Selling To Americans
American’s are patriotic. All things being equal they will ‘Buy American’. One of the challenges to international business selling in the United States is to over come the ‘Buy American’ instinct.
There are three distinct strategies a company can employ. The first is deliver a product that is either a unique, superior or cheaper, second be seen to be American, and third pretend to be American.
Companies like Volvo, Perrier and Gucci have used international stereotypes and product superiority or uniqueness to attract American consumers. Other companies, most notably the Japanese car and electronic manufacturers, at a time when ‘Made in Japan’ was synonymous to junk, introduced lower priced products. Over time they improved their product and now sell on both price and superiority.
Being seen as American is used by any number of international companies. "Shell" dropped the "Royal Dutch" from its name decades ago. "Unilever" has a whole range of house hold items from "Axe" to "Vim" that most consumers think of as American. And – the list goes on.
However, none of these companies ‘pretend’ to be American. The country of origin for their parent company is not important.
For small businesses, it is much harder to be seen as American. They don’t have the large national presence of a "Shell" or "Unilever". Should they pretend to be American?
One of my favourite examples of a Canadian company pretending to be American was the 1950′s tabloid – Midnight. With fictional stories focusing on a bevy of young starlets, Midnight sold in stores across Canada and the US. Published in Montreal by Joe Azaria and John Vader, the address listed in the paper was a post office box in upstate New York.
"Midnight" changed it’s name to "Midnight Globe" in 1978. Eventually it would become just "Globe", be bought by American Media and move to Florida.
They couldn’t get away with that today. The Internet has made it almost impossible to use this type of deception. It only takes one person to find out the truth and soon everyone knows. And, consumers don’t like being decieved.
The US dollars is accept internationally, so pricing in US dollars is not deceptive. However, unless you have a US outlet, use your actual address in the contact information. And, avoid expressions that are meant to be misleading – like "Made in North America".
For many international companies selling online, the US is a major part of their market. Treat the American consumer with respect and they will reward you with their patronage. Try and deceive them and you are courting disaster.
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