Sporting Goods Conversations

This week, I've spoken with the Director of IR for Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS), Nate Gilch, and the CFO of Sportsman's Warehouse (SPWH), Kevan Talbot. Clients have received the notes from the discussions, and you can read them, too, with a trial of the Sporting Goods Monitor research product here on Harvest. Most importantly, these conversations delved deeply into the state of the sporting goods retail sector and its competitive pressures. Where Dick's sees an opportunity to steal market share from the bankrupt Sports Authority, Sportsman's Warehouse is focused on beating the Mom & Pop hunting and fishing retailers. Sportsman's Warehouse doesn't work to best Cabela's (CAB) with destination stores and giant aquariums. Instead, they're all about low prices. Meanwhile, Dick's is trying to elevate the in-store experience, especially with footwear. These two companies are thus pursuing different paths to success in the sporting goods industry. (I'll note, though, that Dick's Sporting Goods only competes directly against Sportsman's Warehouse with the company's Field & Stream brand.)

Initiation reports coming soon!

Proverbial Guidance

When I was initially thinking about opening Forward View, I happened to read a devotional centered on Proverbs 24:3. (See the text below.) After reading this verse, I copied it to my computer for further contemplation. As Forward View began to take shape, I realized that this Proverb essentially described my ideal business. Let me break it down in detail.

Any enterprise is built by wise planning, becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts.
— Proverbs 24:3 LB

First of all, Proverbs 24:3 notes that it relates to "any enterprise," not just large businesses, religious organizations or family farms. This Proverb provides universal advice, and that guidance is appropriate for any venture, including Forward View. Secondly, the Proverb states that an enterprise is "built by wise planning." I think the entire Forward View team is dedicated to effective planning. We don't jump into much of anything without having looked ahead. There are very rare occasions when a sudden opportunity or business risk requires an immediate decision, but, 99% of the time, we've taken time to map out future projects, new research methods and fresh strategies. Thus far, Forward View has been built by (hopefully) wise planning.

Proverbs 24:3 also says that an enterprise "becomes strong through common sense." In our complex consulting and research projects, I can admittedly become too immersed in data, math and technology to focus on common sense. That's a mistake because common sense is terribly lacking in business, particularly on Wall Street. (Ask a child if you can squeeze junk together and suddenly have gold. "No!" he/she will yell. Believe it or not, that child has just identified the problem with the collateralized debt obligations that sank the economy in 2007–8.) It's very easy to become overloaded by information in the 21st century, but this Proverb reminds us to step back and ask ourselves, "Does this make sense?" Forward View team members do a great job of using common sense to solve problems, especially when I don't.

Finally, let's focus on the last section of this Proverb, which declares that any enterprise "profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts." Notice that the final word is "facts," not "popular opinion" or "generally-held beliefs." To keep abreast of the facts, Forward View team members gather information from trustworthy sources and engage in our own research. We use facts when creating relevant content for client websites and in our equity research reports. Our willingness to track down information and develop novel sources of facts is, I believe, one of Forward View's greatest strengths. You'd be amazed at how much competitors rely on guessing!

In closing, Forward View was developed to satisfy Proverbs 24:3. We're not perfect, but, overall, I think we successfully follow the Proverb's key elements and words of wisdom. The verse is just as appropriate today as it was 2,000+ years ago!

March News

In March, we initiated the next stage of our growth on the research side of the business. We officially launched the Sporting Goods Monitor research product, and we're pleased to announce that our distribution system has been upgraded with new technology from Harvest. We're one of the first research firms anywhere on Earth to publish research through the incredible Harvest platform, so we're also offering anybody a free three-week trial of the Sporting Goods Monitor. Our initiation report on Big 5 Sporting Goods was just published, and we're finishing up our analysis of Dick's Sporting Goods! On the consulting side of Forward View, we've completed the new website and logo design for Assistive Technology for Education. It's an utterly beautiful website if we do say so ourselves, and team member Jamie Brown truly outdid herself. In addition, the new Town of Clintwood website will be live any day now. You're going to love our take on the digital representation of Small Town USA. Our founder's photos are prevalent on the town's website, too. The Facebook page we created for Clintwood offers a preview of the town website: http://www.facebook.com/clintwoodva

Speaking of Facebook, Forward View now has our own company Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/FVConsult Hurry up and like us for small business insights, stock market commentary and news from Forward View! We promise to never post cat videos, though. Seriously, we have nothing against cats but find the cat video industry too competitive for our efforts to thrive.

Happy April to you!

$0 Small Business Digital Marketing Strategy

Introduction

Small businesses aren't typically blessed with large promotional budgets, but marketing your company doesn't need to be expensive. In fact, we've created a $0 digital marketing strategy that's adaptable to almost any small business's needs. With our flexible and fee-free plan, you can overhaul your marketing without spending a penny. We'll lay out our guide in five easy steps that you can begin utilizing today!
 

