Back in the day of only about 6 years ago and longer, we were on fire in sales. Redrockstore.com was the goto place for gear and everybody far and wide was buying from us. From Maine to Montana, Canada and Nebraska, Redrockstore.com was the ice fishing and outdoor gear supplier. There were days when the phone would ring so hard with people trying to order we couldn’t handle it all. Those same customers would tell us three days later that they kept trying for three days to reach us. We wondered why they simply didn’t order online, but back then about half of them refused to use the internet other than as an information source.
Today, everybody and his brother is an online seller and our market has dried up considerably and a relative almost nothing. In our ordering files, many of our customers would order 10-14 times in one winter to our amazement. What did they do with all of that stuff? We don’t know. Our sales of ice fishing suits made us heroes with sale reps and distributors. We were considered giants in the industry. The great cash flow made paying bills pretty easy. One would think that we would never run out of business because our following appeared very loyal and enthusiastic.
But, then the real economy hit. The one where things are going great in large metro areas because all during our powerful sales, people who couldn’t find work were running out of money and moving to the cities for crappy/good jobs. We began to feel it rather quickly and knew that something was up, but the busy parts of the winter fogged our view. Forecasting sales was rather tough plus we learned that if we didn’t order heavy during buying shows, when product ran out, we’d be sitting with nothing to sell later in the winter. How does a little company with four people running around like rats on fire predict the future of the business? I still don’t know.
Also, based on past experiences of abysmal sales such as 1991 and 1996 and 2001, they usually bounced back in about two years or less. Recessions meant that people would have time to fish and put food on the table in doing so. But the “staycations” of 2008 and 2009 really changed everything as we watched sales plummet. Everything began to drop rapidly from our unbelievable kevlar canoe sales to fishing tackle. Sure, there were still people out there with money, but there were far fewer. And, wouldn’t you know it? Our competitors decided that to bolster lackluster sales, they would go online a compete with us. That is exactly what they did. Big box retailers with a minor presence online, decided that they would use their comparatively vast resources to become a major presence online. That, and companies who knew absolutely nothing about ice fishing decided to join the fray and soon, we were competing against a really large monster with less and less shoppers who had disposable income. Add to that the new obsession with iPhones, apps, and the wave of completely unnecessary distractions that burned up limited disposable income and we have 1996 all over again. That was the time when everybody fell the need to spend $1800+ on a new computer and join America On Line to do that “email” thing. Only, this time is much worse.
Instead of paying attention to the lagging economy outside of the all-important metro areas of the US, our president played with Solyndra, global warming, saving everybody, and adding restrictions to restrictions. Congress sat on their hands and worried about lining their own pockets. That just made the economies outside of the metro areas dwindle some more and in a much bigger way this time. It also shored up many big box retailers positioned in those metro economies to catch every disposable income dollar that came their way. Iphones added a new way to shop and check prices right in the store. If you are small business, the need for all the social media talk and attention is more than you can handle – at least it is for me. The big dudes have teams of online marketers. We have me and Jackie.
So, what was our response to this looming economic disaster? On the internet, the expert youngin’s who have the spiky hair, sleeve tatts and skinny jeans all say “More information!!!!!!” We could win back our old familiar customer loyalty by giving of ourselves in a deep, highly-detailed way.” All we had to do is produce hundreds of videos, write tons of online articles, and link, link, link! We’d be seen as the true experts and everybody would then re-love us and shop with us once again. So that is what I did. [Insert snort of derision here.]
Fortunately, I like writing and I like making videos. For the past 17 years online, writing product reviews and product analysis was my forte. I liked blunt, easy to read write-ups of products that I like to use myself. Unlike the politically correct and nauseating corporate big box retailers, I like to say it like I see it. Everything is not all good. Some products or aspects of said products, suck. For my product attitude, I’m pretty sure I would not be admitted in the corporate “suits” world. Plus those skinny jeans guys are offended by butterflies that pass too closely overhead, so I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t/couldn’t last there. I’d offend some wussie in my first five minutes there. Plus, I have no blotchy, or at least, blotchy-to-be tatts and one of those flat-brimmed caps that I can stick my ears under. Oh, aside from rudimentary usage as a radio and a phone, I hate my iPhone, too. Nope – I can’t be in either the suits or the skinny jeans.
So write up a new storm of articles I did in the new web-responsive format which required changing everything around from old familiar webpages into what I would call “chaos on a stick”. And here I am reviewing and sharing freely. At this writing, redrockstore.com has been viewed by people who can’t find this info anywhere else on the web about 120,000 times. That’s in in less than 18 months. Therein lies the rub.
My video reviews of all that stuff along with my free articles are now seeing about 400 people per day and this whopper is going to go substantially higher in December. Then it will peak at even higher numbers of readers in January and drop down slightly in February to a sudden drop off for March. That means 10’s of thousands will be looking at my stuff to learn, to understand, to make decisions! Hooray! (We all know that spending $49.95 these days requires about 3 days of study, reviewing customer reviews, and maybe some meditation.) In relative terms, the numbers of people who will actually shop with the company who gives the plethora of knowledge will be zip, zilch, doo diddly, diddly squat, etc. The thought of being used makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
How can that be, you ask? Well, it all comes down to dollar attitude. Essentially, I’m beginning to view them all as “users”. My work has become the mainstay for those big box retailers who laugh all the way to the bank because Red Rock just sold the product for them. I know this to be true because we’ve had many people in the store who said that they used our website for information and then bought the ice auger from Amazon or Fleet Farm because it was “on sale” and they could get it the next day for free. (Does anyone need an ice auger in October the very next day? Are you going to test it in your living room? What’s the frickin’ hurry? ) 99.998% of these people don’t even realize how offensive and insulting this is to me. In effect, I do all of their work, eliminate all of their risk, and I am rewarded with nothing but a smile and hearing what an awesome website I have. How cool is that?
Every purchase today is down to the dollar and clicking on the best deal for literally $10 or less sometimes. There is no customer loyalty anymore. Just take the info you need and find it somewhere where it is the cheapest. Well, remember – if you didn’t buy it from us, I’m not helping you with your warranty issues. Lets see what Amazon does when you have problems 4 months out and the manufacturer won’t return your phone calls or reply to your emails. It’s not my first rodeo, so I just can’t wait to hear the stories of how you sat all winter with no functioning Marcum-Vexilar-Strikemaster that you paid $650 for. Oh yeah – roll your eyes and think it won’t happen….it happens ALL the time. We’ve gone to bat for more customers than I can count over the years. Lets see how that big robot handles your problem. I can’t wait…
If I sound a little irritated, it’s because I am. My website and efforts to be the best are resulting in no sales for my company. There is no customer loyalty and saving a buck online is all that matters.
Perhaps it is time we go the other way and shut everything down as far as our web articles and videos are concerned. Then you can watch some dude on youtube talking about his 7 year old Jiffy power auger with the bungee cord holding on the gas tank. Maybe we need to sell skinny jeans, lattes, and iphones since that appears to be all that matter these days. We need cash flow and can’t keep spending our time and effort making everybody feel warm and cuddly about a lousy $300 fish locator or an ice auger. People spend far less time making car buying decisions.
Customer loyalty ends with the almighty $5 dollar savings. Sadly, it has come to that.
Thanks for listening to me whine.