State of the Hunting Industry | April 2010

[private_member]MEMBERS – Please view in .pdf form – State of the Hunting Industry Report | April 2010[/private_member]

Edition 6           A Publication of Hunting Business Marketing        April 2010

The Good News of 2010, But Looming State Deficits

Image courtesy of Photo8.com

Introduction

There seems to be a cautious wave of optimism sweeping the middle class in the US this past month.

Many industries are seeing a return of growth and prosperity. Some companies are growing and expanding their operations, even hiring new employees. When reading news such as this it brings a smile to the face of anyone. It’s positive and it’s encouraging for the future.

However, other news like the pension deficits in most states is troubling.

The public sector is draining the entire American economy of precious resources. This is good for a few folks during the interim short-term while harmful for the majority of Americans in the long-term.

State governments, like the federal government has promised more money than they are currently taking in. The difference with the state governments is they don’t have a federal reserve to print money when they run out. They are required by law to balance budgets.

Taxes are being increased on some states to make up for the differences in tax revenue. This may work in the short-term, but will be detrimental in the long-term.

States have been able to hide some of their shortcomings in the short-term with tricky accounting that plays shell games with the public in a desperate effort to make it through the next elections. The music will eventually stop in this game of musical chairs and those left with no place to sit will be taxpayers and the general public.

Underemployment continues growing in most states and cities around the US.

Folks are saving what they can, but pent up demand that has been building for the past year or so is leading to some consumer spending. Businesses are delighted by this as their sales are increasing over last year; increasing over one of worst years in history.

When the music will stop is anybody’s guess and t he only lifeline folks and businesses will have is savings to weather another storm.

Living a happy life with family and the things you cherish is important so take care of those things.[private_member]

Economic Trends

State Debt Woes Grow Too Big to Camouflage

From New York Times (March 2010):

California, New York and other states are showing many of the same signs of debt overload that recently took Greece to the brink — budgets that will not balance, accounting that masks debt, the use of derivatives to plug holes, and armies of retired public workers who are counting on benefits that are proving harder and harder to pay.

And states are responding in sometimes desperate ways, raising concerns that they, too, could face a debt crisis.

New Hampshire was recently ordered by its State Supreme Court to put back $110 million that it took from a medical malpractice insurance pool to balance its budget. Colorado tried, so far unsuccessfully, to grab a $500 million surplus from Pinnacol Assurance, a state workers’ compensation insurer that was privatized in 2002. It wanted the money for its university system and seems likely to get a lesser amount, perhaps $200 million.

Joshua Rauh, an economist at Northwestern University, and Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Chicago, recently recalculated the value of the 50 states’ pension obligations the way the bond markets value debt. They put the number at $5.17 trillion.

After the $1.94 trillion set aside in state pension funds was subtracted, there was a gap of $3.23 trillion — more than three times the amount the states owe their bondholders.

“When you see that, you recognize that states are in trouble even more than we recognize,” Mr. Rauh said.

With bond payments and pension contributions consuming big chunks of state budgets, Mr. Rauh said, some states were already falling behind on unsecured debts, like bills from vendors. “Those are debts, too,” he said.

In Illinois, the state comptroller recently said the state was nearly $9 billion behind on its bills to vendors, which he called an “ongoing fiscal disaster.” On Monday, Fitch Ratings downgraded several categories of Illinois’s debt, citing the state’s accounts payable backlog. California had to pay its vendors with i.o.u.’s last year.

“These are the things that can precipitate a crisis,” Mr. Rauh said.

Read the full story State Debt Woes Grow Too Big to Camouflage

Impact on your business

Tricky accounting and other shell games are allowing some states to postpone their inevitable collapse.

In the best case scenario, the states would declare a form of bankruptcy and let the public unions walk without compensation or the state governments would cut spending in other areas to pay for the union pensions and other liabilities – depending on what the citizens prefer in each of the states.

In the worst case and most likely scenario, states will receive the balance of the deficit from the federal government, which will have to borrow and print the money thus removing trillions more from the pockets of taxpayers – a few will prosper in the short-term and everyone will suffer in the long-term.

With commercial real estate struggling as we saw last month in the report and the buildup of unfunded liabilities in the states, the outlook is shaky at best in the general US.

Underemployment Rises to 20.3% in March

From Gallup (March 2010):

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Gallup Daily tracking finds that 20.3% of the U.S. workforce was underemployed in March — a slight uptick from the relatively flat January and February numbers.

These results are based on March interviews with more than 20,000 adults in the U.S. workforce, aged 18 and older. Gallup classifies respondents as underemployed if they are unemployed or working part-time but wanting full-time work. Gallup employment data are not seasonally adjusted.

A rise in the percentage of part-timers wanting to work full time (from 9.2% to 9.9%) is responsible for the March increase in underemployment. Unemployment saw a slight, but insignificant, decline in March.

Read the full story Underemployment Rises to 20.3% in March

Impact on your business

The interesting thing about the recent slight upturn in economic perspective has been that unemployment and underemployment have continued to rise; even if at a relatively slow place.

What we know as underemployment today used to be the official unemployment number up until the federal government made the change in the 1990s (in an effort to make the perception better). So when comparing today with the 1930s it’s important to use the underemployment number – this includes those who would like to have better jobs or are dissatisfied with their current jobs.

In the past few months we’ve seen folks revert back to spending. This is a natural reaction to pent up demand that had been subdued for awhile during the recession.

With folks still losing jobs or working at jobs they are not satisfied with it will be difficult for any kind of rebound or sustained recovery.

Economic Confidence Remains Depressed Thus Far in March

From Gallup (March 2010):

PRINCETON, NJ — Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index is -31 for the week of March 15-21, continuing a trend of depressed confidence that began three weeks prior.

Consumer Outlook Dimmer Since Late February

The Gallup Economic Confidence Index is based on Americans’ answers to two questions — one focusing on views of current economic conditions in the country and the other on the economic outlook. Both measures are in negative territory — meaning that more Americans express negative than positive sentiments on each dimension — and have been since January 2008.

The dampened level of overall economic confidence in March comes exclusively from a drop in economic outlook that began in the final week of February and has since held.

Read the full story Economic Confidence Remains Depressed Thus Far in March

Impact on your business

Confidence appears to remain subdued among Americans.

Most people in the US are smart and they understand that a recovery that saw a great deal of stimulus thrust into Wall Street and the stock market means little for actual fundamental economic recovery. Folks are still losing jobs and over 20% of workers in the US are working at jobs they are not satisfied with whether that is for pay reasons or something similar.

Folks have been spending some of the money they’ve saved for a rainy day over the past 18 months, but this is nothing more than pent up demand.

Americans’ Weekly Spending Hits New High for 2010

From Gallup (March 2010):

PRINCETON, NJ — With stocks at a new high for the year, pent-up demand from the snowstorms of prior weeks, and perhaps the arrival of some tax refunds, Americans’ self-reported spending reached its highest level of the year during the week ending March 14.

Prior to last week, 2010 consumer spending was adhering to the relatively conservative “new normal” established in 2009. The question going forward is whether this new spending represents the beginning of a new, higher level of consumer spending — somewhere between 2008 and 2009 spending levels — or simply a short-term aberration in the “new normal” trend.

Averaging $72 per day last week, consumer spending was up 20% from the prior week ($60) and 31% from the same week a year ago ($55), and at its highest level since the week ending Dec. 20.

Job Creation Not a Factor

If this is the beginning of a new spending trend, it doesn’t appear to have been inspired by job creation. While job market conditions have improved compared to a year ago, most of the change comes from lower percentages of employees reporting that their companies are letting people go; there has been little growth in the percentage saying their companies are hiring.

Read the full story Americans’ Weekly Spending Hits New High for 2010

Impact on your business

Pent up demand from 18 months of not spending much has started hitting the US economy. This is great news for the companies providing quality products and services to folks, but the truth is that incomes are not increasing and people are simply spending a little of the savings they’ve accumulated over the past year or so.

It’s a natural reaction to want to spend a little money; whether it’s for needs or wants it makes people more positive to spend money and enjoy life.

A true recovery cannot occur until the job market improves and folks are able to shrink debt levels and spend actual savings.


Industry News

Successful wolf hunt may not be profitable

From Idaho Reporter (March 2010):

Despite all the notoriety surrounding Idaho’s wolf hunt, it may not be a moneymaker for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG), according to a department spokesman.  Ed Mitchell said it’s debatable whether the hunt that led to 186 hunters killing wolves paid for itself.  More than 31,000 hunters bought tags to hunt wolves, which sold for $11.50 to Idaho residents and $186 to out-of-state hunters.

“We need that tag money for our wolf and other big game programs,” Mitchell told IdahoReporter.com.  He said the cost of wolf management programs, including tracking and tagging wolves, and the loss of revenues on elk hunting tags due to elk being killed by wolves has offset the more than $400,000 raised from wolf tag sales.  Mitchell said elk herds in several areas of the state have been declining, including the Lolo zone.  “The Lolo’s been studied so thoroughly,” he said, adding that other areas, like the Selway zone, may also have had large depredation.  “We just have more complete science on the Lolo.”  Both the Lolo and Selway zones are located along the Montana-Idaho border.