Step #1: Get on social media

If your small business has no social media pages, you need to begin building your presence as soon as you finish reading this newsletter. In today's world, digital communication is increasingly happening on social media, and companies that don't reach customers (and potential customers) through social media are missing huge opportunities. Ad Week's Shea Bennett notes that 67% of Americans age 12 and older currently use social media.

The good news for small businesses is that social media pages cost nothing to build, but the key isn't to create a dozen social media profiles and never update them. In fact, that's almost as bad as having no profiles at all! Why? People may question the status/quality of a business with outdated pages. Instead of abandoning social media after you create profiles, follow our Social Media Marketing 101 advice. Now, get posting!


Step #2: Create a blog

We know that the joke today is that everybody and their cat is running a blog, but there's a reason people love to blog: exposure! Blogging also creates productive conversations, both online and offline. A free blog on Blogger orWordPress can even serve as a temporary website for your business, although we do suggest having a website designed for your company by Forward View when it's feasible.The key to blogging is to regularly create engaging posts and to share them on social media. Blogs and social media fit together like peanut butter and bread, so use both communication mediums to support each other for maximum benefits. Remember that your blog shouldn't read like a blatant ad for your business. Instead, focus on industry developments, community insights and an occasional news update from your company.


Step #3: Publish a newsletter (like this one!)

MailChimp is a fantastic, and free newsletter service. We absolutely love everything about MailChimp, and our email subscribers frequently comment on the quality of our newsletter. Creating your own newsletter template in MailChimp shouldn't take more than a few hours, but developing regular communication with your business network is exceedingly vital. Like your blog, don't use your newsletter to send tons of ads for your company. The 80/20 rule is appropriate for newsletters: Publish interesting content 80% of the time and direct marketing appeals 20% of the time. If you reverse those numbers, expect to see lots of unsubscribe notices!


Step #4: Control your online presence

If you have any business, try running its name through search engines. Many companies like YelpGoogle and TripAdvisor will let you claim your business page and update it with custom content for free. These pages will then appear on search engines and apps. Add pictures, your own marketing pitch and contact information to create a nice profile on the relevant websites. If you have a restaurant, don't forget to add your menu! Respond to online reviews of your business, too. Yes, even the (obviously untrue) negative reviews deserve a reply!


Step #5: Generate free publicity and media love

This is the final, and most challenging, step of our guide, but success in Step #5 will elevate your marketing strategy to a higher level. We suggest contacting members of your local media organizations and offering to subscribe them to your newsletter. Ask if you could even be an expert industry source for them. Generating positive press is better than advertising because TV/radio commercials are often ignored by the public. For national exposure, contact HARO and sign up to be a source for reporters across the country. We've we've had good success with HARO and have made Forward View known to readers of top-shelf publications like Forbes. Even one quote in a leading newspaper, website or magazine can provide new opportunities for your business!

Summary

In closing, marketing your company need not be expensive. By investing a little time and effort into developing a no-budget publicity strategy, you can grow your firm's market share. The internet offers great benefits for free advertising and communication with customers. By utilizing social media, email, blogs and media organizations, your small business can expand beyond all expectations!

February News

February was an exciting month for Forward View. First of all, we're happy to announce that Fred Campbell has joined us as a research analyst. Fred is a wonderful asset to our business, and we're excited to have him aboard. Now that we have a larger team, we can begin offering our newest product, the Sporting Goods Monitor! This research service will provide complete coverage of the sporting goods value chain and every key company in the industry. This is our unique niche, and all of the stocks covered in the Sporting Goods Monitor will be analyzed using the Forward View valuation model. Even if you don't especially care about the sporting goods sector, you'll benefit from our accurate forecasts on almost twenty newly-covered stocks. The Sporting Goods Monitor will be available only to institutional investors, and we'll cap the number of subscribers at fifty in order to create an exclusive group of clients.

On the consulting side of Forward View, we're currently finishing two major projects and have also begun to upgrade a new client's website. In February, we also put the SamShines site online. It's a pleasure to reveal that design to the public. Four of our team members contributed to the SamShines project!

Finally, Forward View enjoyed significant media coverage in January and February. The co-founder of Thinknum (a Forward View business partner) referenced our research on Cabela's in this Bloomberg Radio interview. Benzinga also discussed our Cabela's earnings analysis in this article, as did Paige Yowell of the Omaha World-Herald in this report and this update. Our research on Joy Global and Westmoreland Coal was also cited online.

We wish you a successful March ahead!

From Our Founder: Refocusing on the Forward View

First of all, I'd like to apologize for the lack of newsletters in December and January. I was hospitalized for almost seven weeks at the end of 2015 and admittedly didn't delegate writing our newsletters to another Forward View team member. (That was a mistake that I won't repeat.) In the hospital, I did have plenty of time to think about exactly what opportunities Forward View should be chasing and, more importantly, what paths we should not pursue. With a small business, I've come to realize that what we don't do is often more meaningful than what work we complete. Let me explain and offer examples:

Forward View sells investment research and has developed a loyal global readership. We don't, however, offer "corporate access" services that involve selling opportunities to communicate/meet with company executives. That is a change from the typical research industry business model. I, however, don't believe in putting a price on our contact list or the wonderful relationships we've developed in finance and multiple other industries. Forward View also doesn't engage in trading or investment banking services that would generate conflicts of interest with our research publications. Again, that lack of services is a departure from Wall Street. We simply enjoy being different and prefer to focus on our core strengths. Forward View's research team thus has no trouble sleeping at night because we're free of the typical ethical dilemmas that give finance a bad name.

