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Research Center

Advertising and Marketing News - March 2011

This months issue of Advertising and Marketing News will focus on the online marketing world.  As you try to digest the numbers, think about what it was like ten years ago and ask yourself if you are keeping up.

Online Advertising Forecast

Borrell Associates has forecast total online ad spending will grow almost 14 percent, from $45.6 billion, in 2010, to $51.9 billion, in 2011, while local online ad spending is expected to grow nearly 18%, from $13.7 billion, this year, to $16.1 billion, next year. The fastest-growing segments of online advertising are the local sector, anything targeted (that's us), and everything involving social media.

Borrell is a leader in localized online advertising.  If you have a store and have not considered localized online advertising, Borrell is a good source of information.  By the way, Google offers local online advertising and recently selected one of its top executives (Marissa Mayer) to head up a new business focused on location services.

Don't think online advertising is important - According to MagnaGlobal Online advertising will overtake newspapers as the world’s second-largest ad medium behind TV by 2013. Internet ad revenue may reach $117 billion by 2016 on a worldwide basis.  As a familiar comparison, Twitter's advertising revenues are forecast to reach $150 million in 2011.

Web Doctor

Three tips for improving your web presence.

Keep it fresh

If your web site is over three years old, it is due for a face-lift.  New technologies can improve your positioning and the effectiveness of your site. Daily or weekly updates will help your ranking with Google.

Let the Source Be With You

Most web browsers will let you look at the code used to create the web page.  On Firefox, it is View/Page source.  There is a world of information available when looking at the code.  Sites with a lot of code tend to show up lower in the search engines.  Ask your web developer to take steps to reduce the amount of code that the search engines see. Don't forget to check out the web sites of your competitors, you might just learn something.

What’s in a Name?
The title of your web site is one of the most important elements in good search engine optimization.  Place key words in front of your company name.  For example, 'Acme Manufacturing  | Bird feeders and houses' is not as good as 'Bird Feeders and Houses | Acme Manufacturing."

Promotional Tip

Do you like to write?   Want to get more exposure for your company?  Want to make a little coin in the process?  Then consider writing for Yahoo.

Yahoo recently acquired a company called Associated Content.  Anyone can become a writer for the Yahoo network, which includes Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Sports, Yahoo! Finance, omg!, Shine, Associated Content, and other leading websites. The Yahoo! network reaches more than 600 million unique visitors each month. It’s free to sign up. If your articles are used, you get paid, or you may be contacted for a special assignment.  Your articles can include a link to your web site and can help establish you and your company as an expert in your field.

Social Networking

It looks like social media is here to stay.  We'll discuss social media in a future issue; in the mean time you can visit our Facebook page.

CSI Marketing

What can groupon do for you?

Have you heard about groupon?  It’s an online coupon service based on regional offers.  Groupons are offered in over 100 cities.  Its free for users and does not cost advertisers a dime unless someone pays for the coupon.   The majority of the offers are for personal services, attractions and events.  The largest user base is female, 20-40 years of age and active in social media.  Maybe not the typical buyer of bird feeders but maybe a way to reach a new audience with no risk other than a little time.

Most of the groupons offer a big discount of 50% or more.  Could a store come out ahead by selling a feeder at a 50% discount, then selling sunflower to fill it?  It’s the add ons and repeat business that pays.  

Advertising opportunities with Birding Business

Birding Business can work with you to develop your online marketing campaign.  Products inclue our own web site, Birdzilla.com to reach the consumer, apps and social media.   Contact Felix Schilling to discuss your needs.

Ads for the next issue of the Nature Products Buyer's Guide will open soon.

For business-to-business contacts, we are now accepting advertising on the BirdingBusiness.com web site.  It's the place to be seen if you want to reach an ever-widening audience.  Recent contacts through the web site include Woody Woodpecker (his representative, actually) and 20th Century Fox promoting the new Rio movie about a macaw. You never know who will stop by.

