WHEN ImmersaView – a company specialising in large realistic screen projection technologies – took the decision to expand beyond its Brisbane base into the US market, it literally took a wider view and went in with eyes wide open.
It seemed like a steady and logical move, five years ago, when ImmersaView opened a US office on the back of apparently steadily rising sales. But there was a lot more to learn and now ImmersaView is keen to pass on those experiences to help other Australian businesses considering a US market move.
“Our sales in the region had been reasonable and we anticipated a much greater market than we were addressing in Australia,” ImmersaView co-founder Alex Streit said. “Within two years of opening the office, our US sales had plateaued.”
Mr Streit, who has since moved to the US to grow the business, has steadily led a reinvigoration of the US operations. He had a series of valuable lessons to pass on.
“Be niche,” Mr Streit said. “We cover a lot of different markets globally. If someone comes to us with work, we figure out whether we can do it with our given resources.
“In the US, though, we focus on a specific market. Before we were too broad, offering everything, and people didn’t trust us to deliver. We now focus on one core area and ensure we do it excellently.”
There was also a valuable lesson in the way the US market likes to be approached with information about a company. Mr Streit called it “headlines first”.
“Headlines first … In Australia, we tell people a story to give them context. In the US, people want the headline first and the story can come later if they’re interested.
“At first, our marketing collateral was missing the mark because we had the headlines buried after the context. Be direct.”
There was also a valuable lesson in building trust – you had to be there.
“Relationships matter,” Mr Streit said. “In our market people buy from people they trust. People trust people they know.
“It is difficult to do this from Australia. Initially we had set up an office and let someone run it,” he said.
“We’ve since learned that there is no substitute for personally spending time with potential customers and partners as a business owner. They want to do business with people and not just a company.”
ImmersaView has developed visual imaging systems for the London Fire Brigade Training Centre, Russian National Ballet, the MXJ Formula 1 racing simulator, and even a new Concorde flight simulator for the Brooklands Museum in the UK.