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The Death of an Outdoor Industry Business on Social Media

Outdoor Industry Marketing | Investing in Your Business, Not Social Media

Jeremy Flinn, Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Stone Road Media, was a recent guest on the Bent and Ballistic Outdoor Show discussing social media marketing. This spawned from Mike McKnight’s, host of Bent and Ballistic Outdoor Show Podcast, interest in a recent blog Jeremy wrote titled “Why Your Business Will Die on Social Media”. A bold, but true statement from an outdoor industry marketing agency that lives in the realm of digital and social media marketing. The fact that businesses small and large operating with a consumer base primarily on social media channels are standing on an unstable foundation.

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“If you haven’t noticed a drop in organic activity on platforms like Facebook, then you likely didn’t have a very active business page to begin with. For those businesses who grew large followings on social media platforms and possibly even their bank accounts via incredible branding and product sales, the “heyday” is long gone. All of those who laughed when Facebook valued itself in the billions of dollars, yet was making no money, now have seen the grand plan unfold with even the smallest businesses “boosting” posts in hopes of reaching more customers. You can shake your head at it, but the over quarter TRILLION dollar valuation of the ZERO profit Amazon that you likely use regularly will likely pull a rabbit out of its hat soon as well in order to justify the number. Regardless, the bottom line is social media marketing is critical to every marketing strategy, but if used incorrectly it can cost businesses in the hunting and fishing sector more than just fans.”Jeremy Flinn, Why Your Business Will Die On Social Media

At the end of the day, a brand cannot control its own Facebook page. That page, who sees it, who engages with the content, or even what content can be posted is all controlled by Facebook. A business model with social media as the foundation of the business whether its Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc., is far from stable.

Pay to Play

One of the main reasons social media is a big concern for the outdoor industry besides the lack of control is that at any time these channels can strip the ability to market your business away from you. In recent years the entire industry has seen this from a politically driven limit on hunting/weapon related content. However, it goes further than this by mandating through algorithms how many of your followers you as a business can organically reach with a post. Even with a great following and consumer base, you have to “pay to play”. This means that in order to reach an audience, you have to create a social advertisement or put money (boost) behind a post. Even with an extremely good following and a great engaging piece of content, Jeremy estimates that you might only reach 10-15% of your audience organically. From there the numbers plummet to 5% for content that does not spark engagement.

Jeremy continues to report that just last month, January 2018, Zuckerberg wrote 3-4 posts that could bring big impacts to businesses and specifically businesses in the outdoor industry. These changes revolve around Facebook’s algorithm. Essentially, if a post does not immediately start drawing organic engagement from a small portion of followers, the algorithm will shut down the post’s visibility to the rest of your followers. Click here to find out more about Facebook’s Recent Algorithm Change.

Why “pay to play” might be a quick fix for businesses outside of this industry, outdoor related businesses are running into an entirely different problem. Even when you agree to advertise on social media, these channels can still deny you the ability to market your business!

Restricted Content

Restricted content, you likely know or have dealt with this in recent years…so is it getting better or worse? Unfortunately, even once you agree to “pay to play” with social media advertising you are now entering policies that are…you guessed it, restricted! Guns, knives, bows, arrows, and basically anything weapon oriented means that Facebook has a right to deny the advertisement of that content.

The most concerning aspect of restricted content is that an actual human being is denying or approving each advertisement!

This means that the only thing standing between an outdoor industry business’s success or death on social media is an opinion…

Of course, you can challenge the post being restricted, often resulting in a “win” for that post, but restricted content means that you are flagged. A decision to ban your content now means that you have a higher likelihood of posting weapon related content again. This means that Facebook is profiling for weapons-related businesses, which as you know means hunting and outdoor related businesses. This is political influence directly affecting businesses. With organic traffic limited, and even social media advertising limited, where should an outdoor industry business turn?

What is the Solution?

Is this influence and content dampening just on Facebook? Jeremy reports that this impact is not seen on other channels like Twitter and Instagram as much due to the nature of those channels (limited content/characters). However, this could always change. The fact is that what brands and businesses are currently experiencing with Facebook, could happen to any and all social media platforms. It could also happen with platforms like YouTube, staple foundations for many businesses with video content.