To reach the consumer, we have developed a working arrangement with Birdzilla.com.  With over 250,000 page views a month, it is a high traffic site with a focused audience.


Everyone seems to be into apps these days.  In future issues we'll discuss the process for developing your own app, connecting with Apple and developing for the Android operating system.

If you have an interest in having your own app, Birdzilla.com has developed an app called America's Fifty Most Beautiful Birds - now on sale in the Apple app store.  It was specifically designed to allow customized presentations, offering companies as much as a 2/3rds reduction in development costs.  An additional app focused on backyard bird feeding will also soon be available.  Advertising will be available directly in the app or custom versions can also be arranged.

Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for additional information.

The Key to Internet Success – It Starts With A Problem

By Josh Kerbel, MBA

Before you spend thousands of dollars revamping your website or pumping up Google's bottom line, it’s important to understand the basics behind the consumer’s decision to purchase.

Online Basics
We all know the Internet has become a major force in retails sales, and is projected to continue to grow for many years yet. You’re probably already marketing and selling your products on-line, but could you be doing a better job of it?

Before you get into any discussion of Internet marketing, search engines and websites you really need to start with the basics.  Why and how people buy.  If you do not understand this process, any money and time you invest trying to sell your products on the internet will not be well spent.

Why do customers buy?

One of the things many people forget, regardless of whether you own a retail store in a shopping mall or are in the wholesale segment of the industry, is why people make a purchase decision.  It's actually quite simple, people buy a product or service because they have a need.  Customers don't buy bird feeders and binoculars, they buy a solution to the problem of feeding their birds and magnifying distant objects.  If you don't think this applies to you or your customers, consider all the purchases you make in a day and why you make them.

How does this apply to the Internet
If people have a problem to solve, they look for a solution. This much we already know.  So let’s see how this relates to you and your company's sales.  Regardless of the product, all customers go through a purchasing process. After they identify a need, they search for and explore possible avenues for satisfying this need. In the process they refine, evaluate and redefine the criteria that drive the decision to purchase, and narrow the field of choice to the “best few” alternatives. Once they reach that point they make the final choice, then take action by making a purchase.

Ask Yourself, “So What Does This Mean For Me?”
Two things, really.  What’s most important, and this is more a function of human nature than anything else, is that people do business with people and companies they trust; and secondly, people need information before they make a purchase.  It is these two points that present you with your biggest opportunity when selling online, and this is regardless of whether you sell birdseed on line or are a wholesaler of other wild bird products.  Before you see true online success, you need to position yourself as a trusted source of information; once people trust you they’ll buy from you.  This principle applies to anyone who uses the Internet as part of their sales process, whether you sell products directly from your website or simply use it to generate sales leads for your wholesale business.

So before you increase your budget for Google’s pay-per-click advertising program or redesign your logo, examine how your website facilitates each step of the consumer’s purchasing process, especially how it educates and informs your prospective customers about the various ways they can go about solving their problems.


Josh Kerbel is Managing Director of Sales Funnel, a digital marketing agency that specializes in lead generation and prospect management systems.  To get a copy of the free white paper, 8 Steps to Internet Success, please send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Industry Trends - April 2010

A single event doesn’t define a trend

By Hank Weber

EVERY EVENING THE TALKING HEADS ON TV PREDICT FUTURE TRENDS BASED ON TODAY’S NEWS.  Next week, when the news changes, their predictions will change as well.  A single event does not define a trend.  Just because you sell eight feeders on a single day, it doesn’t mean you will sell eight every day.  If sales are down one month, it doesn’t mean they will continue to be down forever.

Trends can be hard to spot while they are happening.  They develop slowly, a little at a time, over longer periods of time. As a result, it is easier to spot a trend looking backwards when you can see what actually has happened.  Once you recognize a trend you can then plan how to best adapt and take advantage of it.  So let’s look back at some of the major trends in the birding business over recent months.

