Hi Joe ~
Thanks for being patient awaiting this answer. Funnily enough, this is
about the third version I've drafted, because every time I'd take one
direction to give you an answer, it doesn't necessarily "fit" right.
In a perfect world, you wouldn't need to worry about cold calling,
you'd have a sales staff, regional, at least, or with regional sales
manager (even better)! Of course that takes time to build your
reputation and while you might not be there yet, you could get there
with a good marketing plan, good sales goals and some other changes to
increase awareness of your products.
At present, you want to get your dog statues into retail
establishments, but you don't like cold calling. That means you have
1.) hire someone to cold call and sell your items for
2.) use other marketing methods and avenues (some of
which you already have in place) to increase
product awareness and build the demand for your
Hiring Sales/Marketing Personnel
Everyone hates to make cold calls. I hated them when I was in sales,
and my product was relatively easy to sell. But if you are hesitant to
make the cold calls yourself, then you can hire someone to do it for
There are good recruiting agencies you can use for direct sales people
or you have the option of classified advertising in newspapers
regionally or on the internet.
Be forewarned that if you recruit online, you'll be inundated with
applications and resumes. It's a great recruiting tool - too good,
really, and that's a great deal of resumes to plod your way through
(not exactly the most exciting read in the world).
A recruiting agency can be costly, too. And as a rule, most of their
applicants are out of a job.
Ideally, advertising regionally or in local newspapers can work out
very well. Often there are independent sales representatives carrying
a lot of lines to various establishments. They are already calling on
retailers, etc., and it's not that hard for them to add your products
to their line.
The upside is that their foot is already in the door, and they often
develop a rapport with retailers who will carry any product they
The downside is that your statues are competing with whatever else
he's carrying, and if your incentives aren't rewarding enough, he's
likely to merely 'carry' them and not actively try to get them in
shelves at retail establishments.
Ideally, you hire personnel who would work on commission and would
instinctively know the best local retailers or businesses in which to
put your statues in order for them to sell. I always preferred
straight commission when I was in sales, as my income was usually
double any salary or salary/commission combination. People willing to
work on commission are usually pretty good at cold calling and getting
that proverbial "foot in the door"
The drawbacks are you need to arrange your pricing in order to pay a
decent commission to your sales personnel, to cover the costs of demo
products for the sales rep to show, and you can't compete with your
sales representatives, or there is no incentive to continue trying to
sell your statues.
Obviously it is much easier for a sales rep to extract an order for a
couple dozen statues if he can hand the buyer a statue (say, a pug),
and while that buyer is holding that cute statue, getting an initial
order for a couple dozen statues. If the buyer asks "what other breeds
do you have", the sales rep either needs more product to show or a
well-designed brochure to show.
Those are costs of getting the order - costs which you will have to
absorb and build into your statues' prices.
Hiring sales personnel is definitely one way of moving forward and
getting your statues in retail establishments.
1. Online Job Boards
* Monster Board
* Career Builder
2. Articles About Online Job Recruiting
* "The Potential of Online Job Boards", by Underscore
Marketing, July 2, 2003
* "Employer Sites or Online Job Boards: What Works?"
BizReport.com, October 1, 2003
3. Newspaper Association of America list of major newspapers
by state, by city
But Wait! There's More!
Recruiting sales personnel to sell to retail accounts is a undeniably
a well-established way of getting your products in retail
establishments. It can get costly, which then forces the decision of
lowering your per/item profit margin or raising your prices to cover
the costs of maintaining your sales force.
But you may be overlooking an obvious group you already have in place
- Your affiliates!
If you're handling your affiliate program right, that is, staying in
touch with your affiliates, helping them sell your product, keeping in
touch and keeping them enthused, it isn't too hard to offer a further
incentive to get them to help you get your statues in the retail
establishments and businesses they should be in.
If you've just a bunch of people listed as affiliates, at worst, they
may provide a useful link for purposes of link popularity for search
engine results pages. But if done right, they can be one of the best
low-cost or no-cost sales team you can ever hope for.
If you're not familiar with the benefits and strategies of affiliate
marketing and sales, I'd suggest looking at all the material available
from Internet Affiliate Marketing Association. Every year IAFMA has
it's Affiliate Force Marketing Expo & Summit, and there is no better
source of information from other successful Affiliate merchants and
their affiliate sales team. Some people make six figure incomes
annually just selling other people's stuff.
The main page for the IAFMA is here:
And information about Affiliate Force 2004 can be found on the site here:
Further Affiliate Resources:
1. Watch for a launch in January 2004 of "Revenue Magazine",
by Montgomery Research. Will focus on affiliate marketing.