Jeremy explains that the only solution to get around this is to invest in yourself, not these channels. Invest in marketing that results in users coming directly to where your business lives, the website. You control your website, so investing in content that lives there is investing in a solid foundation. Social media is and will always be a place the consumer lives, just accept that social media marketing only supports for your business, not a platform your business should be completely dependent on.

Want to learn more about social media marketing, digital marketing, or outdoor industry marketing in general? Read more blogs or contact Jeremy today for help in marketing your outdoor industry business.

Outdoor Industry Marketing | Outsourcing Your Content

Outsourcing Content Curation and Marketing in the Outdoor Industry

Based on the moves made by successful businesses in 2017, content and the lasting positive effects it has on search still is a huge part of a well rounded digital presence. In 2018, you could be asking yourself “what efforts should I make for content this year?”. One part of this effort will be (at least it should be) content curation and content marketing. Creation and marketing of high quality, relevant, and purposeful content in the form of video, photo, and writing that drives consumers to profitable consumer action. This content curation and marketing can be fulfilled by either internally hiring a content marketing manager or outsourcing content to an agency or freelance writers. Now arrives the question…” should you hire internally, or outsource”?

Your Brand’s Debate

Now as your company debates the question of whether or not you should outsource content or hire an internal content marketer, many comments will be brought up in favor, but more likely against outsourcing content. Hiring a content marketing manager gives you control of a well-connected source you can readily reach, communicate, and work with. Above all I feel like the main argument in favor of hiring internally is a consistent brand voice. While these arguments are made in favor of hiring internally, outsourcing content will likely be belittled with comments centered on lack of brand voice, expenses, lack of expertise, lack of internal company communication, and most of all lack of trust from business to business or business to individual (depending on if you go with outsourcing to agency or individual freelance outdoor writers). While all of these are valid to a degree, my aim here is to settle the debate once and for all.

As the outdoor industry navigates the treacherous waters after last year’s DGA, as a brand and company in this industry you should realize that you are already starting the content marketing race late. For more than three years now many top outdoor industry personalities, influencers, hunting product giants, and creative brands have been adapting and perfecting their content marketing efforts. Their success is a testimonial to the validity of the DGA and why it arrived last year. With that being said, will hiring internally or outsourcing catch your company up, yield similar results to the pioneers of the industry, or outcompete these already established digital authorities?

Pros and Cons

Before we dive into the most important aspect of this argument, the numbers, it’s a good idea for your business to dive into the pros and cons of both options. These will simplify the debate but also create some progress to a logical decision before looking at the numbers.

Internal Content Marketing Manager

Pros

  • Control – and a lot better line of communication is a great argument for an internal hire. They are a part of weekly or daily internal meetings, sensitive or confidential information, and would be already apart of new product or service development.
  • Brand Voice – again one the biggest arguments for hiring a content marketing manager internally would be a unified and consistent brand voice. Essentially It is much easier to for an internal content marketing manager to be consistent with voice in relation to information, products, or services. Think about it simply as the manager being able to comfortably use “we” in content, instead of a freelance writer speaking only to readers.
  • Less Expensive – considering what you know or think content curation and marketing is. An internal hire, depending on the skill set and experience level, is most likely less expensive than hiring an agency or freelance individual on a flexible schedule. However, this comes at a cost to your content. I have seen many internal content creators focus on only their given skill set or area of interest, leaving a gap in marketing the content as a whole.

Cons

  • Tolerance – you could have the worst product or service in the industry compared to your competitors. It is a harsh reality but hiring internally will only create a continuation of the problem. Hiring internally means his/her salary is based on tolerating and accepting the product or service and marketing it. Therefore, most if not all of the content will lack the excitement and life.
  • Creativity – being in an office environment….no matter how “creative”, “radical”, or “progressively open” you feel it may be will dull creativity. Why? Minds in an office or internal environment think alike. Decisions and marketing efforts become funneled, and it can be easy for a creative content marketing manager to lose creativity over time. This also comes down to other employee’s suppression of ideas, content, and campaigns that are outside the box…as it is not the “norm” of the internal environment.

