by Skip Cohen
Over the years I’ve written a lot about the importance of integrity in business. In fact, one of my favorite posts was written by my soon to be 91, Dad. He still does business on a handshake, as do I and dozens of good friends in this industry. Your word has to be your bond. Your handshake on any agreement is more than just a promise to somebody, it says you understand them, you support them and you intend to watch their back. It’s all about the relationship.
Well, every now and then a situation comes along that fools so many of us. We miss seeing the wolf in sheep’s clothing. I've seen a few situations like this in the last few years. It seems like they're happening more often, but the truth is, I don't think they are. It's just that the world is getting smaller and with social media we hear more and we hear it faster!
So this morning's post is dedicated to the long list of vendors I see from overseas who keep trying to gain a foothold in the US market. They seem to love the spam approach and like many of you I get my daily dose of developers from India, albums and frames from China and let's not forget the literary geniuses who can't write a decent paragraph, but think they're entitled to a guest post spot on this blog.
While the following points are suggestions for companies outside the US - think of them as they apply to your own target audience. Ethics in marketing are universal!
1) The US market is unique. It is NOT like your country. Americans are NOT waiting for you to appear on the scene. I remember arguments with the crew in Sweden years ago…they always thought Americans loved Hasselblad so much that they could take price increase after price increase and nobody would care. American’s base their decisions on price, value and need – they rarely wait for any new product for very long.
2) Listen to the market. You’ll have a hard time doing business from your country, which means you have to hire somebody to be your US agent. Building a relationship with them means listening to their suggestions. Let them run this market.
3) Policies in your country in regards to deliveries, payment terms and customer service will not necessarily work in the US. You need to adapt to the standards of this market. In my early Polaroid days I spent almost three years overseas as the International Consumer Services Manager. It took me a long time to understand so many of our policies didn’t work in other countries and in fact, often were illegal.
4) Your success in the US market will be built on relationships and trust. People won’t develop a trust for your products if they don’t feel a bond with the company.
5) Do NOT try and manage your business from the other side of the globe. Language barriers, social differences and just the time difference alone make it difficult. We may be living in the global age and Skype is free, but that doesn’t mean a customer upset about a mistake in their order is going to be able to communicate with your staff. Here’s a great example – we’re all fed up with dealing with customer service support in foreign countries. I recently shredded my Airtran Visa because it took eight different phone calls to Barclay Bank and an incompetent staff in the Philippines.
We have so many choices in this country and the best example of any company’s abilities is in the integrity of their management team. If you can’t trust the managers behind the product, then sooner or later you won’t be able to trust the product, customer service, the billing process and the list goes on and on.
So, to you boneheads who insist on sending me weekly emails without an option to opt-out...you've been put into my spam filter and until you at least understand America is not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, you'll continue to get the cold shoulder from all of us!