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Branding: Growing Companies from the Ground Up

The early branding of a small or developing company is vital to its business success.  Doing this expresses what exactly your company has to offer. The inaccurate branding of a new business can increase the difficulty for the people to understand why the business exists in the first place. Companies that are just starting out along with small businesses tend to put branding in the backseat to the other aspects of a company such as funding and product development. Doing this is a mistake because a company’s brand is one of the key factors to its success. Dollar for dollar, it is just as crucial compared to any other beginning steps of a new or small business.

The brand your company creates in its face to the world. branding starts with the company name and how that name is expressed visually through a logo that portrays what the company is/does. A brand is also how your demographic customers look at your company then they associate an amount of inherent value on your business. A company’s brand is sort of like a secret promise. It is part of the fundamental principles that can be understood by any individual or company that comes into contact with your business.

Some people may ask “where” I put my brand out there or “how”. The secret is wherever you believe your company can portray themselves accurately. Small or startup businesses that have Social Medias need to also keep in mind that the brand of your business is everywhere. The importance of branding cannot be overlooked and has been proven time again that the success of a small or startup business can rely on its branding to help mature them. A business must stand behind while protecting your brand from outside sources or other companies.

Are you Mobile for 2014?

In today’s society people are always on the go, but having the technology at hand allows them to access the internet by their mobile device. The ability to access the internet with their mobile device has create a new platform for marketers and retail stores to accustom to. It is crucial for your retail store to have your website become mobile device friendly. Did you know that 46% of all online sales come from a mobile device? If your company is not mobile device friendly in 2014 you, could potentially be missing out on almost half of your online sales.

Customers reaching out to your website through their mobile device want to be able to access and navigate your mobile friendly site with ease. Therefore, it is important for your website to display only the necessary information that you want them to see that they can view on their mobile device. Doing this directs the customers to the products or categories that you want to sell the most. On top of having an easily navigable mobile device site, you must incorporate a simple check out system so your customers can buy their products in a minimal amount of time.

Other than making your website mobile device compatible, you must consider other areas where you solicit your company such as email and newsletters. In 2013 65% of all email and newsletters were opened through a mobile device and has been predicted to increase in 2014. Therefore when sending out company newsletters with your coupons, deals, or anything else you must consider making them mobile friendly as well. This way you can get a higher opening percent rate and potentially drive more customers to your online or into your store.

Following those simple guidelines your company could see an increase in sale during 2014.

Marketing through Social Media’s

Would you like to indirectly increase the traffic of your website with minimal effort involved? There’s an easy solution that will help; it’s called social media. People use social media on a daily basis, online and on their mobile smart phones while becoming an important aspect in the marketing industry. Social Medias began as a way for people to virtually connect with one another over the web.

Big companies have been using social media as a way to increase current customer relations along with appealing to a new fan base generated by your current customers through the promotion of your products. It is crucial to incorporate these non-traditional marketing tools to continuously present your brand to potential customers.  Companies tend to use more popular social media tools such as Facebook or Twitter, but those may not appeal to your customer’s demographics. I encourage you think outside of the box and incorporate less common social medias like Instagram and Pinterest as a way to stretch your online audience.

Facebook has the largest outreach to potential online customer with over 1.2 billion users worldwide. Facebook was design to make personal connections through an online profile; companies use Facebook to show what products or services they offer by a bigger preview. Another big Social Media is Twitter; unlike Facebook, Twitter is used primarily for connecting accounts with common interests through hash-tags (#). Hash-tags can be used to as a general search subject and with some optimization can increase your traffic. If your company relies on product images or like to interact with consumers through pictures; your company benefit from using Social Media’s such as Instagram or Pinterest.

Companies that incorporate Social Medias to their e-Commerce website have been able to increase the traffic of their website substantially. On average 46% of web users will look towards social media before making a purchase rather than looking at reviews. It is important for your company to integrate prompt and consistent response times if you choose to adapt to the Social Media trend.

Check out the brand new Facebook Module that highlights featured products directly onto your Facebook account!

SHOT Show University

Our President and CEO Curtis Jazwiecki will be hosting Shot Show University seminars addressing retailers and industry leader’s about the importance of online marketing within a company. His talk will focus on why you need to engage your customers and how to do so effectively. The marketing with social media speech is part 1 of a 5 session series focusing on marketing in today’s fast paced business environment. Sessions begin on Monday January 13, in Break Room 2, at 10:40 AM. For more information go to http://www.shotshow.org/education/ and or http://www.shotshow.org/shot-university-speakers#jazwiecki

Session 1: Marketing with Social Media (10:40 – 11:50 AM)                                                                                                                                                                                                  Learn the latest tips and tactics to increase the success of your marketing with social media.

