Small Business Thoughts

Online Advertising Basics

Print advertising is important and should always remain a mainstay of your advertising plan. Online advertising, which has been around for almost twenty years, should also be a part of your advertising plan. Consumers are spending more time in the digital world every day of every year – shouldn’t your advertising be there for them to see? The Media Audit reports that the Internet now comprises one-third of the typical media day for all U.S. adults, and they spend approximately four hours a day online. No matter where your fishing tackle store is located or which segment of the industry you are involved in, your customers are online.

Getting Started
Where to start with online advertising may be one of the biggest hurdles you will face, but by reading this piece you have already started the process. Most Fishing Tackle Retailer readers are interested in local customers, as this is where the majority of your business will derive from. Some of you, especially this time of year, will see an increase in non-local customers as the tourists start to appear. No matter where your customers live, at some point they will be on a website local to you to obtain local news, weather and travel information, or just local fishing information.

Advertising on your local newspaper’s website in the Sports section or in the Weather/Tide Chart section would be a wise choice. Where do anglers go to get information about the weather for an upcoming trip, or when high tide will be, online? How great would it be for your business if while they were obtaining this information your ad and a link to your site were there as well? If you sell more than just fishing tackle this is a great choice as you surely sell items for non-anglers as well. If you are strictly a fishing tackle retailer, you will have some non-anglers see your ad, but you will also certainly have many anglers see it as well.

Like most areas, yours should have at least one if not multiple fishing message boards or local fishing websites. Many local sites are always looking for new advertisers or sponsors, and they are a hub for the many local and visiting anglers as well. Placing your ad on a site such as this is called target marketing, or fishing where the fish are. You know anglers come to this site for fishing information – at some point every angler on the site will need something new. Why not have your store be where they buy it?

Placing your ads where your customers go online not only keeps your campaign focused to the correct clientele, it also keeps your name top of mind and associates your business with a positive site they already trust. Advertisers always want to have their ads in a place their customers visit, trust for truthful information, and always leave happy.

Payment Options
The price of the ad will also reflect the size of your ad, much like print advertising. How you are charged for your ad is dependent on how the site is set up and the amount and type of traffic they receive. A local newspaper’s site will receive a large number of clicks every day, but how many clicks will the Sports section receive? Find this out before you agree to any terms. The local fishing boards may receive less traffic, but it is far more concentrated and everyone who comes is already pre-qualified to be a customer of yours. No matter what the traffic of the site is, there are three ways you will generally see ad prices broken down.

The first way many sites charge for ads is based on a Cost Per Impression (CPM) – this means you are charged X number of dollars for every thousand visitors that come to the site per month. Most local newspapers have adopted this method as they receive some of the heaviest traffic. Unfortunately the CPM model does not count where on the site they visited, just that they visited. If you are advertising in a section that does not see as much traffic, you are being charged the same as someone who is advertising in a section that does see the majority of traffic. Find out the breakdown of traffic throughout the site if possible.

The second method is a Cost Per Click (CPC) model. This method charges you every time someone clicks on your ad and goes to your site. This is a somewhat newer model and tends to deliver a slightly better result than a CPM model. Many sites with a CPC model will ask you to keep your ads fresh and might require you to serve up multiple ads a month. They only make money when someone clicks on your ad so they will want a fresh message to ensure more clicks.

The final model is a flat monthly fee for your ad. The more specialized the site the more common this method is. The specialized sites may not see the multi-million numbers of clicks a month that other sites do. They do however offer the most targeted audience you can find. A setup like this is great for you if you are not trying to sell through your site, and are more interested in keeping your name in front of your customers. Whenever possible ask if this method is an option. If it is, choose this method. What good is a few thousand clicks to your site if you not selling goods through your site?

Creating the Ad
Every website is set up with specific ad sizes – the discussions on which size ads and which location garner the most clicks is always debatable. The key is to ensure that your ad fits the feel of the site you are on, and catches your customer’s eye. An ad that blends in too much with a site’s background will be overlooked; one that is too loud or contrasts too much will be ignored. An ad that is too cluttered or is too hard to understand will turn off customers as well. Create your digital ads to reflect a message similar to your print advertising. This will help create an even flow within the customer’s mind and help drive home the key point you are showcasing. Having too many mixed messages will often confuse customers and send them to your competition’s cash register.

