How ya'll doing? Woo! All right. Man, my head is full. And oh, by the way, I'm gonna get you sucka!


Slide 1

Like Ethan said, my name is Rob Snell. I'm from Starkville, Mississippi, and we sell dog collars. And what I'm going to talk to you about today is $10,000,000 reasons to get real; some things we did on our website that doubled our conversion rate.

Slide 2

I grew up in a family business, Gun Dog Supply. We sell training supplies for hunting dogs. That's a hunting dog. That's Click, one of my brother's dogs there.

Slide 3

I'm going to give you a little back story about the Snell family so you'll understand where we're coming from.

Slide 4

My parents started the business Gun Dog Supply on the kitchen table back in 1972.

Slide 5

We were a catalogue business. We basically had these little paper catalogues. We'd run ads in specialty magazines, and we were a mail order company.

Slide 6

And then my brother and I, me and my little baby brother Steve, we escaped the family business in 1985, went up to Mississippi State, started a band, started selling comic books. We were getting out of the dog supply business.

Slide 7

Well, it turns out, 1996, 1997, PetSmart opens up across the street from my mom and dad's brick-and-mortar store, taking 50% of their sales out. So we had to do something, so we found Yahoo Store. So thanks Paul. I'm a big supporter of Yahoo Store.

And it changed our business by order of magnitude. We put the comic book stores online, we put the dog stuff online. And it was great. In the last five or six years of my dad's life, he was able to go hunting, able to go fishing, do whatever he wanted to do. And in 2003, out of the blue he just dropped dead of a heart attack. And my brother had to take over the company.

And at that time, we were actually handing the orders, the fulfillment, and the customer service for Gun Dog, because my mom was 60 years old. She didn't need to be working 16 hour days in this dot com thing.

Slide 8

Well fast forward six months later in 2004, and our sales plateaued. We had the first month where we actually had not had an increase over the same month the previous year.

So Steve starts freaking out a little bit. I'm like, "Don't worry about it. Just relax, dude. Let me do the analytics. Something's wrong with the shopping cart, I did something. Maybe my site search needs some work…


…or something," Ethan. You know, I started looking around and nothing's changed. Looking back on it in hindsight, it was really easy to see what was going on. More and more competitors were coming online.

Slide 9

In 1997 when we got online, we were the first people in the hunting dog business to have a shopping cart. Well by 2004, all of our competitors, who had the exact same product catalogue that we did, had a shopping cart. And then there were all these new dot com kids, and every time I speak at PubCon, another one of you guys pops up, which is fine. I like a little competition.

But, you know, PPC rates were rising. There are only 10 spots in the organic search results. So that's what was driving the competition. And like I said before, web sales were great, but we kinda hit this plateau.

Slide 10

And so Steve's freakin out. And I come back home and have a meeting with Steve. And he's always on the phone talking with a customer. I want to go eat, he's talking to a customer. I want to go drive somewhere, he's talking to a customer.

And while he's talking to a customer, I thinking, "You know, we don't really do this on the website the way he does it over the telephone."

Slide 11

When Steve talks to one of our customers on the phone, I mean he's talking about their dogs, he's talking about their guns, they're talking about their trucks, their talking about hunting. He really bonds with the customer.

Slide 12

He finds out what activities they do, what problems they have. He says, "Dude, if you've got this kind of dog, this is the exact kind of training collar that you need to fix this problem."

Slide 13

And when he got off the phone, I was like, "What if we made a big change to the website? What if we do online what you do offline over the telephone?" And he was like, "All right. Gotta try something."

Slide 14

We put Steve all over the website. And what do I mean by that?

Well, my baby brother Steve, we made him the mascot. He hates when I call him the mascot. We put him on the homepage, we put him in the logo. We put his dogs on the homepage. We put him all over the site. When you come to Gun Dog Supply, you think you're having a conversation with Steve.

And it's a lot easier to scale something like this on the web than it is real life, because he can only talk to people 20-30 minutes a whack. I mean how many times a day can he actually do that and be the CEO of a company?

Slide 16

This is our web sales before. We were just trying to get out of the ditch. We weren't trying to set the world on fire.

Slide 17

And this is our web sales after we changed our website. I mean it was amazing. It wasn't something that happened overnight, because I mean we had to actually grind this content out.

