in sales and marketing

“I don’t want your free product!” – Why you can’t rely on “giving your product away for free” to get customers in the USA

As an international company wanting to achieve success in the USA it’s a very hard thing to land your first US customer. Typically US based clients do not really care about which customers you have in your home country, if you have no customers in the USA then it does not count. Welcome…

Realizing how hard it is a lot of international firms try to “give it away for free” to get that first customer. The executives and the sales team believe that this significantly will increase the likelyhood of achieving “lift off” and getting customers onboard. The goal then is to use the free customer as a reference to get other clients. 

Unfortunately this is not how reality works….free really is not “free” at all when considering the customer’s perspective.
Let’s assume their perspective for a moment and run through a high level calculation: 
1. Software product X sold by the international firm – cost: Free 
2. Implementations support delivered by international firm – cost: Free at best, more likely billed on a time and materials basis 
3. US customer’s time to implement the product – cost: Not free!
4. US customer’s internal change management requirements needed to be able to fully adopt the benefits from software solution – cost: Not free!
5. US customer’s training requirements, i.e. time for training: Not free!
6. US customer’s perceived stress related to “selling” this tool to internal stakeholders: Not free! 
7. US customer’s efforts to provide basic first level support for the tool since internal users will want an internal super user – cost: Not free!
8. US customer’s perceived risks of adopting a product from an unknown provider with NO HISTORY IN THE USA, perhaps not even a US presence or any form of IT support group here: Not free! 
9. The cost of “change” to all users and the organization: Not free! 
10. Costs related to lack of productivity among users adopting your solution: Not free!
11. Costs of having to involve possible high level executives or high paid internal experts to get your solution adopted: Not free!

There is a lot more nuance but the point is: If you sell technology products to other businesses then please keep in mind that any technology solution will come with significant risks and cost to the customers, a cost that may well overshadow the actual cost of your software solution.
The impact to the go to market approach is as such to focus your efforts on mitigating said risk factors while driving down the cost of the full scale implementation (customer’s internal costs as listed above and the cost of your solution).

In short: Invest in strengthening your case for the US market over a strategy of keeping infrastructure the same and “giving it away for free”. 
You execute this by understanding what the risks and costs look like for you customers, then finding ways to mitigate/lower them via initiatives such as establishing a US presence, getting US support staff (own or 3rd party such as channel partners), creating documentation for the US market, getting reference cases, etc.