Read the full story Successful wolf hunt may not be profitable

Impact on your business

State departments will never be able to effectively manage wildlife or land.

Private landowners are the best equipped to handle the duties of managing their own land and the wildlife (property) that lives on their land. The wolf issue for me is not an issue that belongs to the state or it’s populace.

The pilgrims struggled to survive in the new world when their communities were centrally planned. Not until the pilgrims divided up their land into private plots for each person did they succeed and thrive as each person took care of their ‘own’ property.

In Africa, there was an issue with elephants. One country took the centrally planned route to poaching and tried to manage the elephant herd that way. Another country declared that all elephants were the private property of the landowners. The second country now has a thriving elephant population while the first is no better off today than in the past.

Online Trends

Top E-Mail Subject Lines Focus on ‘You’

From eMarketer (March 2010):

Polls show that marketers are aiming for personalization to make their e-mails stand out in recipients’ inboxes, and the rise of social media has made many consumers expect a more personal relationship with brands. And a look at e-mail subject lines suggests marketers are following that lead.

While in November 2008, subjects with “you” and “your” barely beat out “free” offers, usage of “you” to address recipients directly rose by 2009 to appear in more than one-fifth of e-mail subjects. On the flip side, terms such as “free” and “ship” decreased in importance.

Experian’s “2010 Digital Marketer” report said this reflected the growing savvy of marketing e-mail recipients. Consumers now expect free shipping offers, which makes them less of a selling point in e-mail subject lines.

Offers of savings in general, however, remained important, and with good reason. More than one-half of adults said they were likely to open an e-mail containing promotions or coupons, and 30% said they would forward such an e-mail to others, up from 28% in 2008.

Among multichannel retailers, for example, “save,” “off” and “% off” each appeared in about 12% of subject lines. Shopping and classifieds sites saw the highest share of traffic coming from e-mail clicks, compared with other industries, at 9%.

Read the full story Top E-Mail Subject Lines Focus on ‘You’

Impact on your business

Email is important for any successful business today.

There are a few steps in the email process that every business should focus on: 1) Opening 2) Clicking and 3) Buying. Work on getting your customers to open your emails, click you emails, and eventually get them to convert sales or your own version of conversion metrics by improving your email subject lines and content.

Email is being utilized by many successful companies, but there is always room for improvement and studies like the one above help with understanding what people are responding too in the marketplace.

Retail E-Commerce Resumes Double-Digit Growth

From eMarketer (April 2010):

eMarketer forecasts that after two years of subpar growth, 2010 US retail e-commerce sales (excluding travel) will climb to more than $152 billion, up 12.7% year over year. This follows the US Census Bureau’s release showing online sales in Q4 2009 grew by 14.6% over a year earlier—the biggest gain in eight quarters.

“In 2011, growth will go on at the same pace, as the economy continues to recover and consumers loosen their purse strings,” said Jeffrey Grau, eMarketer senior analyst and author of the new report, “US Retail E-Commerce Forecast: Room to Grow.”

“But by 2012, e-commerce will resume its pre-recessionary downward growth path because of the inevitable maturation of the online sales channel,” he said. “Still, there is plenty of energy driving e-commerce.”

This year, 162 million people in the US will research products online. Much of this research will lead to in-store purchases. Over 82% of online researchers, or 133 million people, will be online buyers. The percent of online buyers will rise as young Internet users, predisposed to e-commerce, replace older users.

Online travel sales are also set to rise. Sales will total $92.5 billion in 2010, a 4.6% annual increase and a positive development after sales plummeted by 6.7% in 2009. Together, online retail and online travel will equal $244.6 billion in 2010 and grow at a 9% compound annual rate from 2009 to 2014.

Read full story Retail E-Commerce Resumes Double-Digit Growth

Impact on your business

Online retail sales are back to growing, which is a good sign for folks with businesses in the online world.

As mentioned before, some of this is due to pent up demand. Consumers are spending some of the money they have been saving over the past year or so. This is fine and it’s a natural reaction to the negative effects of the recession.

I still see online retail sales growing in the next few years even if overall spending decreases. Online retailing has many advantages and continues to improve in efficiency as well as in the level of value it delivers consumers in the world markets.

Conclusions

There has been some good news in the economy lately…along with some news of reality for the long-term economic outlook.

The back to back stimulus extravaganzas from the last two presidential administrations and congress shoveled loads of cash into the stock market in an effort to benefit a few while the majority suffered in the long-term.

Folks that have continued to contribute to their retirement in 401Ks and in the stock market are a little happier today than they were a year ago since things have recovered significantly since the lows of a year ago.

Will stocks remain at their current level? Will they continue to increase? Will they crash again?

Underemployment, a relaxation of pent up demand, and other economic factors are saying negative things.

Strong businesses will thrive as they always do. Invest in those companies and make sure that you are running one of the successful, unique companies.

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Hunting Business Marketing

The Best Hunting Picture Galleries

Hunters view thousands of hunting pictures on the Web…every day

The competition for the attention of hunters is heating up online and some folks are using quality hunting picture galleries to attract attention away from the competition.

My personal favorites tend to be the galleries that are easy on the eyes, easy to navigate and the ones that have the best photos of trophy game. My favorite type of hunting is bowhunting for whitetails so I always love seeing great photos related to this hunting niche.

Here are the best hunting picture galleries…

Field & Stream

Site: Field & Stream

Gallery: Field & Stream Photos

Overview

The Field & Stream Photo Gallery is one of the most popular galleries on the Web. F&S has the best selection of lists and collections of hunting pictures on the Web. People love lists and that includes hunters. The F&S ‘Best of’ collections make for great photo viewing. To increase involvement with their target audience, the team at F&S also encourage users to submit their best photos. F&S then takes the time to highlight the user photos in ways that make the users the stars. This is a great way to highlight the success of others and give them a vested interest in the gallery. I also like the mix of professional photos as well.

For more see Critique of the Field and Stream Photo Gallery

Petersen’s Hunting

Site: Petersen’s Hunting

Gallery: Petersen’s Hunting Trophy Room

Overview

The Petersen’s Hunting gallery is entirely user-submitted. On the photo gallery home page visitors have the option to view the highlighted photos, the most recent photos, the most popular photos, and users can view photos by collection and category. Giving visitors options when it comes to viewing segments of your photo gallery is important. Some visitors will want to search for specific types of photos. To satisfy these visitors you’ll want to offer a way to search the photos. Other visitors will want to discover new photos that meet their interests. This is where the categories are helpful (ex: I like whitetails. I can click on the whitetail section).

Duck’s Unlimited

Site: Duck’s Unlimited

Gallery: Duck’s Unlimited Photo Gallery

Widget: Duck’s Unlimited Member Photo of the Day Widget

Overview

Ducks Unlimited is a gallery I’ve only recently discovered and I’m glad I did. The user photos in this gallery are spectacular. DU members are allowed to submit photos and it’s apparent that some of the members are professional photographers. And that makes for some inspirational and breath-taking photographs of wildlife (ducks and waterfowl).

Something that sets the DU gallery apart from some of the others is their embeddable widget. Check it out and if you want to see the daily photos on your Website or blog you can. Widgets are great for increasing your audience and search engines love the links they create back to the site.

Bowhunting.com

Site: Bowhunting.com

Gallery: Bowhunting.com Photos

Overview

It’s no secret that Bowhunting.com is one of my favorite hunting sites. I’ve written about them and included them in collections before (5 Hidden Treasures on the Web, The Top 50 Blog Posts of 2009, 25 Tips from 25 Hunting Industry Leaders). The team at Bowhunting.com are experts at hunting and sharing their insight and knowledge through their videos, photos, and blog posts. There is a great mix of trail cam photos, harvest trophies, and general photography for hunting product reviews and more. The photo gallery is easy to navigate and the photos are of high quality.

Bowhunting.com is one of the galleries that offers visitors the opportunity to comment on individual photos. Something Field & Stream doesn’t have yet (you can comment on the entire collection or gallery only). Some also offer visitors the chance to rate photos like Ducks Unlimited and others.

Buckmasters

Site: Buckmasters

Gallery: Buckmasters Trophy Gallery

Overview

The Buckmasters Trophy Gallery is not the best of the bunch, but they have a ton of great user photographs due to the company’s popularity. I’m not sure if it was just me, but this gallery took awhile to load and the auto-play music was a bit annoying (not the music, but the fact that it was playing automatically. See more Video on Your Website). It’s a cumbersome gallery, but it has good photos and it’s a well known brand.

Lone Wolf

Site: Lone Wolf Portable Treestands

Gallery: Lone Wolf Trophy Gallery

Overview

Lone Wolf is a bit of a sleeper in this collection. I’m a huge fan of the design of the Lone Wolf site so it’s no surprise that I’d like their photo gallery. I also think it’s important to show that hunting product manufacturers can have successful photo galleries (as well as any hunting industry company). Users submit photos and while some aren’t the best the scrolling is easy and the thumbnail setup is simple.

CamoSpace

Site: CamoSpace

Gallery: CamoSpace Gallery

Overview

CamoSpace seems to be one of the few social networking hunting sites that has actually had some success. They have partnered with some big companies and some big folks that are famous for more than just hunting (Luke Bryan – great music). It’s a formula that has worked for growing the membership on the site. The photo gallery is 100% user-submitted. That format can lead to some noise (see the trucks), but there are still a ton of photos in the gallery and many of them are great…even if they are a little difficult to find.

