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Important Lessons We Learned When Expanding to a Global Market

Expanding to new markets is an exciting venture for many entrepreneurs and CEOs. It pushes business owners to think about a broader market and opens the door to a larger footprint. Many businesses have managed to strategically launch in other countries, however, there were a number of lessons learned along the way. Here is some advice that business leaders wished they had known before taking their organization global. 

ON TIMING: 

Diego Caicedo, co-founder and CEO of OmniBnk, noted that this process can take a lot of time and resources, regardless of size. If your company does not have the time and team needed to be involved in global expansion, it may not be the right time. "Companies should evaluate whether or not expansion is indeed beneficial, or if it will only take away from their core business," Caicedo said. "It may be better to serve one country well than several countries poorly." 

ON LANGUAGE BARRIERS: 

A few businesses have learned that hiring bilingual staff is extremely helpful when it comes to translating. Barriers in languages not only happen in translations, but laws and terminology vary from coast to coast. According to Josh Robinson, vice president of franchising and development for Pearle Vision suggests hiring a lawyer and translator from the country you’re moving to. He also suggests getting a local person’s perspective to understand the culture and how your tiniest move could affect the market for some consumer goods and services outside the U.S. 

ON CURRENCY: 

In some instances, it is necessary to set up a separate foreign business entity and bank account when dealing with business overseas. Tax codes, business regulations, and even standards for packaging differ across the globe. Trevor Cox, chief financial officer for DataCloud International Inc. – which has offices in the U.S., Canada and Australia – said compliance was the biggest challenge DataCloud faced when expanding overseas. Additionally, foreign banks may not assist businesses due to the burden of working with a U.S.-based account, so you may have to set up a separate foreign business entity and bank account to make handling transactions worthwhile for the banks. "It took just as long to set up a local bank account, with many banks declining to work with us because we were too small," Cox said. "We had to switch to an international bank, which had offices in Australia." 

ON EMPLOYEE BUY-IN:

Whirlpool CEO David Whitwam said it takes time to get complete employee buy-in when scaling globally. Business owners should not expect the transition to happen overnight. “Bear in mind that we have many, many employees in our manufacturing plants and offices who have been with us for 25 or 30 years. They didn’t sign up to be part of a global experience… Suddenly we give them new things to think about and new people to work with. We tell people at all levels that the old way of doing business is too cumbersome.” Take time to build trust within your organization and work toward sharing your vision with your employees. Help them understand that the benefits of expansion include utilizing resources from international shareholders creates value to everyone - including them. There will always be lessons to learn along the way as you grow your business. We at Castus Global have been through global expansions for hundreds of organizations. We understand the critical data points, the markets, and everything in between when it comes to business development, and we are here to help so that the “advice you wish you knew” is covered from the very start. 

It’s Time. Go Global. 

There is no better time than now to consider global expansion. Our years of experience entering global markets can ensure you have the research to support the decision, along with a strategy to successfully implement. For more information on our global business development services, contact us via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or submit a form on our contact page.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin @belart84 from Pexels 

How to Start a Business: Eight Tips I Wish I Knew Three Years Ago 

1. Get coffee 

Get coffee with anyone and everyone (in the beginning) and be willing to listen. When I was first starting my company, I thought I knew exactly what we would be doing and how we would be doing it. But after talking with a number of folks, and learning from their experiences, I realized that I needed to adjust my approach. I needed to expand some initial areas and narrow focus in others. Early in your company’s life-cycle, try to be a sponge. Your best idea could come from anywhere or anyone. 

2. Prioritize your time 

After you have visited every coffee shop in town and you’ve become a regular at the local lunch spot, learn to say “no”. When you are starting your company, especially if you are the only one, your time is absolutely the most valuable asset. Guard it with your life. Constantly assess whether you are spending your time in the most valuable place. In business terms “what’s the potential ROI of this meet & greet”? Are you likely to land a big account from the lunch meeting, or are you wasting two hours chatting about the weather, sports, and vacation plans? Save that for the weekend, when you (might) have time for beers with your mates. 

3. Develop (and stick with) a routine 

One of the greatest allures of owning your own business is that you can work whenever, wherever you want. But for those of us who are not able to stay on track without some rigidity in a daily schedule, it can be a death sentence. The first few months of owning my business, I spent most of my days bouncing from task to task and doing things as I remembered them. Add client work and deadlines to the mix, and it can get real messy real quick. So, I came up with a system that worked for me. I begin every week with “Business Ops” time which is when I pay bills, organize my CRM, do sales projections, and other general business tasks. The rest of my week is focused on Client work either by myself or in meetings. Friday’s are generally reserved for “Business Development”. This is when I research new leads, follow up with contacts, and make sense of the Sales Pipeline. If you chunk your time for specific activities, you’ll be less likely to bounce around and your time will be infinitely more efficient. 

4. Flexibility has value 

As a business owner, cost control should always be top-of-mind. But there are times when paying a premium isn’t worth it. My wife and I decided we would try my new business for at least six months and then assess whether or not to continue. Six months can be a pretty short time frame, especially when trying to setup an appropriate infrastructure for your new venture. And most support systems (web hosting, email, software, office space) will offer you a price break for signing a one-year agreement. The price reduction is valuable…. only if you need all twelve months! Allow yourself some flexibility in the agreements you sign or products you purchase. You may have a completely different set of needs four months down the road. 

