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Outdoor Internet Marketing │ Maximizing Your Digital Media

Outdoor Internet Marketing │ Maximizing Your Digital Media

By Jeremy Flinn, CMO Stone Road Media

Digital media has been an extremely hot topic lately in the outdoor industry. The writing is on the wall with TV, in just a few years TV has begun to fade in engagement. The fading traditional marketing method has gave way to unbelievable growth in the digital media sector. From original digital content to repurposed TV shows, content on the internet is reaching more people than ever. Why? With the hectic lifestyles of today’s society, having the ability to watch content when you want, where you want is extremely critical. But most companies are not utilizing digital content to its fullest, in fact, many are completely wasting the content.

I’m sure the latter seems quite impossible to you, but if you’re only reaching a few thousand views on YouTube you are definitely wasting the content. Content is king. If you are only utilizing content on one platform, especially if it’s not your website, you are missing the mark. The key to successful digital media is reach. The internet allows a smart digital marketer to syndicate content across many platforms in order to maximize impressions and engagement. No that doesn’t just mean Facebook and Twitter, it means multiple social media platforms, content syndication sites, and in our industry forums. Hunting, fishing, and shooting forums are extremely underutilized as a tool to gain valuable SEO and targeted reach.

What we have discussed so far is for outdoor industry video producers, but what about manufacturers? Sure, you likely have some internal digital content that can be syndicated to the masses. But what about all the endorsements and sponsored shows that you invest thousands of dollars into each year? You aren’t only investing in the personalities, but the content they produce. That content would not exist if it wasn’t for your contribution. Where am I going with this? You need to access that media to maximize your own digital presence. I know there are timeline restrictions on media broadcast to major TV networks like Outdoor Channel or Sportsman Channel, but there are plenty shows and/or “B-roll” that is very accessible and available to syndicate. The fact is that most just don’t ask producers or even know what to ask for. Step one is getting your hands on the content. That’s honestly the easiest part. Step two is knowing what to do with it. From publishing to syndication platforms, there is so much work behind getting the deserving reach out of quality digital media.

This content is not only entertaining, it’s most likely informational and can be incredibly persuasive in a customer deciding whether to buy your product. Why not use the content to its fullest. Odds are you won’t have exclusive access to it, but who cares. The goal is to get it out to as many people who are potential customers as possible. You can only control what you can control, and this is important when discussing digital media. If you have the digital media in your possession, you can ensure it reaches the people you want too. However, if you rely on someone else to get it out there who is not on your team or hired to complete your goal, then there is nothing you can do.

As you begin to think about your 2016 marketing strategy for hunting, fishing, and shooting, what are your plans for digital media? Do you have any? Can you get some from your investments? If any of these become “yes,” then the bigger question is “now what do you do with it?”

For more information on Stone Road Media’s digital media assistance, contact us today at info@stoneroadmedia.com.

Think Your Customer is “Old School” | Buying Behavior of Hunting, Fishing, and Shooting Customers

Marketing to Hunting, Fishing, and Shooting Customers │ Think Your Customer is “Old School” – Think Again

By Jeremy Flinn, Chief Marketing Officer

One of the most common reasons for not doing digital marketing in the hunting, fishing, shooting or tactical industry is that the primary customer does not exhibit the buying behavior of a typical online shopper. They are simply “old school” and buying behavior is influenced by one of three ways: TV, Print, or just by knowing the brands they always go with. I’m not here to argue the last point much because I know that true for even a millennial buyer like myself. I tend to buy many of the same brands I did growing up because they were reliable. However, what we have to be sure of is that the business is always think a step ahead. Let’s say that 75% of your business comes from this “old school buyer.” In the firearms sector this is often an older demographic, much like the aging hunting community. They are often financially secure, versus a kid coming out of college, but although they may the customer today, what about your business tomorrow.

Unfortunately at some point the customer of today will pass through this world, if you have done nothing with your brand to reach the customer of tomorrow, you’re a sitting duck. SiriusDecisions research group discovered even with today’s buyers, 67% of the buying behavior journey happens online. Simply put there is more to just being available, you must be found, be engaging, and be informative or you will not be in business for much longer.

As your secure customer begins to age, the buying behavior will rapidly fall off. Last time I check Social Security didn’t allow for much hobby spending, and with the average hunting, fishing, and shooting customer making $35,000 to $75,000 per year, it’s highly unlikely money won’t be an issue later in life.

The 2014-2019 Daedal Research on the US Sporting Goods Market Trends revealed that many sporting goods and specialty retail store are not growing or driving business, in fact eCommerce is the sole reason for pushing companies’ bottom lines north. Though the industry may be growing in revenue, aside from eCommerce, selling sectors (like retail) grew a measly 2%.

