Breaking barriers, building brands: Executing the successful US launch
Julie Karbo, CEO, Karbo Communications
Expanding into the vast and competitive North American market is a significant milestone for any tech company. According to Statista, the US economy accounted for over 15.5% of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2022, making it the biggest economy in the world. It also ranks high on the intimidation scale. The US and Canadian markets are highly competitive in the number of product and service offerings, types of companies, the characteristics of buyers, the marketing required, difficulty in acquiring distribution and in sheer market noise.
Even if you’ve been successful in EMEA, success can’t be acquired by simply replicating that approach in North America. Yet there is a formula to start realising the lucrative benefits that can only be realised here. Sales, brand equity, partnerships, employees, and funding are there for the taking. I’ve been working with a wide range of tech companies over the last 35 years. Silicon Valley was once the sole epicentre of technology. That’s clearly no longer the case. Over the last five years, we’ve seen a surge in companies that have been successful in EMEA and Latin America that now want us to help them to either increase their US market share or impactfully launch in the US.
In this blog post, we will explore how tech companies outside the US can effectively utilise PR to enter and thrive in the US and Canadian markets.
We’re different here
PR execution in EMEA vs North America is markedly different. What US publications are looking for, how reporters work with companies and sources, how they write their stories, varies dramatically from how things are done in EMEA. In some countries, being personal friends with a reporter or taking an editor out for a drink will get you coverage. Not so in the US. A contact will get you consideration, but you have to meet the same qualifications that other subjects must meet when being considered for coverage — a timely news hook, a compelling story, differentiation, credibility, and more. Which is why companies that are serious about launching in the US always hire a US-based PR firm that will serve as your cultural and business arbiter.
Weaving an enticing narrative
In today's highly competitive landscape, a compelling narrative is paramount to capture the attention of US and Canadian audiences. Many reporters receive hundreds of emails pitching company and product news and trends each day. It may seem obvious, but it’s mandatory that you outline what sets your technology and overarching approach apart from competitors. Position your product as a painkiller, not a vitamin. But talking about yourself isn’t enough. You must articulate how essential you are to your customers’ success and shape your story to align with the needs and aspirations of your target market and in light of the trends at play in the North American market. Finally, ground your differentiation and benefits in data.
Embrace the power of customer advocacy
Many reporters will not consider writing stories about companies unless they can speak to or get attributable information from at least one customer. You may have great customer stories but have difficulty in getting them to speak to reporters about your product. Frequently, these requests are made as a request for a “favour”. Frame the opportunity from your customers perspective and articulate the benefits it will receive by participating in joint interviews and case studies.
Lead the way through intellectual influence
Positioning your tech company, executive team and subject matter experts as thought leaders will elevate your brand's visibility and reputation. Provide insight into areas that are lacking. We collaborate with clients to determine where the commentary gaps are and work to develop narratives that not only fill those gaps but do so in a way that’s all their own. And don’t limit yourself by thinking you always have to present a rosy view. Be authentically contrarian. Go against groupthink. Reporters love straight shooters.
You’ll want to not only participate in industry conferences, webinars, and podcasts as a speaker or panellist, but engage in meaningful conversations on social media platforms, sharing valuable content and insights to establish you and your brand as trusted authorities. Package your data in a way that serves the needs of reporters covering the latest news and trends. For example, in the four years we’ve been working with Hootsuite, we’ve effectively “packaged” Hootsuite social sentiment data around seasonal events, news and trends to acquire consistent top tier press coverage. LinkedIn posts and participation in LinkedIn groups are valuable channels to reach enterprise targets.
Harness the force of influencer collaboration
Influencer marketing has become a powerful tool in building brand awareness and credibility. Identify relevant influencers in the US tech industry who align with your brand's values and target audience. Influencers can come from research organisations, academia, industry organisations, and social media. Collaborate with them to promote your products or services through sponsored content, product reviews, or endorsements. Utilise social media platforms, such as YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter/X and Threads, as well as podcasts to amplify your reach and directly engage with potential customers.
Measuring your success
To gauge the efficacy of your PR efforts, establish key performance indicators (KPIs) aligned with your business goals. Monitor media coverage, website traffic, social media engagement, Share of Voice, lead generation, and conversion rates. Leverage analytics tools such as Google Analytics to track the impact of your PR campaigns and make data-driven decisions for continuous improvement. Ultimately, PR should drive your business goals—sales, funding, hiring, and more.
Tough times present distinctive opportunities
It’s been a tough year. Many companies are drastically reducing marketing efforts to cut costs. Having lived and thrived through several recessions, I can tell you that hanging back just results in losing ground to competitors. There’s tremendous opportunity in challenging times. Embrace the power of PR to raise brand awareness, enhance credibility, and ultimately drive growth in this dynamic and highly competitive landscape.
Julie Karbo is the CEO of highly ranked, US-based Karbo Communications, which is a partner of Eleven Hundred. She has provided counsel to executives in a wide array of technology areas, including SaaS/cloud, AI, security, fintech, e-commerce, telecom, internet infrastructure, networking and consumer electronics. Karbo works with companies in all stages of growth, from startups to billion-dollar brands, including Apple, Hootsuite, TIBCO, Sendinblue/Brevo, Oracle, Cisco, Nutanix, Equinix, Juniper Networks, RTI, Logitech, Digg and eBay.