Challenges for International Exporters Entering the U.S. Market

For international businesses seeking opportunities for expansion and growth, the U.S. is an obvious target. The country’s gross domestic product was $25.44 trillion in 2022 according to World Bank data, dominating the global market. The U.S. dollar is the most widely used currency for international trade. But that huge economic presence comes with significant challenges to market entry and ongoing success. Understanding potential obstacles and preparing to meet them can help international exporters avoid time- and money-wasting pitfalls that can undermine their efforts.

Adhering to Rules and Regulations

Entering any international market means encountering new rules and regulations on how sales are reported and made. In the U.S., however, business transactions often don’t have just one new set of regulations to contend with—they may be regulated at the state and local level as well as at the national level, depending on the area in which a business is operating. Remember, there are fifty different states, some of which pride themselves on being “business friendly” and relatively permissive, while others strictly regulate any number of areas impacting businesses. The multiple layers of requirements can make it extremely difficult for an international business to understand and comply with all applicable regulations and policies.

The best approach is to start with federal requirements, and then work down to the state and local level(s). Working with local legal, financial, and other professionals with relevant expertise in the subject and your target area can help ensure compliance and map out the most efficient way to avoid running afoul of applicable regulations in your target market(s).

Creating Effective Marketing Plans (Yes, Plural)

Fifty different states doesn’t just mean a bewildering set of laws to decipher. The U.S. may be one country, but it is an extremely diverse one. While there are some generalities that can inform how American consumers are approached, attempting a one-size-fits-all approach in marketing will result in strategies that at best will fail to land with anyone.

What are some commonalities? Americans tend to share a unique consumer culture centered around the idea that the customer is always right. They expect superior customer service, and increasingly, they’re also expecting a customized, personalized approach in how brands address them. This is especially true of Gen Z, who make up 40% of American consumers. This younger generation are also highly values-driven, more likely to embrace a brand and product that they feel makes a positive difference in the world.

The challenge? The U.S. is home to over 335 million residents as of December 2023, of whom nearly 47 million are immigrants, speaking more than 350 different languages. The country is growing in racial diversity. And values are far from being universally shared—opinions on issues like healthcare, immigration, and the environment, to name a few, fuel growing political division and partisanship. The risk of putting a foot wrong marketing-wise is high without a nuanced, strategic approach.

What’s the solution? Companies should start by letting go of the idea that they will have one “American” marketing plan. Instead, they should embrace the mindset of having fifty marketing plans, each one researched and targeted to be effective in its own specific area. It is essential to base strategies on meticulous research when determining how to segment and reach the ideal customers in each locale. Geographic segmentation can be an effective approach to start breaking down what may look like a monolithic American market from afar into the individuals that Americans expect to be seen and treated as.

Again, foreign businesses would be wise to bring in the assistance of a native guide—in this case, a marketing agency with expertise in the U.S.—to help them authentically speak the motivational language of their desired audience. This will help ensure their content and approach is culturally relevant and properly targeted to achieve measurable results.

Making the Most of U.S. Opportunities

Contemplating entering the U.S. market can be both thrilling and daunting. Taking advantage of the plentiful opportunities in its huge economy aren’t simply a matter of diving in—the very real challenges of complying with regulatory requirements and connecting with consumers can turn an incautious venture into an expensive failure. Understanding and preparation are the best foundation for success.

The professionals of GPSLA are here to assist international clients seeking opportunities in the greater Los Angeles Area. For more information on successfully entering the U.S. market, schedule a consultation today.

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