Breaking America successfully
Lindsay Willott, CEO, Customer Thermometer discusses the market opportunities in America and how to build a successful business.
For every ‘breaking America’ success story, like Adele and One Direction, there is a host of talent that hasn’t been quite so lucky – and this couldn’t be truer than in the world of business. Tempted by the ‘land of opportunity’ and huge lucrative market opportunities, there is an endless list of UK companies that have tried but then ultimately failed, including the likes of business giants Tesco’s, Marks and Spencer’s and Dixons. If players with these resources, scale and expertise can't make it, what hope is there for everyone else?
It’s important to do this reality check and understand that it isn’t going to be easy breaking into such a large and highly competitive market. If your business strategy is ‘export to the US’ then you must rethink. It’s not just a case of having a product or service that you think would go down well in the American market. The journey will much more complex than you expect.
In reality ‘breaking the US’ is more likely to be achieved by a gradual process of entering and then continually adapting to the market and your buyers. That has certainly been the case with us – and North America is now our biggest market. We started our software company on the understanding that we needed to make it easy for customers to order our product and service from our website, no matter where they were located and what time of day it was. We were thinking initially about our local UK market, but we wanted to make sure that when we shifted our focus to global that we had the functionality and ability for them to buy it/subscribe to our service online.
Surprisingly it happened much quicker than we expected. Our 3rd ever customer of our (now) 1500 was a North American buyer. Having nailed ‘making it easy to buy’ we then had to consider support. Many businesses succeed virtually, so it was never part of our plan to have an international office, but we did know that our online presence and support needed to be second to none. Customer service is the US is absolutely fundamental – so we knew ours had to provide US customers with the value add that would enable accounts to grow and then for recommendations to be made.
We wanted to create an experience that US customers especially would remember. Then out of the blue, an email came through from a US customer suggesting our customer service agents named themselves ‘magicians’, because they had given her such great service. It was a seedling of something great and before long the idea had exploded. By 2016 we’d created the Ministry of Magic (our customer service department) with everyone working within it being a Magician.
The team has done fantastic work in transforming the customer service experience and journey. It also taught us a valuable lesson about being proud of our Britishness. Our American clients love the Harry Potter connation and the quirky British humour. You can be proud of that and use it as a tool to succeed.
As our US customer base scaled we also made the strategic decision to charge for our service in dollars. This has obviously been great for our current and future customers based in America as it makes it easier for them, but it isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. Talk to your accountants first as there are ongoing currency fluctuations you need to account for.
Another tactic to ‘break America’ is to leverage any contracts you have with international companies in the UK. Whenever we start working with a big company we suggest trialling the service in other markets – it is a great way to expand your international footprint.
Once you are established another growth tactic you may want to consider is to recruit some local partners that can help sell and deliver your service. They may take a cut but can prove invaluable as they will have a much bigger network and can help advise on the cultural nuances. We may speak the same language but these companies have great insight on what terminology works well for potential customers in America.
Ultimately for your product to succeed in America it might be right for the market. Our product makes it easy for businesses to continually measure customer satisfaction. Given how important the service culture is in America, we perhaps shouldn’t have been surprised by the demand. But there is a world of difference between acquiring some customers, and then keeping and growing those accounts, whilst adding many more. I truly attribute our success to the support we provide – a happy customer will recommend you. When you complement this with partnerships and local currency, breaking America doesn’t have to just be a pipedream.
G7 Summit guide: What it is and what leaders hope to achieve
Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand, you’ll have seen the term ‘G7’ plastered all over the Internet this week. We’re going to give you the skinny on exactly what the G7 is and what its purpose on this planet is ─ and whether it’s a good or a bad collaboration.
Who are the G7?
The Group of Seven, or ‘G7’, may sound like a collective of pirate lords from a certain Disney smash-hit, but in reality, it’s a group of the world’s seven largest “advanced” economies ─ the powerhouses of the world, if you like.
The merry band comprises:
- The United Kingdom
- The United States
Historically, Russia was a member of the then-called ‘G8’ but found itself excluded after their ever-so-slightly illegal takeover of Crimea back in 2014.
Since 1977, the European Union has also been involved in some capacity with the G7 Summit. The Union is not recognised as an official member, but gradually, as with all Europe-linked affairs, the Union has integrated itself into the conversation and is now included in all political discussions on the annual summit agenda.
When was the ‘G’ formed?
Back in 1975, when the world was reeling from its very first oil shock and the subsequent financial fallout that came with it, the heads of state and government from six of the leading industrial countries had a face-to-face meeting at the Chateau de Rambouillet to discuss the global economy, its trajectory, and what they could do to address the economic turmoil that reared its ugly head throughout the 70s.
Why does the G7 exist?
At this very first summit ─ the ‘G6’ summit ─, the leaders adopted a 15-point communiqué, the Declaration of Rambouillet, and agreed to continuously meet once a year moving forward to address the problems of the day, with a rotating Presidency. One year later, Canada was welcomed into the fold, and the ‘G6’ became seven and has remained so ever since ─ Russia’s inclusion and exclusion not counted.
The group, as previously mentioned, was born in the looming shadow of a financial crisis, but its purpose is more significant than just economics. When leaders from the group meet, they discuss and exchange ideas on a broad range of issues, including injustice around the world, geopolitical matters, security, and sustainability.
It’s worth noting that, while the G7 may be made up of mighty nations, the bloc is an informal one. So, although it is considered an important annual event, declarations made during the summit are not legally binding. That said, they are still very influential and worth taking note of because it indicates the ambitions and outlines the initiatives of these particularly prominent leading nations.
Where is the 2021 G7 summit?
This year, the summit will be held in the United Kingdom deep in the southwest of England, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosting his contemporaries in the quaint Cornish resort of Carbis Bay near St Ives in Cornwall.
What will be discussed this year?
After almost two years of remote communication, this will be the first in-person G7 summit since the novel Coronavirus first took hold of the globe, and Britain wants “leaders to seize the opportunity to build back better from coronavirus, uniting to make the future fairer, greener, and more prosperous.”
The three-day summit, running from Friday to Sunday, will see the seven leaders discussing a whole host of shared challenges, ranging from the pandemic and vaccine development and distribution to the ongoing global fight against climate change through the implementation of sustainable norms and values.
According to the UK government, the attendees will also be taking a look at “ensuring that people everywhere can benefit from open trade, technological change, and scientific discovery.”