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A SEM Marketer’s Free 10 Must Haves- 10 Free (or Almost Free) Things You Need to Get Started Marketing in Search Engines Today

Posted on March 18, 2008 by Archives

Let’s face it, there are necessities in life. We need reliable transportation, food, shelter and social interaction. There are also needs at your job in order to perform the tasks required of you. As a search engine marketer, coming from a young internet retail company, I have humble roots. As we continue to grow, we are able to finally afford many of the more costly solutions we once dreamed of using. I’ll go back to my roots for this post.  To help those just starting out, here are some free, or relatively inexpensive, tools and resources to get you on your way.

  1. A high speed internet connection - Cost: Free.  At most locations. When navigating through thousands of keywords, in several ad accounts, waiting for pages to load will definitely eat up a good portion of your day. Also, that time spent downloading and uploading CSE data feeds on a regular basis is better spent with a caramel latte.  Find your nearest local coffee shop and connect! 
  2. Your own dedicated phone number – Cost: Free. When a team member at “X” company needs to call you, but you don’t have a dedicated phone line it can be difficult to conduct business, one easy and free solution is to have your own “business direct” line.  This is easy using Google’s GrandCentral. With the ability to setup custom greetings, screen calls and more, it’s an economical way to use an existing phone (like your cell) for multiple uses. 
  3. AdWords Editor - Cost: Free. The only sane way to handle 10’s of thousands of keywords in Google AdWords. 
  4. The Permutator – Free to try. In my opinion every SEM marketer needs a keyword permutation generator tool that helps save time when creating long tail keyword lists. 
  5. Data feed management/optimization tool - If you submit products to multiple shopping engines then you should consider such a tool. SingleFeed offers one month free for Google Product Search accounts. ChannelAdvisor, and competitors, can run a few hundred to few thousand dollars per month but add many additional services. 
  6. An Analytics solution - Cost: Free. You are paying money to bring traffic to your site right? Then you need to know what that traffic is doing once they get there. A solution like this sounds expensive but Google Analytics is free with any Google AdWords account. 
  7. Internet Retailer - Cost: Free. If you don’t already subscribe to this publication, you can get 12 free issues and/or daily email newsletters, just by signing up on their website (also free). Stay up to speed on upcoming industry events, and get the latest ecommerce news at your fingertips or email inbox. 
  8. Business cards - Cost: Free. You likely won’t need this item until you have #2. You can get cards printed for free at Vistaprint.com. Handy for cocktail conversations at conventions and industry events. Business cards really complete you as a professional; showing that you have an actual address, phone and email give validity to you and your organization. Also consider having different cards made for all the different specialties and ‘hats’ you wear. 
  9. Large supply of heavily caffeinated beverages - Cost: Free. Thank you PlumberSurplus.com for providing this.  I don’t know how we all would have gotten this far without Folgers, Diet Coke and Mountain Dew. When your boss’ instant messaging moniker is “I coffee coffee” and there’s a coffee pot and stocked refrigerator in every building, you know you’re at an online company. 
  10. USB missile launcher - Cost: Free (thanks to my significant other). Used to thwart off any belligerent coworkers in the next cubicle (or across the coffee shop if you are utilizing #1). 

Vanessa’s Variety for the Week of March 14th 2008

Posted on March 14, 2008 by Vanessa

While a large part of our focus this week has been on the new website I managed to squeeze in some time to catch up on eCommerce.

  • A local University is getting some attention for their focus on internet retailing.  The Sloan Center for Internet Retailing at the University of California Riverside has developed the eLab for blogging on their recent findings.
  • Retailers are turning to online video to provide the in-store experience online.
  • Search Engine Guide has provided a list of 28 Resources for Paid Search Strategies, to help marketers diversify their strategies between bid management and measurement.
  • Avinash Kaushik, author of Web Analytics An Hour A Day, recommended 4Q this week as the best free online survey.
  • Tiger Direct no longer

 

Wants and Desires, How are You Balancing the Equation?

Posted on March 11, 2008 by Brian

I come from what I call the “Entitlement Generation”.  We’re a group of people who operate under the pretence that we should be able to have everything we want and desire, right now.  That dream house our parents worked a career for, fully furnished of course, that car only made possible through a 10 year loan, an “activities” lifestyle for our kids, etc.  And of course, no financial worries.  We can argue that it’s subconscious or that it was instilled by our parents, but the reality of the existence of entitlement mentality, and its effects, is no less.  Now before I get into a rant, let me take it to the business arena.  As a business owner I intuitively know that my partners and I are constantly balancing some intangible equation that includes wants, desires, opportunities, requirements, resources, etc.  There are many variables and we work almost more as conductors than mathematicians to orchestrate a balanced equation.

