Live from Pubcon South: Keynote by Rob Snell (@robsnell)

By Janet Driscoll Miller | Apr 15, 2010
More Articles by Janet

Thursday morning’s sessions began with a Keynote by Rob Snell, co-owner of Gun Dog Supply and author of How to Start a Yahoo! Business. Rob started by giving the audience a background on his family’s business, Gun Dog Supply. He overviewed the trials and tribulations of his father starting the catalog-based business in the seventies, to a showroom in the eighties, to becoming an online business.

In 2003, Rob’s father passed away. He was the leader of the family as well as the business. It really had an impact on the business. Typically, hunting season dipped in May, but in 2004, they had the May dip, but it didn’t recover after that. The issue was that the competition had really picked up. By 2004, almost all of the original catalog competitors were now online.

Rob had to evaluate what was going on with the Yahoo! store. He realized that the personal touch of having a conversation about hunting (which really make customers for live) was missing in the online store. It was less personal. So, as Rob said, the “one big honkin’ thing” they did to the website was to put his brother Steve all over the website. The sales skyrocketed! The additional sales were $10 Million!!!

Rob said they needed to communicate three things:

  1. Steve is an expert in dog training and supplies.
  2. Steve tells you what product you need.
  3. Tell the customer, “Please buy from us.”

So first they had to establish Steve as an expert. Show people you’re an expert, don’t tell them. To show how Steve has been doing this for a long time, he showed a picture of Steve as a kid going hunting. They added how many dogs Steve had on the website – the dogs have their own webpage. Steve started blogging about his experience too (Rob bragged he got a redneck to blog!). Steve has a truck full of dog training gear. They also take the staff hunting. You can’t fake those kind of experiences. They put all of their pictures of Facebook, Flickr, etc. When they send emails, they are signed by a person.

Next they had to recommend products. They did buyer’s guides and they improve conversion by 50%. They make graphics about levels of product and then explain the concepts/features. They have guides to help customers choose the right product for them. They use product reviews too. They provide commentary directly on product pages. Steve also endorses the products he personally uses. Rob stressed that Steve is honest on his commentary and shows enthusiasm.

How do you do it?

  • Write unique product descriptions
  • Provide more information than others who carry the product
    • Write one new tip for every $10 in price
  • Find your lazy competitors by searching for some of the feature content.
  • Real estate needs to match price.
  • Use more pictures!
  • Record everything!
    • Rob recommended The Olympus vn-6200pc video camera. He loves it.
    • He also said you could record phone calls with Google Voice. Interview people over the phone, create an MP3 and put it on the site (with permission).
  • They play 20 questions… lots of possibilities for content creation.
  • They take photos of everything.
  • Shoot video of anything you can demo. Consider transcribing the videos too for SEO.
  • Repurpose your content. Put videos on YouTube too.
  • Turn answers to customer questions into the FAQ.
  • Liberate manufacturer created content. It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission.
    • For instance, manufacturers have flash movies that don’t have indexable content.
    • Also pull data from PDFs.
    • Transcribe DVDs and videos.
    • Get the text from the box.

Lastly, convince the prospect to buy:

  • First, be price competitive.
  • Tell folks why they should pick you.
  • Talk about your return policy and low-risk.
  • Tell them when they’ll get it.
  • Tell them how they can get quick answers, like the phone number.
  • Emphasize that you can talk to a human on the phone.
  • If it’s an opinion, let your customers do the talking (reviews).

How to get started? Find your Steve. Find your expert for your company. Then tell people what to buy and why through compelling content. For more information and free stuff, visit

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