Session 2: New Technologies to Drive Foot Traffic to Your Store (1:10 – 2:00 PM)

Seminar will focus on the latest technologies retailers can use to leverage technology to engage customers and bring them into their retail space.

Session 3: Building a Marketing Plan (2:10 – 3:00 PM)         

Class will help retailers to understand the key components that go into making a world-class marketing plan.

Session 4: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) (3:10 – 4:00 PM)

Seminar will highlight eight simple steps that can dramatically impact your search engine rankings and insure you are getting the most from your SEO efforts.

Session 5: Determine your Marketing Return on Investment (ROI) (4:10 – 5:00 PM)

Learn how to determine the financial return on your marketing plan with this introductory class.

Minimum Advertised Pricing!

It came to my attention recently that some companies/people are under the impression that we are here to enable people to violate suppliers MAP’s. That is minimum advertised pricing for those of you who may not know. It is OBN’s intent to encourage the use of MAP and to help in any reasonable way to guide our clients who may have inadvertently or intentionally dropped advertised prices below MAP. We are more than willing to assist anyone who calls on us regarding this matter. With that said I have attached an article below to give the very basics on MAP for your information. If you have any questions please call us at 800-699-0820 ext. 1.

How Minimum Advertised Pricing Impacts Your Retail or Online Store’s Marketing Efforts

by Caron_Beesley, Community Moderator at www.SBA.gov

If you run an online or retail business, did you know that you might be prohibited from advertising a manufacturer’s products below a certain minimum price?

Minimum advertised pricing (MAP) policies are particularly critical to manufacturers who sell their products for online resale, given the ease at which consumers can now conduct online and mobile price comparisons. MAP policies are also established to help small businesses compete and sell on service and value, rather than entering into a price war with cost-cutting big box stores.

But how legally enforceable are these minimum advertised pricing policies and, as a small business owner, is there a way to get around them in your sales and marketing practices?

The Truth About Minimum Advertised Pricing

Minimum advertised pricing only relates to “advertised” pricing and is perfectly legal under U.S. antitrust statutes. So, essentially, you are limited to advertising MAP-protected products at a certain price, but you can sell these products at any price you choose (often guided by the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price or MSRP).

What Does this Mean for Online Businesses?

Under typical MAP agreements, online retailers can’t “display” any prices that fall below the MAP price. But which part of an online store actually represents advertising display space has caused quite a bit of controversy. For example, say a product is listed on a site for $10. Once a coupon code or other incentive is applied, the actual shopping cart price could come down to $8. Is that still considered “advertising” since a transaction technically hasn’t yet occurred, or is it a commitment to buy and outside the scope of a MAP agreement?

The difference between an advertised price and an actual price that you may be charged has come under scrutiny by U.S. Circuit Courts and FTC rulings, which tend to agree that an actual price displayed in a secure/encrypted shopping cart isn’t subject to MAP – because it’s technically not advertising space, but represents an actual storefront. So in an online world, an actual price may legally end up being a lot lower than the MAP-required advertised price.

In fact, manufacturers are often advised to focus their MAP policies on advertised prices in paid search ads, shopping comparison ads, and internet landing pages but not in shopping carts or other point of sale interfaces.

Look for Alternative Ways to Discount

While it’s not always advisable to lead with price in your marketing efforts, look for other ways to attract customers without breaking any MAP agreements. For example, many manufacturers are okay with your offering free shipping, coupon codes, or a “buy-one-get-one at a discount,” if MAP doesn’t protect that other item. Essentially, as long as the dollar value of the MAP-protected product isn’t reduced, then you are okay. Be careful with coupon codes. It’s safer to advertise the coupon—not the product that it can be applied against—so as not to imply that you are advertising the MAP item at a reduced price. Instead, be clear about what items are excluded from any coupon code promotion.

The Bottom Line

If you are unsure about how your online advertising and marketing practices may border on breaking any MAP agreement you have with a manufacturer, talk to them or consult a legal attorney. Manufacturers do monitor their dealers for potential violations and the law is constantly in flux on this one, so do your due diligence.

For more information about the legality of MAP policies, check out the Federal Trade Commission Guide to Antitrust Laws.