5. Invest in your future 

Again, cost control is important. But remember, your time is most valuable. That rule trumps everything else. If you can invest wisely in a few tools to make your life easier, keep you organized, and promote a professional look – it will be worth it now and later when your business scales. We invested in a robust FTP file services from day one. It was a little larger than we actually needed in the beginning, but it’s now the backbone of our file storage. We send / receive files with clients on a daily basis. Also, QuickBooks has made my life so much easier. I can categorize expenses on my phone whenever I have a few minutes. The initial investments were costly and a bit scary when we first began, but they have become invaluable as we have grown. 

6. Get a business credit card 

Aside from the fact that you may need a credit card to occasionally help bridge expenses, most business cards will give you cash back for your purchases. In the first 8 months of business, we received more than $600 cash back just for charging normal operating expenses to our card and paying it off each month. Some of your vendors may levee a fee for paying by credit card, but if its less than your cash back percentage, you’ll still make money! And every dollar counts when you own your own business. 

7. Enjoy your freedom 

Because you can (and will) work at all times of the day, you might start to believe you should be working all the time. After all, isn’t that what being a business owner is about? Hustling all the time, never sleeping, and always working. Well, eventually that pace will catch up with you. And when you crash because you’ve been burning the candle at both ends, you’re no good to your clients or your family. I’m not suggesting you can get by with three-hour workdays. But I am suggesting that owning your own business is a lifestyle choice. For some people, the prospect of making more money is what is most appealing, but for me, it’s the flexibility and ownership I have with my time. 

8. Expect to have bad days 

As the cliché goes “if it were easy, everyone would do it”. I cannot foresee whether your business will be successful, but I can say with certainty that you will have difficult days. Days when your clients are driving you crazy, or you lose an account, or you just feel uninspired. Each person has their own mechanism for dealing with such frustrations. For me, its enjoying my freedom (see above) and playing golf or going for a run. Whatever your “tool” may be, keep it sharp and don’t be afraid to use it. Owning my own business has been more challenging than I ever thought it would be, but after the first three years it’s been the most rewarding journey of my career. Best of luck to you and congrats on getting this far! 


Damon Claus 

Chief Executive Officer, CASTUS

Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

Amazon’s 5 Industry Disrupting Tactics and How You Can Adopt Them, Too

There are many things that the richest man on Earth knows, but most importantly, Jeff Bezos knows business.

As the founder, chairman, CEO and president of Amazon, he has managed to create a $233 billion empire. In 2018, Amazon was listed as the largest internet company over other American corporations like Facebook, Netflix, and even Google. It’s no secret that Bezos has managed to find the right methods to shake up the industry and create lifelong buyers. We’ve compiled a list of suggestions using Amazon’s disrupting tactics that all businesses can modify to help increase customer loyalty and revenue.

1. Affiliate marketing programs & partnerships

Amazon created the Amazon Marketplace in the early 2000s as a way to compete with eBay’s model of allowing anyone to sell goods on their site. Using this e-commerce platform, users can gain access to Amazon’s customer base to reach a larger audience and make sales. These third-party sales account for around 31% of Amazon’s annual sales.

There are a few ways that entrepreneurs and business leaders can adopt this tactic. First, it’s important to identify the right partners and affiliates that make sense to their customers. Retailers should sell local artists’ work or products from small businesses in their shop. Local spaces could consider hosting speaking events or small concerts with local performers.

2. Create loyal customers through incentives

On average, Amazon Prime members spend $1,300/year on Amazon, while non-Prime members spend an average of $700/year. Why the significant jump? Incentives. Amazon’s customers can’t resist the free two-day shipping, free Amazon music and video content, and the many other benefits which come with the $99 yearly subscription deal. Further proof that customer loyalty programs are a valuable effort is the ever increasing 100 million Amazon Prime subscribers.

Additionally, Amazon has used its strategic purchase of Whole Foods Market to discount products for Prime members. Customers are able to order groceries to be picked up at their local Whole Foods, or have them delivered right to the front door. Loyalty programs are a great way to create repeat customers. It also gives better insight into what

customers are buying. A loyalty program may give customers free merchandise, rewards, coupons, or even advanced released products. Business owners can use a tier system to reward initial loyalty and encourage more purchases. Start by presenting customers with small rewards (minor discounts, free shipping, etc.) to introduce them into the program, gradually increasing the value of the rewards for more frequent consumers.

There are other ways to create a loyal client base if you are not a retail organization. Reward clients that have worked with you for a while by reducing their price or bundling the services that you offer. Again, you can partner with third-parties to offer complementary services that you may not be able to provide. Another big opportunity to build trust and client loyalty is to run referral programs through their network. If a client can refer someone else to your business, offer them a reduced rate or create a partnership with them.

3. Don’t be afraid to make it a deal

In addition to their offers to Prime members, Amazon also suggest bundling purchases so customers can save on shipping. For example, customers can get free shipping on book orders of over $25 or free shipping for bundling products over $35. This is how a single purchase can grow into a multiple item purchase.