Recently my two partners and I sat down to discuss the state of our business, our plans, finances, and future.  We’ve come through many challenges over the last three or four years and have found ourselves with an eCommerce company that is steaming along.  As the variables in our equation grow in complexity and number I come to wonder if we are entitled to everything we are pushing so hard to make balance.  I suggested we go through an exercise, a super simple one, to try to get a grasp of the key variables we are trying to orchestrate into some sort of balance.  We sat in front of a whiteboard and wrote down everything we wanted for our business in green and everything we didn’t want for our business in red.  Some items were practical and operational, some were philosophical or spiritual.  

Here are a few examples of the items we included:

  • We want no inventory. 
  • We want negligible debt. 
  • We want strong enough cash flow and reserves to support working capital, superb growth, consistent income, and no sleepless nights.
  • We want “fresh out of college” employees with super potential and motivation so they can grow with and propel the company.
  • We want our employees to produce the results of seasoned professionals. 
  • We want to assume that we, the partners, are not also entry level employees who are growing with the company.  After all, we’re owners, there’s a blue pill we take that provides a couple extra decades of experience.  
  • We want to remain wholly owned by the partners. 
  • We want to pay well with Google-esq perks and benefits. 
  • We want an exciting, entrepreneurial, challenging, and fun work environment. 
  • We want to fight on all fronts and capture all the available opportunity, all the time. 
  • We want to roll everything we do out in an easy, scalable, error free way.  100% quality, 100% of the time, done by 3:00PM today.  Quality and quantity.

There were several more and with the board full we sat back and stared for a minute.  It didn’t take long to spot the inconsistencies.  Entitlement had certainly crept in somewhere along the way.  Do we want experienced employees or college grads?  There are pros and cons to both and maybe a mix is best.  Do we want to provide time to be entrepreneurial or do we want it done by 3:00PM?  How are we going to fund either or all in a stable way?  These questions get us back to this philosophical equation and the concept of entitlement.  It may sound uber-simple but I recommend any small business owner take a little time to go through this exercise, particularly if there are partners who may have differing opinions, priorities, etc.  It may provide an epiphany, and it may simply create more questions, but in any case you will end up with a better picture of the variables you are working with.  And then the really scary exercise; take this to your personal life.  What are you assuming you are entitled to? 

 

Vanessa’s Variety for the Week of March 7th 2008

Posted on March 7, 2008 by Vanessa

I don’t know about you guys but I am definitely not ready to change my clock for Daylight Savings Time this weekend.  Given that we are going to lose an hour this weekend the links I have provided in this week’s variety should at least help catch you up on eCommerce!

  • Happy Birthday eCommerce!  According the E-Commerce Times, the industry celebrated its 25th birthday this week.
  • Want to stretch your SEO budget?  Try diversifying your link building strategy.
  • Gigaom interviewed Gail Ennis, Omniture’s Chief Marketing Officer, after the Omniture Summit last weekend.  She gives insights into the show and to up and coming enhancements of their product… for those of us who did not attend.
  • Ask.com to become the ladies man of search?
  • Retail-eCommerce.com started a series this week on improving conversion rates, today’s post focuses on improving landing pages.


That's Freaking Spam-tastic: PizzaHut.com Requires Customers to Opt-In to Advertising When Ordering Online

Posted on March 6, 2008 by Tim

At the end of my senior year of high school I was awarded "Scholar Athlete", which came with a certificate published on an ink jet printer and something like $500 bucks.  Now, even though this was pre-steroid scandal, the award is pretty deceiving.  I'm way more scholar than I am athlete.  All the real jocks were, how do I put this lightly, academically challenged.  I think the athletics department just picked the student with the highest GPA, as long as he or she played any sport.  I played on the golf and tennis teams.  Well, actually, I "used" the golf team.  If you joined the golf team, you got to play at all the great local courses, for free, as often as you liked and use the driving range, for free, until they shut off the lights.  I didn't care as much about our team, which wasn't that great anyway, as I did about free golf.

Hang with me, eCommerce-ville just ahead.

