Nokia Devises U.S. Strategy, But Can They Pull It Off?

Nokia’s new Windows Phones won’t hit our shores for at least a few more months, but Nokia’s top brass is already hard at work devising their strategy for cracking the U.S. market. According to Digits, Weber and Nokia are looking to attract first-time smartphone users who feel overwhelmed by other options on the market, and don’t want to pay a princely sum for a new device.

It’s a logical strategy, but one that’s very easy to botch. Without the proper focus, these new Nokia devices may succumb to the fate as old ones. To get an idea of how rough Nokia has it right now, let’s take a quick look at their spot in the U.S. landscape.

Nokia has always been a company with a wide array of product lines, but they’ve tried that approach in the U.S. and it hasn’t worked in years. Seriously, go to your nearest phone store or big-box retailer and look for the Nokia phones.

You’ll probably find a handful, but nothing that’s more robust than a QWERTY-packing text machine or a sluggish touchscreener. That’s the space that Nokia occupies here and now: low-end phones that wouldn’t make a potential customer blink twice.

Simply put, these Windows Phones will be the first high-profile Nokia launches in years, and Nokia needs to nail it. Here are a few thoughts that may help them win the day.

Consolidate And Conquer:

Nokia and Microsoft’s partnership will certainly play off of people’s name recognition skills, but there’s more to the situation than just leveraging brand names. According to Nokia U.S. boss Chris Weber, a spate of Windows Phones will be hitting multiple carriers come next year. I think Nokia could stand to pare down their portfolio, and focus on pushing out a few killer devices.

If anything, Microsoft’s OS helps out here — unlike Android which pops up on what seems like 50 phones a month, Windows Phone only ever goes to a select few. Should Nokia concentrate on pushing out a few great phones at great prices, they’ve got a better chance at making their mark than if they go with the shotgun approach. Not to mention that by focusing on fewer handsets, each device gets a bigger slice of the advertising budget. Awareness is key here, and it’s been quite a while since Nokia has enjoyed any in the States.

Focus On The Salespeople:

Mananging product lines are only half of the equation — Nokia isn’t going to get anywhere without carrier support. Those relationships are probably pretty dicey at this point too, considering that the only carriers that sell Nokia devices on contract are AT&T and T-Mobile, and even then it’s all low-end stuff. If Nokia knocks the first few launches out of the park, Nokia stands to gain back much of the carrier support they’ve lost over the years.

How can Nokia prepare for a strong launch? By making nice with retailers and their staff — if they don’t care, then a fair number of potential customers won’t either. The more aware salespeople are of Nokia’s Windows Phones and what they have to offer, the more likely they are to come up in the middle of a sale. HP, for example, gave rooms of salespeople free Veer 4Gs to get people comfortable with them.

Sure, the device didn’t last long in general, but I daresay Veers made it to more customers because of that stunt since salespeople had a better understanding of the Veer’s capabilities and intended niche. I’m not saying Nokia has to give away their hardware, but training events and outreach efforts can only help retail execution.

A big retail push is also critical because Nokia’s biggest competition in the smartphone space probably comes from the iPhone. Both companies position themselves as offering elegant smartphone solutions, so the more salespeople are aware of iPhone alternatives (especially aggressively priced ones), the more likely it is to get a nod in front of a customer.

Forgive me if I sound extra-bullish here, but Nokia’s new handsets (specifically the Lumia 800) are the first that have made me yearn for a Windows Phone. I’m certainly not a run-of-the-mill user, but I don’t think that appeal ends with me. It may well be the right software in the right package at the right time. But unless Nokia makes these next few months count, it may not matter.