Did any of your 2020 predictions and sales plans turn out as expected? No, I didn’t think so. 2020 was the most disruptive year since the global financial crisis of 2008. Curiously, it primarily affected major Western economies where I live and work. Dysfunctional governments, an undisciplined, uneducated and jaded population, pandemic risks being played down in political games, all resulted in repeated shutdowns, small businesses closing their doors, the highest unemployment rates in decades, and death counts rising out of control.
The Korean economy, where I come from, along with an economy of nearby countries run by pragmatic science-centric leaders, has immediately used the knowledge developed under SARS to clamp down on the virus, avoid mass death and economic destruction, and is in relatively good shape heading into 2021 in comparison to the US, EU, UK, and Brazil.
This is a one-time opportunity for Korean companies to enter and win on large consumption-centric western markets like the US. Why now? And How?
Why Now. Local US businesses beyond ecommerce and logistics have been significantly crippled by remote work, there are revenue disruptions, dropped business purchases, and breakdowns of traditional channels such as tradeshows and in-person sales. Schools are failing to teach, even at low levels, which is creating “a lost generation” unable to compete on global labor markets.
Uneducated US adults cannot compete in the global labor markets of engineers and can’t produce the innovation needed for the next generation of technology. Chinese engineers who have powered the high-tech boom of the 1990s have left for China and founded their own companies that successfully compete with the US. In the tech industry, US brands are relying on Asian centers of production and engineering more and more.
What Korean makers will soon find is that they are competing against global brands that shifted to Asia and China, when they used to compete against the US-based enterprises.
What Korean advanced robotics, telecom, and manufacturing innovators are finding is that US-owned manufacturing is behind the technology curve and will be lagging more and more, turning the US into even more of a consumption centric, not production, society.
How. The US, that lost the race for technological leadership, is now leading the world in the most massive market for health and wellness-related products and services. If your business sells solutions for some relatively well-performing industries, or makes CPGs that fit the home-locked lifestyle of the US, the first part of 2021 will be very lucrative. If you are producing high-tech manufacturing solutions, the US manufacturing industry is getting smaller, more local, and is focused on cutting costs with less attention to technical innovation. There is no appetite here for the latest technology.
Korean brands who are willing to make it in the US must walk into 2021 by putting aside their pride in their amazing technology and sell their products on buyer-impact merits. We see time and time again that Korean makers of cutting-edge solutions are trying to sell it to ignorant buyers who will never appreciate how advanced its technology is. Korean brands must sell and partner based on the benefit to the buyer, provide case studies, localize their brand voice and develop a relevant local presence.
Technology solutions for health and wellness: start with home-based product lines. Biotech and life sciences: look for partnerships. Home-based electronics and leisure equipment: sell directly to consumers, this demand is far exceeding the supply. Crafting solutions for manufacturing, businesses, or retail? Reinvent the segments you target. Where else can your core technology be used? How can it help to reopen businesses safely and lower risks of infection? Whatever your industry is – it’s time to transform and fit the new markets. They have needs – just not the same needs as in Korea.