Exporting to the US: 5 dos and don'ts

The US market is not easy for exporters. However, in 2017, Swiss companies sold goods with a value of more than CHF 33 billion to the US. If you want to be successful in the US market, keep in mind the following dos and don'ts.

5 dos for exporting to the US

1. DO focus on a region

The US is the third-largest country in the world. People as well as their habits and needs differ from one another in each of the 50 states. It is for this reason that when exporting to the US, you have to focus on one region instead of trying to sell your products and services all over the country at the same time. Carefully consider which clients you want to address and what kind of added value you can provide. In certain cases, it makes sense, for example, to export to the east coast first and then expand to other areas of the country.

2. DO cover yourself when exporting to the US

The US is notorious for its product liability lawsuits. By performing consistent quality checks, you can ensure that your products are safer to use. But that alone isn't enough. You have to call attention to the possible risks of using your products. Common example: A kettle gets hot when the water is heated. Despite taking all precautions, you should conclude product liability insurance before exporting to protect against financial risks.

3. DO comply with legal provisions as an SME

The US has had trade hurdles since even before Donald Trump's time. There are countless legal provisions you have to comply with. Some products require a special insurance license. For instance, before exporting food to the US, you have to register it with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Do your homework and learn about US import provisions.

4. DO sell yourself well and take advantage of Americans' open-mindedness

Americans are sociable people who get straight to the point. They enjoy hearing why your product is right for them. Show them why your brand, product, or service is particularly good and don't be too modest – being too cautious could be a mistake in the US.

5. DO use different communication channels for exporting to the US

While personal contact is indispensable in, say, China, it's different in the US. If you are exporting to the US, personal first contact is however important in building trust. Afterwards, though, it is perfectly fine to do business over the phone or schedule online meetings. Be flexible when it comes to this and be open to new forms of communication.

5 Don'ts for exporting to the US

1. DON'T be deterred as a Swiss SME

Even though the market is saturated and challenging, don't let it deter you from exporting to the US. Instead, do your homework and, before exporting to the US, learn about contention, costs, and potential partners. In an ideal situation, you already have experience in exports before you move to the US.

2. DON'T copy your existing business model

Business models cannot be copied 1:1 to the US. Corresponding adjustments have to be made. Depending on the region, you may have to observe differences in culture and consumer habits. At the same time, SMEs exporting to the US have to be willing to think bigger. Because the US market is large.

3. DON'T expect overnight success when exporting to the US

Being successful in the market isn't something that happens overnight – especially not in the US. That is why you should factor in enough time for traveling, meeting with business partners, creating a business plan, and especially achieving a break-even point. If you are new to exporting to the US, it is important for your SME to be financially sound.

4. DON'T ignore legal provisions

Payment transactions between the US and Switzerland can be problematic. Banks have become cautious with account movements linked to the US. Therefore, Swiss SMEs that want to export to the US should get in contact with the client advisor at their bank in a timely manner.

5. DON'T take your time when exporting to the US

It takes time to capture a new market. But when it concerns communication or business deals, you have to move fast in the US. Business people in the US are demanding and want a timely response. Sales cycles are significantly shorter – particularly in the B2B market – than in Europe. Swiss SMEs exporting to the US face a challenge here, given the time delay.

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