Most times your powerful print advertising will translate well to the digital world and should at least be tried before you attempt to create a new message. If your print ads are black and white, introduce color, but limit the amount of color you add. Again, too much color, or colors that do not compliment your message can turn off customers. If advertising is not your forte, find someone who can help you. If there is a fee, see what kind of deal you can work out for bulk ads. Many times a graphic designer will design ten ads at once for less money than they would ten individual ads. If the ads can then perform double-duty in both print and the digital world the investment will be well worth it for you. If the ads pay off, as they should, your cost will be a great investment into your business.

When to Start
When should you start digital advertising? Why not today? Spring, summer and fall are key fishing times for most areas, especially ones that have a summer tourism industry. Getting your name out there now will only help your business’s image and increase your bottom line. Before you start advertising, make sure your website is up to date and has your key contact information easy to find. Having your website up to date should always be a key concept you practice whether you are advertising online or not.

Dealing with Showrooming and Webrooming

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have proven that the American’s will to buy, buy, buy is alive and well. Shoppers also love to compare prices and ensure they are getting the best deal they can before they part with their hard earned money. One trend that has taken hold the last few years is showrooming. Showrooming is where customers come to your store to see the products they want, examine them and see if they really want to buy it. Maybe they test the smoothness of a reel, the action of a rod or see the true color of a new lure. They then leave your store without purchasing anything and buy the same product online for a perceived or actual reduced rate. Many times they fail to factor in the cost of driving to and from your store, the shipping, the interest charge on their credit card, or the delay they experience while waiting for their new item to arrive.

Showrooming hurts more small businesses than people realize. A recent poll discovered that already forty-six percent of Americans have admitted to showrooming this holiday season. It is easy to do as Cyber Monday follows all of the Black Friday deals and exposes so many customers to the latest and greatest goods.

While showrooming has taken a chunk out of many brick and mortar stores’ income, a new trend has started to develop: Webrooming. Webrooming is where consumers shop online for the best price they can find on items they want to purchase. It helps give them a sense of what a product should cost and also it helps educate them on the many features an item has. They may also stumble across a few videos showing the product in use. Instead of purchasing this item online though, they then go to a brick and mortar store to purchase the item.

Why would anyone spend time shopping online for an item only to go to a local store to buy it? First, they cut out the delay in shipping, especially if time constraints are an issue. Also, many feel that the lack of customer service on some sites is a turnoff. They would rather deal with a person face to face to make the final transaction than deal with an online store. Some webroomers will make the purchase online, but use the option to pick their item up in their local store. This is especially true of larger box stores, and online stores that offer this feature.

So how can smaller businesses deal with showrooming and webrooming to ensure their time with customers is well spent and not just helping another store or site make the sale?

Learn how to identify showroomers. Usually they come in with one product in mind and request to see it. They will spend time examining it and testing it out. They may also have a list of questions ready to go for your sales staff on the various aspects of the product. In the past these were the customers that you were sure were going to walk out the door with some new fishing gear from your store. Now, they are the ones that tend to leave you scratching your head and wondering, “why didn’t they buy from us?”

Once you identify a customer as a potential showroomer, the last thing you should do is call them out on it. Instead, this is when your sales staff needs to know how to sell the benefits of buying from your store. Teach your employees about your store’s differentiations – what makes your store unique. If they have a problem with the rod or reel they can return it to your store to be repaired or have it replaced. They can start fishing today with it. Offer free line or free refills with their reel purchases. Whatever it is you offer that an online store cannot needs to be stressed.

Consider offering an ad-matching program: tell them if they bring in the ad you will match it. If you go this route, be sure they also supply the URL so you can verify the price yourself. Get creative and realize that you may lose some money from time to time on one or two sales, but you could gain a very loyal customer that will spend more in your store in the long run than you lose on that one sale. Many customers will return to a store they see is willing to go the extra mile for them, especially if price is not an issue.

Webrooming is more difficult to spot than showrooming since the customers are online and there tends to be less interaction with online sales. There are ways to spot webroomers though. Look for customers who consistently add items to their shopping cart but never make the purchase. Are there certain customers that email you asking questions about products but never purchase them? These are normal traits of a webroomer. They are looking for the best deal, the best price, but are usually concerned about shipping costs, return policies and how quickly they can receive the product or what extended services are offered.

