The Reality of Hunting and Fishing “Pro Staff”

What Does Hunting, Shooting, or Fishing “Pro Staff” Really Mean?

By: Weston Schrank Stone Road Media’s Content Marketing Manager

You either know one, are one, or want to be one. This industry is filled head to toe with hunting, shooting, and fishing pro staff members. To anyone that “wants to get an outdoor industry job” it’s the first place to start. It is a gateway into the industry, but it’s also a tough and confusing and almost always frustrating road if that is your end goal. No, you will not hunt for a living, you will not make money (at first), and you will most likely spend more money. Ask yourself this…

“All of the work, time, and money, for what, A title? Is that worth it? Is it worth it to the company? What really is becoming a “pro staff” about?”

Let me go ahead and clear up any confusion…this will not be your normal blog on “how to become a pro staff of the ____ company”. Sure I will cover that, but in reality, any of the material that is out there associated with a pro staff query comes from the manufacturers/brands themselves on the subject. I’m here to tell you that they are not always right! If at all, the best information (as it often comes down to) is available in a forum, where there is an actual discussion taking place from people with experience. However, as you will discover when reading this blog there is a bigger problem at the heart of this issue that the brands, manufacturers, pro staff managers, and even forums can’t touch. There is a huge rift between the understanding of what a pro staff is, what their duties are, and what the compensation should be for the relationship.

What or Who is Pro Staff?

Hunting and Fishing Pro-staffEvery other piece on this subject leads, is dependent upon, and finishes around the same boring piece of information…the “pro” in pro staff is for promotional not professional. You’re not a pro hunter you are just a promotional staff member. Or the information proceeds into the different levels of “field staff”, “pro staff”, then actual sponsorship…and that’s about all the material you will get. You’ve been there, read that, or wrote that depending on who you are.

Sound familiar?

I’ve heard every side of the spectrum…from “elite pro staff” explaining ”don’t let camo company B throw you around, your more valuable than a simple discount”, to manufacturers coming off as annoyed saying we are camo company B…you give us this, this, and this, for cross promotion and a % discount” and all with little option for a rebuttal. Now before I get slammed from each side for this piece I will say this, this industry isn’t what it actually seems.

The Real Issue

At the pro staff level, there is a severe tainting of a few valuable members with skills, mixed with a majority of members that grab the title, free gear or discount, and run never to be heard from again. At the manufacturers/brand level, there is often a too good for you mentality that will rub anyone the wrong way. Now before a few pro staff managers comment, do not assume you are always on the right. Improperly managed pro staff has come to form the problem itself…you don’t trust your pro staff to deliver, do you? If you answer yes then you might have the application process and management skills in place, but you still may not get the complete picture.

In reality…most people will arrive at this blog because the term has been thrown around, beaten, chewed up and spit out by just about everyone in this industry. “So what, just another pro staffer”…we here it all too often. So what is the real issue here?

Now before you get too ticked off let me say this, a soon to be or existing pro staff member, as well as the pro staff manager of a brand/manufacturer will, in fact, benefit from this read. No, I’m not a pro staff manager, I’m also not a pro staff member(in title). In this blog let’s just say I’m someone that understands the value of what the relationship is based upon…CONTENT. My hope is to explain this value, the relationship it develops between companies and their pro staff, as well as show you what hunting and fishing content looks like when used to its full potential.

Hunting, Shooting, and Fishing Pro Staff Content

Essentially having a position on a company’s pro staff means that you are promoting the brand. The understanding here is that you receive benefits, and provide the company content that they in turn use to promote their brand. Now, up to this point, a great deal of content had to be wasted. The outdoor industry is just now starting to finally sink teeth into digital marketing, and even now it is still a longshot to the optimal use of content. So it is no wonder the term of pro staff and the relationship is so confusing and skewed.

At the end of the day the relationship is entirely based upon the content’s value. Sure there are several promotional staff members that simply run the gauntlet of trade shows and booth running, however, most of them also provide content on a monthly basis. Now here is where the problem in lies and stems other more noticeable problems. Excuse me if this comes off more like a rant than actual information, but this will open your eyes… As you dive into the world of becoming hunting, shooting, or fishing pro staff you will start to notice companies with completely different understandings of the term “pro staff”. More often than not this stems from the current standing of the company. If the entity is well versed in digital and inbound marketing they will more often than not have a higher $ value on content given. They can do more with it, provide more leads, and use it to its full ability and in turn, reward good content. Subsequently, companies that are still not making full use of their content on their website, social channels, and outlets like YouTube have not bridged the gap of content = leads. This all too often progresses into offering percentage discounts to a very long list of pro staff, that are more customers than actual staff. Of course, what’s worse in either situation is company ego getting in the way. For example, Camo Company B is one of the largest outdoor industry brands, they know how to use content, yet they have so much content from personalities and top authorities that pro staff content is hardly ever used or valued. It’s not that the content given is lacking value, it’s just that they have egos getting in the way of seeing its true worth.

If Camo Company B (hunting or fishing brand) does arrive at this blog feel free to answer this question…can you honestly say that every picture, video, blog, article, or story from a pro staff member is fully used and accurately compensated for? On the other hand, if you are a pro staff member or if you are thinking of becoming one, do you understand what Camo Company B is actually looking for? Are you asking for a free product but know in the back of your mind you will seldom if ever send valuable content in?

