At $17.5 trillion, the U.S. economy is the largest in the world. To successfully sell your goods or services in the U.S. is to make it big, to finally arrive.
Unfortunately, the waters on the way to the U.S. can be rough. Many bright-eyed sellers from Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America, with high hopes and dreams of abundant riches, have had their hopes dashed on the rocky shores of the largest market on the planet.
But there’s another way – an easier way. Content marketing has emerged as a key method for entering international markets – especially the U.S. market – saving you time, expenses and headaches.
It’s important to it approach it the right way, especially since content marketing has become so pervasive in the U.S. that the blogosphere has sounded the warning about content shock and the content saturation index.
If you’re smart about how to use content, you could be selling your products and services in the U.S. in no time at all. Here’s a simple plan for you to follow:
1. Pick an Initial Niche
Conducting market research in any market, let alone a foreign one, is a tough task if you’re introducing a new product – especially if you have no previous customers to interview. But if you’ve been successful in your home market, you can extrapolate the niche you’ve successfully sold to and target the same niche in the U.S.
A word of warning: if you’re coming from a fairly small country, what seems like a niche to you may actually be a pretty broad market in the U.S. For example, at Content Propulsion we worked with a small, South American software company who wanted to target online marketers. But in the United States, the online marketing niche is huge. So we had to narrow it down to “small boutique advertising agencies who do online marketing” to select an effective segment to target.
If you approach your initial content marketing efforts using the lean content approach, you can refine your target niche and the personas associated with that niche from initial market feedback on your blog posts, eBooks, and infographics.
You have to start somewhere, so start with an educated guess about who your target market niche is.
2. Choose Your Unique Point of View
Don’t be afraid to take a stand, make a statement, and have a unique point of view. Or as sales guru John Costigan likes to say: Be different.
I work with a lot of outsourcers from Latin America who want to crack the U.S. market with their “high quality, Microsoft-certified software development services.” They all sound the same. But they don’t want to rock the boat – they want to make sure they sound “official” to appeal to the demanding U.S. corporate buyer. Consequently, they labor in perpetual obscurity.
The only way you’re going to stand out in the U.S. market is if you’re different. How do you develop that unique point of view?
You can start by creating a content marketing mission statement as described by Joe Pulizzi from the Content Marketing Institute.
Boiling it down to its essence, the content marketing mission statement gets everybody at your company who is involved with creating content on the same page. It helps you define your unique voice.
The components of a content marketing mission statement are:
- Who is your audience?
- What kind of information will you deliver to them?
- What outcome should your audience take away from your content?
The content marketing mission statement is very powerful. It can help you decide what to put on your content calendar, help you filter out content ideas that don’t fit, and enable you to develop a body of content that’s consistent with your unique point of view – and help you stand out from the crowd.
3. Create Your Shiny Object
The term “shiny object” has taken on a bit of a negative connotation in the United States, but if you want to enter the U.S. market, you need the kind of shiny object that marketer Amanda McGuckin-Hager refers to as the key to your lead generation activities.
What is a content marketing shiny object? It’s premium content, such as an eBook, research report or white paper that is newsworthy, all-encompassing and extremely valuable. It’s that shot across the bow to the market that declares, “We’re here, and we’re making an impact!”
Another name for a content marketing shiny object is the content marketing home run, a term coined by Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners U.K. in his presentation Content Marketing in the Age of Crap.
Your shiny object, or content home run, is a result of the intersection between your unique point of view, your expertise on your topic, and your target market’s particular needs, concerns, and goals. It’s your pièce de résistance, your raison d’être, your calling card. Make sure it’s awesome.
4. Use PR to Promote Your Shiny Object
Next, how do you get your shiny object noticed and consumed by your target market? This is where you might have to invest a little bit of money. If your report or eBook is truly newsworthy, then make an effort to promote it to press outlets that target your niche.
McGuckin-Hager used a PR firm to promote a research report on big data produced while she was Director of Marketing at Infochimps. The effort led to a 94 percent increase for their in-house database.
If you can’t afford a PR firm in the early stages of your U.S. market entry, approach media outlets or blogs that target your niche market and offer to write a guest article.
5. Outsource Content (if necessary)
Outsourcing your content is easier said than done – but if you do it right, it can pay off.
If English isn’t your native language, there are a few options for outsourcing your content creation. Elance or Odesk are great solutions because of the variety of writers available who know your industry. However, you should choose writers carefully and not hire the writer who offers the lowest price.
To ensure high-quality content, it’s best to seek recommendations from community managers or directors of freelance and writers’ associations. For example, I have received great recommendations from the leadership team of one of our local organizations, Austin Freelance.
If you’re trying to introduce your company, product or a new service to the U.S. market, the best way to do it is with content.
Entering the U.S. market, or any foreign market for that matter, is like creating a startup. Even if you’re already established in your home market – and your products might even be the leading brand in its category – when you enter an international market you’re starting from zero.
Content marketing is a great, low-cost way to test the waters in the U.S. market while gaining valuable feedback that can help you refine your message and your understanding of your target market.
But first, you must define your target market, establish a unique point-of-view, create a shiny object, promote that shiny object and – if English is not your forte – hire a stateside freelance writer.