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The Road to Success

Hey everyone. I just want to say thanks for all the comments in the last post. Thank you for taking time to share your ideas, thoughts and concerns about Salsa. I've been wondering how to follow up on that post. In all honesty, I think we will need several posts to actually cover all that was written.

Last week's post just goes to show us, and possibly you, just how much potential we have here at Salsa. Today, I want to briefly discuss our road over the next few months and also dispel some myths about Salsa.

Some folks commented that they were here for this brainstorm during Frostbike. First, thanks for attending and commenting. At that brainstorm, we laid out some of our plans for 2008 and beyond. In one of the discussions, we also mentioned that we are working on a brand assessment. This brand assessment is an exercise that results in a written document about Salsa. It includes our vision statement, our brand promise, our brand positioning and discusses our brand attributes and perceptions. These meetings and discussions are in full swing and we will share some of the findings here on the blog. You may also see a survey here on the blog that will help us determine where we have opportunities and gaps between our desired and perceived brand identity. Again, thank you. Your comments are already helping us.

I'd also like to talk a little bit about Salsa, our marketing, and our relationship with QBP. It was clear in reading the comments that there is an opportunity to shed some light on these things.

Many folks think just because we are part of QBP, one of the world's largest and best bicycle parts distributors, we can do anything we want. In the case of marketing, folks seem to think that we can spend whatever we want. Let's dig into this idea just a bit.

Here at Salsa, we always say "Maximize the good and minimize the bad" regarding our relationship with QBP. We have so many good things having QBP as our partner and financial backing. No lie. Honestly, many of the projects we are doing right now would likely not have happened if we did not have QBP to assist. What other small brands don't have to worry about payroll, receiving, collection of money and employee benefits? Not many.

That said, do you know we have our own P & L statement? What's a P&L statement? It's a statement showing our business in dollars and calculates our Profit and Loss. You see, while we have the support of QBP, we are charged with laying out a vision, navigating Salsa & staff to success, making sound decisions, and being sustainable as if we were a stand alone business. We've been doing pretty darn well the last several years, but keep in mind that Salsa is a very small part of QBP's overall sales, roughly 3%. Now, I'm sure you are thinking what does this mean?

Specifically, it means we set our budgets, staffing and plans based on Salsa sales, not QBP sales. That is a pretty big distinction. In the case of marketing, we can go even a bit further.

I think everyone reading can say that they understand that marketing and marketing campaigns cost money. I personally struggle with some marketing expenses because I think a good marketer can justify almost any expense or campaign. It's true, getting your name out there and recognized is a challenge and a good marketer jumps at opportunities. Because of this, I've given Kid Riemer a strict budget for Salsa marketing.

In 2007, Salsa spent less than $75,000 on marketing. This includes all add campaigns (web or print), sponsorship, event give-a-ways, etc. While some folks may think this is a lot, others that are in marketing or know what it actually costs will likely realize that this is peanuts when you are talking about positioning a brand in the eyes of the public.

There is certainly more to it than just what I wrote today but if you consider just what I wrote, I think we do a pretty good job and often times come across as a much larger company than we really are. That is to Kid's credit. Our colors, our web, our catalog, our print adds are consistent and good. Kid's got high standards for the look and feel of Salsa. It certainly doesn't mean we can't take other risks or in some cases, better utilize some of the money we do spend. We always need to be reviewing that and working to improve. Those are all things we are looking at now.

As we move into 2008-2009, two of our main strategies are to get folks on our bikes at events and to increase our dealer presence and awareness.

So...I'm not looking for anything specific here regarding comments. I just want you to know that we are working on our picture for the future and that each of you are helping us achieve that vision.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we look into the hot topic of high end Salsa steel road bikes and dig a little deeper into the Primero and the La Raza.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Boucher

Growing up as a Minnesota farm boy, I developed an appreciation and love for land and open space. This appreciation has fostered two passions, cycling and photography. Both of these passions provide freedom, encourage me to explore and foster creativity. More importantly though, my journey with a bike and a camera reminds me that the world is big and I am small.

COMMENTS (17)

 Adam |

2 years ago i never heard of Salsa until a friend of mine got one.  I went into this small shop over Northeast and was inquiring about steel frames, asked about Salsa and I got the complete sell.  Its about time he Is one of your dealers!