Now I know you’re thinking it, and this is my next point…this is why many companies have different levels of pro staff eventually graduating to sponsorship to combat this problem. Management at this level creates a solution to many of the concerns stemmed from the main problem, but not the heart of the issue itself.

The even bigger question going far beyond pro staff management that is daunting the industry currently is what are those full-time sponsorships and authorities really doing for you? You know how much you spend on that TV show and personality but what’s your ROI? If you are the producer/personality endorsed, what are you giving the sponsor to show ROI? It’s always been the same stats, at least until digital came into play. This is obviously the bigger issue that needs to be discussed in the industry. It is already knocking on the doorstep, thus the panic around outdoor TV that is rapidly becoming an un-ignorable buzz. An apparently huge issue not appropriate for this blog, so take a look below.

The Pro Staff Climb

Content coming from Personality A is and will always be more valuable than content coming from a new pro staff member. That statement is not always true. Personality A, sponsored by Camo Company B often does not give the time of day to do a detailed review of the camo against different backgrounds, how well it holds up to brush, what it looks like after 100 washes…you get the idea. It’s the content people want to and need to see, that is often undervalued by the company itself. There is a place for all content!

As I said, becoming a pro staff member is a gateway into the industry. What it comes down to is high-quality, consistent, and professional content. You have to know how to write, take pictures, tell a story, or use a video camera. No, you don’t have to run a 4k setup with so much color correction that it looks like your entire film is enveloped in a foggy white. You have to provide real authentic content and communicate it as such. Think about this…you are a hunter, a shooter, or an angler. What content do you consume, what brought you to that brand’s doorstep in the first place? If you are graduating from consumer to content creator, then produce the content you would want to see, and what brought you to that brand. There is content to be made at every level. Educational, informational, reviews, stories, successes, failures, and/or video and picture content that fit each stage of the process you use every day to buy a product or make an impression on a brand.

Now that last part might have overwhelmed quite a few of you. This is WORK! If you are not serious about it than you might be some of the “pro staff” that is tainting what brands/companies are actually looking for. Your goal here should be to get a foot in the door with a company, work your tail off, develop a trust and relationship and expand in that niche. However, this industry is not what it seems. Don’t think that a company will reward hard work, and high-quality work…that is not always what it is about. Here are some tips when getting started.

Hunting and Fishing Pro-staf

Getting Started

Now, when you are looking to become pro staff think about the job. Basically, it is to promote the products and the brand. In the initial start, there will be some deciding on your end. First, pick a company that you truly believe in. This is pretty common sense stuff. The bigger insight is observing your initial thoughts upon the application process. Do they come off annoyed right off the bat? Are they respectful and inviting? This can initially tell you your own ROI, the predominant investment being your valuable time. You will be working your tail off if you want to get places, and choosing to become pro staff to a company that will simply ignore your efforts is extremely frustrating and at the end of the day pointless.

When going about making the connection treat it as a job right out of college. This almost goes without saying, but you never know…basically just come prepared! When submitting an application keep every level of the application professional, from your resume to your social media accounts.

What You Should Offer

Obviously, this comes with your expertise. If you’re a writer and a storyteller than writing should be your focus. Offer monthly content or a certain number of articles in a year. If you’re comfortable or experienced behind the video camera or DSLR, offer review videos or product use pictures for social media and website content. Some companies might already have in place requirements such as these for the relationship. Naturally, fall into your niche in content creation. You will be good at something in particular that the company needs. Exploit that!

Make sure that you are consistent…I cannot stress that enough. Every single day I look for fresh content for our clients. It is hard to come by…especially consistently. If someone is out there, producing video after video or, picture after picture, of content related to a product to one of our clients, you can bet ill find it and use it. If it’s at a professional level, it’s valuable, and its consistent people will find it, read it, and follow it. Eventually, you will be noticed…being rewarded however is a different story!

What You Should Get

You cannot expect to immediately get free gear unless you are immediately confronted with a more in-depth application process. This might include some type of contract. If not, and just a discount and basic gear are offered, go ahead make an initial investment and prove yourself to advance to the next levels.

This is where a lot of opinions vary again going back to the source of the problem which is basically how to use the content. Any writer knows magazines pay good money to well written and orchestrated content with high-quality photos. It is a completely content-driven business. The same content, optimized for the website and company, should be considered the same right? If you get to the point of consistently writing, videoing, or providing pictures as a pro staff member, compensation should absolutely go beyond a discount or a free piece of gear.

It’s Always Content

If the brand truly knew how to use it, every bit of content provided is valuable.

How?

While I hate having to send you to other blogs for more reading, I want to drive home the point of the full potential of content. In the last blog I wrote for Stone Road, Outdoor Industry Marketing 101 | Capitalizing on Seasonal Content, I walk you through a long process of phases of how just one video, picture, or blog transforms into gathering consumers to the brand. This also gives you a great reference into what valuable content looks like at the professional level, and how a brand/manufacturer should use the content.

Hunting and Fishing Pro-staf

Upon reading that blog, as well as other blogs focused on content marketing and content creation, you have a higher understanding of what content is used and how it is used. You’ve already become a more valuable pro staff member by simply educating and understanding some basic outdoor industry marketing.