Business Wire blurb is here:
2. Web Marketing Place (affiliate marketing articles and
3. Managing Affiliate Programs, by Shawn Collins, Shawn Collins
There are sure to be some ideas you can implement among your own
affiliates to keep them in the loop and enthused about your statues.
Which Retail Stores?
Yours is a unique product which appeals to a niche market. At the mall
today, I made a point of checking out Spencer Gifts and Coach House
Gifts, remembering they had some dog statues.
The good news is that your pricing is well within, and competitive
with, the statues and figures these two retailers offer. The detail is
exquisite, with the carving? molded? to suggest the feel of a coat on
dogs with hair or a shaggy coat (poodle or sheep dog), and looks
smooth on a dog with a smoother coat (chihuahua or basset hound).
It isn't so easy to see whether or not your statues have the same
detail, it could be the photos?
In any case, I can see where those small figurines (running from $7.95
to $24.95), and none are as big as some of your statues.
The local stores are part of the national chain, and that purchasing
is done on a national level. There are some local items, such as our
college team booster items (University of Arizona) and other specific
items relating to Tucson, but even those purchases are made through
their national buyers.
Then you have obvious retailers such as department stores:
* Federated (Macy's Bloomingdale's, Bon-Macy's)
* Target, Marshall Field's, Mervyn's
In addition, there are gift shops like Spencer Gifts & Coach House
Gifts mentioned above, and pet stores like PetsMart and Petco.
Almost all of those are harder to "get your foot in the door" than
concentrating on local stores, gift shops and retail establishments,
at least to start!
And there may be some drawback in trying to sell to the larger
retailers as well. Here's a rather revealing article from the December
2003 issue "Fast Company" about dealing with Wal-Mart. The online
article is here:
Another way to increase brand awareness of and sales are to have your
products available from every veterinary office, dog groomer, and
local pet store you can - and this is where you can recruit your
affiliate network to help. Make sure they get the benefit from the
sale (much the same as a sales person would get a commission from
selling), and you don't have to educate them, they are - or should be
- familiar with your statues already!
Online Alliances and Promotions
From looking at your PugWear site, I can see that you're about as
enthusiastic about your dogs as other owners are about their own.
And dog enthusiasts buy all natural dog biscuits -
- Google search returns about 85,000 for the search term
"all natural dog biscuits"
- Over 1 million pages for pet food supply
- Over 2 million pages for dog supplies
- Over 1.5 million veterinarian pages online
And I didn't even look to see who offers doggie photos, doggie
sweaters, etc., but I think I've made my point here.
Out of all those web pages, there is a market for your affiliate
program. You can form alliances with those you like, offering them a
commission on every sale generated from their links.
Non-Profit Donations from Sales
You can even make yourself more popular by supporting Humane Societies
and/or Doggie Rescue by offering a portion of your sales to those
vital non-profit organizations. I am sure you can see the immediate
benefits to that in the form of donations, public relations and good
And you can make yourself more attractive to affiliates by offering
them the opportunity to have a portion of any sales THEY generate to
their own choice of humane society or doggie rescue.
What I am suggesting are simple affiliations which won't take long to
establish (since you're not competing with any of their business), but
which exposes your products to more potential customers than you might
otherwise have if you don't embrace those affiliations.
Site Specifics -
The Look and Feel of the
Lifelike Dog Statues Website
This is where I'm going to give you a critique on your website, both
from a marketing perspective, but also from the perspective of your
The first rule of thumb is to design your site for your visitor. It
should load fast, have an easy navigation system, contain enough
information to build trust, and super easy to purchase.
Google recommends building your site for your visitors in its Quality
Guidelines - Basic principles, "Make pages for users, not for search
1. Overall Look - First Impression
Your site loads fast, and the overall look is quite plain. While what
you have there is easy enough for your sighted visitor with
(whether for security reasons or ease of use in their particular
system or setup), there's no way to get around.
While you do have a "special" of the week, there is no real
information about your 'special', except for the price. For starters,
there is no point of reference in your photos to establish the
dimensions. Of those in which you do offer dimensions, you usually
only offer one dimension (such as length), which makes it very
difficult to determine just how big the statues are. This can easily
be remedied by giving both width AND height dimensions, and perhaps
using a point of reference relative to another object within the
graphic). The easier you make it for your visitor's mind's eye to
visualize the actual size, the easier it is to make that buying
There are no word descriptions about the dogs, though, which means no
rich text for either the search engine crawlers or visitors with
graphics turned off (or who use special browsers for accessibility
Compare this site, Statue.com, which returns this page as third or
fourth in the Google search for "dog statues" (without the quotation
You'll notice the photo has a higher contrast and shows more detail.
That *could* be because the statue actually has more detail, but if
not, then some of the photos could be retaken to bring out the detail.
The reason I call your attention to this page is the fact that it has
a great deal of rich text content. This is what helped it move up to
the third position for that search term.
