Category Archives: marketplace news

the truth is out there – maybe

Using SEO to Successfully Grow Local Business

jack the shop dog

Jack, the Jack Russel terrier that owned the shop, quickly became the face of the brand and was successfully incorporated across all social channels.

Local SEO Grows This Austin Plumbing Contractor’s Business

Locally focused social media marketing and local SEO is the great equalizer that enables independent retailers and service providers to compete against major national brands and regional franchises. The reality, though, is that for many, using Google to gain advantage all too often ends up being occasional posts to a personal Facebook page.

Projects included the design and implementation of an original brand identity, a website, a self-hosted blog, several social channels maintained with both created and curated content, publicity and promotion, and one-off design projects.

Last spring a 10-year relationship with Austin, TX plumbing contractor Wilson Plumbing came to an end. During that time, a company with no prior social footprint, no internet presence, and no paid marketing or advertising, grew to over $2M in sales, all derived from a narrowly defined by zip code local market of a relatively few square miles. Continue reading

Trade Pub Dealernews Brand Revived


Dealernews Back On Stands?

In what can only be described as a Christmas miracle, perhaps the single most momentous event since Lazarus emerged intact, comes news of the acquisition of defunct trade pub label Dealernews by a midwest consortium, DN 2.0, headed up by Columbus, OH Harley-Davidson franchisee Bob Althoff.

“What we are doing is unprecedented in the powersports industry.”

“What we are doing is unprecedented in the powersports industry,” says the owner of three OEM dealerships. The plan for DN 2.0 is apparently to restore what was lost during the mid-2000’s heyday by recalling editorial staff and management from the brand inherited by UBM in 2015 when they purchased Advanstar and which was then abruptly shuttered.

Relaunch Has New Focus, Reach

The revived brand will ostensibly be guided by an advisory board made up from a number of well-known powersports single and multi-line dealer heads, industry consultants, and communications veterans. Will it make a difference? The field of national powersports trade publications has shrunk from five to two over the last decade as social media channels have proliferated and advertising options have multiplied. For many, that constitutes a trend.

The B2B pub’s successes, and ultimately failure(s), tracked the once dominant trade show giant DealerExpo, which went down for the last time in 2014, leaving the field open for the American International Motorcycle Exposition, itself now headed ironically to Columbus for one lap in 2017 before finally dropping anchor in Las Vegas.

Assets include the Dealernews trademark, brand, website, email and registration lists, and newsletters.

No Sweat! Wrangler Cool Tech Jeans


Wrangler Performance Jeans For Comfort

They sure look like jeans. They sure fit like jeans. They sure wear like jeans. But they really perform like a cool breeze across a simmering swamp.

When Wrangler threw their hat in the powersports market, they took on a longstanding de facto preference for an iconic brand leader in the denim and leather category. Going up against Levi might seem a tall challenge, but not so much when you introduce some serious technology into the game. And decades of idling a Harley at a red light in the middle of a sweltering Florida summer meant I had a basis for comparison and the motivation to try something different.

In hot weather you’ll notice the difference immediately, and not by increments.

Rugged Construction, Technical Stay Dri Material

Florida’s climate can readily test that claim, but the real challenge lay about 700 miles west, where I’d spend a few days clearing timber and brush under an 85-degree Louisiana sun. I prepped my Cool Vantage Wranglers with Sawyer’s Permethrin to ward off mosquitoes and ticks, and to hopefully confuse any yellow jackets I might stumble into, before heading into the woods to see if their claim of cool comfort would hold up.

Cool Vantage Transforms Into Athletic Sportswear

I’m familiar with the performance of athletic sportswear, as well as the misery of conventional jeans, especially after they’re soaked with sweat that dams up underneath the waistband before spilling over to slowly trickle down my legs.

Along with a relaxed fit stretch model, Wrangler’s Cool Vantage dry fit material delivers the same level of advanced sports technology usually associated with brands like Under Armour and Nike, while maintaining the style and appearance of traditional denim.

At least they’d be no worse than my drawer full of regular denim. At best? That was what I was anxious to find out.

Wrangler Jeans perform

Wrangler did their homework when they figured out how to combine the dri-fit characteristics of athletic sportswear with the ruggedness of traditional denim jeans.

After strapping on my chainsaw chaps (further increasing the insulation factor), I picked up my Stihl and lumbered off into the woods. There, after a few hours of tromping up and down the ravines while maneuvering over and around the felled logs, I realized that what would have had sweat pouring into my boots was instead, apparently, wicking to the surface and evaporating. Not only was I noticeably cooler, I was measurably more comfortable as well.

