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Consultants: Your Secret Weapon to Growing Your Business in 2019

Imagine this: you have just finished presenting your 2019 goals and projections to your board of investors. All of the pressure surrounding 2018 and the work that goes into defining measurable success in the new year is over.

January 1, 2019 rolls around - you’re bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the new year.  You sip your morning cup of coffee (or diet coke - and yes, this is a nod to Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos), and you get down to business. It’s time to take action.

  • Who should I talk to first?

  • Do we have the capacity to meet our objectives?

  • Do we have the right people on board?

You realize you have set ambitious growth goals for yourself and your business in 2019, and you’re not sure where to start.

Thankfully, we do.

Goals will stay incomplete without a strategy

Of course your goals will feel lofty and unattainable if you don’t have a strategy or the resources in place to point you in the right direction.

In an article published in Forbes by Senior Associate Dean of International Business and Finance, Bhaskar Chakravorti advises to move beyond typical business class strategy and focus on emerging markets and opportunities.

“It is time to take another look at how we are preparing managers to do business in emerging markets. Business strategy needs to be re-thought and re-learned. If you remain trapped by axioms developed for twentieth century industrialized markets, you will suffer trapped value in the emerging opportunities of the twenty-first century.”

Chakravorti goes on to address business executives by recommending they put aside traditional, by-the-book business principles and approach the present day global climate from a different perspective.

This is where we come in. Our team offers expert insight and the resources you need to meet your defined goals this year. Our punch and competitive advantage lies in the fact that we are analyzing your business from an unbiased point of view. Our objective perspective gives us the opportunity to reassess your existing processes and implement out-of-the-box tactics that will drive growth.

On your mark, get set…

By hiring a consulting firm, you’re investing in the proper expertise and processes to reach your business goals. We pride ourselves in our expertise in strategic planning, but also in our ability to prepare teams for the execution phase.

Once your strategy is complete, you have to be ready to implement. The “readiness” phase is one that many businesses opt out of. If you have the strategy in hand and the willpower to complete your goals - then what’s stopping you?

You may have thought that was a rhetorical question. But, we have three answers to why you should never execute immediately post-strategy:

1) You’re lacking in qualified resources

When speaking solely about global market growth, you will need the right team representing your company on the front lines. Our ability to find your business the right resources is crucial to the success of your strategy. We have hired, trained and managed teams all over the world, so when you need to hire in order to reach your goals, we will be right there beside you.  

2) You haven’t prepared for the possible cause-and-effect of entering a new market

With every key business decision comes a possible response. Whether the response is positive or negative, from investors or from consumers - you and your leadership team need to be prepared to make hard decisions for the future of the company.

As your Trusted Advisors, we will ensure that you and your team are ready to meet your 2019 goals and then some. What are the next steps once you hit your goal? Is this new initiative feasible? We will guide your company and ensure your partnerships are scalable and exponential for years to come.

3) You aren’t sure where to begin
The final step of our strategic planning process is the comprehensive market evaluation. This step will outline the order of strategic implementation that needs to occur to get closer to meeting your goal. Once you have digested the plan, it is crucial that all involved in the execution are fully aware and ready to begin. However, despite having a true action plan, the next steps can appear overwhelming. That’s why we make sure to stick around after the planning period is over.

“Strategy. Readiness. Execution. It’s this philosophy that makes our approach different.”

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Executing your growth plan can be simple with the right support

Many consultants stop assisting once the planning period is over. However, we believe that no opportunity can become a reality without action. We will accompany you and your team through the strategic execution until you feel confident in reaching your goals. We can help execute prospect sales pitches, contract negotiating, new account setup, and provide additional value in many areas of your business.

The defined secret weapon to growing your business is hiring a Trusted Advisor, but the true value is much more than that.  Having a consultant on your team means you can set the most ambitious goals for your business and you’ll feel confident in knowing you have the right resources behind you. You will find unmatched value in our broad experience and our powerful network across the globe.

Be more. Be global.

2019 could be the year your company turns a profit, gains a new audience in a new market, orhits a revenue milestone. Whatever it may be, we are ready to dive in. For more information on our global business development services, contact us via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or submit a form on our contact page.


How to Get Noticed on the Shelf

Congratulations! You have a great product, and you have interest from retailers. In fact, they want to put your product in their stores. Many brands believe “getting on the shelf” is the ultimate goal. They believe securing placement and distribution is the end-game for a product. In actuality, it’s  just the beginning.

If your product is on the shelf and customers don’t notice it – they don’t buy it. If customers don’t buy your product, you’ll be off the shelf in no time and back to where you began – but with one less opportunity. Follow these steps to ensure your product gets noticed and that getting on shelf is only the beginning of your success.