The scholar athlete award is so deceiving that heading to college, I couldn't have cared less about sports.  However, once I stepped foot on USC's campus and started mainlining the Koolaid, my metamorphosis into a college football feen went full throttle.  Long story short, now I'm a massive USC football fan.  This addiction has led me to become a huge college football fan.  Being a college football fan means I hang out with people who like pro football; which means I end up watching the Super Bowl.  Inevitably, I annually find myself inhaling a carb-infused feast known as pizza.  It's a natural downward spiral.

Hooray, entering eCommerce-ville!  Population: Many hungry sports fans.

Integrating Offline Advertising with Search Engine Marketing

Following the Super Bowl earlier this month, there's been some interesting chit chat in the blogoshphere discussing how well companies integrated their Super Bowl television commercials with their online presence.  With cost estimates for 30 second spots swirling up to $3 million, it seems critical for advertisers to take full advantage of their commercial exposure by intimately assimilating their online arenas.  After the game, Reprise Media published their 4th annual Search Marketing Scorecard (SMS) which ranks companies who buy Super Bowl commercials by their ability to integrate those commercials with their online presence in order to metric how prepared each company is to capitalize on online interest.  A healthy portion of the conversation has been centered around how the Super Bowl advertisers fared from a website visibility perspective.  More specifically, this conversation has analyzed URL visibility in the commercials, mentioning the URL, displaying or calling out the URL prominently, showing website screenshots and the advertiser's ability to drive traffic to their website.  Another notable portion of the conversation has centered around a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) perspective.  The SEO conversation has analyzed whether advertiser's sites appear in search engine results for branded and non branded phrases associated with the campaign.  For anyone that did not catch the Super Bowl advertisements, Fox created a MySpace page housing all of the advertisements.  Although Fox and MySpace are siblings, both parented by News Corp., the general consensus seems to be that a more strategic SEO move would have been for Fox to host the commercial content on their own domain.  MySpace seems to be doing just fine on the traffic front.

Wait, isn't this post supposed to be about Pizza Hut and email advertising?  Why are we still talking about the Super Bowl?  Hold your horses!  eCommerce-ville has needs.  You can't just rush in.  Where's the foreplay?

Order Online: A Call to Action

All this "Which Super Bowl advertisers ruled and which ones sucked?" conversation reminded me why I'm glad that I'm a college football fan.  Not only do I think college football is superior (trigger flood of hate mail), but, in general, many of the sponsors' advertising campaigns are better as well.  Case in point: Papa John's.  Papa John's sponsored the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) game between the Cincinnati Bearcats and the Southern Miss Golden Eagles, aptly titled the 2007 PapaJohns.com Bowl.  Not only did Papa John's plaster their URL (not just their name) on just about every single piece of marketing that made reference to the game, from the BCS' website to the banner across the televised broadcast, but plenty of the marketing included the call-to-action "Order Online" underneath the Bowl's title.  Even the giant Papa John's logos all over the field were stamped with the instruction to "Order Online".

Now, it doesn't take a marketing research guru to figure out that Papa John's may have had a spike in sales during the Papa John's Bowl due to their sponsorship.  However, the higher level long term branding initiatives are a much more interesting discussion.  It's well known that using a strong call-to-action in Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaigns is an optimization strategy that, in general, improves the quality and performance of advertising campaigns, without raising costs.  Not only is Papa John's use of a call-to-action capitalizing on this strategy, their implementation in an offline channel generates online traffic while lowering overhead conversion costs.  The costs associated with executing an online transaction are likely markedly less than transactions performed over the phone.  Moreover, every order placed online provides an opportunity for Papa John's to build their email marketing list, up sell and cross sell in an automated fashion, and generate increased loyalty with those who have a positive customer experience.  As such, the "Order Online" mantra may be less about customer acquisition and more about customer retention and market share growth.

Their SEO efforts seem to be in tune as well.  For the searches order pizza online and pizza order online, Papa John's ranks first.  Along with the bowl game sponsorship,  Papa John's created an entire site, papajohnsbowl.com, dedicated to the game and chock full of content.

Eureka!  Our destination!  A conversation about Pizza Hut!  The title of this post does apply!!!

No Opt-In, No Pizza For You

Don't you hate it when you're creating an account on a website so that you can place an order and right before you check "I Agree" to the Terms of Use, you have to UNCHECK, "I Agree" for you to send me a bunch of crap.  Well, Pizza Hut took that annoyance to a whole new level.