On the consulting side of Forward View, we'll remain dedicated to small businesses and nonprofits. We're not going to pursue large corporate clients. The small business market is both extensive and woefully underserved, especially here in Southwestern Virginia. I enjoy serving entrepreneurs who've been ignored by other firms because they're both driven to find a consulting partner and exceedingly interested in our proposed solutions. Again, though, Forward View is defined by our self-imposed restrictions and "limitations."

This year, I'm going to refocus on The Forward View. (That's our unique outlook on the future of finance and small business success.) To accomplish our goals, we'll be launching a new equity research product in the Spring. Wall Street will soon have to pay more for our reports, but we'll also be making more analyses available to smaller investment firms for free/low-cost through StockViews. Our internal processes are also being revamped in order to better serve new, and existing, consulting clients. I look forward to presenting more of these developments in future newsletters.

In closing, I'm excited about what Forward View can accomplish in 2016! I believe we have a fantastic team and without them, almost nothing would get done. The future looks bright as long as we do what we do best... and nothing more!

January News

We're pleased to have finished a new website for the Best of British shop in Hampton, Virginia. Take a look at http://bestofbritishva.com Forward View has other client websites currently in development, and we're anxious to share them with the world very soon! One project is our first government site and the others are being designed for small businesses.

Forward View has also begun to use the fantastic data and maps from Thinknum to add geographic analysis to our research offerings. Thinknum's e-commerce website usage statistics have also been utilized to better understand the recent merger of Newell Rubbermaid (NYSE: NWL) and Jarden (NYSE: JAH). (Contact us for research details!) In addition to the new services we're enjoying from Thinknum, we've upgraded our financial modeling capabilities courtesy of Finbox.io. We're impressed by the Finbox platform and look forward to a long-term relationship with the company. The Forward View valuation model has only been improved by Finbox services.

We wish you a great month ahead and encourage you to follow us on social media!

Shop Small: A Holiday Season Preparation Guide

Here at Forward View, we spend most of our time working with small businesses. You might say that entrepreneurs are some of our favorite people! When we're not directly consulting with local companies from across the U.S., our team is likely reading and thinking about new ways to support the economic pillars of our communities. With Christmas and Hanukkah upon us, we'd like to help you prepare for Small Business Saturday (November 28th) and the rest of the holiday shopping season.

First of all, fire up your social media accounts and start promoting #ShopSmall immediately! Then, begin developing a cohesive campaign that combines an online marketing effort with an in-store/on-location event or offer for Small Business Saturday. (If you have an e-commerce business, then just focus on the digital component.) Create a special sale to drive holiday season visitors, says Forward View consultant Grace Wu. Our copywriter, Chelsea Hippler, adds that your digital efforts should combine the general Shop Small message with your unique business promotion.

For offline marketing, our digital artist, Kerri Costello, suggests you should mail postcards to potential customers in your area. A well-designed card with a coupon or invitation to a special event will stand out in the typical mailbox full of catalogs. Overall, utilize social media and your small business website to present a comprehensive message why patrons should shop with you this season. With big-box stores flooding the internet and airwaves with ads, you must clearly explain the reasons your business deserves hard-earned holiday dollars! Use Eventbrite to publicize your Small Business Saturday event for free. If you don't want to host your own holiday season gathering, Forward View analyst David Wilson says that your small business should sponsor or support community events, such as a 5K run.

Once you have developed your holiday season plan, get your business ready for increased traffic. The good news is that our friends at American Express have free information and content to jumpstart your on-location Shop Small campaign. Click here to access the American Express guides and materials. Also, ensure that you have enough inventory and staff to satisfy increased demand. The last thing you want to do is have a flood of potential customers come to your business... and not be able to satisfy their orders or requests!

We believe that "bottom-up" economic development is key to revitalizing American communities. One small business itself can't impact a regional economy, but a supportive and connected group of firms can do wonders! The key to a successful Small Business Saturday and Shop Small campaign is to network with other local entrepreneurs and business groups to build a cohesive message. Start your planning now so you'll be ready to go as Christmas spending begins in earnest. Make this holiday season your most successful ever!

For further reading, Grace Wu recommends:
http://localvox.com/blog/holiday-marketing-ideas-for-small-businesses/
http://www.forbes.com/sites/caroltice/2014/10/31/selling-christmas-before-halloween-how-small-businesses-can-compete/
http://smallbiztrends.com/2014/10/holiday-marketing-tips-retail-store.html
https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/shopping/holiday-tips-news/christmas-small-businesses/
https://www.sba.gov/blogs/12-last-minute-low-cost-holiday-marketing-tips-your-small-business