Howdy, folks! Hope the summer is treating you well...
Had a blast in Dallas doing the keynote at PUBCON.
My talk was on how we got $10,354,767.00
in additional sales (over past 6 years)
by putting STEVE all over the store,
and I've been getting pretty good reactions to that,
especially from smaller folks like us.
About 6 years ago, we hit a sales plateau
and decided to change the way
we approached selling online.
In 2004, our family business,
GUN DOG SUPPLY, had a sales slump.
Somehow we wound up in the ditch!
We took a hard look at what we were doing online,
and we made one simple, but substantial change
to our Web site and how we sold online.
And the effect? Over the past 6 years?
Over $10 million dollars in additional revenue
That's ADDITIONAL revenue.
Sales ABOVE our normal growth.
So what did we do? How did we do it?
That's what I'm going to talk about today.
FIRST, A LITTLE HISTORY
GUN DOG SUPPLY is our family business
We sell training supplies for hunting dogs
My parents started GDS on their kitchen table in 1972
My dad was unhappy with quality of some dog supplies
started making his own collars, leads, and leashes
to sell these, he bought ads in hunting dog speciality magazines.
pretty small circulation, pretty targetted audience.
He expanded his product line to carry more products,
products OTHER people manufacture
And WE marketed these through a small B&W mail order catalog.
At this point he decided to put the family in family business
by recruiting Steve and me to help with the catalog
In 1979 he quit his job to go full time on the DOG stuff
A few months later, we had a major set back
when the PEARL RIVER FLOODED
and put 6 feet of water in our house.
We pretty much lost everything.
Destroying all of the inventory in our house.
Why am I telling you this?
You need to know where we started from.
So my folks decided to dig in and make this thing work.
Anyway, folks knew we were in MS ...
local folks wanted to come shop with us,
so we added a retail showroom to the warehouse.
We started selling premium dog food, stuff you couldn't get
Pretty soon we were selling more stuff
to pet owners than hunting dog folks
-- -- -- GDS GETS ONLINE (1997) -- -- --
And then in 1996, another set back: Petsmart came to town.
We knew that would SEVERELY impact the business
Went back to our roots
and in 1996 rebooted the mail order catalog.
for HUNTING DOG FOLKS
By then I was out of college,
Steve & I had started what's now SNELL BROTHERS,
our own retail business up in Starkville
but I came back home for several months
and we hammered out a catalog.
Sent out THOUSANDS of copies
and we got bupkiss. Nothing. Zilch.
And at this point my Mom was pretty desperate,
and she became OBSESSED with getting on the Internet
And she said, "Son, I want you to build me a Web site."
And I said, "Mama small businesses aren't making money online..."
"Son, I want you to build me a Web site..."
And I said, "the Internet's all about PORN...Big companies losing
money IPOs and stuff"
And she said, "I don't care, make me a Web site. So I did.
So we did, and long story short it worked.
We found Yahoo! Store,
and uploaded our catalog
and we were off and running
-- -- -- JUMP to 2001 -- -- --
It worked so well that Steve had to take over
order fulfillment & customer service.
Mom was too old to be working 60 hours a week,
Steve was tired of selling comic books & baseball cards
he said the DOG STUFF was the next big thing
So by 2001 ONLINE sales were 4x retail sales
my folks were able to SELL THE DOG STORE, and we went Web only
I was more interested in Internet Marketing
and SEO and Yahoo! Store development,
but I worked on GDS as I had time in between other projects
-- -- -- JUMP to 2004 -- -- --
Now my baby brother, Steve, was running the company.
My Dad passed away 6 months earlier,
and we were dealing with all the fallout from that
and Steve stepped up to fill some pretty big shoes
and things were pretty good...
And then, we hit a snag.
We started having negative cashflow.
Our expenses were growing faster than our sales.
And then our sales STOPPED growing
And then our sales STARTED dropping
And we had our first "down" month
in the history of our Internet business...
Here's a closeup of a sales graph
Every year we have this dip in sales
and every May sales pick back up
here's 2003, and you see the dip,
and then people start thinking about hunting season,
and sales pick up
Well, here's 2004 and you see the dip
And then it DROPS. It DROPS.
And Steve's freaking out. And I'm saying don't worry,
it's just a blip -- things will pick back up.
And I'm digging in our analytics,
trying to see if anything broken
anything technical wrong and it's not.
So I'm freaking out and trying to
find what's going on.
AND IN HINDSIGHT
it's pretty easy to see
what was happening:
More and more competitors
were coming online.
All the old school catalogs in our industry now had shopping carts
with virtually the same catalog that we had...
And all these new school, dot com kids were popping up, too...
Selling the same things we were selling...
2004 SEO wasn't new.
Competition for those 10 spots on page 1 was getting FIERCE
AND Paid Search was coming online then.
CPC's were skyrocketing
More and more folks bidding on the same keywords
It was EXPENSIVE.
And all the OLD ways of driving traffic?
They weren't working as well as before..
GREAT, SO NOW WHAT DO WE DO?
Steve and I had one of our knock down,
drag out "conversations"
Maybe this is the new reality?
Or maybe we're going to have
to change how we do things...
So I'm sitting in Steve's office
WAITING for him to get off the phone.
Steve has these MARATHON phone conversations with customers.
I'm talking 20-30 minutes... easy...
And they're talking about their dogs...
and they're talking about TRAINING their dogs...
and their talking about HUNTING with their dogs...
and their talking about their hunting GEAR ...
and their GUNS and their TRUCKS...
And next thing you know, the guy places an order.
And he's a customer FOR LIFE. FOR LIFE.
And it's GREAT, but it doesn't scale.
I mean we handle dozens and dozens of these calls every day.