Amazon has also managed to create a subscription service which automates how often customers receive frequently purchased products like toilet paper, dog food, and even protein powders. Depending on how frequently the customer likes to receive these products (every 2-weeks, 4-weeks, etc.) Amazon knocks off a percentage of the order cost.

Amazon Day, Prime Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just some of the specific days of the year where Amazon offers exclusive discounts and rates on purchases. For the most part, these deals are offered to both Prime and non-Prime members, although, ultimately, those that are part of the loyalty program reap better benefits.

If you’re wondering how to use these for your business, consider holding time-limited sales or events. Create demand by offering incentives to your loyal customers. Reduce rates for clients or partners who want to bundle your services. If you’re holding a large speaking event, provide something extra for your attendees like complimentary breakfast or a take-home bag. Bonus points if you can offer them your services at a lower cost for attending.

4. Upsell like a pro

Amazon’s technology has always been at the forefront of utilizing data to create a customer experience. In business, knowing your audience and catering to their preferences. Amazon’s algorithm can determine what customers are likely to buy before they even realize they’re ready to buy it. Have you noticed that whenever you’re ready to purchase an item, lists of other recommended items are strategically displayed underneath? These suggestions are based on data indicating that previous consumers who purchased this specific product also tended to purchase items that complemented them well.

It should be at the forefront of every salesperson's mind - both in sales and in retail - to always find ways to upsell with services and products that make sense to the consumer. Truly knowing the benefit of add-ons can not only make your customers happy but can ultimately help you close larger sales.

5. Think: customer experience over everything

This leads us to customer experience. From the personalized emails to personal assistants in

your homes, Amazon is the king of customer experience. Connecting with your customers should be one of the most important things you learn in business. The more you can relate to them and cater to their needs, the more loyal they become. Some of the ways that Amazon has been able to assist and relate to their customers are:

  • PERSONAL: Sending automated personalized emails to customers. Additionally, they

    send triggered emails when a shopping cart has been abandoned, which in most cases,

    leads the consumer back to the site to complete the transaction.

  • EASY: Adjusting the checkout process to be as simple as 1-click. If the customer’s

    information is already in Amazon, they can skip adding to the car and go straight into confirming payment and address before placing the order.

  • INNOVATIVE: Introducing the Amazon Echo as a way to shop with just your voice. “Alexa, order cat food,” is a simple command that actually orders the product so no one even has to jump online.


How can business leaders customize their own experience? Know your customers. Use email marketing to segment them into lists by their specific interests. Not everyone needs all of the services or products that you have. Chances are there are specific parts of your business that work for select people - cater to each individual group to see a more successful response. Always be willing to accept feedback from your customers and clients. Even if it’s as simple as “offer better sales on Tuesday” or slightly more complex like, “add a search bar to your website” - do what you can to hear their concerns, ultimately making it easy to buy!

Tying it all together

Jeff Bezos has managed to become a billionaire by forward thinking and creating strategies that form lifelong customers. These tactics and the ability to be constantly thinking long term can help businesses dominate their industries.

IT’S TIME. GO GLOBAL. 

There is no better time than now to consider global expansion. Our years of experience entering global markets can ensure you have the research to support the decision, along with a strategy to successfully implement. For more information on our global business development services, contact us via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or submit a form on our contact page.

Photo from Piotr Cichosz on Unsplash

Meet the Panelists for our Scaling Globally Event

We are thrilled to host our first Scaling Globally event on June 6th, 2019. As we draw closer to the event we want to introduce our esteemed panelists. Throughout this article you will get to know some of Pittsburgh’s most innovative tech experts and what they have to offer for our global discussion.

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Denis Meinert, Head of Finance at Duolingo

Meet Grove City and IUP alum Denis Meinert. Denis serves as Duolingo’s Head of Finance. In his role, he forecasts, assesses risk, and implements long-term profitability strategies for the free language-learning application.

Duolingo’s roots lie in the art of teaching new global languages, so it is no secret that Denis is exceptionally qualified to speak to what it means to scale globally. With an application deeply rooted in diverse language learning courses, Duolingo must constantly adapt their cutting-edge application to global markets.


Sameer Kshirsagar, Head of Supply Chain and Business Operations at Uber Advanced Technology Group

Give a warm welcome to our next panelist, Sameer Kshirsagar. Sameer boasts an impressive educational background, starting at Virginia Tech and earning his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, then moving on to earning his M.S. in Manufacturing Management from Kettering University, and lastly earning his MBA from Ohio State University. On top of these accomplishments, Sameer holds certifications in Supply Chain from the University of Texas at Austin and Strategies and Leadership in Supply Chain from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

Sameer serves as the Head of Supply Chain and Business Operations at Uber Advanced Technologies Group. Uber ATG is the self-driving autonomous vehicle operation headquartered in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. Uber ATG is lucky to have Sameer’s extensive experience in supply chain management, quality operations, engineering and lean manufacturing. We’re thrilled that Sameer is part of our panel!