My suggestion is to use some text, including colors and something
unique about each breed. In the long run, it will help both your
visitor, and as an extra bonus, will help the search crawlers pick up
detail from those pages.
Something like "The playfulness XYZ breed is known for is captured
perfectly in this tri-colored statue." But more descriptive text for
each page would certainly be helpful and even welcome.
Next ... who are you??? You want some pretty personal information
about me, such as my name, address, credit card information. But there
really isn't much information about you guys at all! I see a post
office box and a phone number, but who are the people behind this?
You really should add an "About Us" and get some information about the
people behind the operation.
this information? What cookies DO you collect, and what do you do with
the information? With whom do you share this?
Guarantee - very important to have a guarantee and what and how to
return damaged merchandise.
Including those pages help build credibility and trust. Surprisingly,
they're not always read, but the absence of those pages is usually
noted. To read more about what your visitors expect and the issues of
trust and credibility, you might want to wade through the white paper
prepared by Consumer Web Watch and Stanford University, "How Do People
Evaluate a Web Site's Credibility? Results from a Large Study",
Published: October 29, 2002, Updated: November 11, 2002
You'll noticed that even though there were some opposing conclusions
between the original study and the update, issues such as privacy,
guarantees and the other information I mentioned was noted, whether or
not it was actually perused and digested. When there was none, that
* Website Credibility
* "Trust Is In The Details", by Robyn Greenspan, 6/21/02
There have been numerous studies on price structuring. Price something
too low, and it is perceived as "cheap" - price it too high, and they
won't buy - and those thresholds are usually at $14.95, $24.95 and
I cannot find the latest figures online for you, nor my copies of the
hard copy results from a study done in the first quarter of 2003;
however, the figures do stick in my mind. You expressed a concern
about the price, which I suspect may be more a New England tendency
toward frugality than a real issue with pricing.
Your prices are certainly within the range of similar products (notice
that some of the dog statues on the Statue.com site are $52.00). And
the prices you're charging are worth it if you believe they are.
However, in case you have some doubts, let me suggest this.
Put your figurines/statues on a plus pillow or something soft and rich
looking, instead of just the figure ... add something "rich looking",
yet unobtrusive, in the background. By dressing up the images a bit,
you'd be surprised at how quickly the price becomes "just right".
Pricing has to do with value, and sometimes that value is perceived
value - as in looking at something online, as opposed to being able to
touch and examine an article.
And sometimes you have to be able to show value with a few props. This
practice has long been known to advertising agencies - remember the
bit about using white glue in a bowl of cereal in order to photograph
its perfect crispness? This was done because using milk made the
flakes too soggy too fast.
So give a try to a few of your graphics, or hire someone adept at
graphic manipulation to add that 'class' to your own graphics.
Other Pricing Resources
* "Perception v. Value & the Theory of Price", University
of Colorado, July 14, 1997
* "How Price And Perception Can Power Your Profits", by
Noel Peebles on Biz-Whiz, September 7, 2003
User Friendly Design
It might surprise you to know that some of your pages have graphics
that overlap your text (that is, the text is hidden behind your
navigation bar) in some browsers. While it's okay in IE 6, it falls
apart in Mozilla, Firebird and Opera, browsers which a LOT of people
use instead of IE, because they've less security problems than IE.
Google offers guidelines to assist webmasters in user-friendly and
crawler-friendly design. In its "Design and Content Guidelines"
recommends the following:
"* Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links.
Every page should be reachable from at least one
static text link.
* Offer a site map to your users with links that point
to the important parts of your site. If the site map
is larger than 100 or so links, you may want to break
the site map into separate pages.
* Create a useful, information-rich site and write pages
that clearly and accurately describe your content.
* Think about the words users would type to find your
pages, and make sure that your site actually includes
those words within it.
* Try to use text instead of images to display important
names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn't
recognize text contained in images.
* Make sure that your TITLE and ALT tags are descriptive
* Check for broken links and correct HTML.
* If you decide to use dynamic pages (i.e., the URL con-
tains a '?' character), be aware that not every search
engine spider crawls dynamic pages as well as static
pages. It helps to keep the parameters short and the
number of them small."
HTML - Back to Basics
Shari Thurow, one of the leading authorities in web design and search
engine optimization (and author of the book "Search Engine
Visibility"), recently made the following observation with regard to
"Clean HTML is absolutely imperative for search engine
indexing. Browsers are extremely forgiving when it comes
to displaying pages with "unclean" HTML (unclosed tags,
no quotation marks, etc.). Search engine spiders are
not so forgiving. Even something as simple as a missing
quotation mark on the <.a href="page.html"> can cause a
spider to not index text or a link." (See: Link Exchange
Digest, July 3, 2003, "Clean HTML")
She explained how errors in HTML can affect your ability to be
indexed, and ultimately, ranked.