Step One: Why Buy

What motivates a customer to buy your product? What is the “reason to believe” your product will solve their problem? If you can’t answer the question of why a customer should buy your product in a clear and succinct way - they won’t. The reason for customers to believe in your product – the value proposition – must be easily understood and clearly articulated. Know exactly who your ideal customer is and why they need your product.

Step Two: Tell your Story and Communicate the Message

Once you have identified the value proposition, and you have identified the ideal customer for your product – you need to communicate the solution. The adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is incredibly relevant in this situation. Your product will be next to many other products, on a crowded shelf, in an unknown retail setting. If you try to communicate your message to the customer through too many words on a package, or a sign, you’ll get lost in the shuffle. Figure out a way to effectively communicate your message and grab your ideal customer’s attention with minimal text and compelling imagery. You’ll have a much better chance of “standing out” from the crowd.

 Step 3 : Get Prime Real-Estate

Whether on an end-cap or at eye-height on the shelf, improving the physical positioning of your product in stores will encourage customer interaction. Identify opportunities in the physical store space that will call attention to your product and engage customers. Can you setup in the middle of an aisle? Is there a place near the check-out? Perhaps there’s a front window to the store that can showcase your brand? More “facings” for your product means more opportunity for customers to see, and, hopefully, buy your product. And, don’t forget about cross-merchandising. Can your product be merchandised, along with other complimentary products, in addition to the category listing?

 Follow these suggestions when working with retail partners and you’ll be sure to optimize the placement you have worked so hard to achieve. Remember, getting on the shelf is only half the battle. Your product needs to sell and for that to happen – your product needs to be noticed by customers first.

For more advice on how to strategically place your products in the right retail outlets, or build an impactful Sales Process, contact Castus via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or visit our website: http://www.castusglobal.com/


Using Features and Benefits to Bridge the Gap with Customers

Believe it or not, most Salespeople don’t understand the fundamental difference between Features and Benefits, as they relate to the sales process. The good news is that if you grasp the concept, you’ll be able to clearly articulate the value of your product or service to a potential customer. But before we share three keys to leveraging features and benefits, we must ensure you have a solid definition of the terms and can tell the difference between Features and Benefits.

Features

The attributes of a product, program, or service are its features. They are numerous and will almost always outnumber the benefits. For example, a parachute has many features. It can be lightweight, quick-deploy, high strength, and colorful.

Benefits

The benefits a customer receives are the reasons they will care or buy. These can be intangible “feelings” and are often connected to a deeper meaning. Continuing the parachute example above, the benefits of the parachute are simple, but important – it will save your life when falling to the ground.

Now that we have established clear definitions, we’ll share three key concepts to keep in mind when focusing on the features of your product and how they benefit the customer.

Resist Your Training

Most salespeople love to talk about features because they have only been taught (or learned) the details of their product. Features, are easy to remember, and often allow you to physically engage the customer by demonstrating your product or service directly. Finally, features are objective. A new car is either black or blue in color. It either has four-wheel drive or it doesn’t. As a result, explaining the features of a product is generally a “safe place” for the salesperson. But you must resist your training to simply list a number of features for the customer. Move forward in the process and explain HOW the features are relevant to the customer and WHY they should care.

Why Should They Care

If you cannot articulate why a feature matters to a potential customer, then it doesn’t. And if a feature isn’t relevant then it shouldn’t be part of your sales process. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes for a moment and imagine listening to a long list of product features that don’t matter to you. You would not only refuse to buy the product, but you would be annoyed as well! If you have done your homework ahead of meeting with a potential customer and you clearly understand their need, you should be able to connect specific features to their need and ultimately demonstrate value.

Bridge the Gap

All customer problems (needs) are connected to a finite list of universal benefits. These benefits typically relate to money, power, time, prestige, self-understanding, and fear. But the benefits of your product are not always easily interpreted by a potential customer. They need help understanding how the feature(s) of your product will satisfy their need and, in turn, provide some of the universal benefits mentioned above.

When “bridging the gap” you should focus on a specific feature, support it with evidence and/or data, and walk the customer directly to the realization of how it will benefit them by addressing the problem they are trying to solve. Make the connection from feature to benefit and you’re more likely to make the sale as well!

Not all customer needs are the same, so you’ll need to spend the appropriate time understanding what needs you are addressing with your product. But by keeping the above concepts in mind, and by following a measured approach you’ll be able to strategically and methodically move through your product features in a way that will resonate with your potential customers. This will, in turn, make your sales process more engaging and less chaotic!