 

Firearm Friendly Merchant Services

Lately I have had a bunch of clients and associates express their concerns with finding “firearm friendly” merchant services for their respective businesses. OBN has developed a wonderful working relationship with FAST CHARGE/Electronic Transfer. They can take care of all of your gateway and processing needs and have an excellent record with our clients. If you wish to learn more about their services please go to the FASTCHARGE link and complete the form. If you have any other questions call us at -1800-699-0820.

Chargeback Fraud Prevention

The better we get at preventing fraud the harder fraudsters try to take our hard earned money. The new term you will start hearing about is “friendly fraud”. The short explanation of this is a customer orders product via the internet. The customer takes delivery. The final step the customer reverses the charges claiming they never received the product when in reality they have. I know you are thinking that is impossible and no one does this let alone gets away with this. Well I am here to tell the have can and will continue to get away with this nonsense if retailers don’t protect themselves and fight the good fight.
So what can you do to cut down on and hopeful stop “friendly fraud”?
First thing is having a clear and concise 30 day return policy and make sure your customers know about it. This makes them more likely to contact you rather than the credit card company when disputing a charge. When having only a couple day return policy consumer fraud tends to be much higher. Plus having a clearly written policy may deter a fraudster as it will give you more of a “we have our act together” type business. Keep in mind fraudsters, like any crook, will pick the easier mark or the path of least resistance.
Second make sure you send a delivery confirmation –email after an item arrives at the customers home or business. This is simple a paper trail that may come in handy down the road should the customer dispute the fact that they received the product.
Third if it is a recurring sale or membership perhaps, makes sure it is very easy for customers to end or opt-out. If they can’t and they call the bank and complain about the charges most times the bank will side with the consumer leaving you with another reversed charge.
These are just a few tips for things you can do to protect yourself. Another resource or service to help prevent chargeback’s is www.chargebacks911.com. For a monthly fee they will manage chargeback’s and have an excellent record of reducing them. As always feel free to call the team here if you have any questions. 1-800-699-0820 ext 2

Is your sites speed really as slow as you think?

Another hot topic I have been getting questioned about lately has to do with site speed. According to Radware.com, load times for the top US retail websites are approximately 22% slower than in December 2011. The average in 2011 was around 5.94 seconds will currently it 7.25 seconds. This was of course for a first time visitor. The main reason for these times getting worse and not better is simple. Websites are getting more and more complex and have an ever increasing number of resource requests. It is simple, the more images, scripts and codes used to make a site function in a certain way the more time it takes to do. This isn’t the only thing that can affect speed either. It turns out in a recent study on Radware.com that the browser you use also plays a role. Of the big three Firefox is over half a second faster on average than Internet Explorer 9 with Chrome23 smack dab in the middle. Another thing that affects site speed is simply activity on the site itself by many users or if a site is on a shared server spikes in activity on other sites on that server can bog down your site. So the next time it takes more than a few seconds for a site to load keep in mind that there is a lot more potentially going on than the site just being “Slow”. If you have any questions on how to improve your sites speed and performance please give us a call. 800-699-0820

Common Mistakes in Ecommerce

I talk a lot about things to do to improve your e-commerce business. Here are some things that some “e-tailers” do wrong.