I had one more test, wherein I donned a 4-gallon backpack sprayer filled with herbicide. Being able to shed my chaps meant a lot more freedom of movement, offset by the weight of the contents on my back. Adding another 40 pounds or so to a weigh-in north of 235 when clothing and footwear are included gave my legs a workout, and the jeans another challenge. The legs quit long before my Wranglers.

Here’s the verdict. They work just fine as everyday wear, and in cool weather nothing’s lost. But in hot weather you’ll notice the difference immediately, and not by increments. It’s night and day, while still retaining the sturdy work characteristics and working style of traditional denim wear. Cool Vantage is just that — cooler to work in, with the look and feel of what you’re accustomed to wearing.

WeeGo is a Handful of Portable Power

WeeGo 22 powerpack

WeeGo CEO Gerard Toscani thinks everyone should have emergency power handy. Don’t wish you had.

My first question to WeeGo CEO Gerard Toscani, left, was about the name. His answer, simply enough, was that the product, one of any number of lithium battery emergency power sources, was small, and it would get you going a lot faster than rubbing two sticks together and praying for fire.

Their feature-laden lineup of ergonomically pleasing hi-vis orange charging and emergency starting power begins with a candy bar sized phone/watch/fitness tracker charger and tops out with their top-of-the-line WeeGo 66.

The latter packs a huge amount of amperage in a very compact package, capable of starting a 747 that’s stalled on the runway or lighting a stadium in case of a blackout.

Emergency Start Portable Storable Power Packs

Well, maybe not so much. But the new for 2017 portable power pack delivers up to 600 cranking amps, enough for gas engines up to 10L, and diesels up to 5L. Remember, this is something you can hold in one hand.

But without the right technology, cranking power alone only gets you so far. Just ask Samsung. Continue reading

aimexpo 2015 continues growth curve

Motorcycle Industry Council members Tim Buche (left) and Larry Little detail MIC's purchase of AIMExpo event.

Motorcycle Industry Council members Tim Buche (left) and Larry Little detail MIC’s purchase of AIMExpo event.

AIME Opens Year Three Under New Ownership

In just its third year, the American International Motorcycle Expo proved it’s in it to win it, with an exhibitor’s list topping 560, a shortened format making it easier for manufacturers to massage the combined trade plus public components, more OEMs, the revival of the MIA V-twin Made In America® contingent, and another successful round of cross your fingers and hope for yes! the best! weather Central Florida can muster in what we casually refer to as “fall”.

Read more about the powersport industry’s only domestic combined event here, including analysis of format, audience, and the challenges facing retail event marketing in an increasingly online world.

IronWorks 24-year run ends

Ironworks first last issues

My first issue of IronWorks – April, 1993, left, and the last, March, 2014.

IronWorks Ends 24-Year Print Run

My March, 2014 issue of Ironworks arrived just in time to coincide with the news that publication of the long-running indy v-twin book was ending as of Volume 24, Issue Number 2. Never saw that coming? Actually, a disappointment, not a surprise.

I first came to know the popular culture niche IronWorks 20-plus years earlier. That would be IW Vol. 3, No. 2, April, 1993. Whadyaknow; an even 21 years of familiarity.

I’d just started work as advertising creative director at Easyriders. Truett & Osborn, my first bike client as a freelancer some years before, needed a small (is there any other size?) b&w ad. I was able to accommodate the Wichita aftermarket flywheel manufacturer by forwarding what was referred to then as an ad slick for reproduction to Dennis Stemp Publishing in Versailles, PA.

When my proof copy arrived I was surprised to discover that Dennis and I shared rides: Willie G’s H-D orphan, the XLCR. And while the few hot rod examples I’d seen revolved mostly around Thunder Heads, Dennis saw fit to go flat out by swapping an XR1000 dual carb beastie for the otherwise anemic stock 61-incher the original shipped with.

Several years later we met for the first time in Cordelle, Georgia. Dennis and Marilyn were on their way to Birmingham, I was returning home from Louisiana, and this seemed a logical place to get together.

ironworks sold, invades newstands

By then, Dennis, Marilyn and the kids had made the move to Morganton, NC, and the book was owned by Birmingham trade publisher Hatton-Brown, their only consumer product. He and his wife formed the nucleus of a formidable collection of Harley institutional knowledge, surfing the break of a boomer driven biker wave.

