Business Doctor Allyson Stewart -Allen
Each week, a specialist in a business subject joins us in the studio for 5 live's On The Money to answer your business questions. Allyson Stewart-Allen, founder of International Marketing Partners answers your questions on taking yout business overseas.
Isn't the American way of doing business pretty similar to the UK? How is it different?
No, it's not like the UK in many ways. Here are some top tips to avoid getting it wrong:
The Clock is King
Be on time for meetings. Respect the Americans need to maintain a schedule. Deadlines are serious. Be prepared to meet them or lose business.
Hi There, Glad to Meet You, What's the Bottom Line?
Be prepared to provide specific information about your products including pricing. Arrange your material, your story, and facts in simple formats. Can you distill your presentation into a one page Executive Summary?
Business Before Pleasure
Be willing to do business first, build the relationship second. Remember no insult is intended!
Hip, Hip, Hooray for Our Team! (We Are Family, Equal and Ethical)
Treat everyone as if they will be the person to sign your contract. Everyone, no matter of assigned rank is to be treated as equals. Be prepared to be addressed by your given name after the first, brief introduction.
My Way or the Highway
Americans want choices, to have their opinions recognized. Be sure to involve people in a decision. Provide choices in your product so consumers believe you recognize their needs.
Follow the Guides
If consultants or lawyers are included in meetings, don't be offended or anxious. They are routinely included in the capacity of advisors. When hiring ask people you respect for recommendations. Expect references to be supplied and establish a budget for fees before a project begins.
We Are the World
Don't be surprised if your US-based colleague doesn't know about the key issues in your city much less that the best football team can mean Manchester United not the Dallas Cowboys.
New IS Improved
Be cautious before you dismiss a new idea or insist that things be done 'the way we always have.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Don't be surprised when you're asked to describe your market entry plan, your training plan, or your plan to increase revenue or where you plan to go on vacation. The assumption is always that you will have a plan!
Do it Now!
Even with the emphasis on planning described above, Americans still may make decisions seemingly on impulse. In their rush to 'get things done" they try to decide quickly and worry about the consequences later.
What localisation will we need to think about before we sell overseas?
The most urgent things to think about are 1) your packaging as some colours are unwelcome in other places (a well-known fertilizer brand kept its green-white-black colours on the box in Malaysia where green conveys fungal rot!); 2) your pricing must be quoted in the local currencies and not GBP; 3) the sizes are important. Only recently Starbucks learned this the hard way by offering their 20-ounce "Venti" coffee in the UK and quickly retreated when consumers where left aghast by the super-size coffee - a bit TOO American.
How good are trade shows for getting us in front of potential international customers?
Trade shows can be fantastically productive and cost-effective ways for meeting your customers, researching your competition, and learning about the trends in your sector. Get hold of the exhibitors catalog in advance to plan your route as some venues are super-size and potentially will have you spending your entire time walking several miles/kilometers.
Should we second one of our team to the overseas country so they can get to be expert on it, or should we just hire a local(s)?
The best strategy is to do both. That way, the local hire can train your secondee who then can pass on their knowledge when they return to your office. Make sure when you hire the local person they understand how to do business the British way as otherwise this can be a source of friction for a very key relationship.
What's the best way for us to research an international market?
It depends on how much time, money and management talent you have. The first step in any case is to do your homework. Spend time in the target country(ies), soak up the local habits/customs, talk to other UK businesses there and find out what some of the lessons are they've learned. Talk to your potential customers in those markets and make sure you know what they value and how that's the same or different to what your UK customers value. If you do this, then all the other steps will fall into place and you've raised your chances of being very successful and profitable. Having the right mindset - assuming you'll succeed in that overseas market - is a definite requirement!
On The Money goes out on 5 live between 8 and 9pm every Sunday night