ESPN Outdoors Hunting

Site: ESPN Outdoors Hunting

Gallery: Hunting Photo Galleries

Overview

It isn’t the prettiest and it isn’t the easiest to use, but ESPN makes the list because the brand is huge and the hunting shows on the channel are popular. Plus I loved the shows on ESPN Outdoors on Saturday morning when I was growing up.

Big Grass Outfitters

Site: Big Grass Outfitters

Gallery: Big Grass Outfitters Trophy Gallery

Overview

It’s important for outfitters to have galleries as part of their informational sites. Potential customers want visual proof of success. And past customers can be the best referral service when they push their friends to go on the site and view their photos.

Heartland Lodge

Site: Heartland Lodge

Gallery: Heartland Lodge Photo Gallery

Overview

One of the best looking sites in the hunting industry, Heartland Lodge makes great use of a photo gallery to show their potential customers the wonders they have to offer. I love that they use existing technology in Picasa to power their photo gallery. Remember that you don’t always have to work hard to develop your own style of gallery. Use galleries that already exist.

The categories in the gallery are great, but the titles of each photo are another story…

Gander Mountain

Site: Gander Mountain

Gallery: Gander Mountain Braggin’ Board

Overview

I grew up near a Gander Mountain (no Cabela’s nearby and I didn’t use the Web at the time) and I loved checking out the physical cork braggin’ board in store. Customers were always putting their trophies on the board and I loved looking at them all. Those Polaroids were great. With this gallery, Gander Mountain has brought that experience to the Web.

Greenwood Springs Plantation

Site: Greenwood Springs Plantation

Gallery: Greenwood Springs Plantation Photos

Overview

I came across this site toward the end of this post but I just had to include it. It’s a beautiful design and I love that they use Flickr for their photo gallery. The photos could be titled, tagged and included in Creative Commons on Flickr, but it’s a great use of a great photo gallery tool.

Elements of a Quality Gallery

As I browsed the Web in search of the best hunting galleries, I noted a few elements that should be standard on all folks considering a photo gallery for their site:

1) Multi-size Options

With image size, there is a battle between load time of the page and the quality and size of the image you want to load for your viewer’s viewing pleasure. Most sites offer an initial smaller version of images for scrolling and initial viewing, but offer visitors the option to zoom in or enlarge the photo, usually in some kind of pop-up. I think it’s a good compromise. Allow visitors the pleasure of a fast loading page with smaller images and if they have the capacity, they can zoom in or enlarge the photo.

2) Thumbnail Options

Something I’m in favor of when it comes to galleries are thumbnail viewing options. Popular photo gallery sites like Flickr (Flickr Hunting) offer thumbnail viewing so users can see multiple photos at once while being able to choose the ones they want to view in more detail.

3) Easy Scrolling

An important feature of galleries is the ability to scroll from photo to photo. Once a user has chosen a particular gallery to view they want to be able to scroll from photo to photo quickly and easily.

4) Proper Tagging and Titling

Giving the proper title and the appropriate tag to each photo in your gallery is important for your visitors so they understand what they’re viewing. Tagging and titling photos and galleries properly is also important for optimizing your gallery for search engines.

5) Sharing Abilities

Giving visitors the ability to share and bookmark the photos in a gallery is extremely important for the growth of your site’s traffic and audience. Build in the word of mouth aspects of a gallery and make sure the photos are worth talking about people will spread the word.

Bonus Element

Calls to action are important for any site that is aimed at selling something to visitors. With a bit of programming and planning, sites could take advantage of internal linking to sell relevant products to customers that are viewing the photos in galleries. For example, a company could ask users to submit the equipment used to harvest a trophy. List and link the equipment on the photo to the product pages and you have potential sales. A site like Gander Mountain could do this.

Your Favorite Hunting Picture Galleries

Did I miss your favorite gallery? Please share in the comments.

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You Are Defined By Your Success (despite your failures)

People reflect on your success and the failure you overcome

A hang-up with entrepreneurs and other adventurous individuals is often the fear of failure. Some strategies, tests, and new ideas are often thrown to the wayside due to what the perception would be if there were to be a failure in the attempt to improve a product, service, or process.

However, successful businesses and individuals are often defined and remembered for their successes, not for their failures.

By focusing on the fact that people will perceive you in the light of your success rather than failure, you can take down a common artificial barrier and focus on your next great success.

Selective Memory for Success

Family Success

I was thinking the other day about a few examples of people I believe to be successful business leaders. My uncle is one of those folks. He started a screen printing business over 35 years ago and the business is still going strong.

I’ve always enjoyed my uncle’s stories over the years. He’s willingly shared his life’s lessons over a campfire at his farm were family and close friends would gather to deer hunt each fall.

Occasionally he would bring up a few of his business blunders. In fact, he seemed to treat them as a nuisance to his business history. There was the adventure into cattle farming at the same hunting farm and a few other examples.

These business blunders, however, don’t spoil the successful career of a great businessman. Any failure he has had over his life is overshadowed by his success, those close to him see him for his success, and failures are simply taken with a laugh or brushed off as unimportant or simple speed bumps in his road to success.

Something I realize about my uncle is that the failures he’s had over his career seem to only bother him and I’m sure that some bother him more than others, but to hear him tell stories it seems like he is more focused on the successes he’s had.

And the people closest to him only focus on the success he’s had.

Success and Failure in Big Business

Most folks are familiar with the LL Bean story. The retail and catalog giant built a successful brand around the initial failure of the business (90 of the first 100 pairs of Maine Hunting Boots were returned due to defect). The founder promptly fixed the issue and returned quality boots back to the customers. This customer service and guarantee is what drives the loyalty at Bean today.

Most companies would falter under such failure, but LL Bean didn’t let it get to him and he continued on with his vision for success. Today people remember the initial failure, but they remember the failure in the light of the success it lead to – one of the largest and most successful companies in American history.

Aim for Success

The oldest cliché for career advice is to shoot for the highest level of success because even if you don’t reach your ultimate goal you’ll end up somewhere that is highly successful.

The worn-out clichés often reach the saturation point because they hold a level of truth and this one seems to fit that description.

The most successful people I know seem to understand that they will be defined by their success. The often don’t reach the level of success they set as goals for themselves because they set their sights so high, but their failures along the way aren’t seen as failures by others and their success in the eyes of others is the focus.

It seems that people often lose sight of the success they could have even if they often have failures in the beginning of their business careers.

A difficult, but artificial barrier people often face comes from family and friends. Early on in most ventures, people will ask you questions about how your business is going. People will phrase their questions like, “How are sales? Strong?” or perhaps, “Making any money yet?” It can be difficult to field those questions, but remember that you’ll ultimately be recognized for your ultimate success and while lots of folks will disregard you early on in your career they’ll be there to give you praise when you become successful over time.

Summary

Fear of losing respect and being judged by failure is a common artificial barrier that most people put up for themselves when contemplating a new business launch.

After reflecting on the success of business leaders around me I realized that they only focus on their failures as learning (and sometimes expensive) tools for future success. Sometimes poor investments in business are made and sometimes they’re costly. It’s a chance for people to correct their approach and focus on the things they really excel at.

Ultimately it seems that people reflect on the lives of others in a generally positive light. Success is often remembered no matter how much a person has in their lives. Failure is not often a focus when people discuss their lives.

This understanding is a chance for folks to take down the artificial barrier of self-doubt and fear of failure and focus on the impact they’ll have over the long term.

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Image courtesy of alpha du centaure

State of the Hunting Industry | March 2010

[private_member]MEMBERS – Please view in .pdf form – State of the Hunting Industry Report | March 2010[/private_member]

Edition 5           A Publication of Hunting Business Marketing         March 2010

Uncertain 2010 + Looming Commercial Real Estate Collapse

Introduction

Image courtesy of LancerE

Uncertainty rules the US consumer in today’s economy.

There is uncertainty in the way things are shaking up with unemployment. Millions are without jobs today and millions more are underemployed and not happy with the amount they’re making or the outlook for their financial future.

Employment and the cost of living have always been two of the biggest factors on the economy and the hunting industry is certainly affected by these two economic indicators. The outlook is not good for unemployment in the short and long-term future so it’s going to take a new level of innovation and expertise from entrepreneurs like you to succeed in the next 5, 10, 20, and 50 years.

Also looming on the immediate horizon in the impending crash of the commercial real estate bubble. Small banks are working feverously to make things work before, but their efforts appear to be on a crash course with reality.

Thousands of local and community banks are on the brink of collapse as their bets on businesses in the past 5-10 years are not panning out. Malls and offices sit vacant and without rent money coming in there is a buildup in supply while the demand for space is shrinking. Values of properties in the commercial sector will shrink and rents will likely plunge as well.

Many more jobs will be lost and things don’t look good.

The reality for businesses is that consumers are going to be prudent in their spending and it’ll take strong communication of benefits to convince people to make purchases for themselves and their families. It’s important for businesses to be open and transparent in the things they do daily to earn customer trust.

Building successful businesses is still possible and your business can grow and succeed in the future with the right outlook.