Taking a look at www.yambarealestate.com.au, there are some important
items missing and some which should be added to make your site
1. DOCTYPE Declaration
DOCTYPES are essential to the proper rendering and functioning of web
documents in compliant browsers. It is also essential for the search
engines to understand and follow the coding contained on your pages.
DOCTYPE is explained and discussed further in "A List Apart",
and in Web Design Group's article, "Choosing a DOCtype",
You do not have a DOCTYPE Declaration and you should add one to every
page on your site.
2. Title and Alt Tags
Put those title and alt tags to work for you! Use key word rich words
in both. Instead of repeating "Life Like Dog Statues" in every page's
title, use a dozen or so descriptive words (terms you would like to be
found under) first in your page titles.
You have no alt tags on the graphics at all - and that includes the
graphics you are using for site navigation. It is no surprise, then,
that the ONLY page Google has in its index is your 'home' page.
Your navigation, without any alt tags to put a name to those graphics,
look nice in your browser, but have you taken a look at what it looks
And what about those who browse with graphics turned off completely?
What are they NOT seeing that they should be seeing?
Google recommends using a text only browser, which will give you a
very sobering look at your site (and what it looks like, to some
degree, to search engine crawlers):
"Use a text browser such as Lynx to examine your site,
because most search engine spiders see your site much as
keep you from seeing all of your site in a text browser,
then search engine spiders may have trouble crawling
your site." [From Google's Technical Guidelines]
Adding descriptives to the alt tags will give the crawlers something
to 'index', since they cannot read graphics - it also makes your site
more 'user-friendly' and will help with accessibility issues.
[An Example] Your page for the Maltese -
The page title is still "Life Like Dog Statues", there is no text to
indicate this is a Maltese, nor any alt tags to indicate we're looking
at a Maltese.
In addition, you have further links to the six sizes - which adds one
more click, or one more hoop, your visitor has to go through to see
the sizes, etc.
Everything about your Maltese, including pictures of the magnets,
etc., prices for each, should be on one page ... you should include
text about the Maltese, and this is an excellent chance to put your
dog on a satin or plush pillow or against some other rich looking prop
in order to more fully give a comprehension of its size and
Rich text, good design, graphics that compel the visitor to buy this
statue! Right now!
Sometimes it helps to have a web designer who understands marketing
concepts to help you with layout and design in order to create the
page that says "buy me"!
I am sure you do not wish to appear insensitive to accessibility issues.
Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 794
and 794d, set forth the minimum government standards for
Among these standards are such items as ALT and TITLE tags (as
discussed above), and website design which will enable those with
special needs to be able to access and understand your web site.
You might want to run each page of your site through Bobby, which will
give you a full context report of any portions of your site which do
not meet the minimum standards. If you make all the corrections
suggested, it will greatly enhance any search engine's ability to
crawl your website as well.
The Bobby analysis page can be found here:
4. Odd Snippets of Script
There are some odd snippets of script within the HTML, which can
really confuse a search engine crawler. Just an example (and this from
your landing page):
<noscript>Your browser does not support script</noscript>
When you get to the "Your browser does not support script", you can
pretty much bet the search engines will bow out at that point, which
isn't something you want to do.
Use Google's Guidelines and add text navigation to your site. You can
do so without losing the integrity, and it will aid both your visitors
and search engines in crawling and indexing your site.
Search Engine Ranking
Unfortunately, your site does not show up in the first 500 returns
when searching Google for the term "dog statues" (without the
Nor does it show up in the first 500 returns for any of these search
terms, which I got from Word Tracker (showing those are terms which
are used in searching for your statues).
* dog sculpture
* dog garden statue
* dog statuary
* dog figurines
Further, your is not present when I searched for your domain name,
www.lifelikedogsculptures.com, on the following search engines or
* Open Directory Project (DMOZ.org)
* All The Web
* Netscape (Powered by Google)
You will want to include your site in those engines, especially the
Open Directory Project and Yahoo, as that helps with your SERPs in
Google Search Strategies -
* pricing + perceived value
* retail pricing
* dog sculpture
* dog garden statue
* dog statuary
* dog figurines
* website credibility
* building website credibility
* user-friendly design
* job boards
* affiliate advertising
* affiliate management
* classified advertising
* sales jobs
* major metropolitan newspapers online
In addition, I relied on bookmarked resources I rely on regularly
during the course of my regular business, which is website design and
I hope you take this in the vein in which it is written, a genuine
attempt to help you with marketing, sales and web design, and not as
Thank you for the chance to explore a most interesting site! My own
dogs, Scooter and Scamper, are chihuahuas, one tan and one black with
tan and white.
Google Answers Researcher