Return to Basics
The most obvious trend has been the impact of the economic crisis.  Consumers became worried.  They spent less, watched their purchases, reduced debt, and, when they did buy, avoided expensive, frivolous and ostentatious items.  Seniors on fixed incomes and those nearing retirement age (a major portion of our customer base) retrenched the most.

Major retail chains recognized this trend early.  Their reaction was to emphasize sales and discounts to encourage shoppers.  In addition, they began promoting “value” in their products, stressing a good-buy-for the money.  They feel consumers want a return to basics and simpler times.   So they are promoting the warm, comfortable feeling of family and home while touting solid products at a good price.
How can you take advantage of this trend?  There are many things you can do:  Implement a special discount day for seniors on one day each month, say, the first Monday.  Stress products that involve the family or at-home activities.  Focus on the quality of your feeders.  Emphasize that they are rugged and are built to last.  Describe how your quality seed is better than the lower price junk food offered in the grocery store.  And, remember, even when money is tight, seniors are always willing to spend for their grandchildren (particularly for products that introduce them to nature).

Industry Consolidation

Another trend I’ve noticed is a reduction in the number of manufacturers in our industry.  Some manufacturers have gone out of business.  Some have decided to focus on other markets.  Others were sold or acquired by larger and more aggressive companies.  

What does this trend mean for your store?  You will be working with fewer vendors, having larger order sizes, resulting in lower freight per item.  Unfortunately, I also foresee potentially higher costs because of reduced competition.  We should also expect a huge reduction in the variety and choice of products available as the larger remaining companies consolidate their product lines.  All retailers will be choosing from this more limited selection of products.  As a result, the same products will appear in more retail outlets.  That will make comparison shopping easier for consumers resulting in retail price pressure.  It will be more difficult to differentiate your store.

In a perverse way, the economic slowdown and associated job losses may help reduce the impact of this product consolidation.  Some laid-off employees will start new companies producing new products with unique, local flavor.  Promoting such locally made products can separate you from the big chains, save on shipping cost, and piggyback on another growing trend among the eco-conscious and food-conscious shoppers to buy local products.  These small, start-up companies will be eager for your business and will provide more personal service.

Greening of America
Green products are everywhere.  Hundreds of consumer products, from soap to automobiles, now claim to be green.  Advertising and colorful packaging shout how green they are.  Green has become a product feature.  Being green sells better than being a good product.  Consumers who prefer eco-friendly soap, will likely favor green birding products also.

Some birding industry manufacturers have already recognized this trend and have introduced a few green products:  feeders made from re-cycled materials, recyclable seed bags, eco-friendly packaging.  Join this trend by promoting green products.

I’ve even considered making my own suet.  Buy suet from my neighborhood butcher, render it, add special seed or locally grown goodies, and package it.  I don’t know how well it will sell but it is definitely green and would be unique to my store, attracting attention and conveying our interest in the environment.

Digital Field Guides
Digital technology, which has invaded all aspects of modern life, is even creeping into the birding and nature world.  CDs and DVDs covering species identification, bird song recognition, and natural history have been available for several years.  You can’t find a tape cassette any more.  Everything is digital.  Recently, digital field guides have appeared for use on PDAs and smart phones.  Apple even featured one in national TV ads for the iPhone.  And they sell millions of iPhones each year.  Don’t ignore the digital trend.

Digital Photography
The camera industry has been revolutionized by digital technology.  You can’t find a film camera today.  But, I’ll bet most of your customers own a digital camera or snap digital photos with their cell phones.  
This is an easy trend to identify but it is more difficult to figure out how to take advantage of it.  You don’t want to sell digital cameras.  But we can promote their use for bird and nature photography.  Because of the lower cost and ease of use more customers are using digital cameras and taking more photos than they ever did with film cameras.  Post your customer’s photos in your store.  If you have a web site, post customer photos there.  Give credit to customers by name for their photos.  It will encourage visits to your site.  Be sure to change photos frequently to encourage people to visit frequently.