For more advice on how to explain features and benefits to a potential customer, or build an impactful Sales Process, contact Castus via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or visit our website: http://www.castusglobal.com/


Six Steps for Dealing with Customer Objections

No one likes rejection. And rejection can be especially painful when you are deep in the sales process. While the Castus team has successfully launched hundreds of products in markets all around the world, we have faced our fair share of challenges along the way.

In our experience as International Business Consultants, by following these six steps you’ll be more equipped to deal with customer objections and more likely to close the sale.

Pause

When a customer objects to your solution, your first instinct might be to immediately rebut their objection without giving proper thought to their concern. Don’t panic. Take a deep breath and think critically about what they are saying before you formulate a response. Often, this brief pause will allow you to interpret a deeper meaning.

Restate the objection

After the customer has finished sharing their concern, take a moment to digest it and restate it in your own words. This will ensure you are fully understanding their thoughts and it will allow you to put a positive outlook on the situation. For example, if your customer says, “I have heard your service is terrible” you might try restating their objection as, “It sounds like you have concerns about the quality of our work?” The goal is to keep the conversation moving in a positive direction.

Clarify

After you and the customer have identified their objection, you can now spend time probing for deeper meaning. Often, customers are unable to articulate the full reasoning behind their objection. As a result, you’ll need to dig a little deeper with questions like, “What specifically concerns you?” or “Do you have any data you can share regarding your concerns?” This will allow you to address the core of the objection and ensure you aren’t missing a bigger issue.

Answer the Objection

It can certainly be intimidating when a customer objects to your solution, but it is critical to fully acknowledge and address the objection to the best of your ability. Attempting to dismiss a customer’s concerns sets the entire sales process, and ultimately your partnership, up for failure. By leaning into the customer’s objection you’ll demonstrate that you value their thoughts and you care about finding the right solution to their problem.

It can be incredibly impactful to offer real-world examples of how you have addressed similar problems with previous customers. You can even offer to provide references if you have the ability to do so.

Confirm

If you feel you have fully addressed your customer’s objections, then you should be able to confidently ask them to confirm as much. Don’t over think this step. By simply asking, “Have I adequately addressed your concern?” you should get a direct answer that will tell you whether you have more work to do, or if it’s time to move on to closing the sale.

Transition

It’s important to address customer concerns, but it’s just as critical to keep moving through the sales process and towards closing the sale. Before jumping straight to “the close,” make a smooth transition. Take a moment to thank your customer for openly sharing their concern(s) and acknowledge that you appreciate their transparency. By taking a thoughtful approach, you will again demonstrate the fact that you value your customer’s input, which will ultimately build trust in your partnership.

The above steps assume that your customer is being honest in their responses and not providing “false” or “phony” objections. False objections can be incredibly frustrating, because they are not based in reality or fact. The good news is that by following the same steps outlined above, you will eventually identify the fact that your customer doesn’t actually have an objection, they are simply unwilling to purchase your solution – which actually means they aren’t a qualified customer to begin with!

For more advice on how to navigate objections, identify false objections, or build an impactful Sales Process, contact Castus via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or visit our website: http://www.castusglobal.com/


Three Critical Areas to Consider When Looking for a Distribution Partner

Leveraging distribution partners to accelerate your international expansion can be both an efficient and explosive way to accomplish growth goals. But it’s important to consider all aspects of distributor relationships and how they will impact not only your growth, but also your brand.

Consider these three critical areas when vetting current or potential distribution partners and you will likely save time and money.

capabilities

Are they capable?

This seems like an obvious question to ask when considering a distribution partnership. But too often brands are chasing a purchase order, or the opportunity to enter a new market, and they forget to consider the fundamentals. Can the distribution partner buy, warehouse, distribute, promote, and service your products?

This question should be approached from two angles. Financially speaking, it is important to confirm that any potential partner can fund not only an initial order, but follow-up orders as well. The last thing you want is to have a successful product in market, without the ability to capitalize on demand.

Separate from the financial aspect of a partnership is whether a partner has the physical means to support your business. Do they have enough warehouse space? Can they store products in a safe and clean environment? Do they have delivery AND reverse logistics procedures for your products?

Again, these questions seem obvious, but I have seen many partnerships initiated without site visits, which means you should be very deliberate with your questions regarding the physical logistics of a potential relationship. 

connections

Do they have the proper connections?

One of the main values of partnering with a distributor is their ability to enter a market quickly and professionally. There can sometimes be a miss-conception that distribution partners are nothing more than sales reps with a warehouse. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Many distributors may employ sales reps, but they themselves are not the sales reps. Rather, an effective distribution partner will have strong relations with key channels throughout their market – at the corporate level. 

