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What I Learned in 2017

By: Greg Seminara,Export Solutions
Topics: Export Strategy

2017 has been a good year for Export Solutions, with Distributor Search projects completed in 24 countries, from China to Cuba,South Africa to Israel,Philippines to Peru,Australia to Germany and of course the USA. I source inspiration and best practices from everyone that I meet along the way: Export Managers, Distributors, and hundreds of retail store checks. After 20 years in international, I am constantly looking for "new ways to solve old problems". Listed below are a few observations from 2017.

1. Currency Fluctuation: the Key Issue for 2017
Strong USA dollar, weak pound and euro. Many emerging market currencies declined at even  more significant rates.  Weak currencies translate to higher shelf prices for our brands. The implication is the need to review our pricing strategy,by country. Retail pricing should be monitored monthly to avoid surprises.

2. USA Opportunity – Bigger than all Emerging Markets Combined ( Overseas Brands)
USA GDP expanded by more than 3 percent. Consumer confidence appears close to a ten year high.
USA features large stores, extensive assortments, and 330 million consumers with purchasing power.
Ten to twenty percent currency declines versus the dollar create the opportunity for many European and Latin American companies to offer a better value to USA consumers or to invest more in marketing. Read our free Selling to the USA Guide for insights and strategies to build your USA business.

3. Stop treating BRIC's,USA, Germany, Mexico etc, like export markets.
Many brands fail to grab the potential of large markets . Why ? They apply the same models to these large strategic markets, as they do to smaller export markets. See our article on BRIC Success Strategies.

4. Invest in People on the Ground in strategic markets
Time after time, I see the winners as exporters that have established small offices in the USA, Dubai, Shanghai, Panama,Sao Paolo etc. These companies are "figuring it out" and dominating distributor attention.

5. Disrupt Organizational Status Quo
Too many rely on repetitive business plans with underperforming distributors resulting in small businesses in countries where your brand should be doing "much better". Managers that are achieving exceptional growth ( 20 % +) are changing distributors, testing high spend plans , and focused against in store presence metrics (KPI's).

6. Spend more Time with Retailers and Visiting Stores
Exporters dedicate too much time "planning and talking" in warm meeting rooms. Our  "University" is buyers meetings and store visits. This is where true insights are discovered and where export dreams get translated to tangible shipments.

7. How can you achieve category leadership at Amazon ?
Amazon's 2017 sales will exceed 170 billion, + 24 % versus previous year . Their 2018 target is $ 190 billion, placing them as # 2 retailer worldwide. Amazon is committed to the food business. Exporters don't need a crystal ball to realize that Amazon could be their largest global customer in the future. What are you selling through Amazon ?

8. Trade Shows are worth the investment
International shows always result in new business opportunities for exhibitors and visitors. Extend your visibility beyond Sial and ISM to Gulfood in Dubai and the USA's Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago. I love Chicago in May. See you there !

9. Call versus Email
Email is an efficient communication tool to quickly cover the world.
However, nothing replaces the intimacy of a personal phone call. 
Call your distributor CEO's, industry contacts, and former bosses.
People ignore emails, but still return phone calls !

10. Select your Distributors versus Letting your Distributors Select you
Many companies distributor networks contain small distributors under performing in strategic countries. Normally , these companies aggressively pursued a strong brand owner and was selected based upon a random phone call or trade show contact, without proper due diligence of multiple candidates. I can confirm that the best distributors rarely wait in line at trade shows or send mass email inquiries. My new motto is "Select your distributors, versus letting your distributors select you !" Export Solutions distributor database covers 96 countries, with an average of 67 distributors per country...so there are always plenty of capable,strategic options to consider. Click here for a free sample distributor list.  

I look forward to new adventures in 2018 ! My goal is to make new memories everyday !