Loon Outdoors has been equipping fly-fishers with environmentally friendly gear for 24 years. The Ashland, Ore.-based company’s products can be found everywhere from big-box stores such as Cabela’s to small specialty fly shops. And over the past five years—boy, have the fish have been biting.
“We are on our fifth consecutive record year,” says director of sales and co-owner Brett Zundel. “Our goal every year is 20 percent growth, and we’ve never been less than 15 percent in the last few.”
But as successful as Loon has become, its line of products and their specialized uses can involve a steep learning curve for customers. “Even though we feel like we’ve got everything dialed in with our product, if we can’t connect with consumers at some level to educate them on why our stuff works so well, then we’re missing out,” Zundel says.
To make a direct connection to anglers, the company started “Loon Live,” a series of online broadcasts run through Portland, Ore.-based Brandlive, a product communication platform that displays video, links to social networks and offers a direct-to-consumer sales channel. Marketing the video sessions to fishing enthusiasts via its website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and email blasts, the company offered expert sessions each week that covered a variety of tips and skills with a focus on Loon Outdoors’ fly-tying products. The videos ran on a regular schedule, Thursday nights, so viewers would know when to tune in.
Zundel claims that results were solid for the first six months but were difficult to quantify because the company views “Loon Live” as a brand marketing effort, not as a direct sales tool. (Loon decided not to set up Brandlive’s direct sales option; instead, the company directed viewers to its retail partners.) While he couldn’t connect sales to the initiative, Zundel was able to measure enthusiasm for Loon’s upcoming 2015 product line.
“It was a great place for us to do a soft launch of products that weren’t even available yet,” he says. In the first month since the 2015 line was introduced, sales were up 117 percent over the previous year.
A second opinion
Matt Poepsel, vice president of product management at Wellesley, Mass.-based PI Worldwide, sees the value of Brandlive’s video and social media platform for a small business like Loon Outdoors, which has eight employees. But he believes the company might better use the technology to target the sales staff in retail clients’ stores instead of trying to build a grassroots following among anglers. Arming sellers with the right questions to ask interested customers, or giving them ways to link Loon’s products and capabilities with fly-fishers’ needs, will go much further toward actually making the sale, he says.
“That’s going to help those salespeople delight customers. The product information isn’t going to do that.”