To counteract webrooming you need to ensure your site is enhanced to deal with this new issue. You need to ensure your store offers in-store pickup, in-store returns, and hassle-free purchasing. Look at your site from a consumer’s perspective and see what you may find to be an obstacle from buying from it and remove it. While profitability is your main goal, selling your products instead of assisting another store of selling their goods is a close second.

You can also offer online deals through your social media sites, direct email and mail campaigns as well. Offering repeat shopping discounts on shipping is also another alternative. Finding where you can trim a bit of your profit to ensure repeat sales and more loyal customers is the new trend in online retailing. While it is not as easy as it once was to be an online retailer, there is still money to be made if you play the game.

The Two Sides of The Internet Sales Tax Debate

The Market Place Fairness Act of 2013 has been in the news much more recently as lawmakers continue to iron out the details of the Act and who will be responsible to pay, what they will owe, and even who they will owe. Recent rulings, or non-rulings as they have been for Amazon in New York have many traditional stores celebrating.

Do not get too excited though, the current framing of the Act by Congress appears to initially target just four and a half percent of online merchants. These same merchants though, make up fifty-seven percent of the total online U.S. Internet sales each year.

Many smaller online retailers see this as a win because they will still be exempt from collecting sales tax from many of their sales, making their sales more palatable to consumers. But this could be a short win for them as many traditional retailers are pressuring their elected officials in Washington to fix this discrepancy.

State officials are also asking for more as they feel their states are losing out on potential monies that they need. In a recent study performed by the U.S. Small Business Administration, it found that of the top one thousand online retailers, only sixteen percent of them collected any state sales tax for all forty-five sales-taxing states.

The existing problem for any online retailer is the 9,600 different taxing jurisdictions currently in place across the country. The Market Place Fairness Act is trying to streamline this to make it easier for online retailers to know not only what to collect, but also who will be collecting it. Until lawmakers can make it easier for online retailers to not only know what percentage of the sale they need to tax across all states, many feel this Act will flounder in D.C.

In the end, the Market Place Fairness Act comes down to states’ rights versus national rights and who has authority to enact which taxes on sales. Without a physical presence in many states, online retailers do not feel they should have to pay taxes on sales to consumers who reside there. aBrick and mortar retailers feel that they are left on an unequal playing field because their prices must be increased to incorporate the mandated local taxes that online retailers do not.

Consumers are the only winners for now as more and more search out deals online to find the best price they can. Their price shopping may be hurting their local area more than they know though. Local retailers that once depended on their business are closing their doors and the taxes collected on local sales to keep their municipalities running are going uncollected and are forcing more cutbacks in their hometowns.

Where do you stand on this issue? Do you feel there should be a nationwide sales tax for all online retailers? Should there be a tax for just the larger online retailers and allow the smaller retailers to continue business as-is?

Are Family-Owned Businesses a Dying Breed

This country was once rooted in the family-owned-and-run business. The country once grew and thrived on these businesses and they were handed down from generation to generation, but are they becoming a thing of the past?

For many small tackle shops, being a family-owned-and-run business is a source of pride. Talk to a few owners and they will tell you how their father or grandfather started the business and how it is still thriving under their leadership today. So why could family-owned businesses be dying off?

It is not because of the buying habits of modern day shoppers switching from brick and mortar stores. Most family-owned businesses are offering online shopping. In fact, there are many small family-owned online stores doing quite well. It isn’t because of the economy or because of our government.

The reason why family-owned businesses are a dying breed is because of poor planning on behalf of the owners themselves. In case many of you haven’t noticed, the world many of us grew up in is no longer the world we live in. There are more laws now governing business than there ever have been. There are also more laws governing death and the distribution of the deceased’s assets and the taxes on them. While planning for the succession of the next generation of ownership is uncomfortable for many, it is also a necessary discussion many do not take part in.

To get started, you need to realize that no matter how much no one wants it to happen, someday a new owner will need to take the reigns of the family business. The sooner you accept this fact and make plans, the sooner you can rest at ease knowing everything will run according to your plans.