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Economic Trends

Millions of Unemployed Face Years Without Jobs

From New York Times (Feb. 2010):

Even as the American economy shows tentative signs of a rebound, the human toll of the recession continues to mount, with millions of Americans remaining out of work, out of savings and nearing the end of their unemployment benefits.

Economists fear that the nascent recovery will leave more people behind than in past recessions, failing to create jobs in sufficient numbers to absorb the record-setting ranks of the long-term unemployed.

Call them the new poor: people long accustomed to the comforts of middle-class life who are now relying on public assistance for the first time in their lives — potentially for years to come.

Yet the social safety net is already showing severe strains. Roughly 2.7 million jobless people will lose their unemployment check before the end of April unless Congress approves the Obama administration’s proposal to extend the payments, according to the Labor Department.

Here in Southern California, Jean Eisen has been without work since she lost her job selling beauty salon equipment more than two years ago. In the several months she has endured with neither a paycheck nor an unemployment check, she has relied on local food banks for her groceries.

She has learned to live without the prescription medications she is supposed to take for high blood pressure and cholesterol. She has become effusively religious — an unexpected turn for this onetime standup comic with X-rated material — finding in Christianity her only form of health insurance.

“I pray for healing,” says Ms. Eisen, 57. “When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got to go with what you know.”

Read the rest Millions of Unemployed Face Years Without Jobs

Impact on your business

Millions of Americans are unemployed and millions more are working jobs that pay less or offer fewer hours than they have been used to seeing in previous years. It’s a difficult reality for most and emergency lifelines like savings, credit cards, and family loans are running dry.

It’s a difficult climate for any business trying to get started or trying to expand. Any economy depends on a strong unemployment rate where people are able to earn a quality living while seeing their cost of living expand as business innovate and prices drop.

Without an innovative sign in the market (such as the computer and Internet revolution) there is no telling when quality employment will come back to the US.

Brookdale Center Mall Sold at Auction for Big Markdown

From Star Tribune (Feb. 2010):

Brookdale Center went on the auction block at a sheriff’s foreclosure sale Friday, netting just one bid of $12.5 million from the shopping mall’s lenders.

The bid from Brookdale Mall HH LLC was well below the $51.8 million owed on a $54.2 million mortgage by the property’s owners, Brooks Mall Properties of Coral Gables, Fla.

A representative of the lenders declined to comment on the bidding or plans for the Brooklyn Center shopping mall. Other real estate experts said the low bid could make it easier for the owners to redeem or other buyers to purchase the property.

Brooks Mall Properties had agreed to a voluntary foreclosure, so the redemption period will be two months rather than six. Representatives of the firm could not be reached for comment Friday.

The foreclosure doesn’t mean the 47-year-old mall, the second-oldest of the Twin Cities’ “Dales,” is closing.

Brookdale’s struggles began well before the retail market meltdown, and its problems have worsened since then. Sears is its sole remaining anchor. In the last couple of years Macy’s, Barnes & Noble and Mervyn’s have all closed their stores. The mall also has lost other key tenants, such as Steve & Barry’s. Almost 60 percent of its space is vacant, according to recent figures from NorthMarq.

Read the entire story Brookdale Center Mall Sold at Auction for Big Markdown

Impact on your business

On top of the worsening employment situation in the US is the looming commercial real estate bubble that has yet to face reality.

Just as the billions, if not trillions of dollars in residential real estate brought the US economy to its knees two years ago, the bubble in commercial real estate finally appears to be reaching its breaking point.

Businesses are trying all they can to make thing work with lenders, but lenders are afraid of losing out on their investments in commercial real estate from the past 5-10 years. It’s a big problem and one that has potential to be bigger than the residential real estate problem.

There is good and bad news for businesses in the commercial real estate climate. The good news is that rents and prices for office space and other commercial space will likely plummet due to the overcapacity. The bad news is that more businesses will go under and the unemployment will likely climb further, which hampers all economic recoveries.

In D.C., more evidence that commercial real estate headed for foreclosure crisis

From The Washington Post (Feb. 2010):

A mortgage crisis like the one that has devastated homeowners is enveloping the nation’s office and retail buildings, and few places are likely to be hit as hard as Washington.

The foreclosure wave is likely to swamp many smaller community banks across the country, and many well-known properties, including Washington’s Mayflower Hotel and the Boulevard at the Capital Centre in Largo, are at risk, industry analysts say.

The new round of financial pain, which some had anticipated but hoped to avoid, now seems all but certain. “There’s been an enormous bubble in commercial real estate, and it has to come down,” said Elizabeth Warren, chairman of the Congressional Oversight Panel, the watchdog created by Congress to monitor the financial bailout. “There will be significant bankruptcies among developers and significant failures among community banks.”

Unlike the largest banks, such as Citigroup and Wachovia, that got into so much trouble early on, the community banks in general fared better in the residential mortgage crisis. But their turn is coming: Not only did community banks issue a higher proportion of commercial loans, but they also have held on to them rather than sell them to other investors.

Nearly 3,000 community banks — 40 percent of the banking system — have a high proportion of commercial real estate loans relative to their capital, said Warren, whose committee issued a report on commercial real estate last week. “Every dollar they lose in commercial real estate is a dollar they can’t use for small businesses,” she said. Individuals — who saw their home values drop in the residential mortgage crisis — would not feel that kind of loss, but, Warren said, a large-scale failure would “throw sand into the gears of economic recovery.”

In Washington, the number of troubled properties has multiplied at a phenomenal rate, with the value growing from only $13 million in 2007 to $40 billion now, according to CoStar Group, a Bethesda real estate research company. The region trails only South Florida and metropolitan New York in the per capita value of commercial real estate assets in foreclosure, default or delinquency, according to the research group Real Capital Analytics.

The threat is especially acute in the District, the firm said, where the catalogue of troubled commercial real estate properties has grown tenfold since April. Moreover, the region has $7.3 billion in commercial properties that are underwater — worth less than the mortgages on them — according to CoStar.

Read the entire story In D.C., more evidence that commercial real estate headed for crisis

Impact on your business

Many people saw this coming, but the trend in the past year or two has been to ignore the problem and simply not talk about it as there were more pressing issues in the short-term.

The reality is coming close today and most have to deal with the situation.

If you’re in the business of commercial real estate lending or if your customers depend on the income generated from the industry you are likely to be affected. In fact, most in the US economy will be affected due to the large scale of the issue.

The correct thing is for the situation to correct itself as the mismanaged businesses can be liquidated and apt businesses can pick up the pieces and form a proper recovery.

That business could be yours. See opportunity in the hunting industry and do what it takes to find the things people need and want in the new economy.

Commercial Real Estate Apocalypse in 2011-2012

From Mish’s Global Trend Analysis (Feb. 2010):

Inquiring minds are digging deep into a 190 page PDF by the Congressional Oversight Panel regarding Commercial Real Estate Losses and the Risk to Financial Stability.

Executive Summary

Over the next few years, a wave of commercial real estate loan failures could threaten America’s already-weakened financial system. The Congressional Oversight Panel is deeply concerned that commercial loan losses could jeopardize the stability of many banks, particularly the nation’s mid-size and smaller banks, and that as the damage spreads beyond individual banks that it will contribute to prolonged weakness throughout the economy.

Between 2010 and 2014, about $1.4 trillion in commercial real estate loans will reach the end of their terms. Nearly half are at present “underwater” – that is, the borrower owes more than the underlying property is currently worth. Commercial property values have fallen more than 40 percent since the beginning of 2007. Increased vacancy rates, which now range from eight percent for multifamily housing to 18 percent for office buildings, and falling rents, which have declined 40 percent for office space and 33 percent for retail space, have exerted a powerful downward pressure on the value of commercial properties.

The largest commercial real estate loan losses are projected for 2011 and beyond; losses at banks alone could range as high as $200-$300 billion. The stress tests conducted last year for 19 major financial institutions examined their capital reserves only through the end of 2010.

Even more significantly, small and mid-sized banks were never subjected to any exercise comparable to the stress tests, despite the fact that small and mid-sized banks are proportionately even more exposed than their larger counterparts to commercial real estate loan losses.

A significant wave of commercial mortgage defaults would trigger economic damage that could touch the lives of nearly every American. Empty office complexes, hotels, and retail stores could lead directly to lost jobs. Foreclosures on apartment complexes could push families out of their residences, even if they had never missed a rent payment. Banks that suffer, or are afraid of suffering, commercial mortgage losses could grow even more reluctant to lend, which could in turn further reduce access to credit for more businesses and families and accelerate a negative economic cycle.

Read the entire story Commercial Real Estate Apocalypse 20011-2012

Impact on your business

The commercial real estate issue is a very big problem. If some of the banks in trouble go under it will have an immediate impact on local communities and businesses.

Businesses will fail and it will be difficult for new and existing businesses to have access to credit at the rates they once had in the past 5-10 years.

It’s important to understand what it will take to be successful in the new economy: savings and quality ideas that consumers need.

Savings is key for the new reality in America. People that have savings will protect it with their lives and will only invest in sound businesses.

Make sure your business is one of the ones built with strong fundamentals.


