infrastructure in place to support fast growth. If you can’t keep up with demand your product will fail. To have your brand fail because too many people wanted it? That is not a problem you want to have. Get your infrastructure ready before launch so you can deal with the demand that comes your way.
As part of this think about how you will sell your product – are you selling direct? From a third party such as Amazon? Where are you storing your products; consider US shipping times. What costs are involved?
"E.T. phone home."
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, 1982
Who will deal with your existing business? There are only 24 hours in a day and realistically, you cannot do it all. Consider what you can hand over to ensure a smooth running of your existing business and to allow you adequate time to focus on the US.
And so, to conclude…
"May the Force be with you."
Star Wars, 1977
We have touched upon many different elements here with our tips. The fundamental thing to remember is that a successful launch in to the US needs not just a good product, or a big bang launch day. There are many pieces of the pie here, and you need to get them all covered. The reason so many launches fail is they don’t take the time to prepare pre-launch or to maintain momentum post-launch. Follow our top tips to prepare well, and it will help pave your way to success in the US.
That’s all folks!
Image Credit: Wiki Commons Chaplin Picture