Freelance Outdoor Writers or Agency

Pros

  • Creativity – flows from a creative content agency or freelance writer. They are the outsiders looking in. Chances are they have perceived your brand for years, they are the consumers, giving them a unique and valuable perspective. This also creates diversity, something that could bring new life into your brand and even your brand’s voice.
  • Experience – is hard to come by. I don’t mean writing ability or even hunting/fishing experience. Normally this sets freelancers aside, but agencies bring more experience to the table as a whole. Not only writing and content creation, but an agency could bring a skillset to the table that could generate twice or three times as much profitable consumer action than an internal hire. They also continually work with other brands in the industry and have direct access to trends, fluctuations, and other content in the industry.
  • More Bang for your Buck – …literally. The experience and skill set that comes from outsourcing content to an agency could also create relationship and infrastructure for other needs. These could be social media marketing, web/graphic design, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), video production, analytics, and a host of other services most marketing agencies or a well-rounded individual freelancer could offer.

Cons

  • Communication – is absolutely the number one architect or destroyer of a brand’s success when it comes to outsourcing content. I have seen brands go from a top content authority in this industry to the very bottom over just a few short months…what happened? Communication stopped! Communication, to a level of an open phone line at any time, is often needed to create, syndicate, and market content freely and successfully.
  • Expensive – hourly or contracted agencies and freelancers are one of the first reasons brand hire internally. Good agencies or freelance writers know what their value is worth to you. However, they normally bring a broader and more experienced skill set to the table to create more effective content and ROI’s on content.

The Needed Skillset

I brought up the terms experience and skill set over and over again in the pro’s and con’s section, and for good reason. Now, obviously, I am leaning you towards making a decision to hire an agency for internal content marketing efforts. Most of the time the majority of business owners and marketers agree that this is a great route, especially if you have limited resources. However, I also know that one key hire could contain all of the skills set’s necessary to fulfill what an agency could…but that would be golden goose in terms of this industry. You won’t come by a marketer that can not only write or manage writing over numerous outdoor industry topics, or niche specific topics, that can also post, optimize (SEO), syndicate, and market that content on social media channels…at least in a way that doesn’t look like a train wreck. Optimization of content alone using SEO tactics can double if not triple content’s ability to drive traffic and drive profitable consumer action. Most content creators/marketers might have SEO on their resume but do they have the numbers or case studies to prove their understanding?

I can’t argue that the right individual that has the skillset, experience, knowledge base, organization, and drive could be a smarter investment for your brand. Again, this golden goose most likely has his/her own brand or company already and is not floating around looking for a job. However, I know that an agency is a lot more likely to have this skill set and experience covered. Checks and balances between individuals and departments in an agency prevent such train wrecks that could result from lacking in one area of content marketing.

Numbers to Prove Agency Success

While I can’t directly attest to a successful content marketing strategy from an internal hire, I can report impressive results from businesses that chose to outsource content to Stone Road Media (SRM). One client…let’s just name “Outdoor Industry TV Brand A” employs many SRM services including content, SEO, and syndication. Without giving away to much confidential information or industry secrets, the following numbers give you glimpse of what a successful agency can do for your brand and business. Over the course of multiple year relationships, “Outdoor Industry TV Brand A” grew both page views and sessions by around 70% (70% increase for 2017 vs 2016 and 2016 vs 2015). Organic traffic increased around 167% year over year from 2015 vs 2016 and again from 2016 vs 2017, an impressive increase considering page views are pushing close to 3 million!

Number’s from Stone Road Media’s 2018 ATA Show Content Marketing Kit.

 

This is a testament to the ability of an agency to fulfill a brand’s need for content marketing. Above all, it can show you what you are missing out on by either not implementing your own content marketing strategy or what your internal hire might not be achieving.

By any means, this blog and others like it on this website should be a comparison to how you approach digital marketing in the years to come. With the rest of the Outdoor Industry pushing forward into the digital marketing realm, how long will you wait and fall behind?