Industry News

Programs Aim to Attract New Hunters

From Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Feb. 2010):

Hunting is as natural to humans as eating. In fact our ancestors couldn’t do one without the other.

But while 21st century Americans display ever more gusto at the table, the food gathering is largely outsourced. Hunting has been in decline for decades.

The reasons are many, including urbanization, loss of wildlife habitat, changes in the way we spend our free time.

We are an increasingly sedentary culture, more connected to digital devices than the natural world.

The trend is reflected in many outdoor pursuits, but is especially marked in hunting.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the number of licensed hunters in America declined about 35% from 1975 to 2006.

Even in Wisconsin, where deer hunting is considered by many as a second state religion, only about one in eight state residents bought a hunting license last year.

The downward trend is troubling to wildlife managers, who rely on funding from license sales and excise taxes, but also to advocates of the healthfulness of a lifestyle that includes hunting.

The push to stabilize or even increase hunting participation in the Badger State took center stage last weekend when the Department of Natural Resources hosted the first Wisconsin Hunting Heritage Conference.

A banner at the conference featured a quote by Theodore Roosevelt: “Those of us privileged to take to the field are entrusted by fate and circumstance to hold and nurture the hunter’s legacy.”

Read the entire story Programs Aim to Attract New Hunters

Impact on your business

It’s great to see that acquiring new hunters to the hunting industry is a priority.

Hunting is big business and acquiring new hunters is the lifeblood of businesses like yours in the hunting industry. The benefits of hunting need to be expressed to the young folks in our population. Passions need to be passed along by parents and other mentors in the hunting industry if there is to be a prosperous hunting industry in the future.

It can happen and acknowledgement is the first step.

Online Trends

5 Sure Fire Tactics to Promote a Business Blog

From Online Marketing Blog (Feb. 2010):

Relevant, Consistently Updated Content + Flawless Technical Functionality & User Experience = Perfect Blog Launch

What’s missing from the equation above? You guessed it: blog promotion.

Creating a glitch-free blog with informative content means next to nothing without attracting readers.

Start promoting your blog today with these five effective tips:

1) Involve influential industry bloggers.

By linking to popular blogs, you can gain the attention of both the influential blogger and his or her readers.

But your blog won’t be the only one to benefit. You’ll be giving the other blog a little link juice – and be paying them a compliment at the same time.

Try out a few of these ideas for leveraging other blogs:

  • Create a post around an interesting concept published by an influential blogger: Be sure to attribute the information to the blogger and link to his or her post. And don’t forget to offer additional unique insight to make the post your own.
  • Interview an influential blogger and turn it into a Q&A post: That blogger is sure to link to your post, and his or her readers are likely to visit your blog as a result. Side benefit: Including the insight of a thought leader will help position you as a thought leader as well.
  • Create a list of influential blogs: Include popular blogs from your industry, and include a link, short description and even a screenshot. Online Marketing Blog has successfully done this with its BIGLIST of online marketing blogs. Publish a blog post each week highlighting one or two new blogs to promote the list and acquire another link to the list.

Read the entire article 5 Sure Fire Tactics to Promote a Business Blog

Impact on your business

A blog is one of the best ways for businesses to acquire new customers on the Web.

A blog built around attracting, educating, and selling customers on the things your business is how people are having success. Blogs have huge SEO value as the content posted reaches customers searching for general and long-tail keywords in search engines. Once visitors reach the site they are looking to research the products they are interested in purchasing and if a blog is captivating and intriguing they will subscribe and turn into long-term customers that will prove profitable for your business.

8 Reasons You Might Not Be Getting Many Comments

From Problogger (Feb. 2010):

No matter how big their blog is, every blogger loves and wants comments. When you’re just starting out, there are few bigger thrills than writing something and having people comment and give you feedback about what you’ve written. Veteran bloggers love comments and also know that the quantity and quality of the comments says a lot about the impact of the particular post in question.

But sometimes you write something that you think is awesome and the comment thread is like a ghost town. To say that this is discouraging is to put it too lightly. Not only does it suck, but it’s enough to make you start thinking that your writing sucks, and it makes it really hard to hit write and hit publish the next time, too.

Here’s the deal, though: just because you’re not getting a lot of comments doesn’t mean that your posts suck. Here are eight reasons why you might not be getting comments – and what you can do about it.

1) Your Posts Are Too Long

While it’s hard to say that long post always get fewer comments – there are a lot of different considerations at play – as a general rule, longer posts set a bigger barrier to commenting. I write a lot of long posts, and I’ve seen this bear out time and time again.

There are two things to keep in mind when you’re writing longer posts: 1) most blog posts are short(er) and 2) your readers are busy. If they’re used to reading 500 word posts on other blogs and then hit your 3,000 word post, they’re might be a bit overwhelmed. It’s not uncommon for them to bookmark your post for reading “when they have time” and move on to the next, shorter post, only to forget to come back and read yours. (For more considerations on blog length, check out Post Length ‚Äì How Long Should a Blog Post Be?)

Some bloggers manage to thrive in the long post format, but you’ve got to understand that you’ll be going against the current if you write in that style. That’s not a bad thing – just understand that you might not get as many comments as if you wrote shorter posts.

Once your post is published, it’s probably best to leave it, though. In the future, see if you can take a long draft of a post and split it into a series or discrete post. Also try varying the tempo of your blog by following a long post with a short post and vice versa.

Red the entire post 8 Reasons You Might Not Be Getting Many Comments

Impact on your business

Interaction is something all businesses and bloggers are looking for because most understand the benefits of having a strong customer base and readership that is engaged in the things your business is doing.

Follow the steps in the article to crafting blog posts that have potential to generate a lot of comments and you’ll start seeing your readers more interactive (and thus more loyal).

Conclusions

There is a lot of uncertainty in the world today.

Consumers are looking for security in the things they do on a daily basis. They want to make decisions that ensure their family and friends are safe and secure for the future and this is leading to more prudent saving and planning in the market.

It’s a change for most business models as businesses have to be more up front with their benefits to the customers.

Having an open and honest relationship that where you are transparent with your customers is going to make you successful in the next era of the US economy.

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Hunting Business Marketing

Your Business Needs to be More Like Coffee

Coffee kick starts the morning for most people in the world

“Each year some 7 million tons of green beans are produced worldwide. Most of which is handpicked.” Coffee Statistics

People love coffee. There wouldn’t be a demand for people to handpick millions of tons of coffee each year if there wasn’t a strong demand for the little beans that turn morning zombies into day workers, artists, bloggers, and innovators.

Without coffee in the morning there would be a lot of people struggling to wake up and commit to working on the things they love.

Somehow, over many centuries, coffee has become a ritual. The ritual knows few boundaries including ethnic, geographic, or demographic. The power of coffee as a product is its ability to become part of people’s routines.

When mornings begin, coffee is often the first thing people think about.

So the question is…

What makes your product as necessary to the daily lives of your audience as coffee?

Asking yourself what makes your product or service like coffee is simply a way of restating the ‘So what?’ question each entrepreneur needs to ask themselves at some point.

What about your product is going to make people think about reading your insights and observations all the time?

What is going to make people think about you and your business when they come across a problem in their life?

When people are frustrated with aspects of their lives they look to sources of insight and innovation for answers. Companies often fill the void left by frustration by having a proven track record of creating products and services that add value to the lives of consumers.

How can your company be a company that answers the frustrations of consumers?

Finding Frustrations

When a passionate hunter wakes up in the early morning of the archery deer season and heads to the woods only to miss on a shot at a trophy buck, he’ll often look for answers as to why he missed?

Did the arrow come off the rest?

Was the draw length not set properly?

Was the trophy further away than originally thought? Was it closer?

Did the sight come loose sometime in the ATV ride to the truck?

Could there have been better preparation?

Frustrations lead to questions about all aspects of our daily lives. When companies are able to answer the frustrations of target customers they have formed a profitable connection.

Answering Frustrations

When people needed an arrow rest to hold their arrows in place no matter what the condition or situation, the innovators at Trophy Ridge came along with the Whisker Biscuit as the answer to the frustration.

With effective marketing and positive reaction to the Whisker Biscuit, hunters began waking up each morning feeling like they needed to have a Whisker Biscuit on their bow in order to successfully harvest trophy game.

Just as people need coffee before they can be successful each morning, hunters felt the need to have a Whisker Biscuit arrow rest in order to be best prepared for any situation required to harvest their trophy of a lifetime.

Convincing Consumers

Once you have successfully found a frustration and found a way to product a product that answers your customers’ frustration, the next step is convincing your customer that you are here to add value to their lives.

In its original form, coffee is bitter, black, and unappealing.

What would make a person believe that consuming a hot, black liquid each morning would somehow give them energy to perform?

Over time, people were convinced by marketers, friends, and family to consume coffee. And as each person tried the wondrous brew they became convinced of its power to transform them into super humans.

You need to show your target audience that your product has the ability to make them super human.

Reach out to the influential people in your target audience and get in their heads. Ask them questions about their frustrations. Innovate and test products that attempt to solve their frustrations. Ask for feedback and once you’ve convinced them that you have helped to make them superhuman, use the relationship to build a long-term marketing strategy that will build the buzz around your new Super Coffee-like Product.

Summary

Coffee ingestion is about a third of that of tap water in the US and Europe.

