In recent years here at Showcase, we’ve doubled our effort to become a bigger player in the U.S. marketplace.
From a business standpoint, most of our peers have applauded us for that. After all, the U.S. is the world’s largest economy by nominal GDP.
But our American copywriter, Jessica, wasn’t sold. She asked, “Why would a company that’s such a strong player in New Zealand want to deal with all the red tape, politics, and sheer craziness that comes with the U.S. market?”
And I realized that, while for a small Kiwi software business, growing our position in the U.S. market is The Dream — for an American, what we’re doing might seem incredibly daunting, and maybe even a bit risky.
The resulting conversation between me and Jessica, I thought, was blog-worthy.
Jessica: With all the crazy stuff happening in the U.S. right now, why would you want to deal with entering the U.S. market?
Millie: What crazy stuff? Heh heh.
When entering any foreign market as a visitor, there are always special challenges. As a business, we’ve learned to take them at face value and work with them as best we can.
Showcase has been selling to U.S. customers for three years, now — though with only a small sales office, not a formal HQ (but we’re working on that!) - so we know what we’re getting into. Most importantly, though, contrary to what you might believe if you’re a regular watcher of American news, this is actually a fairly stable and prosperous time for our ideal customers.
My final thought on the matter is this: We’re Kiwis — not Neanderthals. Sure, as an individual New Zealander, you do accept that the political and social climate of the U.S. is going to be an adjustment — but New Zealand is also a developed country. We speak English, and we are fairly well immersed in American news and entertainment. In other words, the U.S. market doesn’t feel that foreign.
Jessica: So, from your experience, how does the U.S. market compare to New Zealand?
Millie: The New Zealand market is tiny in comparison. Selling in the New Zealand market is like selling only to customers in the city of Los Angeles (both have populations of about 4 million people). Then of course you break that down to how many of those 4 million people could be customers — and you can see how small our local market is.
Also, one of our biggest customer segments is the oil/gas/convenience store space — and the U.S. is one of the world leaders for this segment. Whereas New Zealand is definitely not.
From a personal experience standpoint, though, I find Americans are generally more optimistic (complaints about current politics aside). I find that the American Dream manifests itself in an "anything is possible if you're prepared to work hard" spirit that I personally love about America. It rubs off on me in a really positive way.
Jessica: I’m so happy to hear we’re having a positive influence on you! By the way, I also dug up some stats you might be interested in …
- GDP: $186.4 billion
- Exports account for 30% of GDP
- Ranked #1 in ease of doing business
- Main exports are dairy products, meat, wool and wood products, fish, machinery
The U.S. economy:
- GDP: $20.2 trillion by 2018 estimates
- 80.2% of GDP comes from the services sector
- Ranked #6 in ease of doing business
- Main exports are agricultural products, fuels and mining products, and manufactured goods
Jessica: What makes the U.S. an attractive place for a Kiwi to do business?
Millie: The number one thing is scale. Not just from a potential revenue standpoint, but also from a product and company standpoint.
New Zealand's two largest retail networks both use Showcase Workshop, but they cap out at just under 200 retail sites each. It's an interesting challenge for the Showcase team to solve a content distribution problem for 200 sites — but it's REALLY interesting to solve it for 1,200 sites or more!
America is also a much more competitive marketplace than New Zealand, and that’s good for two important reasons:
- Our U.S. customers operate in a more competitive marketplace, so they tend to be more actively looking for opportunities to improve their own business. As a result, they tend to act more quickly when they find what they're looking for.
- We have more direct competitors pitching for the same accounts in the U.S. — which motivates us to keep our game sharp and constantly improve our product.
What can I say? The Showcase team thrives on competition. 😉
Jessica: Why should U.S. companies buy a product from New Zealand?
Millie: When it comes to SaaS (and good ideas in general) I think the business world is more and more "borderless" every day. So for most of our customers, it doesn’t matter one bit that our development team is based in New Zealand. Other than development, though, all our business functions are replicated in the U.S. So we’re also an American company.
For our American customers, there's a cost advantage to our headquarters being in New Zealand, as we tend to be a less expensive country to buy things from/to developer product in.
Finally (and for some of our Showcase customers, most importantly), there's a big time-zone advantage. The time zone New Zealand is in (coupled with our US based team) means helpdesk resources are available across 15 hours of the day for the East Coast and 14 hours of the day for the West Coast. Plus, our team is often able to tend to things when it’s the middle of the night in the U.S. — so our American customers frequently have their issues solved and questions answered by the time they get into the office in the morning.
Jessica: Okay, I see the benefits now. I no longer think you’re completely crazy. So let me ask you one last question: If you could blast a message out to every U.S. citizen, what would it be?
Millie: That’s an easy one, and it has nothing to do with software or national economies…
#FindYourPark. America has the most amazing national and state parks to explore — so get out from behind your screen and go find one right now!
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