Kevin Dowling, CEO at Kaarta

We are honored to introduce Kevin Dowling, the CEO of Kaarta. Kevin’s education is rooted in Carnegie Mellon’s world-class programs in mathematics, robotics, and computer science. Kevin graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with his PhD in Robotics and Computer Science.

His company, Kaarta, is paving the road of 3D technology. Kevin and the Kaarta team create 3D models and maps of the real world in real time, and then integrate them into existing workflows. Kevin is also the founder of Pittsburgh Robotics Network which is devoted to addressing commonly found issues in the local robotics industry.

We’ll let Kevin’s LinkedIn biography explain just how significant of an asset he is to our panel:

“At the intersection of science and business, I've been fortunate to be a member of leadership teams that have propelled early-stage companies with advanced technology to industry leadership, as well as an IPO and $800M exit. Strong and effective experiences in engineering, R&D, supply chain, and IP. I love to build teams, products, tech, and companies.”


Mary Koes, Product Manager at Google

Mary Koes, Product Manager at Google, is another incredible success story that comes out of CMU’s Robotics Institute. Prior to joining Google, Mary worked at the innovative juvenile company, 4moms, for over 9 years.

As VP of Technology, she spent time setting strategic IT visions to enable growth, improve efficiency, and streamline service across multiple business units. In addition, she was an integral member of the leadership team with her prior experience as VP of Operations. In this role, Mary oversaw the design, development and general oversight of all products.

As you can tell, Mary’s experience in technology and operations is the perfect match for our panel. Now, Mary is a Product Manager at leading search company, Google, and we can’t wait to hear her insights.


Steven Murray, Senior International Trade Specialist at US Commercial Service

Since our panel will focus on the current global business climate, we knew we needed an expert who focuses solely on this process. This is where Steven Murray, Senior International Trade Specialist at the US Commercial Service, comes in!

Steven is joining us with over 20 years at the US Commercial Service. His skills lie in international trade, export controls, and international relations. His extensive experience will tie our entire panel together, as we discuss how Pittsburgh companies can expand across the globe.


If you haven’t secured your tickets for our inaugural Scaling Globally panel, make sure you do so now. Proceeds from ticket sales will be benefiting charities chosen by our panelists. Charities include:

Our panel is on Thursday, June 6th from 5pm to 8pm, and tickets are $35. Tickets include networking hour, the panel, two drinks, and appetizers. You can purchase them at this link.


It’s Time. Go Global.

There is no better time than now to consider global expansion. Our years of experience entering global markets can ensure you have the research to support the decision, along with a strategy to successfully implement. For more information on our global business development services, contact us via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or submit a form on our contact page.

We Compiled Iconic Leaders’ Hiring Advice, So You Don’t Have To

You posted the job requirements, you’ve reviewed the resumes, but when it comes to making the best hiring decisions for your company, you can never be too prepared. Even some of the most successful business leaders have run into making the wrong hires. Years of trial and error and learning from mistakes has led to a broader understanding of finding the right employees.


To save you the time and energy in hiring quality candidates, we’ve compiled some of the world’s most iconic business leaders’ hiring advice that can hopefully help you through your hiring journey.

Hire Someone You’d Work For - Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook

“I will only hire someone to work directly for me if I would work for that person… if Facebook just disappeared and I had to go find something else to go do, then I’d be happy to go work for that person.”


Mark Zuckerberg’s advice should resonate well with business owners and leaders. Look for the candidates that you feel would be someone you could potentially learn from and work alongside. An old hiring adage is to always hire people who are smarter than you. When interviewing, ask questions that give you better insight for the person’s knowledge and leadership skills. If they are someone you could see yourself working for if the roles were reversed, consider adding them to your team.

Cool, Curious, and Connected  - Mindy Grossman, CEO, WW

“I hire for the human first, and then the resume, to a degree. There are table stakes for me. Humanity, values, a clear path that someone has taken, where they've made thoughtful and strategic decisions, not just to get that one leg up necessarily. That they've been able to take risks, and sometimes rebound from them or sometimes they've not been successful but then they've course corrected. That they're very honest and transparent about that.”

The CEO of WW (formerly Weight Watchers), Mindy Grossman, only hires people that she finds interesting, thoughtful and curious - or cool, curious, and connected. She feels that people who are all of these things are not only multifaceted but are most likely interesting enough to have a large network. The benefit of hiring someone with these traits is that it’s almost like hiring multiple people. Really get to know the person you are hiring by asking them questions that require them to open up about some of their greatest accomplishments outside of the office and who they know.


Are They Happy? - Barbara Corcoran, CEO, The Corcoran Group

Real estate mogul and Shark Tank Investor Barbara Corcoran is as experienced as they come when looking to hire good employees. During an interview with The New York Times, she mentioned that the best way to field employees is to ask them about their family.

“If their family couldn’t give them a positive attitude, there’s nothing I can do that’s going to change it.”

This advice came from the discovery that people who are good at their jobs, aren’t always pleasant people. If someone doesn’t light up when talking about things most people love, then they may simply not be a happy person. Corcoran also noted that having “just one unhappy person in a pool of 20 happy people, you feel that weight.”

Expose Them to the Team - Steve Jobs, CEO, Co-Founder, Apple Inc.

