How to Test-Launch your Product in the USA

Let’s say you are a Japanese company, or an aspiring startup. You already have a really good product or service that is selling well in Japan. You think it will be a hit around the world, but don’t have the resources to take it global.

Trying to sell your product (or service) in a place like the USA can be a really risky proposition. First, there is a lot of competition. You don’t know if customers will buy your product until you sell it. But if you try to sell it, then perhaps nobody will buy it due to market mismatch. It’s like a “chicken and egg” situation, which comes first?

There also may be some significant cultural differences between the product or service you sell in Japan, and the expectations of a foreign market like the US or Europe. What works well in Japan, may not work well in the USA.

There have been many cases in business history where a Japanese company spends millions of dollars (or billions of yen) launches their product in the USA, only to have it fail spectacularly because of poor “Product Market Fit”.

In the old days, (before the “Lean Startup”), companies would follow a path that is something like this:

  1. Spend time and money on market research, hire expensive consultants to determine if there is a market for your product
  2. Establish a local office in some high rent area like New York or San Francisco, and hire sales and marketing staff at enormous expense
  3. Then pitch the product to the local market to see if the it sells.
  4. Try to pivot your product to some niche before your money runs out, or your sales tank completely

More often than not, these attempts would often cost millions dollars, and fail miserably.

But these days, there is a much better way to find the right customers overseas, test your marketing hypothesis to see if it has an audience, iterate on an idea until it exactly what the audience wants, and build a strong engaged customers list BEFORE you launch. Then execute a successful launch confidently knowing you will succeed knowing you have customers. And finally, do it all from your home office in Japan.

Sounds too good to be true right? But actually, it is possible today. Read on…

Enter the Power of the “Lean Startup” methodology, combined with the power of advanced Digital Marketing strategies. Now, without the overhead of establishing an office in a foreign market, you can quickly determine if you have “Product Market” fit. That is, you can quickly determine if you have the right product that people want to buy.

To give you an idea of what we preach, we present this simple online marketing funnel.

Market Research Funnel (Steps)

  1. Step 1: Use Google Keyword Planner to do your own market research. It will tell you what keywords (key phrases) that users are searching for, as well as the costs to bid on those keywords. Pick a set of keyword phrases that most like match your product.
  2. Step 2: Set up a simple “landing page” that pitches your product or service. Make sure the landing page has a clear CTA (call to action) button. You will use it to measure your results. If your product is cheap (<$100), take them to a sales page of your own or use Amazon. If your product or service is more expensive, then offer a free offer (free ebook) in exchange for their email address.
  3. Step 3: Using the keywords you gathered in step 1, run a Google Adwords Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign to generate traffic to your landing page. Measure what kind of keyword phrases and ads that most resonate with your audience. Your ad campaign does not need to be confined to Google Search. Depending on your business, Facebook, LinkedIn or even Twitter ads can be really successful in targeting the right people.
  4. Step 4: For more advanced products or services, offer the visitor an “irresistible free gift, also known as a “Lead Magnet” in return for their email address. The Lead Magnet can be an eBook, a video course, or free product. Once they have signed up, run them through a “Drip Email Campaign” to turn the “cold leads” into “warm leads”. The Drip Campaign can be a series of emails that help them overcome their particular problem, and give them info about how your product will fix their problem.
  5. Step 5: At the end of the Drip Email Campaign, make them an offer as if the product is for sale. It’s important to ask them for money. Tell them that you are taking preorders, and if enough people pay, you will start right away, otherwise, refund their money. The key point here is to have a compelling product or service that makes people want to pay. This is the final goal and can be clearly measured.

And for all the steps above, measure the results each step along the way of this funnel.

Over the course of a couple weeks or months, continue to modify the messaging of your ads, the price and wording and the offer of the landing page, and the final offer after your Drip Campaign. Iterate as many times as needed to discover the right message that resonates with your foreign audience. It may take several months.

Follow this process, and you will get 3 big benefits:

  1. You learn very quickly what type of messaging will resonate with your customers.
  2. With little or no resources, you are able to determine if you have “Product Market Fit”. You can determine if customers are willing to pay for your product.
  3. The whole time you are running this online funnel, you are building an email list of potential customers. When it comes time to launch your product, you already have a customer list to sell into.

So there you have it, a very lightweight way to measure if you have “Product Market Fit, refine your marketing message for an overseas market, and build a relationship with customers before you build that office overseas.

If you need help setting up Marketing Funnels in English to test an overseas market, contact us here. We can help get you set up.

About the Author Jeff Crawford

Jeff Crawford is a Digital Marketing expert, technologist and Manager. He has worked for technology companies in Silicon Valley such as Apple, WebTV and Microsoft. He has lived in Tokyo Japan since 2004, working for companies such as Microsoft KK and Adobe Systems Japan. Jeff is founder of Zo Digital Japan, an SEO and Digital Marketing agency based in Tokyo. Jeff started the Tokyo Digital Marketers Meetup in 2016, which now has over 2000 members. He has also presented about Digital Marketing at such events as Ad-Tech Tokyo, WordCamp Tokyo, Japan Market Expansion Competition (JMEC), and the Japan Association of Translators (JAT).

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