Every hunting, shooting, and fishing pro staff manager, brand owner, personality, hunter, shooter, or angler are at the end of the day just a normal guy or girl. Sure egos get in the way, but more often than not the brand you wish to be a pro staff member for is not making full use of the content supplied to them. In turn, they can’t say they accurately know how to manage pro staff, or even compensate them. In the end…the term “pro staff” completely depends on the content, as does most everything in this industry.

About

Article: Weston Schrank is Stone Road Media’s Digital Content Manager. He has turned the obsession of outdoors and hunting, expertise in wildlife and land management, and understanding of specialized content creation and SEO into an excelling and devoted career as a content manager and strategist, benefitting the company’s many outdoor industry partners, and outdoor freelance writers.

Stone Road Media | Outdoor Industry Freelance Writing Opening

Outdoor Industry Freelance Writing Opening

Stone Road Media currently has several outdoor industry freelance writing openings.

We are looking for capable outdoor freelance writers that eat, sleep, and breathe all things outdoors to join our team of freelance writers at Stone Road Media! Following our blog: Growing Opportunities for Outdoor Freelance Writers we ourselves have many openings that have recently surfaced due to the growing need for digital content.

It is not often that you find an outdoor industry job with such a gateway into a “behind the scenes” look at the workhorses of the outdoor industry.

Stone Road Media is on the front lines of marketing for the outdoor industry. By attaining a freelance writing opportunity with this company you will gain the ability, knowledge, and experience to write superior, valuable content for brands, companies, manufacturers, and personalities in the industry.

Requirements

-Writers must possess the willingness, eagerness, and ability to learn.

-Writers must have a love for all things outdoors (Hunting, Fishing, Camping, and even Shooting/Tactical)

-Writers must be extremely knowledgeable of hunting/fishing tactics beyond the common level of the everyday hunter and must possess the ability to accurately display the tactic.

-Writers must be familiar with the term SEO

-Writers must be familiar with the majority of brands, manufacturers, and personalities in the industry

– Must be able to meet necessary deadlines

-Must be passionate about writing

-Must have a computer/laptop of your own

-Must have a reliable access to internet

-Must have a reliable access to a cell phone for phone meetings and conferences

-Must have excellent skills in written communication, grammar, blogging, etc…

-Must understand the difference between representing a brand vs. representing a personality

-Must be somewhat knowledgeable and proficient at gathering related to content, videos, and photos for the pieces written

-Must be able to receive constructive criticism when needed

* Must possess the ability to write a blog that offers more than the blog it stands next to on a SERP (does not simply copy and paste another blog that currently stands on a website). Is familiar with Plagiarism.

How to Apply

If you are interested in gaining ann outdoor industry freelance writing position with us.Please email info@stoneroadmedia.com for serious inquiries.

PLEASE INCLUDE:

  • Resume
  • Links, docs, or pictures of 3 previous blogs, articles, magazine pieces

Note: Upon initial contact and review, you may be asked to provide 1-2 blogs given with specific topics, for a specific client, and must be able to complete in a reasonable time. For one or both “tryout” blogs you may or may not be paid, depending on quality and value of writing.

ROI for Inbound Marketing | Measuring KPIs for Digital Marketing Results

ROI for Inbound Marketing | Measuring KPIs for Digital Marketing Results

By Jeremy Flinn, Chief Marketing Officer

With the aggressive increase of companies investing in digital marketing, the question is what is my return on investment (ROI) on these inbound marketing services? Before we start to break down the different metrics to determine the success or failure of digital marketing services, we have to discuss what was collected or measured from the dominant marketing actions prior to exploring the digital marketing realm. This typically leads us to print and TV. Once the question is reversed on a company’s marketing team, the ability to measure anything marketing related comes into question. The fact is TV and print are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to gauge the detailed analytics such as impressions, direct actions taken, and associated sales. This isn’t a bash article on TV and print, in fact, some specific arenas have some of the most effective TV and print campaigns ever! Think of TV shows like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, and the almost cult following they have created. What has slipped is the ability to reach consumers with brands through these channels. Take for example this year’s Super Bowl. How many commercials can you actually remember as impactful? Turn back 10-20 years and you can easily recall the first time seeing the Budweiser frogs or FedEx Cavemen. Things have changed and thus companies are looking to digital engagement for more impactful marketing. In order to determine something as impactful, you have to be able to measure the results. That’s where the various digital marketing “key performance indicators” or KPIs are sought out by marketing and analytic teams.

ROI for Digital Marketing – Defined

When most business-minded people think about the term ROI, they instantly gravitate towards a monetary attribute. That could be anything from gross sales to cost per acquisition of customers. These areas are incredibly important KPIs when evaluating the success of any inbound marketing campaign. However, with the increase popularity in strategies such as social media marketing and content marketing, there is a myriad of other metrics that can be monitored and evaluated to determine successes of the digital marketing campaigns. When discussing the KPIs of social media marketing we can discuss organic growth (likes), total impressions, total reach, and total engagement. Those all are very relevant and important but don’t be afraid to expand on that to include what is the true “means to the end” for social media – getting people to your website. How many people came from Facebook to your website? Twitter? Instagram? Of those, how many navigated more than one page? When you evaluate a marketing campaign’s success you must look at it holistically with regards to your end goal, which on inbound marketing, is getting in front of potential consumers and sending them to your website, products, or services. Each of these attributes can tell us a lot of the success or failure of the campaign, as well as tell you a lot about your customer and their behaviors.