People wake up each morning feeling the need to brew at least one cup of the bitter elixir as a way to fuel them through their day. The power that coffee has over a large audience is amazing.

Every business has to pass the ‘So what?’ question before seriously considering the chance of making any profit. It is possible to copy processing and products, but in the long-term, customers are still looking for the one thing that puts you ahead of your competition.

The companies and products that are successful over the long-term are successful at:

Finding frustration

Answering frustration

Convincing consumers

What makes your product like coffee?

What makes you stand out ahead of the competition?

You don’t have to be entirely different than your competitors.

You do need to find the aspect of your business and product that makes people need you first thing in the morning…

Your business needs to be more like coffee

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Image courtesy of Refracted Moments™

Hunting Product Manufacturer Website Design Trends and Examples

With over $10 million spent on hunting equipment each year you can bet that hunting product manufacturers are constantly working to make their Websites stand out as signal amongst the noise on the Web.

Buck Knives Home Page Image

Every business is fighting for the valuable attention of hunters on the Web. Website design is important for capturing that valuable attention. And Web designers and developers are constantly working with the managers and owners of hunting product manufacturers to come up with Website elements that capture the attention of hunters, capture subscribers and potential customers to blogs and updates, and most of all – show off the products these companies manufacture the best way possible.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the trends and examples of hunting product manufacturer Websites

Communicating the Benefits of Hunting Products

The number one goal of any product manufacturer Website is to communicate the benefits of their products to their customers – wholesalers, retailers, and the end user (hunters).

Some of the things companies are doing with their Website to showcase these product benefits include: images, videos, and effective copywriting.

Images

The first way to showcase the benefits of your business’s hunting products is to have remarkable photographer and images of the products.

Site: Lone Wolf Tree Stands

Lone Wolf Stands The Solution

Another great way to use images and photos to effectively communicate the benefits of your products is to showcase your end users using your products successfully.

Site: Bear Archery

Bear Archery Photos

Videos

Video has been gaining popularity on the Web in recent years as many Web users have upgraded to connection speeds that allow for fast video viewing.

And while amateur videos have and will continue to be popular on the Web, professional videos will stand out above the rest as professional videographers make effective videos that connect products and customers.

Businesses have a variety of video formulas available for making videos that will communicate the benefits of their products.

You can do interviews, show the products in action, or showcase the manufacturing of the products.

Site: Mathews Inc.

Mathews Inc Video Gallery

Effective Copywriting

Product descriptions can get a little on the long side.

There is definitely a place for long copywriting when it comes to effectively communicating the benefits of products.

But the truly effective copywriting comes in few words.

Site: Trophy Ridge

Trophy Ridge Product Description

Testimonial Showcase

Most hunting manufacturers will showcase client testimonials to give social acceptance credibility to the products they are selling.

It’s important for companies to showcase testimonials in a way that really highlights what the customer is saying. Companies don’t want to come off as being showy about their products or by showcasing unrealistic testimonials.

Believable, yet remarkable testimonials with effective design and showcasing are what’s best for companies.

Simple is important for design. Put the emphasis on the customer and what they have to say about the products.

Site: Cuddeback

Cuddeback Testimonials

Site: River’s Edge

River's Edge Testimonials

Corporate Blogging

Blogging is beginning to emerge as a must for hunting product manufacturers.

Maintaining a blog is the best way for hunting businesses to communicate with their audience while providing quality content for search engines. A crucial part of successful search engine optimization is to maintain a constant stream of new content for the search engines to crawl.

Web users, including hunters using the Web, also are looking for a constant stream of quality content they can digest for their entertainment and education when it relates to hunting.

Blogging will continue to be an emerging trend in hunting manufacturers as companies put together plans that allow them to utilize the opportunities that come with blogging.

Here are some examples of hunting manufacturer sites with blogs:

New Archery Products

Blog: New Archery Products Blog

New Archery Products Blog

Wildlife Callers

Blog: Wildlife Callers Blog

Wildlife Callers Blog

What to Blog About

Something companies tend to find difficult when starting a corporate blog is what to write about?

The obvious answer for most companies is to highlight the success of the end users of your products. Seek out the users of your products and share their stories of success on your blog. Blog readers love to see people like them having success doing the thing they love most – hunting. And hunters love to discover the tools that make other hunter successful.

Here is an example of New Archery Products highlighting the success of an end user getting:

Blog Post: The Blood Runner Brings Another Big Buck Down

Bloodrunner Blog Post

Potential Issues with Blogging

The biggest issue for corporate blogs is not creating an outline for the blog.

Each blog needs a focus, a goal, and an execution plan to make the blog successful in the eyes of the business and the eyes of the customers.

When plans are laid out for corporate blogs, posts are updated on regularly rather than the blog being left dormant. Also, remember to have a focus on the formula when it comes to the topics of your blogs posts. You don’t have to always highlight the success of your end user customers, but remember to keep the focus on things your blog readers and customers will find valuable.

Test different posts and find a formula that works for you.

Trends in Hunting Product Manufacturer Website Design

There are some great hunting Websites out there.

And more are being launched and re-launched every day.

Today, there are some good trends in design when it comes to hunting product manufacturing company Websites.

Big Product Images

Companies are doing a great job of highlighting their products with big, vivid images that show off the features and benefits of their products.

With people having better Web connections at home and being able to load sites faster, companies are taking advantage by putting the best images they can on their sites. This allows customers to get a good look from all angles at the products they need to make their hunting trips successful.

Site: Mathews Inc.

Mathews Big Product Image

Good Use of White Space

Successful companies and their representative Website designers and developers know the importance of using white space effectively.

Site: Danner

Danner Site Details

Appealing and Subtle Color Scheme

Color scheme is important.

It’s important to have the right colors to draw the right kind of attention to the products and the goals of the site. Too much crazy color and visitors will lose focus. Not enough effective color and the visitors will not be drawn in.

And if your products have effective color feel free to let them take the focus.

Site: Buck Knives

Buck Knives Color Scheme

What to read next on Hunting Business Marketing

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Corporate Blog Design: Trends and Examples

The Importance of Whitespace

35 Truly Dramatic Examples of Animal Photography

The Secret Marketing Tactic of Successful Companies

“Think about the wheel and how you would reinvent it.” Mathews Bow Technology

Golden Forest

A secret marketing tactic that successful companies use is to continuously update existing products while really marketing the benefits of the updated products.

The most successful companies in any industry usually have figured out the cyclical nature of their business. These companies are experts are working to develop new innovations on their existing, successful products to make them just a little better with each new selling season.

After coming up with a slight, but remarkable innovation to their existing best-seller, the truly successful companies are experts at communicating the benefits of the updated product to their customers so each customer feels like they must have the updated version. Their current model has become obsolete.

Let’s take a closer look at the secret tactic of successful companies…

Update Your Existing Products

The trick to using this tactic successfully is to figure out what your best-selling products are and then working to continuously improve the product while adding a slight (but the most valuable) addition each season.

Customers have a continuous thirst for the best products that answer their frustrations. If you have a product today that solves a customer’s frustration you have something that is valuable.

However, what is valuable to your customer today may not be tomorrow. There are always competitors working hard in their garage to create something that’s better.

The most successful companies across all industries have figured this out and work hard to create updates to their successful products and introduce them just before their peak selling season.

Companies across all industries update their current best-selling products to continually create a need with the customer. Companies in the shoe industry like New Balance are updating their athletic shoes each season to create demand for their products from their existing customers. A customer who purchased the New Balance 987 last season will have to buy the updated New Balance 988 this spring season so they have the latest update of their favorite shoe that includes additional cushioning in the insole to soften the landing.

That’s not an exact example from New Balance, but let’s takes a closer look at some actual examples of this tactic in the hunting industry…

Mathews Bows and Archery Accessories

An example of a very successful company that does this in the hunting industry is Mathews, Inc.

For nearly two decades, Matt McPherson of Mathews, Inc. has been an innovator in the archery industry. Matt’s true genius for design in archery is his ability to continually create the bows that give hunters the best chance for success in the field. Matt’s most successful business strategy, one that has worked since the inception of Mathews, Inc., is the continuous update of his existing bows.

Just as the rut comes to whitetail country every year in the fall, Mathews, Inc. released a slightly updated bow that features some breakthrough technology that revolutionizes the archery industry. And the new bows usually sport new names.

Each season, the new Mathews bow may not seem like a huge innovation, but the company does an exceptional job of marketing the slight innovations that make a big impact for the customers. Single Cam technology was one of the first innovations for Mathews. Parallel limb design came later along with perimeter-weighting and harmonic dampening. Each of these innovations has their clear benefit for the bow hunters.

While each new bow may not change much from season to season, the bow design has changed quite a bit since the 1998 version…

Mathews Bows History

New Archery Products

My first set of broadheads was a set of Thunderheads from New Archery Products.

I thought they were the best broadheads available. I had seen my favorite bow hunters on ESPN outdoors using them to harvest some of the biggest whitetails I had ever seen.

Over the years, I used Thunderheads with success. I remember when the innovation of ribbed technology came. It was a simple update to the Thunderhead (ribbed shaft), but to me it meant that I would be a much better hunter in the woods.

I had to have it.