Slide 18&19

At my keynote at PubCon, I went back and I said, "I wonder how much of a difference there is between the vector we were on before," I mean we were doing OK, "and this new vector when we started making this change?" And it was $10 million in additional revenue.

Slide 20

And if you guys want, I can tell you how we did this. Are ya'll interested in finding out? Over $10 million in additional sales that we would not have gotten had these competitors not been kicking our butts and forced us to actually leverage the most valuable assets that we have, which, as retailers, that's our knowledge; that's how to solve people's problems.

Slide 21

We more than doubled our conversion rate. And like Ethan was saying, it's not something that happens overnight. I mean Paul, you look at my Yahoo Store graphs, it's like it's a slow, slow grind climbing up…we had a decent conversion rate before.

Slide 22

There were three basic messages, looking back at what we did on the website, that we had to communicate to customers when they first came to the website. The first one is that my brother is a dog training supplies expert.

Slide 23

The second one is: This product will solve your problem.

Slide 24

The third thing is: Please buy from us. I mean once we tell somebody this is what you need to solve your problem, they can go anywhere and get it. I want them to buy it from us.

Slide 25

And the next part of the equation was we also had increased traffic from the SEO that we did, basically taking the content that we had written and driving more traffic. So if you increase your conversion rate and you increase your traffic, that's where you get this exponential growth from.

Slide 26

This is a little ad. I've got a session on SEO tomorrow. I've got two sessions. I'm doing ecommerce SEO at 10:15, and then I got 30 minutes to do nothing but talk about this stuff, the tactical stuff that I did. I figure SEO is probably 50% of that $10 million. And I give away the store. I talk about all kinds of stuff in there. I mean buddies of mine who sell SEO services hate my presentation. So if you are retailer, it's a good thing.

Slide 27

All right. There's Sage.

Slide 28&29

The first thing is we had to communicate that my brother is a dog training supplies expert. And if you are a retailer, you are an expert in what you sell. And if you're not, you need to get out of retail, because somebody's about to eat your lunch.

Slide 30

Be a real person. First thing is, Steve Snell. Nobody knows who Steve is.

Slide 31

So the first thing that we did is we put a face and a name on our Yahoo Store.

Slide 32

We put his face in the logo itself.

Slide 33

On every single page you can see Steve's smiling face. We put it on the homepage. We put his dogs on the homepage.

Slide 34

We actually made a page…and Paul, what is this, is it like revenue participation? The SteveSnell.html page on our site has the highest revenue participation of any page on the website. That means it contributes to folks who are actually going to place an order.

So folks are popping around the website, they're pogo-sticking back and forth between products, but they go to the Steve Snell page and they say, "Hey, what would Steve recommend for me to get?"

Slide 35

We actually put Steve's name in the Title Tags and the Meta Descriptions for our search engine optimization. Before you even come to the website, you are going to see Steve's name in the snippets. You are going to see Steve's name in the titles. We're kinda prepping you for: "This is all about Steve Snell."

Slide 36

Actually, in our Google AdWords ads we do the same thing: "Read Steve's e-collar reviews." He talks a lot about the products that we sell, and I want people to know, this is scent, I guess, this is going to differentiate us, like Paul was talking about, from the 7,000 other people who sell exactly what we sell.

Slide 37

The next thing is build rapport. Just because Steve's an expert and he's a real person doesn't mean you're going to identify with him.

Slide 38

And so what we do is we're really personal. We don't send emails out from the Gun Dog Supply customer service team, we send emails out from whoever is actually answering your email with their name. Steve signs his own emails. He includes family pictures in the emails. He talks about his kids. He talks about his dogs.

Slide 39

Now you need to establish authority. You are a product knowledge expert. Well how do you establish authority?

Slide 40

Well I call it "Show & Tell". You want to look like an expert, but just because you're wearing the costume doesn't mean you are going to be an expert.

Slide 41

This is Halloween. I went as Steve and Steve was me for Halloween. I don't know if you can tell from the picture there, but we were actually confusing people. But just because I can wear an orange hat and I can wear camouflage clothing does not mean I am a dog training expert. I know a lot about shopping carts, and ecommerce optimization, and SEO, but I don't really know that much about dogs.

Slide 42

Steve's been doing this a while. We are second generation dog supply folks. My parents started the business in 1972. Steve and I actually grew up…

Thank you very much for the mood lighting. Let's get it on.


