We recently invited Bruce Oreck, the Former US Ambassador to Finland, to share some tips as we ramp up our US operations. Here is what he had to say in his keynote at Sievofriends.
Despite going through multiple economic turmoils in the past, the US economy has proven itself to be resilient and remains as a global leader in commerce. While experts agree that expanding a business in the US is not only daunting and challenging, but also involves a lot of risks, it still however, improves the potential for growth and expansion. The benefits of expanding there outweigh the risks due to the robustness of the economy and a bigger market size. Getting bases on other countries might give obvious opportunities too, but why just scratch the surface when you can aim for the fastest growing and most competitive market?
1. Signal Vs Noise
Yes, you are there. You launch your product in the US. You know your product is good, and you highly speak of it. But the real question is if you are just among those many making a noise, or is your signal properly interpreted?
With the onset of information technology, consumers get all kinds of noise every day, from TV advertising, to email marketing, to social media updates. With this multitude of noises, people can easily filter what they want to listen to, look at, and pay attention to. The challenge now is how to generate signals that will not only last long enough to get noticed by the customers but also good enough to get them interested and involved. It only takes a few seconds to prove that you are worth it. To do that, one has to understand and be able to relate to the signals that the customers are sending. Since most people have a limited capacity to be all ears, or even be 70% attentive to all the buzz around daily, you need to push yourself and put your foot forward to make the necessary effort to get to their level to truly comprehend and figure out what they need.
Bruce showed the map of the US, and framed Finland against it to provide a context of how small the latter is in terms of land mass. This drew a perspective of the feat one has to overcome if he wants to be heard and recognized in the US. It might be easier to amplify the noise in Finland because of the local patronage and smaller market, but it’s a different story when you try to create a unique signal that will stand out in the US market.
2. The Challenge of YouTube
To broadcast your presence in the US, don’t turn to cable television, turn to Youtube. YouTube ranking as the top social media marketing strategy is not a surprise. As people get more into digital communication these days, we now live in a sad reality of minimized face-to-face interaction. Because of this, videos seem to bring that experience back, while getting the much needed interaction with the viewers. Plus, it is not only more entertaining than just reading through a bunch of texts, but it also more engaging as it allows the marketers to show feelings, and takes away the rather static visual fascination that plain photos offer. youtube
Most of us are guilty of associating YouTube to pranks and hilarious videos, those people with undiscovered talent, and vloggers with millions of subscribers, more than anything else. But it is quite interesting to note that YouTube is equally used by B2B and B2C social media marketers, both at 55%, according to a social media marketing report. So the idea of capitalizing on this strategy and taking that plunge, of course if seamlessly integrated, can probably drive not only views and subscribers, but also potential customers. Especially when a Forbes report indicates that 52% of senior business executives watch video for work purposes at least weekly.
We all know that getting there is not as easy as it sounds. Much as agreeing that it is indeed a big business play, and one hot commodity that one must take advantage of, video marketing without a strategy is a waste of time, and resources. It’s rather important to note that success would come from videos that provide and create an engaging experience, and unique enough to connect to people in an emotional level. The crucial part of the buying process roots from how the brand or product is positioned and presented. Gone are the days that ads are mostly about what it is all about, with those catchy songs and taglines. While that could still work in certain cases, most people can relate more to those that aren’t too invasive, and almost feel like they’re not advertisements. Aside from being aesthetically pleasing, which is already a given, this marketing strategy should also be consistent with all the other platforms.
3. Brand: What Do You Stand For?
In the US, you need to clear about your brand – and your brand is not the same as your product. Most people think that if you have the best product, you will succeed. But as Bruce pointed it out, the formula to real success is not as simple as that. Your product is the customer. What you should stand for is the customer. Nobody in the segment should be more committed as you are. Bold and presumptuous, the brand is what will allow you to rise above the noise. Marketing managers acknowledge the need for selecting a cutting edge position in the market without realizing that it should, on top of everything, realize the true value for the customers.
As an example, Nike spends billions of dollars to get the star athletes as ambassadors of their product. This shows how they take their brand seriously keeping in mind that the best promoters will always be those whom the customers can relate to. More than what sets you apart from the competition, the brand works as a promise to the customer. Notice now that most people are more likely to be influenced by their peers and people they look up to, and to recognize and judge a brand simply by who is using it. Brand names and even their long historical footprints no longer drive the decision-making and purchase behavior of most customers. This is the reason why it is rather important to make every customer interaction a chance to build your brand. With a brand aligned with customer expectations, you can consistently deliver on these promises across all channels as it puts you in a well-grounded position based on a strong customer loyalty.
4. Most Competitive Market
One should really be cautious of the intensely competitive and complex marketplace in the US. Getting armed with the right information is essentially the best defence. Rivalry cannotget crazier elsewhere. If you need to come up with the most powerful brands in the world in a minute, most probably all these would come from the US. And with large markets and industries come dominant players, which in turn create tight competitions and extreme challenges. You’ve got to focus and keep heads up to stay in the game.
Imagine an overly populated place with everyone selling something, all yelling at the same time. If you don’t know how to stand out, you cannot be heard, and you will get lost in the noise. The challenge is how to at least have a fighting chance in a very fierce competition. The key is Brand. An effective and powerful brand strategy not only gives you a competitive edge in the marketplace, but also gives you the advantage of capturing and holding customer loyalty longer
5. Service with a Smile
In the US, the customer is king. Citing an example from a story that Bruce shared, was when he was deliberately ignored and refused to be spoken to by the manager in the store when he tried to return an item that was a few days past the supposed allowed time to return it. He jokingly added that here in Finland, a good customer service is when the waiter in the restaurant doesn’t get mad at you. Setting aside the humour in it, the sad truth is that, it is alarmingly existing. Finnish people can boast of so many things about their country, from the beautiful landscapes, European architecture, to the government benefits, excellent education, and even the quality of life, which continuously ranks one of the top globally, but customer service is something that is definitely not their strong suit.
Surveys and several statistics indicate that in the US, csthe main reason why customers buy a certain product, or patronize a certain store, is not because of the products they have. Regardless of the high price, they would still want to stick with those that offer the best customer service. The reason behind this is simple: Products can be found basically anywhere, but a good customer service is a rare gem. If people can find a company that really listens and cares about them, chances are, they will stick with them. Your product alone is not enough. Your commitment to the customer is what will gain new traction and keep the competitors at bay.
No consumers on the planet demand a higher standard of customer service than the Americans. The term ‘customer is always right’ has literally lived in the heads of every American. When a company competes in a highly saturated market with big competitors, more often than not, customer service serves as the differentiating factor. Not only does it translate to increased loyalty, but also increased sales. The ultimate key to success in the American market is extraordinary customer experience. Remember that it costs five times more to get a new customer than to retain an old one.
With Customers in Mind, We’re Ready for the US
Sievofiends 2017 ended with this inspiring speech from Bruce Oreck, which took the audience on a lighter note, and let them see the real value beyond this financial technology world. It highlighted one key ingredient to Sievo’s recipe to success. As Bruce mentioned, make your customers the center of your universe. And with Sievo, the brand is powered with service. With products that have been positively received by the customers, and exceptional customer service that they can attest to, the company is now ready to expand their growth in the US. If you’d like to know more, please feel free to contact the Sales Team. Start your spend management journey with Sievo. Everyone is welcomed here with a smile.