Promoting digi-scoping will help sell spotting scopes.  Sell books on nature photography.  Have a local camera retailer lead a program on “Improving your Digital Bird Photography”.  Hold a bird photo contest.  

Go with the Flow
Ignoring emerging trends is like swimming upstream.  You can get there but it takes more effort to move ahead.  It is much easier to go with the natural flow.  Customers are always changing.  So you need to continuously review and adapt your business to keep up.

The Optics Conundrum

BY JOHN RIUTTA | Contributing Editor - April 2010


Publishers and distributors happily supply both front and backlist catalogs outlining the benefits of their particular publications. Little expertise is required to make effective stocking decisions. Discounts are reasonable, carrying costs are not high, retail prices are low, and the store fixtures needed to display them can be as simple as a single ordinary bookshelf.

Optics, however, with their technical complexity, widely varying discounts, high carrying costs, and larger demands in terms of both floor space and fixtures, not to mention employee training and  security, are a different story. Add to this the aggressive competition from the “big box” and Internet-only retailers, and the independent birding or backyard nature shop owner is tempted to throw his or her hands in the air and exclaim “Why bother!” But don’t throw in the towel just yet. Optics can be effectively and profitably sold by independent shop owners – it just takes a bit of planning and self-education to make it work.

Buying, stocking, and selling optics does require more effort than other birding and backyard nature products. It all begins with making connections and learning about the options. One of the most effective ways to do this is to meet face-to-face with representatives from as many optics manufacturers as possible. However getting one from each company to make a store visit could take months – years even; therefore go to where they concentrate and cover the entire spectrum of product offerings in one week-end: attend a birding festival or birding trade show. Whether it is the Birdwatch America in Atlanta, Georgia, the Space Coast Birding & Nature Festival in Titusville, Florida, the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival in Harlingen, Texas, or the San Diego Birding Festival in San Diego, California, optics companies send their representatives to all the major events throughout the U.S. and Canada. According to Joshua Lazenby, Operations Manager for Kowa Optics, “A lot of the people representing optics companies at birding festivals are corporate staff; in just a few days a store owner can meet key people, discuss and learn the variety of options available in the marketplace, and make valuable business connections.” Adds Charles Studholme, owner of One Good Tern in Alexandria, Virginia, making a visit to a trade show or birding festival “it allows you to get your hands on the new (product) releases and talk to people face-to-face.”

Once back at the store, the decisions must be made as to what optics to stock, how to display them, and how to sell them. Stocking decisions can be based around a variety of criteria. For years, many large retailers resisted MAP pricing and many optics firms maintained fairly high minimum purchase levels for retailers. However the Internet has changed all this. Faced with a number of price wars by “big box” stores as well as abuses by some Internet-only retailers, there has been a considerable shifting of the business playing field toward the benefit of the smaller retailers. Observes Studholme “many of the optics firms realized that if they didn’t do something to help the smaller brick and mortar retailers, in a few years there would be no place stocking their products other than Internet sellers.” Thus, thanks to some sharp legal work by Swarovski Optik, MAP pricing is now very common, minimum purchase requirements have been substantially lowered, and terms are much more commonly available to smaller retailers.

MAP programs and the optics manufacturers’ willingness to aggressively pursue those establishments who violate them have dramatically helped to overcome one of the problems that until not long ago plagued small stores selling optics. Customers would spend considerable time with a staff member trying out various models only to say “let me think about it overnight,” then buy one of the models they looked at for ten dollars less online. Now the tables are turned, and many optics manufacturers have even implemented different agreements for Internet-only businesses than for brick and mortar establishments. “I price every optic we sell at a price equivalent to what the customer could find online,” notes Nancy Mattson, Manager of the Audubon Nature Store in Portland, Oregon, “and MAP policies make it possible for me to do so and compete effectively.”

