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3 U.S. Market Entry Fails (and How to Avoid Them)

4 min
A B2B sales and marketing team sketch go-to-market ideas.

B2B and B2C business history is littered with failed international expansion attempts like Tesco and Carrefours washing out in America, or Walmart and Best Buy not finding much purchase (or purchases) in Europe.

Despite huge investments, these enormous brands’ expansion efforts fell flat because they misread the needs of their new prospective customers. 

The lesson for B2B businesses drawing up a U.S. expansion strategy is to go back to basics: 

  • Find your prospective customers
  • Understand their pain, and
  • Show how you solve their problem (ideally, at the exact time they need the solution)

Here are three common pitfalls that businesses should consider as they enter the U.S. market. 

Market Entry Fail 1: Engaging at The Wrong Time

Your business will likely face two common challenges when entering the U.S. market: Lower brand awareness and a smaller headcount to support your new territory.

These factors combined mean you’re not on prospective buyers’ radar because:

  • You haven’t had time to build the same brand reputation as in your local market 
  • A lean team means you can’t rely on a high volume of outreach and activity alone to grow awareness 

Engaging prospects at the wrong time only compounds these problems. This is because most of the B2B buying journey occurs anonymously across websites, resources, social networks, and message boards (in what what we call the Dark Funnel™). Since B2B marketers and sellers don’t have ways to view, analyze, or identify the accounts conducting this kind of research, they never know the right time to engage prospects.

The Cost of Mistimed Engagement

As you look to build momentum in the U.S., mistiming deals is extra costly. With no brand recognition, if you engage too soon –– i.e. when your prospect isn’t even considering a solution –– you’ll be forgotten, or filed under spam. 

Engage too late, and you’ll fall prey to numerous problems:

  • Uncontested losses –– the deal’s already signed
  • Your sales team can’t shape the narrative to position your solution’s value
  • Which means they wind up competing on price or capabilities that have already been defined by competitors
  • You land in the middle of highly competitive deals, opening you to FUD about your limited local footprint

The Sweet Spot for Outreach

Precision timing can help you overcome these challenges as you enter the U.S. 

Visibility into the buying journey, powered by sales intelligence tools, helps your sales team understand the ideal time to engage and reach prospects just when they need your solution. Intent data — essentially, a “digital breadcrumb trail” of data that buying teams leave behind as they research solutions in the Dark Funnel — can be used by AI marketing platforms to spot when accounts are in-market and primed to buy.

This graphic shows a timeline that represents the B2B buying journey, what is happening during different stages, and when revenue teams should reach out to prospects.

The first three phases are:

1. "Target," when an account fits your ideal customer profile but isn't actively searching for solutions. 
2. "Awareness," when an account begins to recognize they have an issue they need to solve and begins doing high level research to understand the issue and potential solutions.
3. "Consideration," when accounts begin to identify solutions, research how those solutions could solve the issue, and narrow down options.

At these stages in the buying journey, the marketing team should be targeting accounts with content designed to help educate the buyers.

The next two stages are:
4. "Decision," when account buyers are engaging with sales reps to deeply explore specific solutions.
5. "Purchase," when key stakeholders are meeting to negotiate a contract and sign a deal.

Ideally, B2B sales reps would begin direct outreach between stages 3 and 4, when buyers have shown serious interest in a solution and are likely to be receptive to consultative sales, but before they have engaged with other vendors.

The sweet spot for sales to engage buyers in the B2B journey –– when they’re in-market for your solution –– sits between the Consideration and Decision phase. (As seen in the image above, we call accounts within this sweet spot “6QAs,” or 6sense-Qualified Accounts.)

This entry timing hack helps your sales folk jump to the front of the queue just when your prospect needs you — because they’ve had plenty of time to plan an effective outreach plan and deliver messaging that directly correlates to a buyer’s pain points.

Market Entry Fail 2: Making a Bad First Impression

First impressions count. This is particularly salient in a world where only 10% of your total addressable market (TAM) is in-market at any given time. 

If you’ve managed to uncover in-market accounts, you don’t want to waste your shot on engaging prospects with easy-to-ignore, generic outreach. Or, worse still, tarnish your nascent brand in the U.S. by sending messages riddled with inaccuracies. 

Showing accounts that you understand their needs takes more than putting their company’s name into a template email. You have to grab their attention by highlighting the stuff that’s keeping them up at night.

Finding the Right Message 

Thankfully, you don’t need to guess your customer’s pain points, or endlessly research the internet to uncover a nugget that helps your messaging hit home. 

Just as the right timing can help you skip the queue during U.S. market entry, the right message can help you cut through saturated inboxes.

Intent data keyword insights and AI can reveal the topics your prospects are actually researching. Unlocking this intelligence is like getting a peek into their minds. 

With some very simple sleuthing, you can zero in on accounts to reveal: 

  • Which prospects are highly engaged
  • What content they’re consuming
  • The keywords they’re researching

This makes it simpler to tailor and personalize sales outreach that really gets your prospect’s attention. It also immediately builds your reputation as a brand that truly understands the market. 

And it’s not just sales teams who win. Marketing can take these insights and use recurring themes in your ICP to create tailored ads and content for the U.S. market. (Read how Talend put this into practice.)

Market Entry Fail 3: Only Winning Over One Buyer

We know B2B buying decisions are rarely made by individuals. They involve multiple stakeholders and decision-makers who influence the purchasing process. While buying group numbers fluctuate depending on deal size, they average between seven and 19 people.

One Point of Contact Means One Point of Failure

Businesses that fail to identify and engage multiple members of the buying team when entering the U.S. will miss out on golden opportunities and face stalled deals. 

Here’s why single-threaded deals don’t work:

  • If your champion is away, busy, or unmotivated, your deal grinds to a halt
  • Even if you convince one or two prospects, there are usually multiple levels of stakeholder approval
  • More than 80% of sellers say deals have stalled or been lost due to a key stakeholder leaving

The time and energy your sales people spend on winning over one buyer can be a complete waste if they ignore the rest of the buying team. In a lean team, this lost time is felt more acutely and kills market momentum.

AI-driven sales intelligence tools can sidestep this waste by helping sales teams uncover, understand, and engage buying committees with less manual tasks and higher ROIs. You can read more on how to identify and influence the entire buying team here.

Get Your U.S. Market Entry Right

There are scores of ​​costly U.S. expansion mistakes to avoid. 

But while mapping out your market entry plans, it’s easy to forget the most important thing: engaging your prospects in the right way. Discover strategies to avoid this fate and thrive in the U.S. in our new guide.

Get your guide to U.S. Expansion Strategies for EMEA-based B2B Businesses

The 6sense Team

6sense helps B2B organizations achieve predictable revenue growth by putting the power of AI, big data, and machine learning behind every member of the revenue team.

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