 MG |

Thanks dicky… and don’t sell yourself short.  I’m sure you’re worth well more than $12,790. ;-)

 BluesDawg |

“Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we look into the hot topic of high end Salsa steel road bikes and dig a little deeper into the Primero and the La Raza.”<BR><BR>I sure hope this means we’ll be reading about more steel bikes to come and not an explanation of why we won’t. :|

 Anonymous |

“Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we look into the hot topic of high end Salsa steel road bikes and dig a little deeper into the Primero and the La Raza.”<BR><BR>Excellent!  S&S couplers on a True Temper OX Casseroll???

 dicky |

Had an original thought, but it seemed to be better put into words by MG.<BR><BR>$75,000??<BR><BR>You coulda had me for $12,790.  :)

 Scott |

I second MG’s point on the complete bike offerings. It simplifies the effort it takes to stock the brand in store for test riding immensely. <BR><BR>Every viable frame offering should have a complete bike offering. Especially with so many salsa products to showcase on the bikes. <BR><BR>I get the impression you guys are already working on this one heavily.

 andrewfreye.com |

QBP and Salsa are trying to reduce there global impact. Meaning they are trying not to waste as much. You can see earlier posts. One way they are trying to cut back is by not wasting so much paper and shipping via print catalogs. They didn’t even have any at interbike. Instead they had a small double sided poster. Pretty cool looking and filled with lots of info. Nice job on it. <BR>I agree that having the catalog easily located on the web page would be nice and I am sure its in the works.

 Anonymous |

“You can’t control everything.”  While true, this may not very insightful for Salsa.<BR><BR>There are certainly things that can be controlled or influenced.  Scott provides some excellent examples above on how to influence dealers and salespeople to promote a brand.<BR><BR>I’m not sure I agree with Scott’s employee’s assessment of Salsa’s brand as “confused’.  Selling different kinds of bikes that appeal to different customers doesn’t need to be confusing.  For instance, Surly sells different kinds of bikes (though they’re all steel), and yet its brand is strong.  Many of the big players also cover almost all market segments, yet they have strong brands (and sales).  There is much more to brand image than product.  <BR><BR>Personally, I suggest Salsa segments their product offering like the salsas available at a Mexican restaurant:<BR><BR>1.  Mild (relatively inexpensive, yet high quality CrMo complete bikes such as Casseroll) <BR><BR>2.  Medium (moderately expensive, very high quality TTOXP complete bikes such as El Mariachi and La Cruz)<BR><BR>3.  Hot (relatively expensive, super high quality Scandium complete bikes such as Campeon and Moto Rapido)

 Scott |

Jason - <BR><BR>I like your feedback format here and the interaction you are initiating with this blog. I’ll try to give you guys something productive here to show some support for it.<BR><BR>Everything below is from an Austin dealer perspective:<BR><BR>Ideas to stretch your marketing budget:<BR>1. Consider soliciting feedback about promotional ideas that your best dealers use when generating interest in Salsa. Figure out a way to share that with your other dealers. <BR><BR>2. Brand champions can be a boon to sales of a particular brand within a store. One salesperson who is excited about a brand can sell a ton of bikes in a year. On the plus side I think that Salsa produces bikes that are attractive to shop employees. We have at times taken that one step farther and come up with a creative opportunity for an employee to earn a bike or purchase it for less than normal EP. You guys could consider creating a program to support a brand champion within a store.<BR><BR>3. I’m imagining that color catalogs are expensive to print. How about a postcard about each bike that are packaged separately? Some beautiful pictures on the front and some information about the bike on the back. Sales people could hand the customer a card about just the bike(s) that they are interested in. I bet bike people would stick them on their fridge and stuff or prop them up in their cubicle.<BR><BR>Other thoughts:<BR>I’ve gathered feedback from one of my staff members (who is a very organized A-type personality) that the Salsa brand confuses him somewhat. He likes some of the product you offer but feels that you guys are not focused on what consumer(s) you are trying to reach. For example you are trying to simultaneously appeal to <BR>-the classic/retro steel retro crowd<BR>-The high tech aluminum/carbon full suspension customer<BR>-The mainstream lightweight road customer<BR>-The triathalete<BR>-The cyclocross racer,<BR>-The non racing cyclocross utilitarian commuter<BR>-The 29er rider.<BR><BR>Maybe this is a great thing, or maybe this is an ambitious message to attempt to communicate for a company with your resources. I’m imagining that I can walk into 10 salsa dealers and see 10 very different product selections offered on the sales floor. Does this create brand image confusion? It does to at least one of my co-workers.<BR><BR>That said, Many of the bikes you make (out of steel primarily) appeal to me personally. So I like the idea that I can own bikes for different experiences from one boutique brand without paying for 2-3 different custom frames. I’m not sure I agree entirely with his confusion - but you might consider using your frame graphics and advertising to put a consistent story on the entire brand.