The selection of optics is a key element to a store’s success in selling them. It isn’t so much necessary to carry a large number of products, but it is important to present customers with options. This includes different price points and different brands. Too many store owners make the mistake of carrying only one brand. Even a small total number of products that span three or four different brands seems far more impressive to a customer than a larger total number of models of only one brand. As Barry Stevens, co-owner of the Ithaca Wild Birds Unlimited and owner of the Johnson City, New York location, advises “You can’t just carry low-end models; you must have at least a few mid-range ($500.00 - $600.00) units as well to give the store’s selection a level of seriousness.”

Two other important things to remember in selecting which models to stock are; avoid “bubble packed” optics, and stick to brands with national advertising campaigns. In addition to being environmentally problematic, bubble packed optics prevent the customer from fully examining the product. As Lois Geshiwlm, co-owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Saratoga Springs, New York, is quick to point out, “Being able to put your handson the product really makes a difference.” As for the importance of advertising, if your customers are not seeing the products advertised in at least one of the national bird watching magazines, they are far less likely to consider the product as appropriate for that activity.

Presentation of optics is very important. While an expensive, fully illuminated glass-fronted cabinet to display the product, such as Stevens installed in his Ithaca WBU store (“Right on my power wall so it is immediately visible to everyone walking in the door.”), can be a tremendously valuable sales feature, it isn’t absolutely necessary. What is essential, however, is to make the products visible and to avoid keeping them in shadowy recesses that detract from their appearance. As many brands of binoculars are still primarily black, it is important to make certain that they are placed in a well-lighted space. Mattson employs the Audubon Nature Store’s glass topped cash-wrap area as her store’s optical product display area. “It makes it a focal point for the product as well as offering a good place to lay out multiple products while showing them to customers.”

In many ways, smaller retail establishments have more freedom in their customer relations activities than larger ones. Rather than each employee being tied to one area of the store and responsible for serving many people at the same time, employees of a small store most commonly assist customers on a one-to-one basis; a fact that can be strongly leveraged to the store’s advantage when it comes to selling optics. Rather than simply showing the customer the optical products over the counter [“Always pull three different models to show; three is the magic number” wisely counsels Studholme], an employee can and should pick up a few binocular models or spotting scopes, as the case may be, that are of interest to the customer and move to a window – or even outside – for the customer to examine. As indoor retail lighting is most commonly fluorescent and imparts a yellow color to everything it illuminates, allowing the customer to examine the binoculars in natural light will help them to make a more informed choice – something that should be noted by the employee to the customer at least twice to help build customer confidence in the employee’s expertise.

While optics, especially higher end models, can seem dauntingly technical and complex, leading many store owners to worry that either their staff or even themselves are not “up to the task” of discussing them intelligently and with confidence, there are now many different ways to overcome this hurdle and obtain the knowledge not only to speak effectively about the products you choose to stock but to inspire customer confidence as well. In addition to optical companies arranging in-store or area training sessions, many provide extensive educational materials, including on-line training specifically oriented to retailers. "Between our reps, myself, and other folks from the factory" notes Clay Taylor, Naturalist Market Manager for Swarovski Optik North America, 'we do a ton of dealer education. We try to do all we can to make sure our dealers are comfortable and fluent discussing high-end optics; it really makes the difference."

In the end, the decision of whether to stock optics or not is entirely up to the store owner. While it does indeed entail a bit more thought and effort, many, including all those retailers cited here, have found it well worth it. As most every birder and birding product retailer knows from experience, optics are a prestige product. Even a small selection that is wisely chosen, effectively displayed, and confidently demonstrated, can significantly elevate a retailer’s reputation in the eyes of the clientele. Even more, as optics are not only used by birders but by a wide variety of people for many different reasons, establishing a store’s reputation as an “optics specialist” can be expected to bring additional customers into the shop who might never have otherwise entered, giving the business many new opportunities to increase the bottom line – something it doesn’t take a binocular to see the value of very clearly.

