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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.

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.