There is still a critical need for an effective sales team to sell your brand, but having established relationships at a higher level, means your distribution partner will likely be able to speed the sales process for their team and build support for your products throughout (retail) organizations in the form of favorable terms and / or funding. A well-rounded, and effective, distribution partner will not only have resources in key businesses areas, they will know how to leverage them for your mutual success.

Do they have a unique skill set?

By definition, all distributors are businesses. And generally speaking, they follow a similar construct of buying, selling, and promoting products in their local markets. But not all distributors approach business the same way. Some potential partners are focused on high-velocity, quick turns, and big numbers in order to make their business work. Other distributors may work with a limited number of brands, but invest more time and energy in the “brand building” aspect of their products. Neither strategy wrong, but each offer different approaches to how you will structure your partnership, and ultimately your growth in new markets.

unique skill set

One of my personal experiences was with a distributor that did not operate in the same product category as my company's brand. But the distributor was masterful at handling innovative technology and building foreign brands in their home market. We chose to work with this partner instead of others who were in the same product category and we were thrilled with the results. Our partner was not the obvious choice, but because of a unique skill set, they were the perfect choice for us.

Ultimately, the saying “nothing replaces hard work” holds true when considering a distribution partner. If you are diligent with your process, deliberate with your questioning, and you exercise good judgement while considering the questions above - you will be on the path to finding the right partner for your brand.

For more advice on how to maximize your distribution selection process or build an effective International Business Development strategy, contact Castus via email (hello@castusglobal.com). For ongoing tips, trends, and news - visit our website: http://www.castusglobal.com.


Grow Your Business in 2018 With These Two Strategic Moves

Based on headlines about the changing landscape of U.S. retail during 2017, it would be easy to reach the conclusion that Amazon has created chaos and the days of brick and mortar stores are over. The reality is that chaos creates opportunity and there are many (big) retailers that are not only surviving – they’re thriving. As such, the first strategic move brands need to make in order to see growth in 2018 is “pick a winning partner and get behind them.”

Sporting goods giant, Dick’s will open 150 stores by 2018 and general merchandise retailer Burlington has seen positive same-store sales growth since 2012; most recently with 4.5% YoY comps in 2016.

Growth for One Does Not Mean Growth for All

This is not to say that all brick and mortar retailers should (and will) be seeing growth this year. Some retail giants have made questionable decisions and overextended themselves in a difficult time (i.e. Toys “R” Us bankruptcy), but clearly Dick’s and Burlington have found a winning formula. They are proving that the strong – and smart – horses will win the race and stand the test of time in a chaotic and changing landscape.

Yes, Amazon is huge. Yes, Amazon will keep getting bigger. But the reality is that online retail accounts for only 10% of total sales in the U.S. According to a 2017 study by eMarketer, consumers still prefer to shop in-store vs. online in most categories.   

Find a retail partner that has positioned itself to weather the storm, by creating a unique experience for its consumers that cannot be replicated online.  Pick a winning partner and get behind them in 2018.

Think Bigger Than Your Backyard

The second strategic move brands need to make in order to see growth in 2018 is “think globally.”

For many years the U.S. has been the leading market for consumerism. We have been the single largest retail market in the world, while 95% of the population lives outside our borders. But that is about to change. The Diplomat recently reported that China is forecasted to become the largest consumer market in the world from now, until at least 2030.

China’s driving force for this growth is their sheer volume of buyers. It is estimated that by 2020 China will have 400 million “mainstream consumers”. That’s more people than the entire U.S. population - with disposable money and looking for ways to spend it. 

But China isn’t the only market where brands should be focused. Increased wealth, growing eCommerce, and improved logistics networks will make markets like Europe, the Middle East, India, and South America more accessible and more enticing to U.S. brands.

Yes, you should be focused on “winning at home” with a strong strategy for the U.S., market, but there is massive opportunity outside our borders. This year, think globally and you’ll stand a better chance to see long-term growth, as well as short-term gains.

For more advice on how to design the right strategic sales plan or build your business outside the U.S., contact Castus via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or contact us via our website: http://castusglobal.com/contact/


Emerging Markets Have A Strong Outlook For The First Time In A Long Time

For many, the expression "Emerging Markets" is nothing more than a buzz word. A snazzy term used by people to sound informed. The reality is that for many years (while emerging markets have struggled) people have tried to find a more descriptive label, but few alternatives have gained popularity.

The good news is that “Emerging Markets” are actually emerging for the first time in a long time. They are emerging from a period of stagnant growth. They are emerging as real expansion and strategic growth opportunities.

Define and Align

Before we can expand on why these markets have a stronger outlook for global companies, we need to define and align. We must define what an emerging market is, and align on which ones are most important.