We talked mostly about the various trade and craftwork involved in putting out a publication. Dennis, with an art direction background honed in corporate Pennsylvania, tried mightily to inspire a professional regard for design in a DIY industry that continues to struggle with the concept of appearance as an investment.

He’d hung out briefly in Indian Rocks Beach, so we were both surprised to imagine how we may have crossed paths at a central Pinellas printer he worked for and that I occasionally used. On the eve of first desktop publishing, then the web, Dennis was one of the very few industry talents I’ve known who was as comfortable with an X-Acto blade on the design side as he was a micrometer on the build end.

We’d see each other at Indy, Myrtle Beach, Daytona. We collaborated on a couple of projects: the first serious print review of Confederate’s V-twin anomoly, and one build project that I still consider the most fearsome raw expression of mechanical adaptation I’ve seen, his Flyin’ Fossil dual-carb, mag fired 93-inch Accurate Engineering Knucklehead (IW Vol. 10, No. 2 – March, 2000).

So it came as an ugly shock when Dennis, not known for excess in a culture devoted to lifestyle chance taking, died in 2000 from a particularly brutal form of cancer. (AdFax 15, Vol. 4, No. 3 – July, 2000.)

january 2014 – end of the line

What was it about IronWorks that proved popular? For awhile IW ran with the tagline, “The Thinking Man’s Harley Magazine.” Good luck with that now, but for me it didn’t require parsing – IW was about Harleys, PBR and nothing but.

After I heard IW had reached the end of the line, I dug up my first copy to see what the fuss was all about. What I found on page 34 was the latest on Alan Sputhe’s 95-inch Not A Harley 60-degree V-Twin. And there, just across the gutter on page 35, was the detailed heritage of Nostalgia Cycle’s Super Vee that included a reference to Supercycle publisher Steve Iorio, who I freelanced for several times.

For those who don’t know, the original engine derived from the front two cylinders of a Chevy small block. Boom. If that ain’t hot roddin’, I don’t know what is.

For now, Marilyn Stemp is channeling the original zeitgeist of Dennis’ vision into a new, web-driven venture called Iron Trader News.

marketing essentials: point of contact info

grow financial's earth day promo

I celebrated Earth Day 2013 by dropping by the local branch of Grow Financial, a local federal credit union, prompted by their attractive back page print promotion in the Tampa Bay Times offering free slash pines (limit five – while supplies last.)

I planned my pickup to coincide with a local account pitch that morning, and was relieved at the lack of cars in the parking lot, indicating a short wait time. Their new branch office was a pleasant blend of refreshing graphics and smiling faces.

grow-financial-IMG_0132Waving their ad in my hand I walked towards the receptionist to claim my prize and was surprised when the only interaction was her announcement that instead of the promised five seedlings the promo was limited to two. Still very much worth the effort. To me, if not marketing.

Because that’s where my point-of-contact began and ended. Directed to the box of pine lifts bagged and ready for retrieval behind her desk, I grabbed my reward for showing up and left just as quickly as I entered. No registration kiosk, form, or social media signup. No harvesting of email or local address. Not even a card drop. It wasn’t an unpleasant experience, far from it. Just a big surprise from the standpoint of someone who sees opportunity unfulfilled.

On my own I grabbed their services brochure from the take-away wall board on the way out, but in the meantime this well intentioned promo fell surprisingly short on the followup.

lululemon, cvs fumble crisis responses

cvs, lululemon battle for negative headlines

lululemon and cvs compete for negative headlines

Alternative fitness clothing manufacturer Lululemon’s troubles multiplied following one of the more colorful product glitches to make headlines. The Vancouver lifestyle darling’s line of yoga pants was revealed – yes – to have a manufacturing defect apparant only during down dog, a position that due to the fabric stretching across the wearer’s butt caused a sheer effect that revealed everything to whoever was behind the owner of said pants.

Meanwhile, drugstore chain giant CVS suffered major shots across the bow as a result of a particularly heavy-handed employee health policy that went viral. In order to access the company’s health insurance lowest rates, workers have to submit to a screening for obesity, hypertension, glucose, and several other tags that can signal problems.

problems of their own making

Both companies stumbled right out of the gate. Their failure to either forsee or immediately correct course is unfortunately all too typical of a corporate culture that continues to ignore how brand reputation is affected in the age of social media.