“When we hire someone, even if they are going to be in marketing, I will have them talk to the design folks and the engineers.”

The late Apple Inc. co-founder and CEO had one mission: have other employees get to know how interviewees operate. It should come as no surprise that Apple Inc. is a collaborative work environment, encouraging all team members to work together on business strategy and process to create new and efficient products.

Steve Jobs encouraged job candidates to speak to a dozen key team members across his organization in order to truly size up how well they work in a team-centric company. Interviewing for a design position with head engineers could help Jobs hire people who could talk the talk, and walk the walk. Experienced candidates have been turned down for job opportunities even if one interviewer had concerns.

Culture Over Everything - Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos

Zappos has been known as leaders when it comes to company culture. They have a pretty extensive culture assessment where they ask behavior-based questions to determine whether or not the candidate is a good fit for them. The questions that they ask focus on customer service, how they embrace change, how they communicate, whether they are open minded or not, are they eager to learn more, and even if they feel they’re fun to be around.

“We’ve actually passed on a lot of smart, talented people that we know can make an immediate impact on our top or bottom line but if they’re not good for our culture then we won’t hire them for that reason alone.”

Look At Their Character - Warren Buffett, CEO, Berkshire Hathaway

“Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don't have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it's true. If you hire somebody without [integrity], you really want them to be dumb and lazy.”

Warren Buffett believes integrity is the most important character trait. Integrity is the practice of being honest and showing moral uprightness in all that one does. It’s admitting when mistakes have been made, even when it comes at a cost. If an employee can’t hold themselves accountable for their own actions, they can’t be relied on to help build team trust. People without integrity are also not individuals you would promote into a leadership position. In fact, a 2016 study proved that integrity is the most important leadership attribute as it is a representation of a manager’s character.

Personality is Key - Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group

Like Buffet, Richard Branson hires based on personality, saying,

“Most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality. If you can find people who are fun, friendly, caring and love helping others, you are on to a winner.”

Branson also notes that people’s full personalities may not come out in interviews, but it’s important to use your own judgement of character. Don’t get fully hung up on qualifications, when you have the right mix of people on your team, you are sure to see growth and success. He has also said in the past to not hire friends. Instead of pulling from your friend and family base, it is imperative to make sure you hire qualified candidates who meet the criteria of your specific job requirements.

It’s Time. Go Global.

There is no better time than now to consider global expansion. Our years of experience entering global markets can ensure you have the research to support the decision, along with a strategy to successfully implement. For more information on our global business development services, contact us via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or submit a form on our contact page.


A Conversation with our Key Account Manager, Abby DiBenedetto

Fun Facts:  Dog Lover  Aspiring Fly Fisher  Marathon Runner  Graduate of the Introductory Sommelier Exam, Court of Master Sommeliers

Fun Facts:

Dog Lover

Aspiring Fly Fisher

Marathon Runner

Graduate of the Introductory Sommelier Exam, Court of Master Sommeliers

What is your role at Castus?

As a Key Account Manager at CASTUS, my focus is always on building strong, trusted relationships with our clients. We work together in order to identify and understand their needs then transition into developing strategy and implementing solutions that help them achieve long-term success. I’m new to the CASTUS team, but not new to the business of client service. My entire career has been filled with fantastic partners that I value immensely.

What is your education background?

I attended Allegheny College, a liberal arts institution in Meadville, PA. I was drawn to Allegheny because the school encouraged and embraced unusual combinations. I was able to explore the many areas of study that piqued my interest (everything from Marine Biology to Art History!) – while still graduating on-time. In the end, I received my Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts, minor in Economics. I chose to major in Communications because I love working with and learning from people.

At Graduation, I received the Philo-Franklin Oration Prize, awarded to one member of the graduating class for outstanding achievement in the field of speech communication.

What is your experience with consulting?

My background is in international business and product development with a total of 8 years’ experience in retail/consumer goods. I spent 5 years working in the Juvenile Industry at 4moms where my main responsibility was to grow international sales and brand awareness with a focus on our largest market, the UK. I truly embedded myself in the market, living in Manchester for three months where I had the opportunity to work directly with our distribution partner in order to build relationships with key retailers and strategically grow the business.

At DICK’s Sporting Goods HQ, I was able to further sharpen my retail skills and geek-out on product full-time! As a member of the PD Product Management Team, I was responsible for driving innovative product strategy, creating an effective development calendar, and delivering key financial results for owned brand apparel.

What led you to become a consultant?

I love the long-term relationships that the role allows for us to develop with our clients. Helping them achieve success is the BEST feeling.

What is your most memorable experience from traveling for a client?

I was fortunate enough to have a client take me to a Manchester United vs Liverpool football game at the iconic Old Trafford Stadium. Manchester fans give our Steelers fans a run for their money!  

What was the most rewarding ROI you’ve seen from your work with a client?

As most of my experience is based in retail, I love seeing sales! After building a product/assortment/pricing or promo strategy, the most rewarding thing is seeing strong sell through.

It’s Time. Go Global.