Digital Marketing Measurable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Measuring KPIs in arenas like digital ad buying (display ads) and search engine marketing (Pay-Per-Click), are a little more standard than some of the other inbound marketing services. Standard metrics are noted like impressions, click thrus, click thru rate (CTR), and contributing sales. A note to be cautious on with display advertising KPIs, is to make sure to cross reference what your advertising platform provides in terms of numbers with your Google Analytics account. Hopefully you have created a trackable link when you created the campaign so that you know where the traffic is coming from. Often you will receive “inflated” numbers, particularly clicks to a website. This is an easy metric to cross reference with Google Analytics and determine the number that truly reached your website, content, and products. The same is said for Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising thru platforms like Google AdWords and Yahoo/Bing. You can easily pull data on all of the above and even conversion rate and cost per conversion, if you set up conversion code on particular pages of the website. It will sound like a broken record, but Google Analytics will become your main source to pull KPIs, you just have to know what to look for in the complex, informative system.

Determining Digital Marketing ROI “Success”

With all that said, what the hell do we consider “success” for these metrics of digital marketing? I mean if it’s not directly generating dollars in the account; how can we really say we are succeeding, let alone say there is a ROI, on the inbound marketing services implemented? You’re right, at the end of the day you aren’t paying the office rent/mortgage with pageviews, and last time I tried, my employees were not a big fan of direct deposit of visitor sessions. OK, maybe that was a horrible attempt at digital marketing comedy, but the fact is cash is king, right? It is, but all of those KPIs lead to money in the bank! In other words, all of the indexes (in the form of KPIs) that we are tracking and working so hard to improve are the means to an end. That “end” is a customer for our service or product. The more customer visits (sessions) to a website, the more they look at the brand, services, and products (pageviews), and longer they are impacted by our company content and products/services (time on site) the more likely they will become a customer! In the end, the stronger your digital KPIs are, the stronger revenue flow will be. It doesn’t matter if you make revenue via advertising, eCommerce, or at retail, the bottom line is nearly 70% consumers are starting the buying process online. This initial step may be a long (or short) way from the end (buying) depending on the purchase, but it very much is true about “the first impression is everything.” Those with little unique content to engage with, will lose customers on the brand, products, and services and fall short ending up a Plan B or C. You only come to success if Plan/Company A falls through! Don’t be second fiddle.

The world of digital and inbound marketing is unbelievable, and primed for attack if you know what you are doing. No matter the size of your company, you can be competitive. It’s so much more than who has the most ad presence, it’s about who is the authority in their niche. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Focus on your areas of interest, and then record and analyze your digital marketing KPIs. Let the numbers do the talking, and lead you to greater revenue in the bank account.

Jeremy Flinn is Chief Marketing Officer of Stone Road Media, and an entrepreneur. Founding several successful companies in the outdoor industry, Jeremy works with over 15 companies in the outdoor industry to improve their digital marketing KPIs and increase revenue streams.

 

 

Hunting and Fishing Marketing │ Why Creative Services Aren’t Always Marketing

All Marketing Is Creative, But All Creative Is Not Marketing

By Jeremy Flinn, Chief Marketing Officer

It seems more and more I hear about “creative agencies” handling marketing for companies. While being creative is one of my foundational premises for successful marketing in any industry, the fact is creative agencies rarely have the full scope of skilled staff necessary to drive a marketing campaign, let alone marketing division, for a company. It’s no knock on the “creative sector” that is out there. I have some unbelievable creative designers on my staff, and many campaigns would not have been nearly as successful without their outside the box vision and drive. However, a true marketing agency will carry the full array of skills on staff, and creative is just one piece of that puzzle.

I’m not sure at what point being a creative agency became labeled as marketing. Sure, it’s absolute a part of the marketing genre. For many creative agencies they do just that, execute strongly a part of the marketing strategy. However, I have run across many creative agencies attempting (that’s key) to execute full tradition and inbound marketing strategies, only to fall short of success or miss critical deadlines.

It’s not as puzzling as it sounds. Creative people on staff are the group that gives life to a marketing vision. For the first time, a bunch of random brainstorming is harnessed and placed into a drafted, organized vision. It’s pretty cool when it turns out “exactly as I was thinking.” But here is where things get out of control for the creative side. There are now a series of revisions to get it to where it is acceptable (key term). See my company motto is to always do better. There is always room for improvement in the effectiveness and success of an inbound marketing campaign we run at Stone Road Media. Creative people also think this way, and at some point a project strategist or manager has to cut them off. Why? Timelines, cost, new projects, basically a whole host of reasons. At some point “perfection kills profitability,” and all businesses like profit. When a creative agency embraces a start to finish campaign the drag on of changes and perfection can be painful. But that’s an easy oversight for a company (although I hate missing deadlines!), where the real test is at for the creative is the success with consumers. The absolute best creative, outside the box, dynamite idea is only as good as the execution of marketing exposure. Whether that is social media, web, TV or print, the fact is it doesn’t matter how great the campaign idea and creative are if it doesn’t effectively reach the target, it will fail!