The week before the super bowl, my wife mentioned that we had a couple unused Pizza Hut gift cards that had been magneted to our refrigerator for over a year.  She was under the impression that the card's value begins to depreciate one year after purchase (If true, don't even get me started on this issue!).  Perfect!  We had a super bowl party to attend, so we decided to donate to the cause.  Since Super Bowl Sunday is like the biggest pizza ordering day, I dropped the gift cards off at my friends house the night before the game so we could get our order in before the frenzy.  We grab the mac book, find the codes on the gift cards, and head to pizzahut.com.  After spending time starring at the coupons, figuring out the promotions, figuring out how many bodies we need to feed and filling up our shopping cart, we end up at that account creation page.  After filling out a bunch of data, we get to the bottom of the form and see this:

 

PizzHut.com customer sign up page

 

WHAT?!?!  Are you serious?  Really Pizza Hut?  Really?  You can't be.  This can't be right.  I really can't buy your product online unless I agree to receive your junk mail?  There's no check to opt-in, LET ALONE AN UNCHECK TO OPT-OUT?

Let me get this right.  In order to order pizza online from pizzahut.com I MUST "agree to receive information about Pizza Hut®/WingStreet® coupons, promotions, announcements, events and specials".  Are you freaking kidding me?  Refresh!  This must be a mistake.  No, even better, they must have been hacked by a competitor.  Dominoes... you sneaky, sneaky, guys (KIDDING, no calls from lawyers).  I was absolutely floored.  Now, I have no idea how easy it is to opt-out of the "information", once the "coupons, promotions, announcements, events and specials" start flooding in since my buddy refused to create an account.  I'm imagining the subject of an email right now: "WingStreet Wings: So Damn Good, You'll Never Unsubscribe, So Why Give You the Option?".

In scanning the policies, I couldn't quite figure out how they were going to advertise to me.  Is it email, snail mail, text, pizza delivery boy stopping by, blimp, tattoo?  Also, I don't know why there is a "Pizza Hut Terms of Use and Privacy Policy" and a "WingStreet® Terms of Use and Privacy Policy".  Both of the Terms of Use links land on the same page (http://www.pizzahut.com/TermsOfUse.aspx) and both of the Privacy Policy links land on the same page (http://www.pizzahut.com/PrivacyPolicy.aspx).  Neither of the documents make it clear whether they are the "Pizza Hut" docs or the "WingStreet" docs.  The account creation form requires several pieces of information, including: email address, street address and phone number.  Other types of information are optional, like a cell phone number.  While I was wondering what channels and mediums this "information" would come via, I came across some great content in the Privacy Policy.  My favorite part of the policy is reproduced below:

 

PizzaHut.com Policies

Hilarious!  I love it.  They say "For those who initially opted-in to receive future offers or promotional materials or to allow the sharing of Personal Information with third parties may subsequently opt-out as follows".  Ummm, by "For those who" do you mean "everyone who bought online" since it's impossible to not "initially" opt-in?  Underneath that, the policy provides instructions on how to opt-out of email and text message communications, which implies they advertise via both of these mediums assuming you cough up your cell phone number.  I'm guessing they advertise to the street address as well.  For perspective, it looks like Papa John's let's you opt-out of both email advertising (by unchecking) and text message advertising (by not checking).

Since we thought this was a terrible policy, didn't want to end up on their advertising lists, didn't want to have to figure out opting out later and didn't want to deal with a bunch of junk mail until we could get off their lists, we closed our browser and called our order in over the phone.  We would have gone to a competitor if we didn't already have the gift cards.


This experience raises at least two serious concerns.  First, it completely eliminated all of the value mentioned above that could have been created by an online order.  Since we called in, conversion costs increased, Pizza Hut will never have the opportunity to add our email address to their marketing lists (via a check or a non-uncheck), they will never have the chance to up sell or cross sell to us in an automated fashion, they have completely obliterated any loyalty we had and they provided an utterly terrible customer experience.  Moreover, their customer retention and market share numbers just dwindled by a body count of two (my friend and I).  Second, the strategy that Pizza Hut is utilizing makes me wonder if most users don't notice what they're getting themselves into and if this is what Pizza Hut is shooting for.  Well known practice in eCommerce is to force a customer to agree to a sites general terms of use in order to transact on that site.  Sometimes, at the same time a user is agreeing to the Terms of Use, a second, optional, opportunity is provided that allows the the customer to opt-in to advertising.  If only one option is given, it is by and large a Terms of Use agreement.  Therefore, if a customer only sees one option, and doesn't read the details, they assume that they are agreeing to a sites Terms of Use, and that no option to opt-in to advertising exists, let alone that they are opting in if they agree to the Terms of Use.

