Mark McMurray is passionate about the outdoors and fishing — so passionate that he wants to eventually live out his retirement years helping others create wonderful days on the water. In 2003, he purchased an established bait and tackle shop in Alton, Illinois, and set out to make it his own. McMurray named the shop Bluff City Outdoors. He runs it with his stepdaughter, Whitney Allison, and with the help of a part-time employee named Butch Emery. Located within a short drive of the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois Rivers, the shop offers a large assortment of fishing equipment, bait, trapping supplies, outdoor apparel and specialty products for customers’ outdoor adventures.

Bluff City Outdoors was one of the six Alton businesses chosen to benefit from a $500,000 Small Business Revolution — Main Street makeover. McMurray was excited to receive the marketing and branding help he needed to shore up sales.

Casting about for new customers

McMurray’s dream is to transform his shop into a neighborhood destination for catfishing gear, and a go-to hangout for anglers. But first, he had to get more locals through the door. He looked to Deluxe for strategies to keep customers engaged and coming back.

In addition to the local crowd, McMurray had to attract out-of-town trophy anglers to the shop. Because Alton is the place to go for action-packed catfishing, McMurray wanted to position Bluff City Outdoors as the place to go for specialty catfish tackle that big-box stores don’t carry. Marketing isn’t his strong suit, so McMurray tapped into the Deluxe team’s expertise to help him get the word out.

Lastly, McMurray had to manage the shop’s seasonal ebbs and flows. Fishing slows down in the winter months, so he asked Deluxe to help him find additional revenue streams to keep sales strong year-round.

Reeling in new business

With these goals in mind, the Deluxe team began identifying aspects of Bluff City Outdoors that would benefit from a brand and marketing revamp. To help McMurray reel in a steady stream of local and out-of-town customers, the Deluxe team outlined a plan to tell the shop’s story and rebrand Bluff City Outdoors as the first and best stop for a great day of fishing in Alton. The team would also identify new opportunities to generate additional sales to help the business stay afloat during the slow season.

Getting customers hooked

Bluff City Outdoors offered so much more than bait and tackle. It was the place to go for tips from avid fishing pros, specialty catfishing gear and top-notch customer service. Unfortunately, these unique attributes weren’t shining through in the shop’s current marketing strategy, especially on their website, which was a product-focused, e-commerce site.

Realizing they needed a way to hook online visitors, the Deluxe team proposed an engaging, new website that would tell the Bluff City Outdoors story and showcase just what made the business special. After extensive research and conversations with McMurray about his goals and the vision he had for his business, the team jumped into the design process.

A dynamic website design

The Deluxe team started by designing a homepage that would catch attention and entice store visitors. The team knew that Bluff City Outdoors was very different from other bait and tackle shops in the area. In fact, it was the primary store of its kind where the locals shopped.

To position Bluff City Outdoors as the local experts and the best place in town to gear up for a fishing (or trapping) trip, the team added scrolling text that read: “We know Alton. We know fishing. We know trapping.”

New homepage

To boost the business’s local ranking in search results, the Deluxe team included multiple points of contact on every page of the website. This will also drive more foot traffic to the store because customers won’t have to hunt for directions to the shop, hours of operation or other highly sought information.

Spotlighting quality and customer service

It’s known around the shop that a large catfish can easily destroy a standard rod and reel; so it was important to promote McMurray’s quality offerings designed specifically for catfishing. The team used storytelling to show why Bluff City Outdoors’ products were the best choice. Examples include, “Sinkers crafted to cut through the strongest current,” and “Rods that won’t buckle while you’re fighting a 100lb monster.” The words on the website leave no doubt that customers would find the quality products they needed.

On the off chance that customers don’t find exactly what they’re looking for, the Deluxe team added a form to the website that lets customers request that specific product. It’s a perfect way to demonstrate the shop’s commitment to keeping their customers happy.

Products page

Sharing their story

Customers like doing business with people they know. So the Deluxe team crafted an “About” page to give visitors a closer look at Bluff City Outdoors and its staff. Allison is the star of the page because she is the full-time manager and the friendly face of the business.

To showcase the staff’s knowledge and expertise, the Deluxe team added tidbits like this one:

“When [Allison] isn’t helping customers find the right tackle, she is outdoors reeling in crappie after crappie.”

About page

Becoming Alton’s one-stop fishing shop

McMurray wanted to make it easy for customers to get out on the water for some action-packed fishing without having to search for a guide. The Deluxe team created a “Book a Guide” page for the website with information on six participating river guides, and a calendar showing their availability. The page also included a pop-up that allowed customers to contact McMurray to book a guide.

