Why testing is the key to building US momentum quickly

In 2008, we were working to help scale revenue for a US-based social media platform. The site built conversations around vertical areas of interest it seeded with specialists from that content area. Ocean sailing off of the coast of Maine. Childbirth at home. You name it.


On this day, I had set a meeting with the head of digital investment at one of the GroupM agencies for C.R.O. at the social media platform. We had our eyes on a top 10 US advertiser at that agency.

We went though our presentation, focusing on the deep engagement that the site offered. The agency person, however, was focused on scale. I’ll never forget the way he framed the problem as he saw it.

 

He said he had heard of our client. Asked if they had been around for a few years. They had. We nodded in anticipation. He then asked what our circulation was. In fact the site hovered around comScore’s minimum of 1MM UVs per month.

 

We were prepared to address scale objection. The site had a growth plan and funds to back it. Our scale, however, wasn’t really his objection. What he was saying was he knew this company had been around for several years and hadn’t yet been able to break through. No mojo. What he was saying was he didn’t “believe.” The meeting was over.

 

Everyone is in a hurry in this business. Burn rates are high. Competition is stiff. Solutions are tried and dropped as fast as possible, then word of those results, good or bad, travel quickly. How can you scale your US business quickly without letting the spinning plates crash to the counter? You have to have a plan.

 

Assuming your product works, your messaging is on point, and that you’ve now generated the confidence required to move forward with your US customer prospect, what’s next? How can you get going quickly and scale? We suggest the best approach isn’t what you’d probably expect. Ask for, check that, demand that you be tested.

 

Americans tend to trust others less than Europeans do. Everyone in Paris, London or Berlin knows one and other or nearly so. That’s not the case here. I like this phrase on the subject: “The only two people in the world I trust are me and you…and I am not so sure about you.” We like case evidence. Missouri is the “Show Me State.” It says that on the Missouri license plate. Not only should empirical evidence – a case study or two (problem/solution/outcome) be an element of your pitch – testing should be part of your sales process as well.

 

Testing is not a roadblock, an impediment or an objection. It is an opportunity to prove what you say you can do in a phase one that doesn’t ask much of the client, establishes trust, and most important has them get to know you and your work process. There are however, bad tests – often assignments from a client asking you to solve the toughest problems, not ones that would be representative of what the bulk of your relationship would be based on. Negotiate your way to the test that you know you can be successful with. Go into the sales presentation with a testing plan. “Here is how we’ll test, these are the results you can expect to see, over this period of time at this cost.”

 

What types of clients have you had success with in Europe? Can case studies be fashioned on wins there to build confidence here? Can your EU clients intro you to US counterparts to speed the process? Do you have client testimonials?

 

No matter how successful your company has been in Europe, you are effectively a startup here. That means you have to vet all assumptions about what will and won’t work against a different competitive set here. Often, successful EU businesses in the US end up looking less like their EU parents than anyone would have thought. The trick is to get through that launch stage quickly, so you can emerge from it with a US growth strategy and hiring plan you 100 per cent believe in.

What are your goals? Raising a round here often benefits from at least a few “trophy” or name brand US clients engaged. They can take longer to close, but can be worth the wait. If you are not seeking to impress investors, and scaling revenue quickly is the priority, than evaluate/adjust your target set accordingly. Testing can be an extra step that speeds not slows the process.

Your investors, employees and families are banking on your success in the US. Don’t keep them waiting. Sell, test and scale as quickly as possible.

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