By the way, in the past, I've been a big fan of Pizza Hut's crust.  This time, we went for the Pizza Mia's.  I have to say, I was definitely disappointed.  Icing on the cake...

Well, so long for today eCommerce-ville.  The sun is setting on you once again.  It's been a good visit.  A long one, but a good one.  Next fall during football season (college or pro) when I order pizza online, it's Papa John's all the way.

 

 

 

PlumberSurplus.com at the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards Banquet

Posted on March 5, 2008 by Zach

In the world of eCommerce we interact daily via the blogosphere, forums, etc.  Every now and then it is nice to get involved in the community and interact with those outside of the eCommerce circle.  Everyone at PlumberSurplus.com loves to go out, get dressed up and attend industry events. Recently we were nominated for the 2007 Emerging Entrepreneur award by the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards program, so many of us got suited up and headed to the awards banquet. Some background on the Spirit of the Entrepreneur: In 2003, the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship (IECE) at California State University San Bernardino, The Press-Enterprise Co., and The Business Press launched the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards program to honor the top entrepreneurs in the Inland Empire. The inaugural event, with over 600 attendees, was a resounding success, and 2004, 2005, and 2006 have followed with highly successful programs.

A good time was had by all with a huge silent auction, some great food, an engaging student fast pitch competition and of course the awards presentation. Although the silent auction did have some pretty awesome motorcycles up for grabs my favorite part of the event was the student fast pitch competition. As a part of the Spirit Awards program, select students from Cal State San Bernardino's annual Student Fast Pitch Competition are invited to make a 90 second pitch of their promising business venture idea to the audience. During the evening, the audience heard a pitch from five students and voted on the most promising idea. At the end of the evening, just prior to the presentation of the final Spirit Award, the top three student pitches where recognized with the top student pitch receiving a $2,000 prize.

While everyone from PlumberSurplus.com enjoyed the awards banquet and we where hopeful of winning the award, CornerTurn, LLC - of Corona won the award for Emerging Entrepreneur. Our hopes are high though that we will be nominated again next year and bring home a win.

Below are some photographs of our night at the event.


Several of our companies managers and team leaders with their guests.

Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards Banquet

Our company table.

 

Part of the PlumberSurplus.com Team at the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards Banquet

Our Executives Tim and Brian having a good old time.

Here's Tim....

Tim's mustache

And here's Brian!

 

Brian's mustache

 

 

10 Things to Do Before Beginning a Physical Inventory Count

Posted on March 4, 2008 by Archives
Are you a small business owner just trying to keep track of the odds and ends you have lying around your warehouse? Are you trying to complete an inventory just to balance your own records, and not for tax reporting purposes? If you answered, “Yes!” then this blogs for you!

Completing a physical inventory, while necessary, is a time consuming that is typically the cause of many small business owner’s nightmares. Completing an inventory is designed to reconcile your records of quantity on hand, with actual quantity on hand. You laugh because you see the nightmare forming, don’t you?

If you have a fool-proof warehousing system, then you may be thinking inventory is a breeze. Let me assure you… no one, not Best Buy, not Home Depot, not even Target has a fool-proof warehousing system. All the RF Devices, software and intelligence in the world cannot maintain a fool-proof system. It’s a nice theory, but the human element is too large!

By now you are thinking, “Great! If Target and Best Buy have a hard time, how the heck am I going to figure it out?” One good thing is that you are not completing your inventory to turn in to the IRS for taxes…so take a deep sigh of relief! Approaching inventory with a positive attitude is the first step in the right direction. Being properly prepared can help maintain your level of optimism and can help avoid an overwhelming task that boils down to scanning and rescanning…or worse…counting and recounting.       

Here are 10 things you can do ahead of time to try to eliminate some stressors of completing your inventory:

10. Schedule your inventory! Do not come to work one morning and decide that you have extra time that day and begin an inventory…this is the first ingredient of a disaster! This headache is definitely avoidable.

9. Let others know when you are completing your inventory. This includes your customers. Let them know that for that day (or two) that you will not be fulfilling orders due to inventory. Alerting others of your plans will help curb unnecessary requests for quantity available and shipping statuses.