This is why a diverse, full-service agency team is needed from start to finish. Everyone on the team has their certain strong points. A strategist builds the campaign framework and goals, a project manager organizes and initiates the teams to complete deliverables, creative will focus on forming the vision into something tangible, and implementers will begin preparing web, social media, TV spots, and print for maximum exposure. Our team at Stone Road Media focuses primarily on the digital side so we are more concerned with our digital implementers having all channels of syndication “tee’d up” for delivering the campaign message. The strategist and project manager come back around to assure execution at the final level, and more importantly to gather analytical results from the success or failure of the campaign. This is a marketing agency that can take your idea, needs, or goals and run from start to finish. It’s a team of complements that work as one unit to deliver a successful end result.

As you begin to develop a strategy it’s often hard to ignore the creative bells and whistles. It is the first place rand ideas get a vision. Steve Smolenski, the other co-founder of Stone Road Media, and I are huge Apple fans. Not necessarily the apple products of today as much as the story of the company and its founder Steve Jobs. Steve was a strategist at heart, but he often was overcome creatively developing a vision that he would lead to fruition. As Jobs worked on the Macintosh in the 1980s, he fell victim to the “perfection kills profitability.” Missed timelines and overpriced parts made the Macintosh a much more expensive and delayed product to market. That collapse of “creative control” led to him being ousted from his own company. Now that is obviously a much more serious example but had there been a project manager or strategist counterpart to funnel his creative genius to abide by timelines and cost restraints the Macintosh could have changed the entire outcome of the Apple we all know today, for better or worse.

Lastly, companies that have already formed a vision and goals looking for an agency should consider creative agencies, or a full-service agency. Often the blinders are put on internally and the vision is inadvertently molded into what everyone expected it to be. Using a 3rd party allows an outsiders take to construct the vision often utilizing components that are learned in the industry outside of the four walls of the hiring company. This allows for a much more “free” conversion of the company’s vision to a complete campaign for the consumer it intends to reach.

As you being to lay out inbound marketing campaigns or divisions for your business, consider the strengths of your own company and areas that you need help. Look to employ a group that has a long history of successful work in your industry, as it will convey that they already have a grip on the target consumer. Sometimes bringing in multiple agencies to diversify and handle different aspects can be good. But always remember that the more agencies and people involved, the more difficult the communication wire will be. Communication between all parties will be the final straw to determine ultimate success of the marketing campaign, or just another good creative vision.

The Power of Knowing Your Customer

By Jeremy Flinn, Chief Marketing Officer

Whether you run your own small business or are in charge of a small piece of a large business, knowing your customer may be more important than any other thing that you do. No one has ever been successful selling a good or service to a customer they didn’t know. Even the late Steve Jobs knew that normal, everyday people wanted personal home computers, even before those people knew it themselves! Sure, you could make it by throwing generalized ads and marketing to the masses, but at the end of the day no other aspect of your business’s plan will be more critical than the foundation upon which you build…your target customer.

For some small business owners, their entire financial well-being will collapse by misinterpreting who their customer is. But that’s more of a rarity. In fact, most businesses know exactly who their customers are, as they have been the same for many years. But even these businesses can still trip and fall, when it comes to identifying how to market to a customer that you have not adapted too.

Far too often this is what happens in the outdoor industry. An aging demographic has led us to continue to market to the stronghold buyer. “Ol’ Reliable” that you know reads magazines and watches TV. The instant gratification is great, and year after year income remains where we like it to be. But there is a darkness looming. One that most do not want to realize, the fact that this old reliable customer is fading, and soon revenue will slip.

Millennials are driving the marketing in today’s true business world. We tend to sit on an island as the outdoor industry, just doing what has worked for us over the years. But soon what has worked, will no longer work. The day that comes to fruition, is a day that many will collapse under the immense pressure for footing in the digital marketplace. From search engine optimization to social media, from paid digital ads to pay per click ads, the digital marketing realm is one that is not taken advantage of by many brands in the outdoor industry. Brands that have long stood the test of time, yet still do not have a mobile responsive website! Are you kidding me? Did you miss the “Mobilegeddon” from Google? Guess so.

However, there are some who have embraced the digital front. Growing there brand steadily, and tracking all the benefits of the digital world. More importantly gaining information about their customers. Not just those who are already buying, but more importantly those who will be buying. The world of advertising is rapidly changing. If you have not yet adapted, you are missing the boat. If you aren’t sure if you adapted, pull out your smartphone and go to your website, does it look clean and navigable? I didn’t think so…

Hunting, Fishing, and Shooting Marketing | Increasing Retail Sales Through Digital Marketing

By Jeremy Flinn, Chief Marketing Officer

It should be no surprise that digital marketing is a major contributor to your overall marketing impact on potential consumers. If it is a surprise, then you likely are not adapting to the changing consumer behavior, and marketing ineffectively. Consumers are using the internet as a method to “find” what they are looking for more so today than ever before. Because of this, many companies are shifting large portions of their marketing budget to the digital realm. In 2016, worldwide spend on digital marketing is expected to be greater than traditional marketing like TV. By 2019, Forrester Research suggests that number will eclipse $100 Billion on sectors like paid search, social media, email, and display ads. In the hunting, fishing, and shooting industry, marketing is still predominantly traditional. But with tighter margins at retail, and increasing product niche competition, successful companies are embracing digital marketing in the form of search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (like Google AdWords), and social media marketing through Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms. They are also exploring the vast digital ad network in hunting, fishing, and shooting communities. With this “inbound marketing” form so new to our outdoor industry, how can one maximize the internet? With so many companies relying heavily on retail sales, this results between digital marketing efforts and ROI can become even more compounded. But for anyone who dives into the digital marketing world, if done correctly, a vast amount of success lies in front of you, even at the retail sales level.

