Vietnam is not a market for inexperienced exporters or firms that do not have a well-established export department or business development unit. U.S. companies preparing to enter the Vietnam market must plan strategically and be persistent and consistent with face-to-face follow-up. It can take up to two years to make a successful sale in this market. Building relationships is important.
Depending on the sector, U.S. companies entering the Vietnam market may need to consider two marketing efforts; one for targeting the northern part of the country, which has a higher concentration of government ministries and regulatory agencies, and one for the south, which is the dominant industry hub. The two markets also differ in terms of consumer behavior and preferences.
To enter or expand in Vietnam, U.S. businesses may do so indirectly through the appointment of an agent or distributor. U.S. companies new to Vietnam should conduct sufficient due diligence on potential local agents/distributors to ensure they possess the requisite permits, facilities, workforce, and capital. Firms seeking a direct presence in Vietnam should establish a commercial operation utilizing the following options: firstly, a representative office license; secondly, a branch license; and lastly, a foreign investment project license under Vietnam’s revised Foreign Investment Law.
U.S. companies doing business in transportation, telecommunications, energy, environmental/water, civil aviation, financial services, and other infrastructure sectors are advised to develop core strategies and capabilities for bidding on ODA (World Bank, Asian Development Bank, USAID) projects. Vietnam spent about USD 128 million in the first six months of 2022 on ODA projects. Sectors prioritized for ODA funding are primarily in infrastructure construction and modernization and human resource development.