There is no better time than now to consider global expansion. Our years of experience entering global markets can ensure you have the research to support the decision, along with a strategy to successfully implement. For more information on our global business development services, contact us via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or submit a form on our contact page.


A Conversation With Our Account Coordinator, Hannah Vaccaro

Fun Facts:  NH Native  Ice cream enthusiast  Marathon Runner  Aspiring "So You Think You Can Dance" contestant

Fun Facts:

NH Native

Ice cream enthusiast

Marathon Runner

Aspiring "So You Think You Can Dance" contestant

What is your role at Castus?
I hold the position of Account Coordinator at Castus. I joined the team at the beginning of January through a rotating job placement program within an organization called the Pittsburgh Fellows. As account coordinator, my primary responsibilities include running day-to-day Castus operations, identifying business development opportunities for the company, and working with the team to develop growth strategy plans for new partners.

Where did you go to school?

I attended Grove City College, and graduated in May of 2018 with a B.S. in Entrepreneurship.

What is your experience with consulting?

Although new to the consulting industry, it’s been an interest of mine for a long time. Throughout college, I participated in every business plan or elevator pitch competition offered. I absolutely loved crafting the perfect pitch deck and finding the right narrative to pitch solutions to prospective customers. The entire startup process excites me like nothing else, and partnering with a startup has always been a personal aspiration. Consulting with our partners about best development strategies is both exciting and energizing to me as a startup junkie!

How will working at Castus give you a leg up in your career?

Operating in a true startup mentality, Castus allows me to identify new ways to help grow the business, improve efficiency, and develop the company culture. Working in consulting is an exceptional training grounds for a business development and entrepreneurial career. I have the opportunity to gain a wealth of knowledge in a short amount of time, since crafting a growth strategy requires a working understanding of multiple company facets. Daily, I have to use problem-solving skills while simultaneously learning and adapting to new trends. Working and collaborating with various partners, I get exposure to a wide array of industries; a perfect foundation for any business-oriented career. At Castus, I am continuously learning, being challenged, and valued; pillars that I firmly believe will develop and carry me forward professionally.

It’s Time. Go Global.

There is no better time than now to consider global expansion. Our years of experience entering global markets can ensure you have the research to support the decision, along with a strategy to successfully implement. For more information on our global business development services, contact us via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or submit a form on our contact page.


Survive or Thrive: How Iconic Brands are Adapting to Customer Demands

Adapt /əˈdapt/ - verb

Gerund or present participle: adapting

Definition: Make (something) suitable for a new use or purpose; modify.

Used in a sentence? Brick and mortar locations must adapt to the fast-paced, modern world to ensure continued support from the consumer.

We invite you to take a moment to reflect on the incredible shifts that have taken place over the last decade in the retail and consumer goods industry. Reminisce on Saturday mornings swiftly walking through your local mall, dropping in to each store to catch a deal with your poorly-cut out coupons from the Sunday paper. Now, fast-forward to today: cell phone in hand, online shopping cart, only “4:56” until your promotional code expires, flash sale, get a monthly subscription box and save 20%!

Phew, that was a whirlwind. This vast transformation is a result of the new and agile technological advancements that have taken the world by storm. The rapid changeover has done a number on some of the world’s most iconic brands but has also offered opportunity for growth and reclaimed glory for some, too. We narrow the present-day opportunities down to a core business decision: As a company are you willing to take a chance on your consumer through advancing with the times, or will you stay in your comfort zone and hope your consumers will stick around?

All Aboard the Struggle Bus

Survive /sərˈvīv/ - verb

Definition: continue to live or exist, especially in spite of danger or hardship.

Used in a sentence: Some companies are just surviving in today’s post-strip mall world.

As fashion trends continue to change, we’ve seen a lot of brands fail to survive. It may come as a surprise though, that stores like Victoria’s Secret, JCPenney, and Gap fall among stores that could not withstand the test of time.

Once a popular lingerie and yoga pants store for teenage girls and younger women is no longer that. Victoria’s Secret has lost over 3.8 million customers since 2017, with stocks dropping more than 40% in the past year alone. The biggest reason for their decline doesn’t come as a shock for most - they simply aren’t catering to the demands of their customers. In a self-accepting decade where women are encouraged to be body positive, Victoria’s Secret has stuck to their roots of airbrushed models and push ups. Women are asking for newer, modern products and the brand has repeatedly failed to deliver.

Instead, consumers are directing their purchases to fashion lines with more body positive messaging like ThirdLove, Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty, and even Aerie by American Eagle. Because of Victoria’s Secret’s reluctance to change their products and image, they will close 53 stores in 2019.

Suffering the same fate as Victoria’s Secret, JCPenney also took a hit during the fourth quarter, losing 4% of sales. Although their struggle isn’t necessarily a new one (they’ve been trying to reclaim their popularity status from discount retailers since 2006), they haven’t been able to recover profit in over a decade.

When former Apple retail chief Ron Johnson took over as JCPenny chief executive, he completely changed their entire business model, targeting marketing efforts at wealthy shoppers instead of their actual demographic - the low and middle-income consumers. Without any insight on their customer base, Johnson got rid of JCPenney’s coupons and changed the logo to create more of a “best-in-class” brand. In 2012, sales plunged $4.3 billion.