The Strategy
Like any good marketing effort, a well thought out strategy can make the difference between profit and loss. Unlike most traditional marketing plans, digital marketing can be hypertargeted. That is, the ability lies to hone in on potential customers geographically, based on interests, and even based on behavior. Sure you can advertise in a gun dog magazine, and hope to appeal to upland bird hunters. But if I want to sell high velocity, #6 shot for pheasants, I don’t know if a quail, waterfowl, or pheasant hunter is seeing that ad. With digital marketing I can narrow down my audience so precisely that I could run advertisements to various states just before the opening weekend of pheasant hunting.

Digital marketing strategy also comes in play as you begin to think about long-term versus short-term goals. For instance, a start-up tactical company might want to push both their patent-pending, concealed carry clothing, while at the same time earning brand recognition. There are two major efforts here. With digital marketing, you can set up a series of ads focusing on the general category of concealed carry clothing, while a completely separate set promoted the innovative mission of your brand. Both arrive at the same end point (your website) while delivering different marketing footprints. Not only that, but a simple click can take them to a targeted, customized landing page to engage them into the buying cycle. Let’s see a print ad do that, when odds are they are going to Google and searching your brand or product name.

Lastly, think about your budget. Likely one of the most strategized pieces each year. How much do you want to spend? Better yet, how much can you spend? With traditional marketing campaigns, the money is committed whether the media delivers customers or not. Sometimes requiring long-term commitments. With digital marketing, much of the budget can be altered monthly, daily, and even in real time! The extensive control and flexibility often makes digital marketing a clear choice for brands looking to measure marketing ROI.

Measuring Success
If none of the above strikes a chord with you, think about how successful each of your traditional marketing campaigns have been. No, not how much revenue you brought in as a company last quarter or year. The actual return generated by each individual TV, print, and radio campaign. Hard to answer isn’t it?

It’s not because you are doing something wrong, it’s simply the way things have been done for so long. You designate a portion of marketing dollars to TV, print, and radio, then sit back and hope that the campaigns are successful. If sales direct to the consumer or via purchase orders from retailers begin to climb, odds are the campaigns worked. Now to what level, or better yet which ones, well that’s the million dollar question. For many companies it literally can be worth that much. Measuring traditional marketing to the campaign level is often impossible, and prevents companies from changing their marketing strategies in mid-stride to meet year’s sales goals. This is often how companies begin to plateau in growth.

Digital marketing allows the opportunity to “be flexible” not only in ad spends, but marketing messages, creative, and even where they send a prospective buyer. This detailed data proves invaluable, regardless of whether you are selling via eCommerce direct to the consumer, or through wholesale/retail.

Measuring success through eCommerce is the easiest. Did a visitor to the website end up buying or not? Pretty simple yes or no. If you only sale via eCommerce it makes your job even easier. But for most companies that isn’t the case. In fact, many companies in our industry will generate over 70% of their gross revenue through retail or wholesale. So how can you measure the success of digital marketing at this level?

To the “exchange of currency” level, you can’t. It’s not possible, especially if you are doing other marketing efforts simultaneously. The overlap will make it extremely difficult to tease out an answer. However, there are certain key performance indicators (KPIs) that can shed some light on correlations between digital marketing efforts and an increase at the retail or wholesale level. For starters, overall web traffic is a great place to start. If web traffic is up from previous years, then the number of customers exposed to your brand and products is also up. Theoretically this leads to an increase in sales. More so, although retention of existing customers is important, much of the marketing efforts in hunting, fishing, or shooting is aimed towards the acquisition of new customers. Looking at the percent of new customers in the web analytics is also a great indicator of increased sales at retail or wholesale. Finally, and although it may take longer, is the physical purchase orders from retail and wholesale can signal success. If re-orders or quantity within orders is up, and assuming there were no other significant marketing changes, then digital marketing likely led to positive growth in your retail and wholesale revenue stream.

I’m not saying that you need to take 100% of your budget and push it into the digital marketing world, but what you need to consider is diversification. If you are not exploring past the basic means of Facebook and Twitter, you likely are not going to be successful at digital marketing. With the rapid changes in consumer behavior, you may also find your company in a not too favorable spot in the near future. Digital marketing is not the future, it’s the now!

Digital Content Marketing | A Unique and Different Digital Content Machine

Efficient Digital Content Marketing Strategy

By Weston Schrank

Stone Road Media Content Specialist

There is much more to content creation and its marketing than the point, shoot, and post method, or worse complete regurgitation of others’ content. Often the high-quality video or photo, worthy of attention, is sitting unwatched and unseen on YouTube, Facebook, or other social media platform. It has little to no value in terms of marketing or website traffic because it lacks the engagement level and power to be found by Google and the new generation of customer.

