Better marketing pays off for beef jerky biz

A multitasking maker of dried beef cures revenue woes with better marketing.

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(Fortune Small Business) -- Last spring, Gregory Nemitz asked Fortune Small Business to help him boost revenues for his online beef jerky business ("Space Jerky?" March 2008). Nemitz, 51, was frustrated with his sales, which totaled about $150,000 in 2007. There were plenty of unique visitors to his Web site, beefjerky.com, but about 99% of them weren't buying anything. How could he get them to spend their money?

People like a bargain, one expert told Nemitz, adding that he should help the consumer understand that his premium jerky is an outstanding value. That's exactly what Nemitz did - to great effect. His home page now emphasizes that his jerky compares with any gourmet product sold in specialty stores, but costs $10 less per pound. As soon as he posted that information, Nemitz says, his sales increased by a pound a day.

Nemitz, based in Twin Falls, Idaho, also took that same expert's advice on marketing to past customers. He has increased the frequency of the beefjerky.com newsletter, which includes seasonal special offers, from four to six times a year. Moving the newsletter sign-up box to the front page of the Website gained him an extra 1,500 e-mail addresses in six months.

"I'm getting 10 new sign-ups a week - before I got one or two," says Nemitz, who has also put his own twist on an expert's suggestion that he include flyers in every package he ships: 10-inch-wide bumper stickers that bear the beefjerky.com logo.

Other marketing advice from FSB's experts resonated with Nemitz, but various obstacles have kept him from acting on them. He chose not to sell in retail stores because the costs would have been passed on to consumers, making his jerky less competitive.

Becoming the sole sponsor of a nationwide jerky eating competition would also be pricey, he learned after talks with a competitive eaters association. And a Web site gift page devoted to shipping jerky to soldiers overseas wound up on the back burner because Nemitz had his own civic duty to fulfill: "I got a little sidetracked by running for Congress." Nemitz campaigned to become the Republican candidate for Idaho's second district. Unfortunately, he lost in the primary to five-term incumbent Mike Simpson.

Still, there is good news: Since the Makeover, beefjerky.com sales are up. Nemitz projects 2008 revenues of about $190,000.  To top of page

Could your business use a makeover? In general, successful Makeover candidates are profitable small companies with at least $1 million in annual gross revenues. To submit your firm for consideration, e-mail the FSB makeover editor here. Please describe your business briefly, provide your most recent and projected revenues, and explain why you think your company would benefit from a Makeover.

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