Opening the US Market from Abroad with Social Selling

By Sander Biehn | Nov 20, 2015

Sander Biehn is founder and CEO of Thought Horizon, LLC. After a successful career in sales at AT&T, he founded his company in 2013 helping organizations to build, manage and succeed using social selling.

Starting any new business is no easy task. Now imagine starting a new business when you are an ocean away. This is the challenge foreign businesses face when trying to break into the lucrative US market. Not only do they contend with time zones and language issues, they also face cultural barriers and the inevitable question of where to begin when trying to reach the US market.

A decade or so ago, the options were limited. A foreign entity either partnered with a US distributor who would sell and market the product or did a ‘hard landing.’  A hard landing involved setting up a US entity and hiring US workers to run the division. It often required foreign nationals move to the US to keep things running smoothly and ensure the company kept the proper focus.

Either way, the barrier to entry was high. It either meant you needed to trust a partner thousands of miles away or you had to spend a massive amount of money to set up your operation. 

Global social media has changed all of this. Setting up an online presence is extremely easy.  Creating a US branch online is just a few clicks away. So why is it that more foreign businesses don’t take advantage of social selling at a distance before either partnering up or making that hard landing? Why aren’t more non-US companies trumpeting their ‘not made in America’ brands as something new, different, and fresh online to US buyers?  For some companies, such as firms that take advantage of labor arbitrage, their foreign flag is their advantage with US buyers.

  1. Finding the addressable market: The US is a huge and daunting market. While that can make it easier to sell at scale, it can also make it difficult, at first, to find buyers. What geography should we start with? Will executives or director-levels be our prime target?  These are all great questions. Using Social Media to understand how US competition is selling to the market is an easy way to leverage social media.  What hashtags dominate industry discussions in the US? What are competitors saying about themselves? What US conferences and shows are they attending? There is an endless supply of information that makes it easy for a foreign company to become relevant in the US overnight.
  1. Getting the voice right: Foreign businesses worry that they will not put themselves in the best light if they are not physically present. Furthermore, they want to know just what to say and how to say it to prospective buyers. Again, the answer to this concern is literally right in front of them using social media marketing. Differentiating oneself could be the single most important thing a new entrant in a market can do.  By using those differentiators in blogs and posts, a business can create interest in the brand regardless if there are any sales people yet hired.
  1. Social as a proving ground: Figuring out if the US is going to be a lucrative market or not is something every foreign business wants to know before expanding here. If only there was a way to dip a toe in the market without spending a fortune. Using social media to get exposure and sample the market is an ideal way to take it slow. And while you can never know until you try, gaining market response online from social media can determine how to best position a product. Tweaking a social campaign is much easier, and less expensive, than the traditional alternatives.

Foreign entities looking to make it big in the US have a new alternative using social selling. Combining online content with a strategic approach to finding a market has never been easier or less expensive.