For those of you who are the owners, or those who wish to continue on with the ownership of the family business, you need to start your preparations now. None of us can see what tomorrow will bring, and unfortunately the planning we put off until tomorrow always seems to be the planning we needed to do yesterday. The sooner you start, the better prepared you will be when that day comes. It will also make it easier to go back and make revisions if needed, or to break the conversation up into smaller sessions. If family members from out of town are needed to sign off on documents or their input is needed, now may be a good time to schedule a discussion over the upcoming holidays later this year.

Sit down and discuss what makes your business so successful and what the core values are today. Who should take over as the business owner; will other family members be silent partners and receive a piece of the income, if so how much? Will the ownership of the property change hands, if so, to whom?

Consider creating a family charter as well. A family charter is nothing more than a written agreement among your family members regarding the family business. The charter will define which family member(s) will take ownership of the company, who will have a voice in the business decision making and employment decisions, along with what monetary allotments will be made monthly, quarterly or yearly to each family member.

Make It Legal
After you have discussed everything with your family members, sit down with an attorney and have it legally written up. There may be questions you did not think of, or situations that could occur that were never discussed. This may not be a quick legal session, so be prepared for it. Talk with your family members and let them know that things may need to be changed or re-written for everyone’s benefit, namely the businesses’. Discuss any legal questions you have with your attorney. This is the business you have spent decades building – take the time it deserves now to ensure its success. If you took the time to create the family charter, have your attorney look this over as well to ensure there are no loopholes or voids in your planning.

Look Outside the Family
Not every family wishes to hold on to their family’s business, and many family-run businesses have key employees who have been loyal for years. If no one in your family wishes to see the continuance of the business, see if your trusted employee would like to take over ownership of it. If so, see if you can set up a plan to have him or her start buying it from you now, making smaller payments throughout the years and slowly taking over ownership of the business. It will save them from having to acquire a large sum of money at once, and will give them more pride in their work.

If there is no one who currently exists within your business or family who wants the store, consider hiring someone new who would want to take over ownership. This may be the most risky venture, but it could pay off in the end. Many times someone outside of the business will have a fresh perspective on things and could jump-start your business into being more profitable.

If you decide on either of these ventures, consult an attorney before you begin. This will make sure everyone knows their limits and keep someone from overreaching their boundaries.

No matter who takes over your business in the coming years, it is a hard proposition to accept and realize. This is what makes a family business so wonderful though; the business has become a member of your family and needs to be thought of after you are no longer able to run it. Give it the consideration it deserves and a lot of time to plan for its next owner. It has been good to you, good to the community and surely has seen many new anglers created because of its existence. Hopefully your community will see it pass on to the next generation many decades from now, just like they saw you continue its growth.

Do Small Businesses Hold A Social Media Advantage?

Size matters, especially in business. We all know that the larger your buying power, the better deals you can find from buying in bulk. You can also store more inventory and offer a wider selection of options for customers. You also can have bigger headaches as well.

In fact, when most newcomers join the world of social media, the trends state that they tend to follow or like pages their friends either suggest to them or already like, and with the current push for shopping local at small businesses, why not cash in on it?

It’s Better to be Small
Social media is about relationships. It is much easier for a smaller business to have not only a personality, but also the chance to build a relationship with a customer than a large corporation. Social media users like to interact with a person more than a faceless company – many times large organizations have trouble showing their personality due to multiple people being in charge of social media accounts. Smaller businesses though tend to have just one or two people in charge of their social media accounts and are able to let their personas come through in their posts.

Being human and letting your ideals and personality shine through your posts is a great way to attract more followers. It is also easier to cultivate these online relationships into customers, especially if you are able to recognize someone in your store as a follower on social media.

You Don’t Need It All
We have profiled many of the top social media sites on in the past. While there are many to chose from, you need to find the one that fits you and your customers the best. Time is an issue for many small business owners and trying to cultivate numerous social media accounts can be very time consuming. Find one, stick with it and be loyal to it. If you have just five hours a week to dedicate to social media, those five hours will be better spent on one platform than on five different ones. You will also see a better return from that one than you would from multiple accounts.