 

2018 ATA Show Forecast | Marketing Mix, Mobile Built For 2018

Mobile Focus and Organic Brands | 2018 ATA Show Forecast

By: Nick Pustay, Marketing Analyst, and Weston Schrank, Content Manager

To start, set aside the innovative technology, state-of-the-art bows, and an overwhelming amount of new products. If you were able to block all of those distractions out and focus on your brand or company during the entire show you probably know this is a changing industry that is evolving to meet the most modern of consumers. A rapidly changing consumer base now sets the tone for how manufacturers, brands, TV shows, and marketers will need to meet the customer at the moment of their need. Last year was essentially the “first stage of digital marketing”, the entire industry was moving in a new direction and setting longer term goals for their yearly marketing mix. This year’s predictions and forecast can appropriately be titled “Marketing Mix for 2018”! This is the year that the Industry will look for solutions to the digital marketing challenges that face a multitude of influential actors on the tradeshow floor.

Before major consumer bases shifted to technology heavy marketing channels, your brand would meet them in their home, in their magazines, on their television, and maybe in a few other nearby advertisements in retail, or through word of mouth. The last decade showed just how important a

comprehensive marketing mix makes or breaks a brand. This year, we are going to see the masthead of successful businesses in this industry flying flags from many, varied touchpoints to target their most loyal customers. The customer will be dictating where to meet them and when. You will need to show up to earn their business and keep their undivided attention.

Digital marketing presents the opportunity to directly engage with your consumer…anytime anywhere, and more trackable than traditional media buys… but that doesn’t mean anything without a brand tailored message…

2018 ATA Show Predictions

Before going through the bulk of this article here is a brief list of predictions for the 2018 ATA show.

  1. Mobile Focus – All the major marketing channels are trying to better tap into mobile engagements. You should be asking about how you can do that for your brand.
  2. Balance in the Marketing Mix – There is no “one size fits all” way to approach marketing. It takes specific, targeted investment in many formats and channels. This will be a key indicator of performance of your ad spend versus revenue. “Where” means more than ever to your customers.
  3. Unique Brand Identities – The content and presentation of your brand means everything to customer perception. How will you set yourself apart from your competitors? This means more to your ad channels than a dollar figure can.

Digital Marketing or Identity? Both.

Major brands stand out, viral videos stand out, and the successful startup stands out. No one will tell you how to do it. It takes many forms. This tradeshow is a decisive opportunity to make a statement on the tone of your brand for the year. This lies in the words you use in meetings, who you meet with, and how it is approached. This is also in your new product roll-outs (looking at you manufacturers) and how your perception will factor into sales taking shape for the lifetime of the product. Brand identities start in the attitude behind the brand.

Consistency is key in creating and maintaining your brand’s identity. It takes a united front and consistent presentation across all the important channels you use to reach the consumer. Brand identity defines your business and sets the tone for customer interaction which can have a direct effect on your bottom line. This ideology crafted into our 2018 ATA show predictions and how the latest marketing trends will effect companies across the industry this year. This will be the uniting factor in our forecasts.

Mobile Focus

This last year has had huge impacts on how to reach the customer on a mobile device. There is a lot of noise about how smart phones are changing the industry and your marketing. How much do you know about it and what are you doing to stay ahead of the curve? In the last year, Stone Road Media has undertaken specific efforts to improve the quality of our online offerings to fit mobile audiences. It has led to recapturing traffic and reducing load time for the ideal mobile experience. This increased organic traffic and enforced e-commerce conversions that were assisted by other channels. Sure sponsoring a top TV Show can bring a new product in to the light, but what about the continued relationship year after year? Focus on reaching the ever expanding market of customers with multiple screens.

There is a space in this industry that is open for multi-screen interactions. By looking at mobile you can capture the attention of a TV viewer of a sponsored show or enforce brand awareness with messages that unite different moments together. TV and traditional channels are not going anywhere any time soon. This is a way to capture more from a TV endorsement or sponsorship. Look to a mobile-first strategy to gain more from those “micro-moments” of customer attention. Tie the social media posting to a show airing and follow up with a blog post (optimized for mobile) and social post to restate key message points. This is the new continuum of message the customer will come to expect. That is by no means a recipe for success or a tried and true strategy, but rather one possibility of thousands of message options.