This year Bowhunting.com showcases the updated Thunderhead from New Archery at the 2010 ATA Show.

The new feature?

Dual serrated blade.

The Thunderhead Edge.

Summary

A wise person once said, “You only have strike gold once.”

This saying is true in the sense that companies can work to come up with a truly remarkable product that hits a homerun with customers and continue adding slight upgrades to that product with each new selling season to maximize profits from the innovation.

Figure out the cyclical nature of your product industry and work to create a product that is truly remarkable and that hits home with your customers.

Once you hit that homerun, work to slightly improve that product and release it with marketing power just before each peak selling season so your customers need to have it.

Find the frustrations, solve the problems, and continue building and serving a need.

It’s a formula that successful companies use.

And it’s one you can copy.

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Starting a Hunting Business – Foxfire Outdoors

Does your business pass the ‘So what?’ test?

Water Drop

Rick Kratzke of Whitetail Woods introduced me to a group of hunters from West Pennsylvania that are recording and producing their own brand of fair chase deer hunting.

Jeff, Josh, and Anthony make up the team that is Foxfire Outdoors.

The Foxfire Team has great ambitions to turn their passion into a successful hunting business. When individuals show the drive to take their passion to the next level it gets others excited and even though the road is difficult, people will join the passionate team in pursuit of success.

Foxfire Outdoors

Foxfire Outdoors

Website: Foxfire Outdoors

DVD: Keystone Madness

According to the Foxfire Team and Rick via his blog post, Go Hunting With Foxfire Outdoors, the team has been filming their hunting adventures for a few years, but have recently made the decision to produce professional videos to sell with the eventual goal of turning Foxfire Outdoors into a major hunting industry brand.

Suggestions for Success

After taking a look at other similar businesses and thinking about ways Foxfire can find success I put down a few suggestions for the team…

Unique Marketing Angle

New businesses need to determine why hunters and potential customers should care about their product. They need to pass the ‘So what?’ question that customers will ask when they see your product on the shelf or on your Website.

Foxfire will need to determine what it is about their unique brand of hunting and hunting videos that will make hunters want to watch. There are millions of videos and lots of written content on the Web and all of the content creators are vying for the limited attention of Foxfire’s targeted customer.

My suggestion, after watching a few of the videos, would be for Foxfire to take their existing videos and try adding a few extra segments that add value as a way to test with their audience the ones that attract the most attention.

One of the possible things to test with the videos would be a short terrain analysis of the hunting situation.

Foxfire could have a sit down style segment where they take topo and aerial maps and dissect their strategy for each of their hunts. I would also suggest going through the video of the hunts while pointing out terrain funnels, feeding patterns, time of day, scrape activity, etc.

The fall deer season is also the season for football. One of the popular segments on NFL shows is to analyze the video tape and even draw X’s and O’s of specific plays so the viewers at home can gain and understanding for how the play developed. This allows the viewers to learn about how the game is played and they’ll be better prepared the next game and have more fun as they are able to see the plays taking shape.

Now, only the most passionate NFL fans find this type of analyze enjoyable.

It’s also true that this type of strategy will only attract the most passionate of hunters, but that OK. In the online world it’s the passionate people you want as loyal fans of your business.

Strategic Partnerships

One of the things Foxfire is already doing is creating strategic partnerships.

Foxfire is reaching out for sponsors who manufacture products and offers services that fit with the business at Foxfire Outdoors.

It’s crucial to the success of any business to create partnerships that allow businesses to share the interest in the success. When a business like Foxfire enters into a partnership with a sponsor such as Deer Ridge Innovations, Inc., they are creating a relationship where the success of one company is important for the growth of the other. Because the businesses are associated with one another there is interest by both parties to push the other onto success. This can be through the form of operational strategies to simple tips on ways to market products and services.

Foxfire is on the right track with their strategy to gain strategic partnerships. Staying on this track will lead to sustained success.

Email Newsletter

Successful businesses understand that consistent communication with customers is important for building loyalty and trust.

Loyalty and trust are the keys to lifetime value when it comes to customers who are willing to purchase your products and services for a long period of time.

Today, email newsletters are great ways to consistently communicate with your customers and even potential customers are you discuss the important and valuable aspects of your business.

For Foxfire, starting an email newsletter would be a great way to build buzz about new video clips, upcoming DVDs, upcoming contests, and other ways for the subscribers to interact with the company and the team.

Communication is crucial for building loyalty and trust. Loyalty and trust will lead to long-term customers, which leads to a successful business.

Blogger Outreach

Foxfire is taking a great step by forming relationships with hunters and bloggers. They are using communication tools such as CamoSpace. This is how the Foxfire Team met Rick of Whitetail Woods. As a result of this relationship, the two parties were able to help each other. Rick was able to get a good story for his blog by writing about the things Foxfire is doing to leave their unique mark in the hunting world.

Since bloggers are a business’s best resource on the Web, it’s important for Foxfire to continue reaching out to bloggers such as the outdoor hunting bloggers at the Outdoor Bloggers Summit.

The key is to approach bloggers in a way that shows you have something of value to offer them. Be prepared to offer something of value first. This could be in the form of offering a DVD for a blogger so they can run a contest on their site. Or to potentially write a guest post about hunting video production.

There are lots of ways businesses can reach out to bloggers to form mutually beneficial partnerships. Get creative with the things your business can offer bloggers and then reach out with a friendly hand.

Summary

Foxfire has some exciting hunting footage. The team is definitely on the right track for hunting business success.

It’s exciting to see passionate hunters working hard with their passion for video production and hunting and turning it into something hunters find entertaining and educational.

Communication is crucial for Foxfire as they’ll have to reach out to influencers in the online hunting world in an effort to reach a larger, but passionate audience of hunters.

By working toward building relationships with bloggers and honing their craft for video production, Foxfire will find success in the hunting industry.

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2010 | The New Normal Hunting Economy

Spending habits have changed – how will it affect your business?

Gears

The past 18 months (2008-2009) has yielded a steep drop in consumer spending.

Gallup is one of the best resources on the state of business in the United States and they recently released a report on the spending habits of consumers in the US:

Upper-Income Spending Reverts to New Normal

Please read entire article. It’s well worth the 5 minutes…

Consumer Spending by Income 2008-2009

In a sign that the new normal in consumer spending continues unabated, upper-income Americans’ self-reported average daily spending in stores, restaurants, gas stations, and online fell 14% in November, reverting to its relatively tight ($107 to $121) pre-October 2009 average monthly range. Middle- and lower-income consumer discretionary spending increased by 7% last month but remained in its tight 2009 average monthly range of $52 to $61. Still, consumer spending by both income groups continues to trail year-ago levels by 20%, even as those comparables have gotten easier to match — possibly dashing hopes that upscale retailers and big-ticket-item sales will do better this year.

Fall 2008 was a difficult season for businesses that became depending on the level of spending (including credit spending) taking place in the bubble economy of 2002-2007. All of 2009 hasn’t been much better and Fall 2009 seems to have been flat or below 2008.

Looking ahead to 2010, there are signs of a flattening or worsening economy and the impact this may have on the hunting industry may be great. There is a potential threat of increasing license fees and taxes on hunting related items as many states scramble to make up for lost income revenue. Consumers are also cutting back their spending to pay down debt and save for an uncertain future.

That isn’t to say there is nothing you can’t do to prepare for your own prosperous 2010.

Let’s take a deeper look at the new normal economy for 2010, the impact it will have on your business and the hunting industry, and things you can do now to position yourself for success…

The New Normal Hunting Economy

The current state of the US economy has two realities:

1| 2002-2007 was a false boom economy where business and spending took place that wouldn’t have occurred in a normal market

2| 2009 and beyond will see consumers saving the money they are still able to earn while using it to pay off debt they incurred in 2002-2007 and/or to save for an uncertain future

For hunting businesses, money is tight for individuals and for businesses that have seemingly had money to spend on what may have been nice-to-have activities such as hunting in the past 5-6 years. In 2009, consumers cut back on their discretionary spending including items that may include guided hunting trips, a new bow, or a new camo suit. Some of these items have lost their appeal as customers became uncomfortable with their debt situation, especially as it related to the deflating of the housing and building sector.

While 2008 and 2009 were difficult for the hunting industry, there is hope for companies that are willing to take a step back, look for an understanding of the new normal hunting economy, and take action to provide targeted hunting customers with valuable products and services as they continue to pursue their passions in the outdoors.

5 Things You Can Do in 2010

2010 appears to bring a year of uncertainty for businesses as they try to figure out the best way to serve the needs and wants of consumers in the new normal economy. It’s often said that the more consumers save and pay down debt the worse the economy will be. While this may be true for the short-term, it’s best for the economy as a whole and for individual businesses if consumers pay down debt and save for long-term prosperity.

In 2010, consumers will still look to spend on leisure, especially for the things they value most as enjoyment. Hunters that are extremely passionate about hunting and the outdoors will still spend their hard-earned money on trips, gear, and knowledge.

The key to the new normal economy is for businesses to understand that the most passionate customers will be the ones spending their money and they will want the highest quality product and service that serves their hunting needs in the long-term.

1| Reassess Costs

After a false boom period like there was in the US economy from 2002-2007, it’s best to use the correction period to reassess investments made during the boom and make sure that investment is going to true growth areas of the business rather than into areas of false growth.