Slide 43

That's my dad and Steve back in 1979, and they're going hunting and they're working the dogs. And we put this on the website. Steve's got a lot of experience.

Slide 44

Here's Steve and Izzy in Texas last year, one of his dogs.

Slide 45

Steve has 13 dogs. He has 13 dogs!

Slide 46

I mean he's got Retrievers, he's got Brittany Spaniels…

Slide 47

…he's got Click the bird dog here…

Slide 48

…Roxy the Retriever…

Slide 49

…Sage the GSP. I mean do you think he knows something about dogs?

Slide 50

He leverages content to the website. We actually have a Pro Staff page where he lists out all the dogs, and we have a hall of fame where we have all the dogs who are no longer with us. And we actually feature these dogs all over the website.

Slide 51

Steve goes to Texas. This is Steve and one of his dogs out in Texas.

Slide 52

I got a redneck to blog. My baby brother Steve with his iPhone app, his WordPress app, he'll be out there in Texas, in the field between covey rises when he's watering his dogs, and he fire up the iPhone and write a short little blog post, and he'll post it to I'm so proud of him.

Slide 53

We feature his pets. Ugh, this dog's crazy. This is Lucy. We feature even the most worthless dog in the whole family in the buyer's guides.

Slide 54

Steve knows hunting.

Slide 55

Six months out of the year he's doing "Research and Development", which means it's hunting season somewhere. He convinces is wife that he's working, which he really is working. But he's out in the field.

Slide 56

We do team-building exercises, which means we take our friends and employees and they go hunting. And I go with them and I take pictures. I'm not a big hunter.

Slide 57

We do testing of product specifications. And we really do. The manufacturers actually give us demo units for us to play with and find out what's wrong with them, because as Paul can attest, Snell Brothers are extremely candid about the things they like and don't like about products! We'll let you know.

But I mean, it's one of these things, you have all this stuff, put it on the website. I'm not a big fan of social media. I don't understand all the little stuff, but we're actually using some of this stuff on social; haven't really driven a revenue.

Slide 58

I've got a Flickr feed. We take all of the pictures that we take, we put them up on Flickr.

Slide 59

By the way, I've got some Facebook messages. Hang on. I've got to check that.

We put stuff up on Facebook. Mainly photos, but we also do updates.

Slide 60

The main thing I want to get across is Steve is an expert. He knows dog training gear. He uses more gear than anyone had ever seen. Our motto is: "We train our dogs with the products that we sell."

Slide 61

He talks about this on the website in the editorial content.

Slide 62

This kinda leads me to my second major point, which is:

Slide 63

This product is what you should buy. When I am shopping for something, I want to deal with an expert, and I want somebody to tell me what to buy. I don't want to have to sort through hundreds of different SKUs and try to figure out what the best Blu-ray DVD player is. I want somebody who knows something, who's going to pre-qualify me and say, "OK, you want to spend this much, you want to play these kind of movies." I don't want to have to do all that work.

So that's the difference between the way my dad ran things and the way Steve does things. My dad just liked to offer things for sale. And if you wanted to buy it, that's great. If you didn't, that's great.

With Steve, he's a little bit more like my mom's side of the family. We're a little bit more aggressive, we're a little bit more salesy, and we recommend what products.

Slide 65

You want to offer the solutions that solve customer problems.

Slide 66

Here he is on the website saying, "Are you tired of losing your dog? Here is a radio tracking collar that will help you keep up with your big running, $5,000 birddog.

Slide 67

And one of the best ways we found to do this is to tell folks what to buy with buyer's guides. I know Ethan was talking about that.

Slide 68

We actually recommend the dog training collars based upon certain people—what kind of dog they have and then what they're trying to do with their dog. And then sometimes we'll walk folks through like a product configurator at the end.

Slide 69

We have a 50% higher conversion rate when a new customer enters the website on a buyer's guide than on a category page. That is a big, big deal.

Slide 70

We express our opinions, like I was talking about with Paul. We actually express our opinions with product reviews.

Slide 71

My dad was afraid to piss off the manufacturers. Well, Steve is not afraid at all. And sometimes I gotta dial him back a little bit, but he'll tell folks, in a blog post, exactly what he thinks about what's good and what's bad about a certain product.