In today’s outdoor industry marketplace, you need to have three major actions in mind:

  1. Be measureable – If you are spending money and not tracking traffic, sales, or impressions related directly to the ads, you are blind to your ROI potential. The worst thing to say is “well its marketing budget allotted, we don’t need to keep track.” Measure what can be measured, and evaluate what the ROI is, or in many cases, is not.
  2. Be Hyper-connected – Ever cruise the web and see the product, service or brand you recently viewed seem to pop up everywhere. Yea, that’s them embracing inbound marketing. The more places you are in, the more impressions made. BUT it must be for the right cost.
  3. Adapt to the Shift – The buying shift is happening right now. Customers use online resources more than 2/3 of the time to start the buying process. Yet I still see hunting, fishing, and shooting companies with non-mobile responsive websites! Ever hear of Mobilegeddon? Apparently not…

Whether now or in the future, you will likely have 80% of your revenue come from 20% of your customers. If you are not constantly working to grow, and in the outdoor industry replenish, that 20% your revenue will suffer.

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!

There’s More to Digital Marketing than Social Media

There’s More to Digital Marketing than Social Media

By Jeremy Flinn, Entrepreneur

You’ve heard the term more and more over the last 5 years. Digital marketing or internet advertising – at first it sounded like something that would never effect your business. Why would it? You had a steady stream of dedicated customers and seemed to have new customers engaging with your brand and products/services. It was likely that TV commercial or magazine ad you ran. You don’t know for sure, but it seems logical. But business started to plateau or even stumble a little, so you dove into the world of digital marketing head first and opened up not just one but TWO social media accounts – Facebook and Twitter. You now were engaging with customers who were active customers of your brand and products/services. But to your surprise, your business didn’t shoot off like you expected, in fact this digital marketing seemed to be a complete flop. Sound familiar? Well if opening a couple social media accounts and even doing some paid advertising on them was your way of digital marketing, you’re probably realizing you missed something.

Social media is absolutely a piece of digital marketing, and if used correctly can be a great catalyst of business growth. But even though you think it’s cool that a bunch of people “Like” your picture of cat sleeping on the cash register, that doesn’t do anything for your business unless you are a pet adoption center. Ok, maybe the cat thing was a little extreme. But think about some of the things you have posted recently on your social media platforms, and the differ engagements – Likes or Favorites, Comments, and Shares or Retweets – you received. Were they generating business for you? Likely not. In fact, recent studies show that nearly 70% of social media followers for most companies have never been to their website!

There’s a strategy with social media in order to make it an effective piece of digital marketing. If you aren’t driving or exposing social media followers to your business directly, you are likely failing. Sure it’s cool to have 50,000 Facebook fans. But if only 5% of them are actual customers, then why are you spending so much time trying to appease the rest of them? You know what’s better? 5,000 Facebook Fans in which 70% of them are highly engaged in your business, products, and/or services. Quality is much more important than quality. Why? In social media, time is your enemy. Before you know it half your day is spent trying to engage and direct social media followers to your brand and products/services.

But enough about social media. That’s only a piece of digital marketing. What about search engine optimization (SEO)? Sounds complicated, and to a point it is, but to really grasp what SEO is just Google it. No seriously, Google it. As soon as you type the phrase “What is SEO,” SEO is occurring! Google is reaching out to find the most authoritative site on the terms you are looking for and will rank them in the search engine result pages (SERPs). This complex algorithm from Google is revised and released a lot. It is often too much to comprehend for most business owners, thus the advice provided by digital marketing firms like Stone Road Media.

The term Pay-Per-Click or PPC is thrown around a lot, and often can be a quick way to drive traffic to your business. But if not managed correctly it can also be a quick way to drain the bank account. PPC, like Google AdWords, allows you to create a targeted ad for your business to “jump ahead” of the organic results on a SERP. This sounds great in theory and can be very effective, but lately, Google has found that over 80% of the clicks on the SERPs occur on the organic search results. Why? Basically the consumer has evolved and knows that the top and right columns are for “paid ads,” and tend to lean more towards the organic area as its ranked highly for a more definitive reason than “the highest bid.”

This is the tip of the iceberg for digital marketing as all of this revolves around content. Written, video, and pictures are the critical component to successful digital marketing. Not regurgitated content either; I’m talking truly original content that is relative to your brand and that your prospective customers will be legitimately interested in.

As you begin to think about incorporating digital marketing into your business, think about the total package of what this means, and avoid the trap of just social media. In the end it might be the reason your business continues to flat line or respond with positive growth.