Like a local business that sees false growth when the circus comes to town, businesses today have to understand that there was a lot of demand in the economy (2002-2007) that was based on an abnormal appetite for debt. As this appetite for debt restructures, businesses need to assess costs and determine where to invest and divest.

2| Analyze Existing Customers

Along with assessing current costs comes the importance of analyzing where your company’s most passionate demand originates.

Some customers you may have acquired during years past may have been your customers due only to false demand for your products and services.

However, you also likely acquired some customers who are extremely passionate about you, your business, and the products and services you provide. It’s these customers that you will want to focus your attention on in 2010.

What will best serve your most passionate customers?

How do you acquire more passionate customers in 2010?

3| Improve Customers-Business Connection

After determining your most passionate customers it’s time to work on improving the connection you and your business have with that customer.

Today there are many ways to increase the value in the connection you have with your passionate customer. These ways include long-term strategies such as email newsletters, blogging, video, and sharing information that improves the value of the product and service you provide your customer.

Improving the value of the customer-business connection is a long-term process with little things you can do each day to work toward a successful customer connection strategy.

What are you doing today that will grow your connection over time with your passionate customers?

4| Improve Your Weaknesses/Improve Your Strengths

As mentioned above, a correction is the perfect time for you to assess your costs, customers and ultimately your strengths and weaknesses.

Now is the time to improve on your weaknesses and on your strengths so you can best compete for your most passionate customers. As is evident today, consumers are pickier with their decisions. To retain your most passionate customers and to acquire new customers you’re going to have to improve the areas of your businesses that are behind your competitors as well as on the areas you excel. This will ensure that you stay ahead of the competition and provide the most value for passionate customers.

5| Expand

After all the assessing and reassessing of your company and customer is in place, it’s time to look for areas of opportunity to expand.

A business that is growing is succeeding and companies that remain complacent with their current state of affairs will soon be left in the dust as competitors expand and improve their products and services.

Where are areas that you can expand?

Are there products you can offer that allow you to use your current set of expertise to provide value to your passionate customers?

Summary

Successful hunting businesses will have no problem adjusting to the new normal hunting economy. In periods of correction the businesses that best provide quality and customer service will survive as consumers reassess their spending and look for quality in all they work for.

Periods of correction in a productive and consumer economy are exactly that – a correction. As consumers correct their saving and spending habits, businesses must do the same and assess priorities as it relates to offering the most value to consumers.

In 2010, the best strategy for businesses will be to focus on the needs of their most passionate customers. Providing the most value through products and services will ensure lasting connections that will lead to long-term satisfaction for the customer and profit for the business.

What has your company been doing to prepare for the new normal hunting economy?

What have you been doing to prepare for 2010?

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5 Hidden Treasures on the Web

Don’t let your remarkable content go unnoticed

Gold

Recently I have been browsing the Web and finding a few things I’m surprised I haven’t noticed before. I spend a lot of time surfing the Web – especially hunting Websites and there are times I’m pleasantly surprised by the things I find. However, these five things below are areas of the Web I feel are under-appreciated by the hunting community.

The following five hidden treasures on the Web need to be more visited.

Let’s take a deeper look at each of the five hidden treasures on the Web and why hunters need to be aware of the opportunities these resources provide…

1| Cabela’s Outdoor Info

Cabela's Logo

Please visit Outdoor Info

I first found Cabela’s Outdoor Info section when I was searching for information on taking quality trophy photographs – I found this amazing article Two Shot Trophies. I was a bit surprised by the information available under the Outdoor Info section at Cabela’s. I was surprised I had never noticed the third button in the top nav on their site before. Had you noticed it?

Cabela’s calls their Outdoor Info section – Information for Serious Outdoorsmen and they mean it. There are a ton of great articles here for their customer base to digest. You could spend days in this section reading and learning about how to be the best outdoorsman in the world.

And because the articles are sponsored by Cabela’s and written by a first-rate team of experts, you know you’re getting the best information available.

I’m just not sure why Cabala’s hasn’t marketed this section of their site more…

Cabela's Outdoor Info

Cabela’s is moving into an area I see as essential or online retailers in the future – they’re teaching their customers how to hunt and then they’re providing the best equipment that hunters need to execute the things they have learned through the Outdoor Info section.

There are so many opportunities for Cabela’s to market the content they provide in the Outdoor Info section. I can’t wait until they start taking advantage of the remarkable content they have already written.

2| Bowhunting.com’s Bowhunting Knowledge

Bowhunting.com Logo

Please visit Bowhunting Knowledge

Bowhunting.com is one of my favorite hunting sites on the Web. I love the approach they’re taking with online retail.

Bowhunting.com is using blogs, videos, and photography to form connections with hunters on the Web and as a result of the formed relationships; they’re providing the necessary equipment and accessories bow hunters need to execute successful hunts.

One of the things that does confuse about Bowhunting.com, however, is the Bowhunting Knowledge section.

I’m not confused by the fact that the section exists. In fact, I love that the section exists and I love that the experts at Bowhunting.com are the ones provide the remarkable content. There are tons of great tutorials, including photos and videos that bow hunters can use to learn and make their next hunt successful.

Bowhunting.com Bowhunting Knowledge

I’m confused that Bowhunting.com isn’t putting a higher priority on the Bowhunting Knowledge section. I’m a subscriber to Bowhunting.com’s email program and I have either not received an email about the Bowhunting Knowledge section or I have not noticed the mention of the section in an email.

The team at Bowhunting.com does an excellent job of highlighting their remarkable photography, blog and trophy hunts. Their videos of trophy hunts are top notch. I love the video of Todd’s monster 192” Buck.

These videos are a great way to drive traffic to the site and drive sales revenue.

I’d like to see Bowhunting.com really take advantage of their Bowhunting Knowledge section and use it to grow their connections with their followers and really educate hunters on the Web while providing access, through their store, the equipment and accessories hunters need to best execute trophy hunts.

3| Deer & Deer Hunting Online Courses

Deer & Deer Hunting Logo

Please visit Online Hunting Courses

Did you know that Deer & Deer Hunting put on Webinars and video course sections for hunters on their Website?

Deer & Deer Hunting Online Courses

To D&DH’s credit, I’ve actually received more than a few emails (I subscribe to their newsletter and you should too) on their online courses. The most recent highlight was for the Lunar Rut Predictions from their expert Whitetail Writer Charles Alsheimer.

I love that D&DH give a great preview to this video course. Charles Alsheimer answers a great question about killing does before or after the rut. Check out the preview video on Rut Hunting.

Deer & Deer Hunting is doing great things with their online courses. They’re marketing the courses through their email campaigns and on their site. They’re also marketing the courses on Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

It’s great to see a media company transition from print to the Web to increase their connection with their customers.

I’m looking forward to more courses from Deer & Deer Hunting.

4| Field & Stream Answers

Field & Stream Logo

Please visit Field & Stream’s Answers

I just found Field & Stream Answers the other day when I was looking at their site. I love Field & Stream’s email newsletter especially their great reader-submitted photos.

Hunters on the Web love looking at remarkable hunting photography and Field & Stream has some of the best photos available. And the great thing is they combine photos from their own team of expert outdoor photographers along with reader submitted photos.

But as much as I love the photos, I really love the F&S Answer section.

Field & Stream Answers

The Answer section is like a forum of sorts. Visitors to the site can ask and answer questions. I haven’t had a chance to look through too many of the answers, but I’m sure a few of the F&S writers have answered a few of the questions.

I haven’t seen any mention of the Answers section mentioned in F&S Newsletters and I haven’t seen too much promotion for the section on any other areas of the site or print magazine.

There are some great answers from readers and I think F&S can use Answers as a way to enhance their connection with their readers. Hunters are on the Web looking for ways to connect on a more meaningful level with outdoor companies. Answers is a great way for readers to get real value from a quality outdoor company (the photos are great also).

It’d be a great way to drive sales for the new Field & Stream Brand.

5| Wudyaget Custom Field Portraits

Wudyaget.com Logo

Please visit Wudyaget.com

I love remarkable hunting photographs on the Web. And I love when entrepreneurs take advantage of an opportunity. Matt Walters has taken advantage of an opportunity with Wudyaget Custom Field Portraits.

Matt takes ordinary pictures of extraordinary trophies and turns them into conversation pieces. Take a look at some of his great example portraits.

Wudyaget.com Custom Field Portraits

If you haven’t known about Matt’s service, here is your chance to take your trophy photos from years past and turn them into lasting memories.

Or perhaps if you’re lucky enough to harvest a trophy this season, give Matt a call to make the memory last a lifetime.

Conclusion

There are lots of great things on the Web. However, some of the hidden treasures go unnoticed as they remain hidden among the many great things on the Web.

These are only five of the great hidden treasures on the Web. I feel that all five should be getting much more attention from hunters than they are currently getting.

Companies can gauge their various services and products with their customers to see what their customers respond too. It takes some time and testing to find what connects with customers. I hope these five hidden treasures find their way to the marketing priority of their respective companies so hunters on the Web can take full advantage.

Do you know of any other hidden treasures on the Web?

Share them in the comments below.

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image credit: Mykl Roventine