Define: For the most part, emerging markets are defined as markets that have established business sectors, like those of developed regions, but lack the robust supporting infrastructure that exists in highly developed countries. Think about China’s retail sector for a moment – incredibly busy, and flush with new brands, products, and services – but the supporting infrastructure of brick and mortar stores (and their complex logistics network) rarely exists outside tier two cities.

Align: Analyst opinions differ when asked to identify all of the world’s emerging markets, but the following markets are widely regarded by all top analysts to be the Big Emerging Markets (BEM’s): China, Brazil, India, Mexico, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, and Turkey.

If we look at these countries as a group, there are three consistent trends that clearly highlight the fact that emerging markets are on an upward trajectory.

Year Over Year Growth

In 2017, the economies of Brazil, Russia, Turkey, and South Africa have all showed annual GDP growth rates above the previous year. In fact, during the middle of 2017 the Wall Street Journal projected that some Emerging Markets could grow by as much as 4.7% in 2017.

Global Trade

Exports represent a larger share of emerging market output when compared to developed economies, making them more reliant on trade. And total world trade in goods accelerated to an average of 4.4%, in volume terms during 2017, an increase from 1.3% in 2016.

Weakening USD

The USD slid as much as 12% against major currencies like the Euro in 2017.  And while a weakening USD may hurt the purchasing power of US-based companies, it means companies outside the US will have increased buying power. For example, the Russian Ruble ended 2016 at an exchange rate of 61 / 1 against the USD. The Ruble did not see a rate this high during all of 2017 and it sits at 57 / 1 against USD as of Jan. 3rd.  

Of course, not all of the future for emerging markets is bright. There is still significant geopolitical uncertainty and instability that could wreak havoc on these growing, and subsequently fragile, markets. Russia’s continued military assertions in Eastern Europe, Korea’s saber-rattling throughout Asia, and the US administration’s protectionism theme could all manifest in economic earthquakes.

Whatever the beginning of 2018 brings, we’re hopeful that after these insights “Emerging Markets” are less confusing and more enticing to those in the business of global trade. It’s a big world out there and the opportunities are endless.


Eurozone Consumer Confidence Is High....Really High.

Consumer Confidence in the Euro Area averaged -12.08 from 1985 until 2017, reaching an all time high of 2.20 in May of 2000 and a record low of -34.60 in March of 2009.

As reported by Trade Economics, the consumer confidence indicator in the Euro Area increased to 0.1 in November 2017 from a downwardly revised -1.1 in the previous month, beating market expectations of -0.8. According to a recent article by the Wall Street Journal,  the steady rise in confidence over the last 12 months has been driven by greater optimism about the outlook for the eurozone economy, which has experienced a tumultuous decade as first the global financial crisis and then the currency area’s debt troubles caused two periods of contraction.

Turn Your Challenges Into Opportunities

What does this mean for US brands looking to tap into the region's buying power, that includes four of the top ten consumer markets in the world? One word - opportunity. As eCommerce surges in developed economies and boarders become more blurred, companies who view the world as a cohesive global marketplace will reap the benefits of strategically planning expansion into areas like the EU.  Those who continue to view international markets as "unreachable" or "non-strategic" are destined to be left behind.

Consumer Confidence in the Euro Area averaged -12.08 from 1985 until 2017, reaching an all time high of 2.20 in May of 2000 and a record low of -34.60 in March of 2009.


How Much Does the "Holiday Shopping Season" Really Matter to Retailers?

Sourced from Stastista: https://www.statista.com/chart/11979/holiday-season-retail-sales/

Sourced from Stastista: https://www.statista.com/chart/11979/holiday-season-retail-sales/

It's no surprise that many retailers rely heavily on the "Holiday Season" to generate a significant percent of annual sales. But does this trend impact all categories and all types or retail the same way?

In-Store Purchases Still Have Their Place

Assuming sales were distributed evenly throughout the year, November and December would account for 17% of total sales for all retailers. So you might be surprised to learn that online retailers only generate 23% of their yearly sales during November and December - a mere 6% increase. It's a pretty interesting point given all of the buzz about online retailers being "brick and mortar killers". The reality is that many shoppers still prefer to experience a purchase in person. Retailers that give shoppers a reason to visit physical stores, by offering a unique "experience", will continue to survive - maybe even thrive.


Opportunity Among Unrest

In an age where the next terrorist attack could come at any moment, or civil unrest might disrupt major markets there is still a trend of optimism among many executives.

In a recent study by McKinsey, respondents reported that they are as bullish on the global economy as they were three months ago. Nearly half said global economic conditions have improved in the past six months.


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