There are a number of differences between the European and US business environments. Regulations and cultural differences are just a couple of the ways they differ, but European businesses shouldn’t let market-specific challenges dissuade them from making inroads into the very lucrative US market.
Understanding the US Business Environment
Before drawing up a plan of attack to enter the US market, European businesses need first to understand the environment. This involves a lot of research, specifically focusing on research that takes into account the diverse consumer preferences, regional differences, and the way they differ from Europe.
Given its huge size and multicultural makeup, the US market is probably better thought of as heaps of different markets within the same country, rather than one single market. You may find that different products or services need to be tweaked to cater to different regions, while still remaining aligned with your brand.
One of the biggest challenges foreign businesses face when entering the US is the regulatory landscape. Although the country is very business-friendly in general, state governments have a lot of power and often do things differently from one another. There may even be different rules to follow at the local level within different regions of each state, adding additional complexity to your strategy.
Understanding what makes the US economy tick and how to assess its strength is another important part of research. If a European business sold durable goods, an area of spending that tends to drop in an economic downturn, entering the US market at a time when the economy was struggling wouldn’t make much sense.
One way to assess the strength of the economy is to use the S&P 500 futures chart. The S&P 500 is an index based on the biggest publicly traded companies in the US, and futures contracts allow investors to bet on how they think it will perform in the future. This can be a good way for European businesses to assess the market sentiment in the US and decide when the right time for them to enter the US market is.
Formulating an Expansion Strategy
Once a European business feels comfortable with the dynamics of the US market, it’s time to create a plan to expand into it. To do this, there are three areas that they need to focus on: finance, legal, and local.
On the finance side, they need to think about funding. The US is home to many venture capital firms (VC) and angel investors, and this can be a good option to secure capital. They will also have strong business relationships that can be leveraged.
Legal and tax considerations are both important. We’ve touched on the regulatory challenges already, but seeking support from legal counsel in different regions is a must. Trying to navigate this area without a wide range of support is asking for trouble.
Building strong local teams in the most important regions should also be a focus. Locals understand the cultural dynamics and consumer behavior better and, like the VC firms, they’ll have preexisting relationships that will come in handy.
The US is the biggest economy in the world, and any European business with high ambition cannot afford to ignore it. Take the time to thoroughly understand the dynamics and create a comprehensive plan. It may require patience, but it can pay off in a big way.