Penney’s would continue to lose sight of their target audience, continuously changing direction until they no longer had anywhere else to go. Without a CEO and no clear vision of their brand, the future does not look good for JCPenney.

Know your Customer then Serve your Customer

Thrive /THrīv/ - verb

Definition: to grow or develop well or vigorously, to prosper and flourish

Used in a sentence: Consumer brands are thriving on consumer trends and the successful model that Amazon has brought to the present-day economy.

Stylish, trendy shoewear isn’t enough to draw people into DSW anymore. Shoes are one of the only products in the apparel family that run pretty true-to-size across the board. Unlike pants, especially for women, where each brick-and-mortar boutique offers sizing inconsistencies. Take, for example, this trend from a few years back, where women showed the size variations in pants across different apparel brands. So, when online shoe havens like Zappos [Amazon-owned] and JustFab [Subscription-based] began to take DSW consumers by storm, CEO Roger Rawlins knew something had to change. In order to entice women to shop, the store tested out two nail salons in Ohio. They found that women who were going to get routine nail maintenance, were staying to make shoe purchases in the store.

DSW also created a new loyalty program that gives members exclusive promotions and events - putting them up against their subscription-based competitors. With the loyalty program, they are able to get better insight of their customers and know how they like to spend money. This allows DSW to better tailor promotions and trends to their target market.

Identifying how consumers purchase is a big step for brands that last.

Back in 2012, it was almost over for Best Buy. Not only did they have personal issues with their CEO at the time, they were beginning to lose business to the king of internet sales and competitive pricing, Amazon. When Hubert Joly took over as CEO in 2012, he invested in his people and encouraged his employees to be authentic. It no longer was about the number of sales in a day, but how educated and helpful Best Buy employees were. After all, happy employees make happy customers. In order to better serve the customer, Joly partnered with large brands to showcase their products so customers had options to test electronics before investing in the purchase.

In order to continue competing with Amazon, Joly installed the practice of “price-matching,” which allowed Best Buy to make sales comparable to Amazon’s price slashes.

To ensure the customers are being served properly, Best Buy also started an In Home Advisor program, where consultants are sent to customers homes to help them make decisions on what to purchase. These advisors are paid a salary and are instructed to not get discouraged when they don’t make a sale right away. In fact, their main mission is to foster a relationship with the person that they’re consulting, making sure to provide them with honest information about what products they may need, so that their consultees become lifelong customers.

Overall, complacency in rising changes is an easy but ineffective choice for your business. If you want continued success, you MUST adapt to the times.


It’s Time. Go Global.

There is no better time than now to consider global expansion. Our years of experience entering global markets can ensure you have the research to support the decision, along with a strategy to successfully implement. For more information on our global business development services, contact us via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or submit a form on our contact page.


The Nuances of Segmentation: The Crucial Step Our Clients Always Glaze Over

You’ve started fleshing out the business idea you believe will be the next hottest seller. But before you quit your day job in aspirational hopes of joining the ranks of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, you must know if your offering provides value to a specific customer.

Will a certain type of person or group of people be interested in what you have to sell? Not all customers are created equal; some will be more interested in your offering than others. Not everyone needs a high-tech trash can, not everyone needs the latest social media platform, and not every company needs to buy professional grade hair clippers.

Your goal is to figure out which groups of customers are going to have the highest interest in your product or service. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, this is called customer segmentation, and this is the step most of our clients glaze over time and time again. It’s also the first of three phases in the customer identification process:

  1. Segmenting

  2. Targeting

  3. Positioning

This sounds important (It is). How do I do it?

Segmentation occurs in four specific forms: geographic segmentation, demographic segmentation, psychographic segmentation, and behavior segmentation.

When considering geography, look at different boundaries such as the region, country, population or climate of an area that you are targeting. Demographics are specific qualities of your ideal consumer, so age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, occupation, income and education should be considered. Psychographics include personality, lifestyle, and motivation of the consumer. Behavioral factors will include usage, benefits sought, or loyalty.

Following the defined segmentation process of dividing the market into homogeneous groups, you can move on to targeting: identifying the right segment to pursue. The last step of the process is positioning, which is the process of building a conceptual brand focus around the targeted customer segment.

Strategic segmentation is a pivotal component of strategic planning as it sets the company up for long-term success. When market segmentation is analyzed and communicated, resources can be distributed more effectively through research-backed marketing decisions.

Let’s put it to practice…

1. Segmentation

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B2C Segmentation (Business to Consumer)

An example we like to use to illustrate the entire B2C process is with Rolex. First, we break the general watch market into three segments:

I. Segment 1: Functionality focused - this group will buy a cheap watch simply so they can have the time on their wrist.

II. Segment 2: Fashion focused - these people want a watch for the purpose of looking suave and making a fashion statement.

III. Segment 3: Status watch wearers - People who want to wear the best brands because they can afford it and flaunt it.



2. Targeting

Great! We identified the market segments. Now, which segments make the most sense for Rolex specifically to target? Segment 1 fits more for the Timex brand - a cost-conscious product focused on functionality. Segment 2 could fit Rolex, however, many consumers who want a fashionable watch don’t necessarily want an expensive, artisanally-made watch, but rather a colorful wardrobe accessory. The best, most realistic segment for the Rolex product is Segment 3 - those who want to boldly flaunt the fact that they’ve arrived at the top level of wild success.

