Branding brainstorm: 'Rich history, global reach'

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Like Thomson, Morabito wants to showcase Caboots' high-profile customers. "They're wealthy, well-traveled types? Hold a contest for the best international photograph of your boots, and then publicize the entries on your website," he suggests. Joey and Priscilla love the idea.

"That's your story - rich history, global reach," says Morabito. "Actually, that's a great tag line," he laughs.

As Frank Farris, CEO of Atlanta Web design firm Deep Blue, sets up his laptop in the lobby and showroom, an older couple browses nearby. The wife beams as she pulls on a pair of white cowboy boots.

"These make me feel like a little girl again," she laughs.

"That's how you need to make people feel online," says Farris, 36. The current website features few images of happy people - or any people at all - wearing boots. Instead, it offers a dizzying array of boots, and buries the firm's rich history in a hard-to-find link. Farris points out the disconnect between Caboots' website and the realities of its brand.

"You need this site to tell your story - there are lots of conflicting messages right now," he says. Confused shoppers will wonder what makes Caboots special - is it the firm's show-biz ties or its long history and high-quality work? Farris votes for the latter. As he scrolls down a lengthy sidebar, Priscilla agrees that the website, which mixes Caboots' buttons for cheaper costume footwear with ones for custom-made boots, has a diluted feel.

"Either segment the brands using separate links on one central site," advises Farris, "or break them off into different sites."

Before Caboots launches a new site, says Farris, the Sanchezes need to decide how they will use it. "The website is just one part of a larger Internet marketing plan," Farris notes.

The Sanchezes already pay for Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) AdWords, but Farris has other ideas. He proposes that they set up keywords (used by search engines to hunt for relevant pages) and translate them into foreign languages. That way, Caboots will also pop up in international searches. And the firm must consistently create new content to boost placement.

"Form strategic partnerships with complementary companies - you link to my site, I'll link to yours," he says. A cowboy-hat company might be a good one, notes Caboots' IT head, Irwin Alvarado, 24. Priscilla admits that these are ideas they've considered, but never put into practice.

After FSB's experts leave El Paso, the Sanchezes are raring to implement their suggestions. Armed with Thomson's strategies, the owners have a stronger sense of how to market their company to both investors and prospective customers. They plan to strengthen their network of high-profile clients and form a board of advisors. Although they recently began rebuilding caboots.com, Farris has persuaded them to start fresh. And they can't wait to begin issuing press releases.

Joey hopes that added publicity will draw more boot buyers not just to the website, but also to the factory, where they can watch his employees in action.

"This type of craftsmanship is a dying skill in America," he says.

We will return to Caboots to see how they're keeping the tradition alive.  To top of page

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