For logistics technology and service providers looking to break into the U.S. market from abroad, there are a lot of important considerations and challenges. The opportunity, however, is likely worth the risk and effort for carriers, forwarders, technology providers and the like.
Although it’s not easy, being successful just takes the right approach. This includes an understanding of the market’s vernacular and the way U.S. based logistics decision makers think and communicate. The important thing to remember is that while U.S. buyers can be different, they are still hungry for solutions. They know they need help as much as you want them as customers – both sides just need to find each other.
According to Plunkett Research, transportation revenue in the U.S. was an estimated $1.17 trillion in 2017, and it will only continue to grow. Globalization also continues to shape the entire supply chain sector with U.S. based companies as impacted as any other. Again, they recognize their own need for help and experience only foreign logistics resources can provide.
This presents a constantly growing opportunity for logistics companies anywhere in the world to find U.S. customers. For a lot of reasons – cultural or otherwise – it is hard for most companies to find customers and sell into the U.S. market. Here are some ideas to help.
Understand Your Strengths to Stand Out
Whether you sell a service or technology it’s likely you have competition – a lot of it. This is because a lot of logistics services are commoditized, and it is very hard as a provider to differentiate your company. This holds true for every logistics market in the world.
Successfully entering a new market has to start by leading with your strengths. Trying to be a company that provides very broad solutions only increases the companies you are competing with. Being new is already a disadvantage, but when you target a new market with a narrow service offering it increases your chances for gaining traction.
Decision makers like to feel your solution is meant for them because they feel they’re unique (even if they really are not). Trying to do “everything” doesn’t work when you are getting started. Know what you are good and lead with that.
Have a Strategy
Once your company is honest with itself about what it does best, you need to let prospective customers know that too. This is where good marketing is crucial and where things get more difficult. Expecting to cold-call companies and explain what you do, and magically close new business doesn’t happen. Logistics decision-makers in the U.S. (and probably most other countries) constantly receive calls from logistics service providers. You are just one of many they’ll get on a given day saying the exact same thing.
The problem is few, if any, calls offer anything unique in the rare chance the caller is able to reach someone on the phone. Professionals are busy and rarely take phone calls, anyways. Plus, buyers in this market want to research potential new solutions on their own before they talk to a sales person. They do not want to be sold to. This means as a foreign company, you will need to prove yourself and your brand to potential new prospects. This requires you to translate your services into a clear and interesting message that will engage the decision makers you want to talk to.
It also means you need to invest in creating brand awareness, so these same decision makers can find you when they are looking for a solution. Companies buy new solutions when they have a need and on their own schedule, not when you want to sell it to them. This is why being consistent with your marketing is so important. You need to figure out ways to be front of mind with your target market, so when they are ready to buy they’ll think of you.
Get Your Message Out There
It takes a little creativity and a lot of hard work to get your company’s name out into a new market. It also takes the right message and a good website. Prospects need to know exactly what you do, exactly how you’ll help them, and exactly how you’ve helped other companies just like theirs. This is where knowing your strengths and being able to explain them clearly pays dividends.
Remember, there is already lots of competition with other providers. When your brand and your marketing reinforce your expertise in specific areas you stand out to the right type of customers.
U.S. based companies value proven experience and there are many content marketing techniques that appeal to this preference. When they start to research solutions, they’ll want to find examples of your company’s thought-leadership and expertise on the things they want help solving.
The key to finding customers that need your services is to answer the questions they might have about their own business, which is exactly what content marketing achieves.
In order to be useful, content marketing must be innovative and specific to your organization. It also needs to be sensitive to the terminology and way of speaking that U.S. logistics professionals are used to. This is your chance to show potential buyers how your products and services will work for them.
Content marketing can be done in a variety of ways:
Just as important as creating the content, is making sure prospective customers see it. Stay tuned as we'll explore this topic soon in an upcoming post.