Instant Feedback
In years past if you wanted to try something new with your business you would have to try your idea then see if it was well received or not by your customers, such as adding a new product line or venturing into a new market. This was and is not only financially costly it is also time consuming. With the advent of social media you can share your ideas for this new venture and get almost immediate response from your followers. Large corporations will need to run this through multiple levels of management before they can try such an idea. Small businesses though need to just discuss it quickly and run with it. If the feedback from your followers is poor you know not to venture down that road; if it is overwhelmingly positive you can and should go for it.

Free For All
The final way small businesses hold an advantage over large corporations on the social media landscape is that it is an equal playing field. Yes, you can pay to promote yourself, but in all honesty it is free for all users. You can get as much free advertising for your business as any large company can by just posting to the social media site of your choosing. You can also share what your large manufacturing partners are paying someone else to post for free on your page to build excitement about a new product, or let your followers know what the next great fishing tackle product will be. You can even let others test the waters and see the response rate of what they post and then model your posts around what has worked best for them.

Here are just four examples of how small businesses hold an advantage over larger corporations on the social media front. There are probably more, and we welcome you to share your ideas with us on how smaller is better in the world of social media.

7 Ideas to Improve Your Social Media Marketing

Social media is daunting. We have written many times about the multiple free outlets that are available to fishing tackle retailers and the benefits from using them. If you used each one to its fullest extent, you would have no time to run your store and deal with the customers that you attract.

So how can you make your social media marketing the most effective? Here are seven ways to make your social media more powerful and effective without devoting your life to it.

Create a Conversation
Most take a one-sided approach to social media. This is not only painful, but is also very ineffective. The more you send out about your store and different brands, the more you’re turning people off. Create conversations and reasons for your followers to do more than like or share a post. Remember to comment on comments and show that you are a person and have a personality.

Be Likeable
Everyone wants to hang out with the cool person, or the person they feel is the best fit for them. Be the person people want to meet and talk with and you will gain more followers. Even if you are the only tackle store for miles around you still need to have a pleasant personality or people will stock up on fishing supplies before they come to your area. People will also get their information from other sources if you are not that likeable on social media.

Showcase You
Whether you want to believe it or not, you and your store are tied together. Show photos and videos of you and your staff at work and play. Show off your fishing knowledge or great days on the water. Show your staff helping customers or working events, even stocking shelves with new products. Let your followers see a face to go with the postings you make.

Know Your Followers
Why are they following you or liking your posts? What do they want to learn or know about? What goals do they have: to be better anglers, get the best deals on fishing equipment, or gain local fishing knowledge? See what posts are viewed the most and liked the most and retweeted the most often. This is what your customers want to see the most of – give them what they want.

Showcase Your Followers
When someone posts a photo, video or just their thoughts, comment and like it. Show that you care about what they have posted and are willing to spread it to all of your followers. If you have local fishing bloggers or outdoor columnists in your area, repost some of their fishing content through your social media. If possible, positively comment on the story with your take on it. Be sure to always give them the credit for writing the piece and offer up your encouragement to write more great articles.

Understand Social Media Protocol
If by now you do not understand social media and how to use it properly, ask for help. Realize misuse of common terms and hashtags will make you and your postings unlikeable. You’ll be amazed by how many people who have read your postings for months and did little, will quickly gain a voice when you do something wrong. If you do something wrong, take ownership and ask for forgiveness and learn from your mistake.

It Isn’t About the Numbers
Too many businesses get hung up on social media numbers and lose sight of what really matters. If you have ten thousand followers who do nothing but like your Facebook page and never read your posts or comment on them, what good is having so many followers? Social media is about engagement and interaction, hence the social part. If your followers are extremely active and interact with you multiple times a week, no matter how few you have following that is something to brag about. You are doing something right, so keep it up. The number of followers will come – spend more time worrying about the conversations and the eventual conversions to making those followers into customers than you do about the number of people who like your page or follow your tweets.

Along with the number of followers you have, the other number many concentrate on is how many minutes or hours a day they spend on their social media. You can read every article about social media you can find and you will not find two that agree on the amount of time you need to spend on your social media daily. Some days there isn’t much going on, other days you can spend eight hours plugging away. Life and work isn’t always interesting – try to post at least one new thing every other day at a minimum. This can take just ten minutes, but once comments and conversations start though, take more time to let your voice be heard. Set aside time in the morning, around lunch and later in the day to check your social networks and keep them active. But remember, the real world is where you are making your money and this is where you need to spend the majority of your time.