1.) Relying on limited sources of Traffic.
I have said in the past that traffic is the key to Ecommerce success. Often time’s business owners get into a comfort zone once the get a little success and are reluctant to move out from that. With the way that Google constantly revises their algorithms that comfort zone will move right out from under you. Owners need to constantly seek out new sources to drive traffic to their sites. Traffic needs to come from and be balanced from several sources. Pay-per-click, social media, partner sites, blog, forums, email campaigns, actual foot traffic are all things that you should participate in. Rely too heavily on any one source and you may find yourself hurting down the road.
2.) Focusing on limited or current products.
We have seen this specifically in the firearm industry. So many companies only knew how to sell guns and ammo. Often it wasn’t a matter or “knowing” how to sell them at all it was simply that there were that many people buying them that even a poorly run ecommerce site could move these products. Well when the supplies of guns and ammo dried up many merchants were standing there with no new sales because they couldn’t get their hands on the 2 products that did so well for them. Their numbers dropped and many had to call it quits. The savvy owners were more prepared and quickly started promoting different items & categories in new and exciting ways. They constantly promoted a new batch of products to consumers.
3.) Letting your website sit unchanged.
I see this over and over again. Merchants set up an on-line store and then forget about it. Take a look at the larger companies out there…….take Wal-Mart or Cabalas’ for example. Every single day companies like these have something new on their site. This is simple to draw people in on a daily basis to promote new products. Consumers have become accustomed to going to websites to find new products, information etc on a regular basis. If you let your site sit unchanged it is obviously boring but more importantly you aren’t giving potential customers a reason to return. It doesn’t take much to keep it interesting it just has to be done.
4.) Not paying attention to site performance.
This is simple. If you aren’t looking at your sites analytics and understanding them there is a good chance you are wasting a bunch of time and money. It would be like slapping a scope on a rifle and never taking it to the range to ensure it is performing properly but expecting it to hit the bull’s-eye. E-commerce sites are no different. You need to know what is going on or you can never improve on your current course of action.
5.) Ignoring customer input.
We all have ideas about the types of things we think sell best or how we want to make our sites look. I propose you survey your customer base and ask them what they want to see. Reward their feed back with a small discount code. Don’t just listen to a handful of clients but rather get the biggest sampling you can. The more people you have data from the better.
6.) Live by promotions and you will die by promotions.
Short term at calculated times super discount promotions are fine. Over the long haul though the most important things are going to be good content, new and amazing products and above all else the best customer service in your industry.
7.) Not getting on board with Mobile Commerce.
Consumers in record numbers are shopping online with smart phones and tablets. This is simply put the future of e-commerce and anyone who doesn’t embrace this technology will be left in the dust. Another point is that mobile technology is how an overwhelming number of consumers are finding your brick and mortar location. So be sure your site is mobile friendly.
8.) Not paying attention to your competition.
You must watch your competition. You can learn a great deal from them to see how they are optimizing there sites, what they are selling, what they have on clearance (because it didn’t sell) and how they are ranking. If you come up in Google on a search page and there are other businesses above you they are doing a better job promoting their website. Take some cues from them and see what you can do to improve on your sites performance.

Obviously there are other pit-falls in the world of business and e-commerce but these are few things for sure to pay attention to. Again if you wish to learn more about these topics I encourage you to call us and talk to our team. 1-800-699-0820 ext 1

More on Search Engine Optimization

In several of my previous blog posts I have preached that the key to e-commerce success is deeply rooted in the volume of traffic your site sees every day. This Blog and the next few will start to drill into that a little further. I know some of these things have been talked about on many other blog sites including our own. I believe though we can’t talk about it enough as it IS what makes or breaks your sites performance.
This is basic information as the details will only overwhelm most at first glance. On site search engine optimization or SEO for short is simple in concept. Now putting it into practical use requires some practice and is a bit of a scientific art if you will. So for this blog we will stick to the concept.
Google and other search engines crawl the web using logarithms so complicated that I am not even sure they have it right all the time. None the less the things that Google populates a search page with when searching for specific goods and services has everything to do with the uniqueness and optimization of that particular website. Google doesn’t look at one thing it looks at a combination of conditions to exist before it starts ranking you higher in the searches. When someone says a site has been fully optimized that means each and every page has been optimized through its use of desired keywords and those items being present in proper context in meta tags, H tags and uniquely written content and descriptions.
Sounds simple enough right? Fundamentally it is. There are things to consider though. When I say uniquely written content or descriptions that means unique! Original! If you copy or even use authorized content the same as other sites who had it up first the great Google will know. Google looks at this duplicate content as bad and will push you further down the rankings. The use of keywords is delicate too. Too few and you’re not getting enough exposure. To many and your stuffing or overusing keywords and Google may penalize you for that. There is a happy medium that must happen to be optimized.
Well known established e-commerce companies spend a ridiculous amount of time and resources optimizing their sites. One of our companies we work with, www.Jazzmotorsports.com , has allowed us to get into their site and do this on every page. Now this doesn’t happen all at once. This has taken place over years. It is a process not an event. If you look at one of our average site that has 35,000 product pages and two dozen info and category pages it takes quite a bit of time to get through a site. The truth is it never really stops. There will always be more products and there will always be tweaks made to currently optimized pages.
As your site “develops” and grows with ever increasing content and optimization Google will continue to reward you in the rankings. Then it is simple, the higher you rank the more likely you get the clicks or traffic you need that I mentioned earlier.
The mistakes owners make is thinking just because you did a couple pages that instantly their traffic will jump through the roof. It just doesn’t work that way. Again these things take time and will not happen overnight. Another client Bushwhacker Firearms is in the beginning phases of this. We have begun to optimize product pages for some of their in house products that they exclusively manufacture. That in itself lends itself well to uniqueness.
As always if you wish to learn more about SEO and other marketing services that we offer please give us a call. 1-800-699-0820 ext. 1