8. Go through your warehouse the week or day before your scheduled inventory and set aside and label any areas that have a specific purpose, or that are known trouble areas. Some examples could be:

  • “Missing Pieces” for any product that is missing anything
  • “Damaged” for any product that has visible damage to it
  • “Individual Quantities” for items in packs/cartons that need to be counted individually

7. Go through the warehouse the week or day before your scheduled inventory and label all major sections/subsections of the warehouse in accordance of how your inventory report will read. For example, if your warehouse is organized by manufacturers, and your report is by manufacturer/model number, label all individual manufacturers. Label your warehouse by any families, industries, categories, etc., that show on your report for ease of location

 

6. If using a computer generated report for counting, ensure that there is adequate space for noting any discrepancies. Some notes that you will want room for are:

  • Actual quantity on hand available for shipment
  • Number of damages
  • Number with missing pieces
  • Misc.

 
5. Ensure that your method of counting is intact. If scanning, ensure that all scanners are charged and their connections are working before you begin. If counting, it is best to delegate colors, in case you get interrupted. For example, for every item counted you can put a yellow slash somewhere on it, then on your sheet (since you are using the age old counting method you will have the report in your hand) decide what number intervals to mark (i.e. 5, 10, 25).


4. Color coding is always a good organizational technique that can allow many people to communicate effectively. If you are going to color code, ensure that there are plenty of supplies (stickers, markers) for everyone. Some examples of how you could use colored markers or stickers are:

  • Counted Product
  • Damaged Product
  • Needs manager attention

This is especially helpful if you have a team that is completing the inventory, each member with a specific job. If it is a task of one person to continuously go through and pull all inventory marked as damaged to the “Damages” section, then the products should be appropriately marked for that team member.
 
3. Have a team huddle the morning, or night, you begin. Encourage your team to be thorough yet speedy. If they come across a product that is out of place or unable to be scanned/counted, mark it (with the appropriate color/sticker) and move on.


2. Provide donuts and coffee or bagels and orange juice for your team. A little encouragement goes a long way.

The number one thing you can do before you begin your inventory…


1. Pray for patience.

 

Vanessa’s Variety for the Week of February 29th, Yep it’s a Leap Year!

Posted on February 29, 2008 by Vanessa

Happy Leap Day everyone!  I know some of you were getting crazy at SMX this week, but I hung out in good old Southern California and caught up on some ecommerce blogs.  I have highlighted a few for you below.

  • Varien is doing a usability review of popular websites, I think the whole series is worth checking out but they included us in this post analyzing customer service landing pages, so that is the one I wanted to highlight.
  • Is Google gunning for LivePerson with their new live chat service?
  • The Word of Mouth Marketing Agency, or WOMMA, published an insightful article this week: For Every $1 Spent Online, the Internet Influences $3.45 Offline.
  • Target doesn’t respond to blogs because blogs are “nontraditional media outlets”, read the full article here.
  • iTunes beats out Best Buy and Target in the music industry, coming in second to Wal-Mart.

 

Michael Gray Topless at SMX? Live from Search Marketing Expo West, Matt Cutts Offers Michael Gray Cash to Strip on Stage, Andy Beal Vehemently Objects!

Posted on February 27, 2008 by josh

Tomorrow I'll be speaking at Search Marketing Expo West in Santa Clara. I will be discussing PlumberSurplus.com's development and implementation of HackerSafe along with our utilization of the HackerSafe trustmark in our comparison shopping engine feeds. My speech is during lunch in the exhibit hall, which, according to Katie Gausepohl, Third Door Media's Director of Finance, is a first for the circuit, so I hope I can provide some value to what I expect to be a semi-captive, and very hungry, lunching audience.

I've been meaning to put together some posts discussing the conference, but keep finding myself buried in prepping my speech, attending sessions, hobnobbing with Google over drinks and appetizers at
Sino Restaurant & Lounge, desperately trying to keep up on email and touching base with my super team back at home. However, sometimes a morsel of content so incredibly entertaining comes along, that a real time insta-post is absolutely required.

This afternoon I attended the
SEO & Blogging session on the Wonder Twins track. At the beginning of the Q & A, Matt Cutts, sitting against the back wall of the room, offered Michael Gray $100 to take off his shirt and dance on the table during the session. The audience erupted in laughter as Matt Cutt's was pulling out wads of cash. While the entire audience was rooting for Michael to get up and groove, Andy Beal counter offered $200 if Michael wouldn't end up half naked. Panelist antics such as these are what can make conferences extra enjoyable. The networking and learning opportunity is enormous, but a bit of levity woven through the event make fast paced cram sessions bearable. Also, it's interesting to see how loose, and apparently close, all of the Bloggers were in this particular session.