An opportunity could present itself to create this type of interaction during your sponsor or other meetings. Look for ways to work between screens and use the mediums to your advantage when creating proposals. It can only benefit both brands.

A mobile interaction and content uniting user experiences will change how your brand is perceived in the next 2 years more than your memes or reposts ever could.

Balance in the Marketing Mix?

The all important consideration is the way your channels and efforts will act together. People can sense reactionary efforts and throwing ads at customers can stink of desperation. The “run and gun” of past marketing moves will be on its way out with thoughtful planning and intentional moves attracting more attention and loyalty. Stone Road Media has seen this marketing mix being more influential with many market changes over the last year. It also signals the importance it will hold for this tradeshow and how businesses will present themselves in the upcoming year.

No two business can be successful with the same model anymore. The custom approach will be influenced by brand identity and customer segmentation. These create a space where you can set yourself apart with messages and offers. We have seen the effectiveness in our own clients and what this means for the year to come. This tradeshow will also show how these brands are leaning. Basically, if your competitor leans to heavy ad spend on traditional channels, it might be best to take another road or maybe hit them head on. The idea of competition is that it occurs in a flat space but, this tradeshow and its impact on future business is too multi-leveled and varied to examine the “flat earth” perspective of how your message will travel. There is a lot of information in each booth about how the competitive nature of the marketing mix is a major force in the next year for each brand and business. The industry wide model of competition is a multi-level playing field made manifest inside the walls of a convention hall. Have a goal for your marketing mix and be agile to an opportunity that matches your specific needs, not the leanings of your competition.

The value of a tradeshow this specific is understated and too few take advantage of the meetings and time it allows. Gather the needed information and look for opportunities that support your business goals.

Unique Brand Identities

Year over year, a single business can change 180 degrees from where it was with lots of work and planning. This tradeshow will give the first glimpse into some strategies for the next year. This is also the time to present your unique identity in a way that drives home what you are hoping to accomplish this year. Yes, that will matter to customer perception. But, this is understated in the way other brands or influencers could view your place in the industry.

If you are a content creator, you need to set yourself apart from the others, looking for sponsorship as much as manufacturers versus competitors. This goal is not a simple one. If it were, top brands/manufacturers and top TV shows/influencers wouldn’t be set apart in the industry. As the leading Outdoor Industry digital marketing experts and agency, we are navigating on both sides of the relationship. Some of our clients are the biggest TV show, personalities, and manufacturers in the Industry. On the other hand, we also work with newer content creators and manufacturers bringing things to the market for the first time and their first trade show. The way the presentation is suited to the uniqueness of the client has shown to be a major factor in a very highly competitive industry event like this. There has been a stagnation of some ideals in many parts of the industry seeming to take on a “just like” or “similar to” role. There are too many similarities where there should be differences to provide unique relationships between brands, manufacturers, influencers, and personalities.

Servicing both manufacturers and TV shows has its advantages and disadvantages, but one thing is for certain…matching unique aspects has created long term success for both… especially against copycat competitors.

Client Case Study: “Outdoor Industry TV Brand A”

“Outdoor Industry TV Brand A” is in the trap most TV shows face…content that is not readily available to social media, website, and online video channels. Most of this valuable content is locked away until the following year by contract. However, with Stone Road Media’s (SRM) help, the show has taken a strong stance to produce content that is strictly for digital and inbound marketing. By doing this, with the addition of content marketing, SEO, social media, and analytical services, the brand has provided analytics proving not only digital influence for manufacturers, but generating actual leads directly to the manufacturer’s eCommerce platform. This is in addition to their TV influence! Combining all the channels in a meaningful manner to the client’s needs and not some “expected” blending.

“Outdoor Industry TV Brand A” has produced numerous pieces of digital content, pictures, videos, and blogs. These blogs with SRM’s help have created a website that is a niche dominating authority. In fact, this year this Outdoor Industry TV brand has increased their organic traffic (search queries landing on popular and informative blogs) by 161% reaching nearly 3 million page views.

