The trade goes online

Screen Shot_0202The ‘gun trade bible’, the Shooting Industry Directory, is entering its second year of integrated print and online publishing. Gun Trade News takes a closer look at its fast-growing online side.

The UK shooting industry is a niche market, and it’s easy to assume that makes it a cosy, everyone-knows- everyone-else environment. But it’s not as true as it first appears: there are thousands of UK-based companies occupying various roles in the trade, and given how much manufacturing takes place overseas, the network that constitutes the wider gun trade is a dense one that can be difficult to untangle. Companies typically have identified their customers know their competition well, but looking up the chain – identifying potential suppliers and distributors – can present more of a challenge.

That’s where the Shooting Industry Directory comes in. Describing the global supply chain for the British consumer of shooting goods is not easy, but SI D manages the task, detailing the retailers, wholesalers, distributors and manufacturers that make up the British gun trade, as well as British businesses involved in international supply of goods and services overseas. Since its inception it’s become renowned as the ‘trade bible’ and has found a place on the desks of the trade’s biggest distributors as well as its smallest retailers.

For the second year, SID will also publish in the online sphere for 2013-14. This effectively means it’s become more than a periodical: it’s a searchable database that can be constantly added to and refreshed, still restricted to the trade only but with a greater degree of instant and organic accessibility.

Businesses know they need to take their marketing online, but few are immune from struggling with the cultural changes that requires. That’s where the questions come in: Does SID online really have the same effect as a print publication? What advantages can it offer? Who can I reach using the platform? With the publication of the ‘green book’ for 2013-14 not long away, we’ve tried to answer some of these questions.

Is it really the same?

The Shooting Industry Directory occupies an important role for the UK gun trade as it is the only publication of its kind. If you’re a company looking to contact someone else in the trade, it’s virtually the only place to look. The only other place to look is online – so it’s natural for SID to have a presence there. It strengthens SID’s position as a trade authority rather than diluting it – the online directory is password-protected to ensure only those who work in the industry are able to gain access to the industry-specific content.

Screen Shot_0101Furthermore, the online format brings a number of clear advantages over print. First off, it’s instantly searchable, and not just through type-in search fields – products are categorised by brand and product type, and companies by category. Note that’s not just manufacturers, suppliers and retailers – you’ll also find agents, auction houses, event organisers, shooting grounds, gun repair services, national organisations, the shooting media and more.

Succeeding in a niche market such as the gun trade isn’t about reaching as many people as possible – it’s about reaching the right people. SID online retains the well-targeted ‘matchmaking’ approach of its print counterpart, but adds an added level of dynamism. The trade bible is now instantly accessible at potential customers’ and business partners’ fingertips at all times – what better reason than that is there to be involved?

What can it do for me?

Actually, there is perhaps one better reason to be involved: a standard listing on SI D online is free, just as it is in the print edition. The two publications share databases, ensuring their listings go hand in hand and the print publication is automatically updated annually with the additions and changes made to the online version throughout the year.

Essentially, then, the online version is always ahead – and it has some added sponsorship opportunities, too. There’s space for sale on the headline banner, a main slot on the SID homepage as well as supporting homepage slots for key sponsors. “In line with the print publication, ads are bought on a yearly basis,” says Josie Brown, SID’s advertising sales manager, “but the ad copy can be refreshed monthly. In other words you’re getting 12 adverts for the price of one – so the opportunity makes full use of the advantages of the digital format.”

Target markets

But the online platform offers more sophisticated tricks than just universal banner ads – this is the age of keyword advertising, in the vein of Google Adwords, which allow contextual advertising that’s more closely in line with its key market. SID online offers something similar in the form of the ‘brand profile’ advertising package.

“Essentially how it works,” continued Ms Brown, “is that you buy product or brand search result advertising rather than generic ads. There are 200 product categories in the database and nearly 1,700 brands. We can serve adverts that appear every time a specific brand or category is searched for. Everyone arriving on that page has already searched for a specific product category, so the ‘quality’ of the audience is forecast to be drastically higher than that of the average online ad.”

SID online offers this function for products, brands and business categories – so you can advertise to directly support your own brands, put your brand in front of people searching for that type of product, or target a specific sub-section of the trade. Users select these categories from a drop-down menu rather than typing in a text field, so the guesswork is removed but the ads are still specifically targeted – essentially combining the best aspects of traditional advertising and Google ads.

SID online also ties in with other aspects of publisher Blaze’s online output, such as the Gun Trade News website. “Guntradenews.com commands an audience of trade heavyweights, and its articles now deep-link to the Shooting Industry Directory by default,” said Ms Brown. So SID is less of an isolated brand than it once was, too – Gun Trade News’s online presence is now actively driving traffic to SI D. And once again, it’s not just any traffic – it’s the right people that you need to be reaching.”

For more information, contact Josie Brown on 01926 339808 or josieb@blazepublishing.co.uk

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