Here's a photo just after the mayhem ensued.  From left to right: Vanessa Fox of Ignition Partners (the moderator), Aaron Wall of SEO Book, Andy Beal of Marketing Pilgrim, Michael Gray of Graywolf's SEO Blog.

SMX West 2008 Panel

After the session, Aaron and Andy were nice enough to discuss this blog and our strategy in general. I also had a chance to catch up with Matt. A few months back, we outed a competitor for black hat spamming with hidden links. During an interview with Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting, Matt addressed the issue and offered some perspective. I thanked Matt for mentioning the issue during the interview and Matt was glad to contribute, as always.

Though I sometimes get worn out sitting in these sessions by the end of the second day of a conference, it's experiences like this that remind me of why I love eCommerce. The people are great and the opportunity to take home some nuggets of knowledge are equally matched by nuggets of fun. I'll post more about my experiences at the conference soon.

 

Getting 100% of the Product Line: How to Ask a Supplier for More

Posted on February 27, 2008 by Archives

Approaching potential suppliers as a relatively new, rapidly growing, eCommerce company, we typically get one of three reactions. On one extreme, some suppliers will be more than supportive, willing to jump in head first and give us all available data and product they offer. We love these suppliers. Others are willing to take the eCommerce gamble, but with a limited stake in the investment; they give us some of their product offering and are mainly interested in testing the waters. The other extreme is a supplier who is typically an older brick and mortar company, that is in its fourth generation of ownership. They are uninterested in expanding into the unknown and are much more comfortable where they are. We understand where they are coming from… eCommerce can be risky business.

Since the first reaction is the best, and what we hope for in every prospective meeting, our data department is ready at a whim to tackle large projects and upload hundreds if not thousands of products in one sweep. The third reaction, though it does not happen frequently, does come up on occasion, and we cordially finish lunch, shake the suppliers hand, and walk away chuckling to ourselves. We just sat through an entire lunch with complete strangers, pouring their heart out about how they are ready for expansion; how they want to grow but cannot find the right opportunity – but when we present an opportunity to them, it is too adventurous.  It’s the middle of the line suppliers, the lukewarm suppliers, the “that sounds great but I’m too skeptical” suppliers that require a lot of time and attention by our supply chain management.

Now, I work in Supply Chain Management, not in data, analytics or marketing. So not only am I not an expert in search engine optimization, but I can barely describe the difference between paid and organic search results. However, I do know that if you have a site about plumbing, the more pages about plumbing that you have the more relevant your site will be.  This may not be the exact case but a simple example of this is as follows: When we have 15 Kohler products, we are more relevant in search engines than if we had 1. Let’s expand: If we had 15,000 Kohler products, we are more relevant in search engines than if we had 1,000. That makes sense. The more we have of a product offering, the more relevant we are to people searching for those products. Let’s go a step further. If we have 15,000 Kohler products and 15,000 Moen products, we are more relevant than if we just had Kohler products alone.

To transition this to sales, higher relevancy equals higher organic results, which equals higher volume of traffic on our website. We all know, higher traffic means higher sales. So, what we can do to increase sales? The simple answer…broaden our product offering. Sounds like an easy concept, right?

Explaining this to a supplier, especially a supplier that is interested in expansion, but not interested waiting the time it takes to develop good product descriptions and search engine relevancy, becomes a difficult task. We have often sat in meetings with lukewarm suppliers asking, “Why aren’t we selling more products?” We kindly try to explain, usually for more than the tenth time, that if they will expand their product offering, we will sell more of their products. Why? We will be more relevant in search results.

When we approach our suppliers, we come to the table realizing our core competencies as well as theirs. The relationship works best, when suppliers stick to their competencies, and let us stick to ours. If they give us the product, we will sell it. Our ability to sell their products is directly related to the breadth of the product made available to us.

So, how do we ask a supplier for all of their product offering? Simple, we run a report of their competitor that is giving us 100% of their product offering, and show them the difference in sales volume. If we do not already have a comparable product, the report generated would be of one of our competitors, offering a similar product line. This gets the results we are looking for every time.