There's no way STEVE can do this with every customer over the phone
It just doesn't scale.
He has TONS of other things he's gotta take care of, too
SO I HAD AN IDEA...
"What if we do the same thing online
that you do over the phone?"
You know how when a customer calls and you talk to 'em.
You find out what kind of dog they have,
what they're trying to do with their dog?
And then after you get to know them and their situation,
YOU TELL THEM WHAT TO BUY TO SOLVE THEIR PROBLEM
and then they BUY it? That's AWESOME.
What if we did that on the Web site?
What if we took everything you ever said to a customer,
and put it all over the Web site...
Wonder what THAT would do?
Steve said,"Couldn't hurt. Do it."
And that's what we did.
The one single, significant thing we did?
We put STEVE ALL OVER THE WEB SITE.
We put his recommendations on the site.
We put his opinions on the site.
We put the experience you'd get on the phone
on the Web site. And it WORKED.
This graph shows you our sales from 1997-2004
(Rolling 12 month average to smooth out the bumps)
And then we "put Steve on the site"
Just for fun, I modeled what our sales would have been
so I could see what the difference was
and over the past six years it's over $10 MILLION.
$10,354,767 in additional sales
Looking back, it's pretty easy to see what we did:
we decided to push three pretty powerful ideas:
1) Steve is an EXPERT on dog training supplies.
2) Steve says this PRODUCT is what you need to solve your problem.
3) Please buy it from US.
How did we do that?
-- -- -- #1 BIG THING: -- -- --
First thing I had to establish was
that STEVE IS AN EXPERT. And he is.
Establish that you are an authority in your industry.
You're not just some guy on the web hunting dog stuff.
You're THE GUY on the Web selling hunting dog stuff
How do you do that? Show folks, don't tell folks.
STEVE KNOWS DOGS
Steve's been doing this awhile. Steve has 16 dogs
STEVE KNOWS GEAR
He has a truck full of dog gear.
He writes reviews about it on his blog, and on GDS.
He posts reviews. Annotates SOMEWHAT objective product description
STEVE KNOWS HUNTING
Spends more time in TX hunting than anyone I know.
Takes his staff with him.
Doing R&D, and always needs a bigger budget.
So now you KNOW Steve is an expert, so we leverage that:
We put his NAME and and his face on EVERY PAGE on the site:
On the Homepage.
Even in the SHOPPING cart.
Steve personally signs all the emails.
Staff signs thank you notes in the box.
-- -- -- -- BIG #2 -- -- --
Tell folks: This product is what you need for YOUR dog
Recommend solutions to problems. To help do this,
we wrote a buyers guide AND THAT ROCKED!
Buyers' Guides have a 50% higher conversions
than common section page -- THIS IS HUGE!
We pimped our BUYER'S GUIDE.
This is preview of what we're about to launch
* Quick Picks - Collar Chart (narrow)
* Explain Concepts -- more info
* Help Me Choose > specific paths for more info folks
Express YOUR opinions.
Try to put the facts in the CAPTION
and mark the EDITORIAL in a STEVE SAYS box
or have REVIEW in the NAME of the page.
Endorse the products you use. Steve is candid
where the manufacturers might fudge a little bit.
It's OK to be excited about what you sell.
So how do you MAKE this stuff?
It's SERIOUSLY hard work!
Write unique product descriptions
Provide more info than even the manufacturer.
Write a paragraph for every $10 in item price
Most retailers copy and paste the MFG's description
which is HORRIBLE for SEO,
and does NOTHING differentiate you from competitors...
HAVE MORE PHOTOS THAN ANYONE. Example?
* Typical product shot
* MOPIX each component
* Something for size or scale
* Show the BOX shot
* Show details of controls or other important areas
* Show what you get
* Show all the accessories
* All the paperwork and books
We take all our own photos. Proves we stock it, have it.
HOW TO MAKE CONTENT
RECORD EVERYTHING -- video AND audio.
When we're out driving, I ask STUPID questions
Play 20 questions with each product.
Shoot video of anything you can demonstrate.
Example: Musher's secret -- TX -- took 5 minutes
1 minute video on it's own page
Transcribe the audio from video for both SEO reasons
AND folks can read faster than they can watch the video.
STATS -- show people are looking at it
also DISTRIBUTE when makes sense
1) I'm buying ads on youtube for traffic
2) then buying an ad on the video that I'm buying ads for
3) then I also do SEO on the Youtube video < that's the traffic
CONTENT: Make it. Distribute it. Promote it. Profit from it.
Turn customer EMAILS INTO PRODUCT FAQ pages.
LIBERATE content that's trapped where search engine spiders can't
crawl it. It's either off line OR in a format Googlebot can't get
to. And if content's not in a search engine, it gets no traffic.
What kind of content? FLASH, PDF owner's manuals, transcribe audio
from product videos, text from product box / Point of purchase
BIG #3 -- Why should someone buy from us? Well, you gotta be
competitive on price. But you also have to SELL YOURSELF -- PICK ME!
So we made a page WHY SHOP WITH US. Remove customer risk, make more
Tell folks product AVAILABILITY and DELIVERY TIME. I like to show a
Customers need to know they can get answers fast! Offer talk to
human. Respond to emails ASAP.
Everyone SAYS they offer "great" customer service. If you're
offering an opinion on how YOU do things, let your customers do the
talking. Third party endorsements are much more credible than YOU
saying you offer great customer service.
You need to "FIND YOUR STEVE."
You need to COMMUNICATE 3 things: You're the expert, this product
will solve their problem, and when they're gonna buy it, they
should pick you.
We did that. We got $10,000,000 in additional sales.
You can do it, too.