Expanding his offerings to include a guide service would be a win-win situation for everyone involved. The guides would meet their customers at Bluff City Outdoors and purchase any necessary gear for their trip. The customers would enjoy a great, stress-free day on the water. The guides would earn a profit. And the shop would share in that profit and generate more in-store sales.

Showcasing local expertise

The team also added a “Local Tips” page with insider knowledge about the nearby waters, catfishing techniques and more. This was a great way to build credibility and offer customers coveted, local information they’d never find at other stores. Gaining access to these exclusive tips could even lure curious customers into McMurray’s shop.

The Deluxe team also helped create an “Events” page on the website with a mix of tournaments, gear swaps and in-store sales to show the fun and encourage sign-ups. The team then integrated this page with the Bluff City Outdoors Facebook page to make it easy for customers to stay in the know.

“I didn’t realize it until I saw our new website that we really are the experts in the area,” said McMurray.

Getting the most out of social media

McMurray was already involved with a variety of Facebook groups for anglers, but to make the most of social media, he needed to create engaging content and better promote his tournaments. The Deluxe team gave McMurray hands-on training to help him shoot, update and optimize photos. The team also provided a month’s worth of social media content to get him started.

McMurray had some challenges establishing a logo and identity for his business right out of the gate. For starters, when he took over the shop in 2003, it was called Rodney’s Bait & Tackle. Even after he renamed the shop, McMurray still had multiple variations and logos floating around the internet, on his e-commerce site and on the signs outside his shop — all of which confused potential customers and search engines alike.

Old logos

McMurray’s outdoor signs appeared dated and sported different logos and business names:

   

Meanwhile, the logos on his e-commerce website and Facebook business page were more modern and interesting, but their many colors and design elements made them difficult and pricey to reproduce:

     

Realizing that a well-designed logo can significantly affect how customers perceive a brand, the Deluxe team got to work on designing a logo that would be bold and eye-catching, and represent the business:

McMurray loved how the new logo aligned with the business’s identity and put a spotlight on the shop’s specialty — catfishing. The catfish graphic gives the logo spunk and personality, and the badge element makes it stand out on merchandise and stick with customers.

The designers at Deluxe also created a more simplified version of the logo just right for printed materials — such as business cards, posters and postcards — which were later created to generate awareness about upcoming tournaments and promotions

Boosting revenue with branded merchandise

Once the logo was finalized, it was time to bring it to life on branded apparel and promotional products. Deluxe showcased the new logo on T-shirts, hats, hoodies, coolers, keyring floats, can cozies and outdoor tents. The team explained that these branded items would promote McMurray’s shop and provide him with an additional revenue stream to help him through the slow season.

  

Practical, purposeful packaging

Deluxe saw an opportunity to extend the brand with the shop’s packaging. Instead of standard paper bags, which don’t last long near water, the Deluxe team offered McMurray a cost-effective, promotional solution — plastic bags in two sizes, printed with his logo. What a great way to make an impression and help keep customer purchases dry!

Standing out with online listings

Local searches lead 50 percent of mobile users to visit stores within that same day. But before Bluff City Outdoors could appear in search results, it had to get listed. Without delay, Deluxe showed McMurray how to claim and optimize business listings in top online directories, including Yelp and Google.

Yelp

Knowing that 92 percent of consumers make a purchase after visiting Yelp, the Deluxe team listed McMurray’s business on Yelp right away. To grab viewers’ attention and boost the business’s ranking in local search results, the Deluxe team added photos to the Bluff City Outdoors listing:

Google (before)

When people searched online for bait and tackle shops in Alton, Illinois, they’d find variations on a theme, including the name of the previous shop McMurray purchased back in 2003 — Rodney’s Bait & Tackle. But “Bluff City Outdoors” was nowhere to be found:

Google (after)

The Deluxe team updated the shop’s information to make sure it was correct and consistent everywhere it appeared online, which would make it easy for customers to find and visit the shop:

No fish tale: New customers are already biting

With a new website that tells the story of Bluff City Outdoors and the passionate people who run it, McMurray’s brand is better and stronger than ever, and the positive results are streaming in.

Since the marketing makeover, the shop has appeared in nearly 400 searches on Yelp, with 10 percent of those searches resulting in a visit to the business’s Yelp page.

But that’s not the only great news. Bluff City Outdoors now has:

  • 5,000 average monthly views in search and maps
  • 60 percent of all people searching are likely to be first-time customers
  • 300 monthly actions are resulting in calls, inquiries and visits to the website

McMurray’s shop can continue to be that place in Alton where fishing enthusiasts gather, share stories and find the best equipment for their fishing adventures. And McMurray is primed to grow his business in Alton — and poised to realize his dream of helping people have their best day of fishing.

“Deluxe brought expertise and knowledge to the table for us. And we’re the ones who need to finish it and get across the goal line,” McMurray said.

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