Sound familiar? Well here is why…

Every customer whether working from the office, boating at the lake house, or working out in the gym is looking to be engaged by the internet, and for the first time customers are engaging more on internet devices than other modes previously advertised and marketed. The expensive commercials and print advertisements aren’t cutting it anymore. Searchers have a need to be channeled to the content they seek. It’s simple – for every query made, there is an answer delivered by the search engine. The shift of this new generation of customer has sparked the need for a shift in thinking behind digital content creation and marketing. The key to reaching these customers for your business and brand is to produce the answers they need, via the digital content you create and optimize.

To perform efficiently, a “machine” of sorts is required. One that can handle an extreme workload without sacrificing quality, and more importantly understands your business and the target consumer. This means every gear, piston, nut, and bolt of a machine is important. Knowing the consumer and how to reach them is simple with a right machine programmed for your niche digital content creation and syndication. The creators or key components of this machine are consumers of your business, but now expanded their interaction into passionate professionals brought together for the purpose of driving others like them to your business. But, unlike a simple production line with one product (a simple photo, blog, or post), this digital content marketing machine produces unique, powerful, original content with each unit. Innovative digital content marketing specifically designed to your niche, and more specifically business. Non-regurgitated, never seen before pieces with a unique fit for maximum efficiency in driving website traffic.

Each component coming from a “professional” is not just the mindless blog or photo. It’s packaged with the ability to be found. With a strategy in mind that will reach out and engage with a specific searcher’s query relevant to your business.

There is a three in one system to this digital content marketing. Each piece is generated with creative thinking, professional knowledge, and minimal budget. But more importantly a photo or video is generated with written content, injected with search engine optimization (SEO) by one valuable individual, and then placed into the hands of a firm with the ability to get it found on Google by your target consumer.

The final product? Much more than the lifeless post on social media. Something the consumer will search for, find, connect, and engage with. The organic effect…

It’s time to rethink digital content creation and what it can do to drive inbound marketing and your business growth. It’s time to #BeDifferent with Stone Road Media.

Weston Schrank holds a Bachelor Degree from Purdue University. An advocate of communication and driving information to engagement, Weston has developed an understanding of specialized digital content creation and SEO into exciting business relations with Stone Road Media clients.

Operate Smart │ Become Part of the Membership Economy

Membership Economy Based Revenue for Your Business

By Jeremy Flinn, CMO

Whether you sell a product or a service, the daily grind of sale to sale is not something we look forward to each day. The fact is, if you’re not selling, you’re not making money. For most this is simply the way it is. But for many, they just think this is the way it has to be. The fact is they may not be operating their business, and more specifically revenue stream, to its fullest. Instead of thinking about individual sales they should be focused on recurring revenue. Though many of these business owners may not think a “membership economy” based revenue stream is applicable to their business, the reality is it may be the only way to keep their business thriving!

I know what you’re thinking. “I sell product A, how can I sale a membership?” You’re right, that’s a hard one. Or is it? Take Sam’s Club as an example. They sell a lot of “Product A” and others yet they make a large chunk of revenue on their Sam’s Club membership. Sure $3 Billion in membership, compared to over $50 Billion in sales is a small piece of the pie, but consider the little to know overhead costs in memberships, whereas there is a cost to Sam’s Club to buy Product A and sell it to the consumer. How about you cellular phone company? Most of us are carrying around an AT&T or Verizon network supported smartphone. Sure it seems like we are making a purchase of Product A, but in reality we entered a membership economy revenue stream with them, some sort of contract in which we make a monthly payment for the duration of the term. The membership based revenue stream, does serval things that will make a business more stable and allow for growth opportunities.

Think about your business. If you are selling a product or service, each day is about selling more. There is likely a level of “repeat business” but it’s not implied. The daily grind of running a business like this is taxing. What if you have a bad week, or even a bad month? Let’s say you own a lawn mowing business. The summer is experiencing an epic drought, and grass is not growing. If you charged per cutting, and there is no grass to cut, you are probably sweating bullets, and not because of the sun’s heat. But what id instead of charging per cut, you offered your customers a monthly plan that included cutting, but also featured weed control, fertilizing, aeration, and irrigation? Now you would have the ability to not only irrigate and fertilize yards, but because you are doing so, you will likely have grass to cut…that means you are more needed! With the additional services, you can likely charge more per month, than if you were just cutting grass, and it allows your business to be more predictable and stable month to month.

The ability to infuse a membership economy based structure into your business, can create not only a profitable business, but one that can grow on a strong financial foundation. In a membership based revenue stream, the goal should be to retain your existing customers about 70% of the time, and grow the business with new members 30% of the time. You’re existing base is what covers expenses and pays you at the end of the day, but it also allows the financial clarity to grow the business. However, it’s extremely important to not neglect current customers and strictly focus on gaining new ones. This will result in loss of retained business, and you begin to fight gain/loss battle.

