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U.S. Market Entry, When is the Right Time to Scale?

March 22, 2019

For many companies across the globe, U.S. market entry represents unrivaled opportunity, a veritable pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And while many international firms do find success on U.S. shores, others are forced to retreat with empty coffers.

The decision to scale in any market is complex; one that requires numerous phases of self-reflection, evaluation, and calculated risk. Knowing when, and if, your company is ready for U.S. market entry is the first step. Support is out there—the key is to know where to look.

At MEET, we help international B2B growth companies soft land and scale in the U.S. through trade shows and in-person events. In an effort to explore this question of when is the right time to consider U.S. market entry, we spoke with Blair Parks, U.S. and Canada Business Manager for the Mayor’s International Business Programme, London & Partners.

The Mayor’s International Business Programme is a free 12-month program designed to help UK-based high-growth, ambitious scale-ups expand internationally. To learn more about the program, check out their site here.

To help founders determine the right time for U.S. market entry, Blair explores a series of questions with her clients.

Is your business solid and stable in your home market?

Financial stability is the most obvious place to start. Does your company have the necessary investment capital on hand and in projected sales to afford U.S. market entry? Fortunately, through support from agencies like London and Partners, international scale-ups can be connected with U.S.-based firms specializing in tailored cost projections.

Beyond financial stability, you’ll need a solid team. Blair makes sure her clients have the necessary support, from HR to legal, as well as employee buy-in for international expansion.

U.S. Market EntryFinally, Blair helps her clients gain a realistic understanding of the amount of time and energy it takes to set up internationally. “A lot of people don’t realize how much you’re going to have to travel back and forth to get this office set up. Make sure you’re at a place in your life when you can commit that time and energy.”

Like sand in an hourglass, time does run out for firms exploring U.S. market entry.  Money, investor support, employee retention: all are limited resources during a high stakes expansion. This makes timing all the more critical.

Is U.S. market entry the next best milestone for your company?

Many international firms perceive the U.S. market not only as exciting but endlessly bountiful. Blair works with her clients to make sure that U.S. market entry is truly the next, most logical step and that they have considered other markets in Europe as well as Canada.

“The U.S. may not always be the best place to scale first. Companies need to ask themselves: What is the competition in the U.S.? Is there a market? Logistical factors like time zone and ease of travel may make European expansion a good practice or interim step.”

For data to support this decision, Blair encourages companies to drill down into their client data, even explore the source of their web traffic to which parts of the world their company is gaining the most traction. This will help to determine the next best market.

Jumping in with both feet

U.S. Market EntryThere are actual risks to only partially committing to U.S. market entry. Embracing the time and resources international expansion requires is a critical step in the scale-up process.

“If you tell your prospective clients or even your current clients that you’re coming to the U.S. and it takes too long, it looks like you don’t have your house in order.”

Whether you take Blair’s advice to send a senior manager from the home office to lead the expansion (see our post on common post-scaling pitfalls) or decide to scale digitally, your full commitment to the U.S. market must be visible.

“Companies often get attracted by an opportunity and think this is a “hot time” to be in a particular city like San Francisco. If it’s really too soon or doesn’t make sense for you yet, I recommend waiting.”

To learn more about this topic and the work of London & Partners, check out our full interview with Blair Parks on Issues and Opportunities when Endeavoring to Scale in the U.S. Market.


About

MEET (meetroi.com) helps international B2B growth companies soft land and scale in the U.S. through trade shows and in-person events. MEET’s processes help its clients ramp-up sales quickly and maintain a steady stream of high-quality prospects going forward.  Contact Bill Kenney for a free, no-obligation consultation bill@meetroi.com or +1 (860) 573-4821.