Miss Ellie’s Coffee.org
Bill McClure is founder of www.Coffee.org, a very successful player in the brutally competitive coffee scene. He a savvy online marketing pioneer, having started FlowersDirect.com in the 1990′s.
Bill came to a 4-Man Intensive in 2008, having just recently purchased the domain www.Coffee.org for a significant amount of money. Bill had considered many approaches to this market. One option had been to buy an existing company.
One firm he almost bought was living almost exclusively on Free SEO traffic. Their position was so fragile they were afraid to edit the website. Thankfully he was way too smart to buy them so he bought a great domain name instead.
At 4-Man I suggested that he build his brand around a “Southern Belle” since his Arkansas company was the only player from the south. The idea stuck, and his mascot is Miss Ellie – who is actually his daughter.
6 Key Takeaways from Coffee.org:
1. In 2009, Bill got Google slapped. It happened because years before, he had promoted an affiliate product that somebody at Google later decided they didn’t like.
At the time, AdWords was a MAJOR source of traffic and the slap almost took the company down. They frantically diversified into all kinds of traffic sources – even local Yellow Pages listings – and saved the day. “I’ll never let myself get dependent on just one source of traffic again,” he vowed.
Ultimately this was to his benefit as he now enjoys a very diverse source of new customers. Later, Google did let him back in the fold, as they often do.
2. The www.Coffee.org domain name is a huge asset. This alone paid for itself in a just a few months, based on boosting Click Thru Rates in all online advertising.
3. Ellie does a *fantastic* job with Facebook. 160,000 fans and counting. Since coffee is the beverage of choice for conversations, talking about coffee and conversations on their Facebook fan page is totally natural. You should subscribe to their Facebook feed to see the contests and discussions they start.
4. Even though as direct marketers we scorn “branding” type advertising as promoted by ad agencies, in the long run, the most valuable asset you build in the long run is a brand.
The Miss Ellie brand is a huge asset. It was inspired by a copy of “Oxford American” magazine, which is published in Arkansas. Coffee can be urban and sophisticated, but it can also be elegant, warm and hospitable.
5. Coffee.org pays great attention to photographs, product presentation and image. Image is everything in Ecommerce. Bill says the precise way in which they present Miss Ellie was essential, and he hired a world class photographer to do this critical job.
6. They sell a wide portfolio of coffee related products, machines and snacks. Once you’ve got a foothold, you must diversify. At the same time, they’re hyper-aware of what’s the 20% of product line that generates 80% of the business. You don’t have to perfect everything – just the important stuff.
For a deeper look at Coffee.org, read the interview I did with Bill in 2009:
4-Man intensive price goes up after August 1-2.