DB: Outside Hub has gone through tremendous growth since you launched the business in late 2006, what do you attribute your success to?
DF: First and foremost, what has made us successful is that we have achieved the desired results for our clients and stayed true to our core audience of outdoor enthusiasts. Our business was built on a passion for the outdoors. We never lose sight of that and it’s been crucial to our success. Steve Dooley, our president, Matt Moore, our chief revenue officer, and myself, are avid outdoor enthusiasts and can now marry our avocations and love for the outdoors with our vocation. We are genuinely passionate about this industry and want it to succeed in every aspect. We are proud to say that over 140 advertisers are now able to validate our vision.
DB: How do you meet the needs of your key clients?
DF: We attribute much of our success to our partnership with Chevrolet. Of course, their name alone evokes thoughts of the American outdoors. But the main reason this partnership has been so successful is because their commitment to the outdoors truly mirrors our own. Chevy was one of our first partners and we are proud to continue our partnership as we grow. Additionally, our growth over the past few years has come by way of acquisition of Web sites or exclusive representation of new publishers. We now represent over 375 Web sites around the country that are dedicated to outdoor recreational activities. Back in 2007, we offered advertisers three million unique visitors per month. Today, our network reaches over 8 million unique visitors per month, and 60 percent of the hunting and shooting sports audience on line. As a matter of fact, we have the largest share of the outdoor market online.
DB: How exactly did you achieve that growth?
DF: We stay in front of trends in advertising, technology, and the outdoor industry to ensure that we differentiate ourselves and remain the “go-to” resource for the outdoors online. We offer superior tracking and ad serving technology. Our economies of scale allow us to be the best value in the marketplace, and we offer search engine optimization, video, and organic or social marketing opportunities in the outdoor space.
DB: Has the recent slowdown in vehicle sales affected the online advertising market?
SD: I know all advertising mediums have been affected by the state of the auto industry, including online. As David mentioned, we have over 140 advertising partners including Castrol, Versus, and Arctic Cat, but on the automotive front we are fortunate to have an exclusive partnership with Chevrolet and the Chevy Silverado. We work closely with the Chevy clients and their ad agencies to maximize their ROI with our core audience of outdoor enthusiasts. A key measure of success with Silverado is that they have maintained their place atop the truck category.
DB: What other ways can companies enhance their brand strategies online?
SD: For us, we use contextually relevant ads that are targeted to the sportsman. Be it hunting, fishing, boating, etc., we are making sure we “fish where the fish are” and develop a message that resonates authentically with our audience. Also, we are helping produce and syndicate original video content featuring Chevy sponsored outdoor celebrities like Kim Stricker, a well know professional angler on the FLW Tour, a native Michigander, and host of Hook-N-Look on the Versus Channel. There’s also country music star Daniel Lee Martin, who hosts Backstage and Backroads on The Sportsman Channel. The integration of Silverado into this content and recognized third-party endorsement is key to the success of these executions. Our goal is to continue to enhance Silverado’s leadership position with sportsmen online.
DB: How do you do that?
SD: We are constantly challenging ourselves to research and deploy superior technology and deepen our product offerings. We strive to be the best value in the industry and be the best in class as it relates to customer service. Without question, our mission is to over-perform for our clients and enhance their brands with a valuable audience while maintaining our commitment to the outdoors. Our job is not to tout our success, but rather, that of our clients.
DB: What advice can you give to other companies and executives?
DF: Promote a culture around having fun, but stay intense and focused. You must build and maintain trust based relationships and let that be the foundation of your business. Subordinate your ego and focus on getting the job done and don’t be worried about getting credit for yourself. My advice to Michigan-based companies is to stay true to Michigan because it’s a great place to live and work. We enjoy a four-season market, which we should appreciate every day. I for one intend to be here for a long time.