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Exporting to the USA

Just as many British actors and singers head across the Atlantic in an attempt to conquer the U.S. market, so many British companies look longingly at the huge market across the ocean. Just as many British stars return from the U.S. without ever having tasted stardom there, so many British companies can find themselves accepting defeat and limping home. The good news is that while cracking the U.S. market may be far from simple, it is actually perfectly possible. You just need the right approach.

Start by making sure your business is actually legal

Different countries have different laws and in the U.S. laws can vary from state to state. As well as checking that your product meets any relevant federal and state-level standards, you will also need to check that it does not infringe an existing company’s intellectual property, in particular its trademarks. You will also need to ensure that you can protect in the USA any intellectual property in your product. Given the importance of getting this right, seeking advice from a patent attorney could be an excellent investment.

Make sure you have the fundamentals in place

Even if you’ve every intention of keeping your main place of business in the UK, you could find it very helpful to have a U.S. bank account and, at the very least, to provide prices in dollars (if selling online, if selling in the real world, pricing in dollars is essentially mandatory). You might also want to think about linking up with a U.S.-based company to provide customer service, at least for the phone. If you go down this route, make sure that your partner actually uses in-country U.S. agents rather than just following U.S. time zones. That way the people representing your company will be grounded in the local culture and that can mean a lot in a country which is famous worldwide for its customer service. You’ll definitely need to check the realities of your supply chain and have a process in place to ensure that any changes (e.g. increased delivery charges) are promptly reflected.

You should also consider product liability issues, which could make obtaining the necessary liability insurance costly however you could consider licensing a local company to manufacture and sell in the US, which may reduce this cost. Again we advise speaking to a patent attorney who specialises in this area and can offer you the best advise moving forward.

Start small and show willing

Trade shows are very important to U.S. industry so they are a great place to start easing open the door to the U.S. market. There are two key points to remember about attending trade shows in the U.S. First of all, you are probably going to have to attend them on a regular basis in order for people to start taking you seriously. Secondly, even with modern air travel, the U.S. is a big place and trying to do business across the whole country can easily gobble up time, energy and money without anything meaningful to show for it. Because of this, the best approach is often to focus on trade shows in a particular area and use these to build up connections with potential transatlantic partners and then leverage these as entry points to the U.S. market.

Remember the U.S. is different from the UK

In U.S.-based online shops, you put your purchases into a “cart”, whereas in UK-based ones, they go into a “basket”. It may sound like a tiny, even pedantic, difference but in many walks of life, it’s details which make the difference. For all the similarities between the U.S. and the UK, the U.S. is still a distinct market, in fact, it’s arguably a collection of markets, since its physical vastness makes for huge variances in local culture. Working with local partners can go a long way to easing the transition, as can starting small and really getting to understand even just one key area before branching out into others (if appropriate).

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