If you think your business is struggling and unpredictable, think about the ability to stabilize your business, KNOW what revenue will be next month, and focus more on retaining current business than where the next customer will come from. If you think differently than the norm, you may find a hidden revenue gem in your own business with a membership economy structure.

Outdoor Industry Marketing | How to Spend your Money Wisely

Outdoor Industry Marketing | All advertising is marketing, but not all marketing is advertising

By Jeremy Flinn, COO/CMO – Stone Road Media

“All advertising is marketing, but not all marketing is advertising.”

The statement is a type of logic called transposition. Simply it says if you have advertising then you are marketing, but if you are marketing that does not mean you are advertising. This is actually a good thing for your business!
Why?
Well, advertising traditionally cost money. Historically, the large, dominating forces in the outdoor industry were typically the ones with the largest advertising budget. This money was spent on TV, Radio, Print, Trade Shows, and the like. Because of its “free reign,” the budget was not closely monitored for literal Return on Investment (ROI), but simply to make sure a “consistent” flow of business came in.
Today’s “consumer engagement” specialists are evolving at a rapid pace, and those resistant to change will likely be spent faster than their annual advertising budget. No longer is it appropriate to consider advertisers and marketers one in the same.

Advertisers tend to spend money, whereas marketers tend to make money.

Big difference? Absolutely. But that isn’t to say that advertisers don’t have a role in the consumer engagement process. In today’s outdoor industry, TV, radio, and print are very powerful modes of marketing. However, for the first time in history use of internet driven devices exceeded the use of any one of those platforms. In order to succeed in marketing effectively through the internet, it takes a new wave of thinking…organic.
Like the food, organic in the internet has the same base term – natural. Organic internet marketing, often termed Inbound Marketing, reaches the targeted consumer through natural search methods. Those companies stuck in their ways with paid advertising, have no shortcuts here. Research from Google, who currently owns 90% of annual searches, recently showed over 82% of clicks on their Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) were on organic links, with the small balance on those paid “Pay per Clicks.”

It’s all about relevant, unique content. If you create content the user is likely to look for, then the odds of directing them to your website, and subsequently services and products, is astronomically higher. The traditional advertisers that plan to use “available content” from other feeds and blogs will often fall short again, as content is connected to the original source and your posting is simply a “backlink” for the original page.
In the end it’s simple. Embrace the fact that advertising still has its place; but be fully aware that it WILL NOT provide you a complete marketing strategy.

Advertising spends money, marketing makes money….end of story.

Outdoor Industry Marketing Secrets | Using Inbound Marketing

Outdoor Industry Marketing Secrets | Using Inbound Marketing Strategies to Exploit Small Business Growth Potential

By Jared Prusia, Sr. Manager of Business Development

It’s no secret that the business world is always changing. What is often current or important one day may be completely irrelevant and outdated the next. In some ways, change sets us back; in our progress, our passions, and even our beliefs. In other ways however, change creates opportunity; the opportunity to try, to fail, and sometimes succeed. The outdoor industry has been seemingly-static for several years, but that is changing faster than you can read this blog. While some are able to sense the inevitable change, very few will be able to optimize it. Adaptive inbound marketing strategies that revolve around consumer demands, and create meaningful brand experiences are the secret to gaining a significant competitive advantage. Through search engine optimization, impactful social media presence and content marketing, your growing business can increase sales, improve customers’ experiences and pave the way for a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts in the midst of change. Time, Content, Less Money, Inbound Marketing | loyal Hunting and Fishing CustomersA key component in the current industry shift is the new generation of outdoorsmen and -women rising up to fill the place of those before them. This generational difference is more significant than ever before for one reason: technology. Understanding how consumers use new technologies everyday provides the roadmap to customer satisfaction. Studies show that about 27% of time spent online is on social networking sites; followed closely by entertainment and shopping. Even in the deer stand or turkey blind, almost every hunter has a cell phone in their pocket where social media, Google, and YouTube are just a click away. Effective inbound marketing strategies use technology to build a relationship with the customer via providing exactly what they are looking for, which is much more meaningful than a commercial on TV or an ad in a magazine. For this reason, it is becoming more critical daily to incorporate inbound marketing because it gets your company or brand in front of potential customers each time they use technology. Undoubtedly, as technology continues to progress and become more integrated into our everyday lives; inbound marketing will also progress and become the undisputed marketing technique in not only the outdoor industry, but every marketplace. It was because of these changes, that Stone Road Media was created. The company is the forefront of inbound marketing in the outdoor industry niche. Recognizing the amazing potential for sales increase, website traffic and overall online presence, our team of dedicated professionals is passionate about helping start-ups, small businesses, and growing companies looking to expand their online footprint. We do this by working closely with clients to create a thriving social media presence, optimize search engine results and produce captivating marketing content. As outdoors enthusiasts, our team understands the industry, and customer needs better than anyone else. So before you throw money away on expensive commercials and ineffective magazine ads, consider where inbound marketing can take you and how Stone Road Media can help you get there. It’s time to #BeDifferent! Jared Prusia is the Sr. Manager of Business Development for Stone Road Media. Soon to possess both B.A. degrees in Management and Entrepreneurial Studies from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Penn., Jared excels in creating effective strategies for outdoor industry businesses, particularly with innovative inbound marketing aspects. Stone Road Media | Sr. Manager of Business Development