3. Positioning

Now, let’s take a look at the current positioning that Rolex promotes:

  • Tagline: The Benchmark for Excellence.

  • Disclaimer at the top of their website reads: Only official Rolex retailers are allowed to sell and maintain a Rolex. They guarantee the authenticity of each and every part of your Rolex, not to mention its reliability over time, helping you make the choice that will last a lifetime.

  • Slogan: Timeless style, recognizable at a glance.

The intentional messaging that Rolex promotes appeals to Segment 3 - their ideal purchaser. In their marketing, they encourage exclusivity, high standards, class differentiation, and style.

B2B Segmentation (Business to Business)

Business-to-business segmentation differs due to a few key factors:

  • Buyers are more “rational” in comparison to B2C

  • Target audiences are smaller than consumer target audiences

  • Markets have fewer behavioral and needs-based segments

That being said, we recommend B2B organizations segment by 3 different measurements: Firmographics, Value, and Needs.

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We rank these three identifications from simplest to most difficult to identify. Firmographics are relatively inexpensive to collect and use. Firmographics can identify meaningful market segments for businesses, nonprofits and governmental entities. The downfall? Conclusions either can’t be drawn or are very limited if you’re ONLY focusing on firmographics for your B2B segmentation.

The next step to enriching your segmentation is to move onto the “value” stage. This approach is forward-thinking because it ranks the importance of a customer/lead based on the most important factor - how much that customer can potentially bring in terms of value. Although value may be an important complement to firmographics, it is still important to move forward to the “needs” stage. Stopping at value and expecting success is unrealistic, as you can’t assume the needs of all customers are the same.

Needs, while they may be the most difficult to identify, are the most fruitful for your business. Have you ever heard of the quote, “Nothing worth having comes easy?” Needs of your customers may be difficult to determine or define, but once this piece is complete, your segmentation strategy becomes highly scalable. Why? Because the marketing and sales team can designate as many needs-based segments as they desire. Whether you are a B2C air freshener company or a B2B manufacturer, understanding your audience is fundamental to the success of your business.


Segmentation is one of the most crucial steps in the strategic planning process, especially when entering new global markets. If you would like an objective eye for your business’ segmentation, please contact us via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or submit a form on our contact page.


Pittsburgh’s Top Tech Leaders Come Together to Serve on Panel about Global Expansion

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NEWS RELEASE

CASTUS

Email: hello@castusglobal.com

April 2, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Pittsburgh’s Top Tech Leaders Come Together to Serve on Panel about Global Expansion

Leaders from Uber ATG, Duolingo, Google, KAARTA and the U.S. Commercial Service will participate in the panel led by Pittsburgh Global Consulting Firm, CASTUS

PITTSBURGH -- The inaugural “Scaling Globally” panel with some of the World’s Top Tech Leaders will be taking place on Thursday, June 6 from 5pm-8pm at a to be announced venue in Pittsburgh.

Serving on the panel will be Head of Supply Chain and Business Operations at Uber Advanced Technology Group, Sameer Kshirsagar, Head of Finance at Duolingo, Denis Meinert,  Product Manager at Google, Mary Koes, CEO of KAARTA, Kevin Dowling and Senior International Trade Specialist with the U.S. Commercial Service, Steven Murray.

The panel will be facilitated by CASTUS CEO, Damon Claus, to centralize the discussion on global expansion for Pittsburgh tech companies. The panelists will be offering insight on the global business climate, what it means to scale your business globally and important lessons they’ve learned as they’ve scaled with their respective companies.

“Now more than ever, companies need to be thinking about the entire world as a potential marketplace for their products and services. Companies like Duolingo, Uber, Kaarta and Google have shown how being ‘globally minded’ can be a catalyst for growth and development,” says Claus. “We’re thrilled that these world-leading organizations call Pittsburgh home and are willing to share insights that can benefit companies of all life-stages.”

Tickets to the event are rolling out on April 2nd at an exclusive early-bird price of $30. The ticket includes the cocktail hour [5-6pm] with two free drink tickets, panel discussion [6-7pm] and a Q+A and Networking hour with Hors d'oeuvres [7-8pm]. Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite and will be on sale until they sell out.

CASTUS is a consulting firm that helps companies navigate the complexities of global business development through years of expertise and proven strategic approach. Damon, founder and CEO, is a manager and motivator with more than 17 years of experience in Client Services. Prior to founding CASTUS in 2016, Damon worked at the world's most innovative juvenile products manufacturer, 4moms, where he managed a network of distribution partners responsible for selling product in more than 50 countries and led a team of sales professionals located around the world.

Today, CASTUS partners with Petco, Prinsel, Spand-Ice, The Motherhood, Milly Button and many more companies, sharing expertise in strategic planning, business development, and product launch to grow them globally. As a company that got its start in the Steel City, we understand the tremendous global talent that calls Pittsburgh home and are proud to sit among their ranks.

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