Last year, over $517 billion USD was spent online in the States, representing a 15% increase from the previous year, according to recent figures. There are clear opportunities for the performance marketing industry, especially for players with new and innovative approaches. However, starting out in a new territory isn't often straightforward. While it is incredibly important to have a solid strategy, it’s also important to be flexible enough to deal with the inevitable bumps in the road. Here I share our key learnings from the perspective of an established business that launched in five new markets in the last twelve months, one of those being the US.
When entering a new market or launching a new business, existing relationships can be an enormous help to get your company known in the industry on a local level, gain essential insights and establish new relationships with key stakeholders. In the beginning, other players may not be familiar with your business so referrals are the key to start gaining trust.
As someone who has launched our projects in two new markets, I have seen that first hand that building and maintaining relationships is key. In the performance marketing industry, it is not uncommon for contacts to leave one company and join another working in a similar niche. Maintain your relationships because they can make a difference. Additionally, having a proven reputation in Europe and long-term relationships with global advertisers have also helped us establish collaborations in the US. You could also consider using your contacts to uncover market insights that may not be otherwise readily available.
However, leveraging existing contacts may not always be an option for your business and you will need to develop new relationships. It’s essential that you know your value proposition and how your business would benefit a potential partner. You will need to be able to demonstrate these benefits in your communication and use a customised approach with each potential partner. As an example, our diverse portfolio of projects with media companies helps us to offer a tailored service to each brand.
It’s important to pay special attention to the ways that customs may differ and adapt your approach to your new context. For example, in some markets partner meetings may be more casual and take place over drinks in a pub, whereas in the US, while face-to-face meetings may also take place over dinner and drinks, they are often slightly more formal than in the UK.
Finding the right people for your team
Building a high-performance team is pivotal to the success of any business. However, when starting from scratch, it is paramount to find the right people with the skills and mindset. They will be essential to delivering the very best results for your partners. It’s important to make the most of internal expertise where possible. In my case, I had already launched Savings United projects in the UK, from a content perspective, and achieved market-leading results. So I have the know-how to do the same for our projects in the US.
Consider hiring employees located in relevant regions, even if you don’t yet have established office locations in the new market. This can be accomplished by hiring remote employees. Studies have shown that employing remote workers can increase productivity, plus it is particularly important for your partner-facing team members to be located near your partners for in-person meetings. As someone who works with a team across 3 different time zones, I can speak from personal experience that remote employees tend to be just as productive as their office-based counterparts. It is also crucial to ensure you have team members in specific time zones so that partner requests can be managed efficiently and in a timely manner.
Making new hires in a new region can be tricky. Use your existing contacts to connect with potential candidates. In cases where this isn't a readily available option, you could consider using employee referrals. With our team members coming from all over the world, we have received recommendations for potential new hires in the regions. This type of referral can be invaluable since a current employee is only likely to suggest someone who is talented and who they think would fit into the culture of your organisation.
Develop a nuanced understanding of the market
Each market is different and shopping behaviours can vary by region and country. What has worked for you in one market may not work in another. It is critical to have team members situated in your local market who understand consumers, trends and the partners you will be working with. In addition, you should take advantage of the content created and shared by thought leaders in your niche, including white papers and case studies, and attend industry conferences to deepen your knowledge of the sector. This will allow you to not only network with current and potential partners but also attend sessions and panels from experts in the space.
Use the right terminology
Even in markets where the official language is the same, such as the UK and the US, there are still likely to be variations in the preferred terms used by consumers and in business. So for example, while voucher code is the most commonly used term in the UK, coupon is the preferred term stateside. It’s important to tailor the way you describe and talk about your offering in order to cater to local variations and attract local business.
Going into a new market is an incredibly exciting period for any company. Although preparation is key, you will need to be ready to respond and quickly adapt to any unexpected events that may pose a challenge to your success. Your team is your most valuable asset. Choose your people wisely and support them while giving them autonomy so that they take responsibility for their work and decisions. Also, put in the background work to understand new customers and focus on their needs. Your unique proposition will make you stand out.