 Jason |

Nice follow up Jason.<BR><BR>I agree with G. Ted. You can provide dealers with marketing materials and a great product, but you can’t control everything.<BR><BR>I also mentioned in my comments on the last post that it would be great to go into a Salsa dealer and see the frames first hand. But I will say that Kid and Salsa do an incredible job with other marketing tools as well. Including event sponsorship, and sponsoring grass roots racing teams that include folks like myself. I (and others) have the chance to race and train on some kick ass frames and for that I know I am personally grateful. I love talking and showing off my frames to folks at races, on my blog or on the trail. Salsa makes it easy for me. Great frames by a company with folks I admire and respect.<BR><BR>Many folks including myself have also had some Salsa knowledge dropped on us direct from folks like Jason, Bobby and other Pepper Heads over on the MTBR.com message boards. IMHO another great tool for getting information to potential customers. Plus there aren’t a lot of companies out there that you can have questions answered direct from the head honchos!<BR><BR>Keep up the good work. I only see things getting better.<BR><BR>Jason

 andrewfreye.com |

Nicely put Jason. I was going to make a comment on the P&L in the previous blog, but thought against it and the explanation should come from someone at Salsa. <BR>I really like the blogs and where Salsa is going. I am proud to be riding your bikes!

 Anonymous |

I concur that, whatever difficulties or expenses may be involved in making print Salsa catalogs available at dealers, the online catalog can probably be put somewhere in Salsa’s website where regular customers (or potential customers) can more readily access it.  <BR><BR>Maybe a link or icon on Salsa’s home page that people could click on and download or browse the catalog?  Seems like this would be a minor web design change that should not cost too much.  Salsa can always mail its (more expensive to produce) print catalog to dealers or potential dealers.<BR><BR>Just a suggestion, amigos. <BR><BR>Lay on that spicy scandium Salsa sauce on some complete bikes!

 Anonymous |

Great post, Butcher.  I love Salsa is being even more open than in the past, and continues to solicit feedback from clients.<BR><BR>I’ve seen the new Salsa catalog and think it’s great.  But guess what?  I’ve only seen it on Salsa’s website, where it’s tucked away on the Dealers section (por qu??).  I’ve yet to see a Salsa catalog on a bike shop.  Maybe Salsa can do something to increase availability of the print catalog on bike shops where potential clients (not just dealers) can easily grab or consult one for free.  My guess is this would not take up a huge portion of Kid’s marketing budget.<BR><BR>I’m very much looking forward to the upcoming blog posts on Salsa’s past and future road offerings, and I hope we’ll see a new, COMPLETE scandium road offering from Salsa (but with less ‘loud’ graphics than Campe?n) before year’s end.

