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Dos & Don'ts for entering the US market

With a gross domestic product of around 18.6 trillion US dollars (2016), the USA is the largest economy in the world. The business opportunities in the land of boundless opportunities are correspondingly large – for Swiss SMEs as well. However, certain points have to be born in mind if you want to successfully export a Swiss product to the US.

Exporting to the USA: Be open to a new culture
Exporting to the USA: Be open to a new culture

Focus

If you want to export to the US, you need to position your product or services. You need to know exactly who you want to address with the product and where your product can offer added value. This is because the US market is huge, fragmented and generally saturated. In addition, as the third largest country in the world, the USA is also geographically vast. The 50 states are as diverse as the people living there, their habits and their needs.
Your goal should not be to cover the entire country and all segments with your product. Define a precise (smaller) target group and the benefits your product or service offers. When exporting to the US, this should be a strategic, since a completely different business model may be required overseas.

Factor in sufficient time

Please factor in sufficient time to find out the right business model for exporting your product. We recommend that you travel to the US beforehand to get to know the culture and to meet with potential business partners. This allows you to find out what is actually needed in the market. This clarification process alone requires considerable management resources. Once you have completed all clarifications and start exporting your product to the USA, you should not expect a "quick win". In the US, you will have to allow for several months simply in order to reach the breakeven point. It is therefore all the more important that your company is financially secure and that temporary cross-subsidization is possible.

Properly insured

Numerous Swiss exporters are in awe of the size of the US market and are afraid of product liability claims getting out of hand. With good business practice and stringent quality control, you can ensure that your products or services are safe to use, both in Switzerland and abroad. But sometimes that is not enough. In these cases, the right insurance can cover numerous financial risks.  

When exporting to the US, you should observe additional legal provisions. Based on the product's customs tariff number, you will have to check whether certain import regulations apply to your product or whether you need additional approvals. In the area of MEM industries, for example, confirmations from the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO may be necessary.

In the food industry, companies must be registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In addition, a so-called "Prior Notice" is also required upon shipment – notification to the FDA that food is on its way to the USA. An additional certificate is required from the respective canton for dairy products.

Dos & Don'ts

In general, the US market requires export know-how and is suitable for companies that already have export experience. If you want to export your product or service to the US, you should consider the following dos and don'ts.

Dos

  • Be open and let yourself be inspired by a new culture. Use the openness of the Americans when networking and actively expand your own network. 
  • Be brave and dare to take the step. Take enough time to get to know the market.
  • Position yourself, since competition is huge.

Don'ts

  • Do not let yourself be deterred by legal or political events, but be sure to find out about guidelines before exporting.
  • Short-term product testing in the US market won't work; it takes patience, resources and long-term commitment.
  • The business model cannot be copied for the US; corresponding adjustments are necessary

Individual market analysis

You want to export to the USA, but still need specific information about the market? We would be happy to support you with a customized market analysis. Information about market analysis

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