Despite increasingly common examples of how the medium can be leveraged for a positive result regardless of whether news is good or bad, simply ignoring the problem or trying to hammer an alternative outcome despite popular sentiment doesn’t work.

flash pants and worker shame linked to brands reps

For CVS, by far the more effective approach would be to offer employees free or discounted membership in a fitness facility, rather than exacting a two-bit nickel and dime penalty forcing workers to wear the “unhealthy” cone of shame. How does that motivate? If you’re obese, it’s usually no surprise.

For Lululemon, whose corporate rep is usually massaged by a themematic yoga chant as opposed to any heavy lifting, they stuttered and stammered before finally issuing a recall of the pricey flash pants with wording that bore an uncomfortable resemblance to the lame not-an-apology that begins with, “If we’ve offended anyone…”. But not until after the horse had floated over the dam trying to clean up the milk spilt.

3 steps to social management

  1. Be Prepared – have a team in place and empowered
  2. Be Alert – to what’s happening in real time
  3. Be Responsive – to the message that is, not the message you want

critic questions future of electric bikes


Zero's 2013 S model

(above) 2013 Zero S from Zero Motorcycles

despite eco-promise of evs, shortcomings still outweigh strengths

An article in last week’s New York Times, while leaving the door slightly ajar for the channel’s future, makes a reasoned case against a present marketplace that features electric motorcycles humming around the urban landscape in silent flocks of environmental uber responsibility. (See earlier post on Mercedes Benz plans for a 2014 market entry.)

Reporter Dexter Ford writes in the paper’s Automotive section about the challenges facing the nascent industry, not least of which is cost. Far cheaper conventional alternatives, eco-friendly and offering the same or better mileage per comperable fillup, are getting top billing as the major Asian motorcycle brands begin to flex their muscles in taking on not only high-end electrics but cheap, disposable Chinese scooters as well.

styling overhaul resets brand

Compounding the confusion over electric’s future is a same-day post on the NYT’s Wheels blog on Zero’s 2013 lineup just introduced at Intermöt. In what’s seen as a responsive reaction to marketplace concern, the Santa Cruz, CA, company is moving away from the mountain bike inspired initial design towards a more familiar traditional look courtesy of former Buell designer and now Zero’s chief technology officer Abe Askenazi.

Between the high performance Lightning, the gyro stablized LIT Motors C1, or the mainstream (for electrics) bikes from Zero and Brammo, interest isn’t going away. And neither is the significant cost differential, or the lingering comparisons to Segway’s marketing rationale.

Whether that same interest will translate into sustainable sales for complete bikes or morph into a niche industry of DIY builds sourced from frame makers, engine manufacturers, and battery suppliers might be the unanswered question.

cycle world intros first mobile app

Cycle World's new iTunes app is a game changer

cycle world launches first mobile digital platform

mobile app runs on tablets and phones

Cycle World’s introduction of their subscribed free mobile app signals the first major move of parent Bonnier since the 2011 buyout via Hearst via HFM.

This is one of a handful of titles in the powersports community and the first among major enthusiast consumer magazines to tap the growing popularity of mobile/tablet platform publishing coupled with a digital subscription rollout that may or may not gain traction. Issues run within the app, and aren’t viewable as a browser interpretation.

The app, available only via iTunes, adds to Bonnier’s growing portfolio of tablet targeted digital publishing efforts which now includes Field & Stream, Popular Photography, Flying, Popular Science, and their high-end gourmet glossy, Saveur.

What’s significant is that unlike a Flash based publishing solution, the app is easily viewed on Apple iOS devices, which represent a major and growing portion of interactive mobile publishing. Can you see a cross-link marketing connection in the works? Ad reps are standing by – CW’s going to make mighty attractive bait for Bonnier’s other mainstream enthusiast brands.

content is king – experience is queen

Optimized for page view on tablets and scaleable as an adaptive/responsive layout for smaller screens, I’m guessing the digital porting is positioned to take full advantage of Apple’s latest Retina displays – and that translates into photography so lavish you can just about dip your hands in.

Tablet publishing is the new frontier of print journalism, and depending on acceptance by the public will determine in large part how profitable titles will become as newstand and subscription sales continue to tumble into the abyss. Will it work? Wired and Sports Illustrated were early entrants in what can be a hugely expensive and time consuming technical task. SI recently laid off another busload of staffers, but kept photogs in place.

Interested? You’ll need an iTunes account (free) to download, but the app’s free and promises a couple of gratis teaser pubs as incentive for a full-fledged subscription. Which is why the first link attached to the eBlast ended up a clunker. Here’s a link that works.

not found is not good

If you think Google docs equals digital publishing, time to catch up. For more insight on the wide range of available digital formats, click here.