The blogs currently snatching up valuable search engine real estate are located strategically in areas for their sponsor relationships. In fact, most of the top performing blogs are in the top 3 search engine results page (SERP) rankings for the #1 keyword for their sponsor. Think about that for a moment… The #1 keyword for a manufacturer…the most valuable real estate to any brand selling specific products in this industry. Usually gaining traffic for these highly competitive keywords means bidding display ads, or an internal digital, content, and SEO driven strategy to get there organically. But instead, a TV show utilizing heightened followings and engagement levels, already ranks top 3 for a manufacture’s top queries…and of course the only product in the blogs, videos, and media from the influencer are the manufacturers…including links directly to the manufacturer’s online store. This makes use of the moments where a customer is searching and looking to make a purchase. All designed to work with mobile-friendly offerings and targeting.

These are top influencers taking their TV show and applying it digitally. Using their advantage in influence, reach, following, engagement, and authority to promote manufacturer’s products or services where they count…where people buy these products online! This is multi-screen message integration and syndication of brand messaging.

81% of consumers begin the purchase cycle online (Retailing Today, 2014)…isn’t that the best place for a relationship?

This is where the message meets receiver to give that forward movement, a solid strategy combining channels across touchpoints, screens, and experiences but tailored to influence the purchase where it matters to the customer.

Client Case Study: “Outdoor Industry Manufacturer Brand A”

Now having a TV show or personality doing the legwork is one thing, but it’s up to the manufacturer to make valuable use of the one thing they are getting out of the relationship… content!

“Outdoor Industry Manufacturer Brand A” was at first a typical brand you will see at this year’s ATA show. Very little digital marketing efforts, at least beyond the normal e-commerce, social media channels, and website. With SRM’s help, the brand decided to drive efforts towards utilizing every bit of influencer content and directly connect the consumer, the influencer, and the products. New website designs, mobile friendly and quick loading pages, and an easy to navigate shopping experience and ecommerce platform went a long way to start with. Beyond this, SEO and content marketing services fueled optimal use of influencer content. In fact, digital media in the form of podcasts, online TV and video series, and of course picture content from top industry influencers were formed into blogs for and by the manufacturer.

This internal content not only linked the product to influencer content, but generated a 90% increase in organic traffic, and more importantly established previously nonexistent product page rankings on the first search engine results page! With a shift towards content marketing, an established and continual organic traffic stream, and rising rankings for #1 product related keyword queries, it didn’t take long for the brand to see results on the ecommerce. These efforts in addition to search advertising generated a 10% increase in revenue in 4 months. It also generated a lot more views and consumption for the TV show/content producers website and digital channels.

The optimal use of TV show/influencer content was only possible because this content was available online. It was used to advance and achieve some of the most important goals of any digital marketing efforts…increased traffic, ranking, and of course a higher amount of profitable consumer action. This is the coming together of previously stated predictions to show how information will drive ATA 2018.

2018 ATA Show Forecast Conclusion

The 2018 ATA Show might be the year of “Marketing Mix for 2018”. This is the time where so many brands will hint at their abilities to meet major marketing challenges in the upcoming year. It will be a tone-setting moment for the next year as well as the embodiment of those strategies. This is an important time to capture those attentions with unique concepts and futuristic industry perspectives. It is also a time to set yourself apart on a positive note where it could be easier to meet just the status quo.

There is too many who take the specific nature of a show like ATA for granted and do not take the unique opportunities as a strategic push for their business needs. Other shows like SHOT and the Great American Outdoor Show are important in broader terms and lack the concise nature of what a more focused show can offer in opportunities.

As you and your team sit down to look at the budgets for this year’s marketing efforts carefully consider this relationship. What amount of the budget should you allocate for sponsorship this year? How much should you allocate for digital marketing?

If you see some of these predictions coming true this year contact us, or stop by Booth 3519 to sit and discuss your brand’s digital marketing efforts with us. We can help you adjust your marketing mix and help you craft a brand identity.