Becoming a Successful "Green-tailer"

Get from here to there with baby steps

AS A CONSCIENTIOUS RETAILER IN THE BIRDING BUSINESS, you’re probably offering feeders and bird houses of recycled materials, providing environmentally sound choices to the best of your ability, and supporting your customers in learning about and appreciating nature. How can you move toward an even greener business model?  Whether you’re ready to move in a big way or just want to test the waters, here are some ideas – large and small – for “greentailing” success.

Customer touch-points and “In-House” ideas

Bags – In California most grocery stores now charge a small fee for plastic bags and give credits or discounts to those who bring their own bags.  An increasing number of retailers nationwide are expected to adopt similar strategies as communities consider a ban on plastic bags. One option is to consider selling lightweight reusable totes marked with your store name, of course, for a nominal fee. Big box chain stores such as Target have jumped on this concept and their reusable totes (usually $1/bag) are available at every check out stand.

Paper – Of course the easiest way to cut back on paper is to use email for updates, flyers, coupons and newsletters.  Some retailers even offer to email receipts to save on paper. But even when paper is necessary you can cut back on some of it. For example, design your flyers as postcards (4 postcards to a standard-size sheet of paper) or as bookmarks (3 to 4 to a sheet).

Decrease your in-house waste by providing washable cups and mugs for employees. Utilize both sides of paper for in-house use, and shred your used paper to cushion packages for shipping.

Consider the environment when purchasing supplies. Purchase green cleaning products, and use only recycled paper and ink cartridges. Office Max and Staples offer money-saving incentives for recycling your used ink cartridges.

Electricity – Take control of your in-store electrical use!

• A simple place to start is to make a checklist of all your electric and electronic devices and turn them off when not in use.

• Adjust the AC from, say, 72 degrees to 75 degrees and save money.

• Invest in LED lights to spotlight areas or products rather than energy guzzling halogens. LEDs come in a variety of bulbs that may fit your existing fixtures. They cost pennies to operate and outlast conventional bulbs. Moreover, compared with CFLs, LEDs don’t contain mercury, thus making disposal safer and “greener.” (For more information see the article “LED vs CFL” by Michael G. Richard on www.treehugger.com reporting the results of recent comparative studies on light bulb energy.)

• Consider putting in solar panels. Solar power is going mainstream. For instance, the nationwide company Home Depot not only offers installation of solar panels, it will handle the permit process, tax credits, and interface with your power company. Looking into the future of solar, a San Jose, California, solar power company is developing large-scale solar power plants, and reports, “On California’s central coast, for instance, SunPower is building a 250-megawatt photovoltaic farm that will supply electricity to Pacific Gas and Electric” (NY Times, Feb. 11, 2010).

• Monitor and share the utility usage on your bills to show the benefits of your energy conservation and inspire your employees and customers alike.
Marketing – Don’t let your green status go unnoticed!

• First of all, make sure your message is clear and consistent. Whatever steps you take, your employees as well as your customers should know they come from your commitment to greening.

• Tell Your Story. What excites you most about going green? Why are you inspired to care about the environment?  Share your personal pivot point -- the birth of a child or the beauty of a hiking trip, a sunset . . . a particular experience that led you into the nature business. Explain why you care and how that plays out in your life.

• Don’t exaggerate what you’re doing – keep it simple and truthful, but share your ideas and plans for the future. Invite input and feedback from the community and your customers.

• Explain the benefits of conservation and greening in a positive and upbeat way. Stay away from doom and gloom images – you don’t need them in order to excite and motivate your customers to care. In fact, doom and gloom can be counterproductive – your customers want to feel good about the choices you offer them and know that they’re contributing to a better future by patronizing your business.

• Join or create a green team by partnering with local or national green non-profit groups. Consider including information about your greening efforts at special events like Earth Day celebrations or on-going activities like bird-walks.

The “eco-lifestyle” is hip and exciting, but going green is a journey. Technology is changing and growing greener every year. You can feel proud about the steps – large or small – that you’re taking!