Success Strategies for the U.S.
Three French Executives Share Their Personal Experiences
by Ami Wright, Technical Writer
Part One: Preparation
What does it take for a French company to be successful in the U.S.? To try to shed light on this question, I interviewed three executives about their strategies for success:
When Ms. Marc consults with companies that want to enter the U.S. market, she advises them to “do their homework” in advance. According to her, companies should not enter the market blindly, but instead do some research. Among other strategies, she recommends that they do a market study, a competitive landscape analysis, and exhibit at a few trade shows to get reaction to their product and an understanding of the marketplace.
On the one hand, the market study focuses on potential customers. It includes researching customer requirements and attitudes, and market trends. A market study helps to produce a product or service that matches the needs of potential customers. On the other hand, the competitive landscape analysis focuses on competitors. It includes identifying potential competitors, and comparing the company against those competitors. It could include identifying strengths and weaknesses, and recommending areas for improvement. A competitive landscape analysis helps the company to position itself in the market. Finally, by exhibiting at various trade shows, the company can see how people react to the product or service. After doing their research, a company should be able to decide whether or not they are ready to enter the U.S. market. A good indicator of their readiness comes from assessing the number and quality of leads generated during this process.
In establishing the U.S. office for IDDI, Mr. Buyse followed a somewhat different route than that recommended by Ms. Marc. IDDI did not do a formal market study, or other formal research. They relied on the knowledge of the market that they had gained during their ten years doing business. Although they did not have an office in the U.S., the company had already acquired American customers. In Mr. Buyse’s opinion, it would have been a waste of time to do a formal market study. As he said, “We already had a lot of work with U.S. companies before coming here. Even though we were based in Europe, we had American customers. So, we knew about what our clients needed and what kind of services we should offer them.” In working to establish the U.S. operations for Ipanema Technologies, Ms. Grigsby also did not do any formal research studies. They focused on gathering competitive information, rather than information about their potential customers. They used informal approaches to gather this information, such as attending trade shows to see which companies were present, reading about the industry in the press, and doing research on the Internet. They also relied on their knowledge of American competitors that were beginning to do business in Europe. In Ms. Grigsby’s opinion, market studies are useful, but competitive information is critical. In her opinion, “If you don’t know your competitors, don’t even think about [entering the U.S. market], because you’ll just be blind-sided all the time.”
Although neither of the other two companies precisely followed Ms. Marc’s advice, they both followed the spirit of that advice, which is “don’t enter the market blindly – know what you are getting into.” The interviews covered several other topics.
Copyright © 2002 Ami Wright - All rights reserved. Tous droits réservés.
(Part One of this article was originally published in Le Courrier, the newsletter of the New England Chapter of the French-American Chamber of Commerce.)
Part Two: Creating the Team | Part Three: The Three Executives Interviewed
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