 Guitar Ted |

First of all, the way you are handling this barrage is totally awesome. I mean that. I am just blown away that you are able to navigate through this widely ranging feedback. My hats off to you, Jason and the rest of the Salsa crew.<BR><BR>There is one recurring theme to the previous post and actually turns up again here in anonymous’ post above. That is, “why aren’t I seeing Salsa do such-and-such at the dealer level?” This seems to be popping up alot in my mind.<BR><BR>Well, the answer is pretty obvious, really. The reason you probably don’t see a bigger prescence in regards to Salsa product, catalogs, knowledge at the retail level, etc. is because Salsa doesn’t have total control of what dealers do. If the dealer isn’t being an advocate, then it’s going to be tough for customers to see Salsa, hear Salsa, and feel Salsa in the local bike shop. Then again, maybe they are not even a Salsa dealer. Just because you have a QBP catalog in the house doesn’t mean you are a dealer of Salsa, or an advocate of that brand.<BR><BR>Kid Reimer can do the most bang up job ever in terms of marketing, Salsa could print up a bazillion catalogs, but if the dealers don’t support it, then can you really put the blame on Salsa? Maybe in part, you could, but as they say, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink it.”<BR><BR>I know that Salsa will be addressing the dealer relations and has a new hire for that purpose, but again, I also find it rather odd that some people seem to be thinking that a lack of dealer/retail support is all on Salsa. There is a reason they call ‘em “independant” bicycle retailers, ya know? <BR><BR>Add to that the fact that Salsa has added a bunch of dealers just since Interbike and maybe you can see where things are getting stretched, and new ways of doing things are going to have to be implemented. That’s all just another way of saying that maybe we’re just seeing some growing pains. I think the Salsa name and philosophy will be taking a more forward place in folks minds real soon. <BR><BR>I for one am excited to wait and see what happens.

 MG |

I can’t think of another bicycle company that gives its customers this level of access and insight into the brand and its marketing. Thank you for that Jason.  I definitely agree that you, Kid and Co. do a great job with the relatively modest marketing budget you have to work with.  The “un” catalog is a nice piece of minimalistic marketing work, and while some might argue for a little heavier selling approach, I applaud you for taking a bold step to attempt to lighten your footprint on the earth.<BR><BR>As far as availability of the catalog goes, a spot check this evening at Monkey Wrench Cycles this evening revealed that they had several copies of the catalog available for customers, and they’ve had the catalogs since at least the holiday season of 2007.  Availability isn’t a problem here.  <BR><BR>I don’t think of Salsa as a confused brand.  I think the people at Salsa build bicycles they themselves want to ride, and feel like there is a market for as well.  You have to remember they have a limited budget, and limited resources.  They can’t do everything at once.  Not every gap in their line can get filled in one season.  Sometimes, they’re going to try something—like a triathlon/time trial frame—that’s not going to pan out long-term.  That’s the price of swinging for the fence.  Some frames pan out, some might not.  That’s just how it goes.  For every time trial frame, there’s a Mamasita, Dos Niner, or an El Mariachi, and you have to admit that all three of those frames are out-of-the-park home runs.  Well, you might not admit it, but I do… <BR><BR>The best the folks at Salsa can do is to follow their passion and to do it well—great bikes will come.  And they are.  <BR><BR>I’ve ridden a lot of brands of bicycles in almost 20 years of racing, and I choose to ride and race Salsa frames exclusively because I believe not just in the frames themselves, but also in the people behind them.  And I know I’m not the only one that’s super excited for the coming months and years at Salsa.<BR><BR>The concept of brand champions that scott speaks of is definitely one that is proven to work.  We have several of them here in our local market (of which I am one), and there are several others on this board who I know would identify themselves as such as well.  But that said, there can always be more, and it’s true that along with expanding the Salsa dealer network, it’s also important that Salsa continues to focus on expanding its network of brand champions, both with employees of its dealers and among the riders who represent Salsa and its dealers on rides, at events and races.<BR><BR>An expanded complete bicycle offering, including Scandium and high-end road models will be another key to Salsa’s continued growth.  It’s amazing how much easier it is to sell a complete bike, which a customer can test ride, than it is to sell a frameset, and have to build it up part-by-part.  While I personally don’t mind building framesets up, most shop customers (and many shops these days) find it to be an unnecessary pain in the behind to build a bike up from scratch.  Easy is good, and so too is an expanded Salsa complete bicycle line.<BR><BR>I’ve got a few other ideas that I’ll save for a later time—Don’t need to be challenging the Book of Genesis for ultimate length in one response, ‘eh?!<BR><BR>Thanks again for the thought-provoking post.  Great stuff!<BR><BR>Cheers,<BR>MG

 Anonymous |

Hopefully Salsa is not exiting carbon parts (especially the handlebars)?

 Butcher |

As always, thanks for the comments.  I don’t want to steer this conversation, I just want to comment on one thing from Scott’s post.<BR><BR>We no longer have a time trial or triathlon bike.  While we certainly think our offering in this category is/was unique and a great quality bike, we know this added some potential confusion.<BR><BR>This exit is intentional.  We are also exiting other categories of parts and accessories as well.

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