And I think customers think this is refreshing. This is one of the reasons why we had this huge bump in our conversion rates across the site.

Slide 72

Steve actually endorses the products that he uses. And not like a Bass Pro fishing dude does. He actually says, "This is what I use. This is the best that we can possibly sell." And it may not even be the most expensive thing, but it's what he personally is using in the field. And we have seen a 200% increase when he switches from one brand to another. And manufacturers hate this.

I mean we're not trying to influence their sales, but when a guy who's high-profile like Steve starts doing that, I mean it can affect their sales.

Slide 73

I mean he says this is the only training collar he'll use. And he's actually in the process right now, he's about to switch to another one.

Slide 74 & 75

All right. The third thing is: Ask for the order. So once you've established that you are an expert in what you sell, and once you've actually pointed out to folks: "Hey, this is what you need to buy to solve your problem," I want you, as a retailer, to tell me why I should buy it from you and not go to Amazon, and not go somebody who's got a good site search and find it on their site.

Slide 76

You know, ask for the order! I say: "Please buy it from us."

Slide 77

And the first thing is you've got to be price-competitive. My good buddy Ray always says: "It's the offer, stupid." And it is. You've got to get in there with them on price. You don't have to be the lowest guy on the Internet, but you have to be reasonably price competitive.

Slide 78

In our business, we sell a lot of MAP products. You know, everybody's got to sell stuff at the same price online. And I know a lot of you guys have to deal with this, and so we had to have all the additional value adds to differentiate us from everybody selling the exact same thing that we're selling.

Slide 79

You gotta tell folks why they should pick you.

Slide 80

And what I recommend is you make a "Why should you shop with us?" page and actually list these things out on the page for folks who want to dig in and find that information.

Slide 81

Tell folks that there's no risk when they buy something from you. Risk Reversal—it's a big deal.

We have an awesome return policy. Steve is not expecting the box to come back with the product unused. He's expecting you to actually use what you buy from us in the field. And if it doesn't work, he wants to swap it out. He wants to know why it didn't work. So you can ship it back to us, and it's a really customer friendly returns policy.

Slide 83

The next thing is you want to answer customer's questions really quickly. And I think this is another reason why our conversion rate jumps up. Because if you pop Steve an email right now about a specific product, I mean he stays on top of his email.

Slide 84

That boy lives in his Mac Book. I mean he's always on the phone, he's always answering customer emails. He's got it on his phone now. I mean you need to stay on top of customer questions. And that's an awesome way to get some content, and I'll talk a lot more about that in my two sessions on SEO tomorrow.

Slide 86

Over here you've got this one guy that says, "Hey, how can I stop my barking dog?"

Slide 87

And then over here on the other side, you've got Steve saying, "Hey, I love my bark limiter. It works. It's awesome!"

Slide 88

And sometimes when these two guys hook up, it looks a little bit like this.


Slide 89

You need to find your Steve. And one thing I didn't say, if something happens to Steve, like with a bizarre hunting accident or something like that, you know, some trouble should befall him and he's no longer available, I'm going to do a Weekend at Bernie's, and I'm going to stuff that dude, and I'm going to put him in his chair, and I'm going to tell everybody: "He's in a bad mood. You do not want to mess with Steve." Because we base our whole business around him being the mascot and the icon of the whole company.

Slide 90

And I'm not saying you are going to get this kind of lift, but I just know that it works.

Slide 91

Here's an ad. Ethan, are we still doing this after today? I'm just kidding, buddy.

We're actually going to be doing some ecommerce seminars. Ethan and I are doing some. We're going to do some with Michael Whittaker.

Slide 92

Email me at It's a newsletter. You can sign up there.

Slide 93

Or you can go to where I'm going to have these slides and about 25 other presentations. And that's the end of my ads. Thank ya'll very much.

Pubcon 2010: Ecommerce Optimization Reviewed by Rob Snell on 2010-11-30

. PUBCON PPT: $10,000,000 reasons to get real; some things we did on our website that doubled our conversion rate.

Like Ethan said, my name is Rob Snell. I'm from Starkville, Mississippi, and we sell dog collars. And what I'm going to talk to you about today is $10,000,000 reasons to get real; some things we did on our website that doubled our conversion rate.

Rating: 4.5