The Freakin' Word: Spotlight on Genius in Action

The Freakin’ Word's Lori Gertz interviews Doug Hein, Co-Owner located in Lakemoor IL

BK specializes in all powersport parts and accessories, both new and used, from winter sports to summer boating.

FGM: Doug, you are quite a web saavy marketer. Can you tell us what came first, your brick and mortar business or your dot com? If it was your dot com, have your distribution channels changed any since moving into a fancy new and improved location? (yes, I read your blog!) If it was your brick and mortar, when did you start your accompanying web “business”?

DH: Our dot com came first. I had been selling on eBay for a few years before my partner, Mike Missak, and I started Bk Boat n Ebay was the easiest and quickest way to get a hold of customers. With eBay, you don't have to go searching for customers, millions of them search for you. It was the perfect venue for us to try our new powersports parts business idea. Once we knew that we had something and parts were selling very well, we decided to expand the business and go full time.

We started the business with $2000 ($1000 from each of us) and were VERY careful with how we spent our money. We let the business grow at its own pace rather than forcing it. We worked with what we had, which included our personal garages and some borrowed space at a friend's marina. When it made sense to get a retail location to increase our storage space, we made the move into brick and mortar.

Ebay was our bread and butter and we knew that. Anything we could sell through our brick and mortar would be gravy. The brick and mortar actually made us more reputable. There are deals that we land now that we would have NEVER been able to do in my driveway.

With a brick and mortar, we are able to be part of the community and have become a destination for people. We still sell 90% of our items on eBay and have a quick moving, fast paced attitude, that comes along with selling on eBay, but we also have a local side that is very appealing to our customers.

FGM: Tell us how you use your blog to drive traffic to your site. On that note, tell us how you utilize social media (twitter, facebook, Linkedin and YouTube) to market your business. Do you find that conversations by your customers are started there about you and your products and services?

DH: We have always been a part of social media. We each had personal pages on Myspace and started a Bk page on that site to begin with. When Facebook came out of the smoke it blew Myspace out of the water I made the move to the largest Social media site out there. Mike had already beat me and made the move earlier than I had, but once we both took the Facebook stage.....we owned it!

Word of mouth has gotten so out of hand it's outrageous! It used to be that one farmer would tell another farmer who would tell some old man who would tell his wife who would tell her friend....then the whole town would know. Now, I can update my Twitter and 400 people will know. My Twitter updates my Facebook where another 300 people see it. Those people comment, I comment back and THEIR 500 friends see it. If I post that I am having a grilled cheese for lunch, hundreds of people could know that before I am even done with my sandwich.

The internet is a great place to spread the word. I have a lot of customers that are friends of mine on facebook. I do a lot of business on Craigslist and exchange a lot of emails. I dumped all my gmail contacts into my facebook to see if any of the people that I had contacted about parts were on facebook. There were quite a few! I asked them all to be my friend and most of them replied with, "Who are you?"LOL. Fair enough. Once I explained that we exchanged emails about a certain snowmobile or part, many of them accepted my Facebook friendship.

With the use of my Blackberry, I can upload a picture of a boat or snowmobile as soon as it hits the shop. I usually have someone asking for parts from it within 10 minutes of that picture hitting Facebook.

Now, not all of those comments or connections land a dollar, but it builds a relationship. I am not "selling" this stuff to people, this is stuff that people "buy" from us. If you don't need it, I am not forcing you! We have become "the guy" in the statement....."I got a guy". That is the basis of our Social Media plan. We show what we do here, we share it with people, and we have fun doing so. All of these sites make you more accessable too. If you can't get a hold of me on the phone, you can get me in email, a forum, AIM, Facebook, Twitter, or a YouTube comment.

FGM: I met you through a link a mutual business associate and friend posted on Facebook, but I found a sassy viral blog you have created. Can you tell us about it?

DH: AAAhhh yes......the couch. is brought to you by The Couch is a 8 foot blue couch that I take on little adventures and then blog about it. I started the couch site as just a fun way to spend my spare time. It started at the doors of the Bk Boat n Sleds shop, then went around to other businesses that I knew the owners of. I was going to use that as a base so I could get some attention and those owners would share it with their friends...

FGM: Ah, sort of like the old Flex Shampoo commercial...

DH: YES. and then their friend’s friends would share it, etc etc, building more traffic for the site. Well, more and more business owners wanted the couch to come by because it was getting so much attention. I was happy to do so because A) I was able to network as we sat on the couch for the pic, and B) it is an 8 foot rolling billboard for yah, I will bring it over.

FGM: I love this concept. It’s up there with the Travelocity traveling gnome. Can you share with readers how the traveling couch got to be so viral? Was it purely word of mouth? Does word of mouth also correlate to your business success as well?

DH: Word of mouth is HUGE with both the couch and The couch is unique in that it allows us to share and experience some “down home fun” with other people. The couch is almost it's own entity. And, trust me, I am just as suprised and thrilled about the couch as everyone else is.

The feelings that you have when you see the couch are the same that I have. "What the heck? Why is that couch here? That's a great idea! This is so much fun!" I have all of those thoughts too when we are out with the couch. The only difference is that it is my couch.

The cool thing with the couch is that the place or business that we are visiting promotes that the couch is coming too. So now we are not the only ones spreading the word, the business or event that we are featuring on the blog is also promoting themselves....ON the couch!

When we got to Camp Bow Wow in Mchenry, Il we learned that the owner, had made fliers and sent hundreds of emails out on her mailing list about the couch's arrival. We went to the Thirsty Troll Brew Fest in Mt. Horeb Wisconsin and learned that we had been mentioned in 2 newspaper articles the week before! It just goes to show you how very powerful word of mouth is!

FGM: As you mentioned, I love that you post where the couch will be, with dates and locations for those “groupies” that follow you/it. Do you have followers on your blog that attend events just to be photographed on Doug’s Couch?

DH: I have some real "serious" fans of the couch. I take it to a lot of local events that a lot of my friends attend also and one of the first questions is.."Did you bring the couch?" I can't say that the couch has attained the status of having Groupies just Someday maybe, but not yet. has become a cool viral marketing tool. People wouldn't give a hoot if I was tweeting or posting “ went to the fish market today”. If instead, that blog entry or tweet was about me taking this ratty couch to the market and the guy that guts the fish sat with me ON DOUGSCOUCH.....thats a little more interesting!

The couch allows us to get your attention with something and in the meantime get the name "" out there. If you look at the couch, you can't miss the 'Bk Boats' written across the backrest. A very common question is..."What's Bk Boats?" and BAM....captive audience. You don't get that attention with a shirt or bumper sticker.

FGM: Do you have any hints for readers who want to tackle becoming “authentic” through the use of a blog and/or social media but just don’t know where to start?

DH: As dumb as it sounds, and we have all heard it before, just be yourself. That’s the best part of the internet. You can be as creative, serious, funny, or boring as you want AND THERE IS AN AUDIENCE!

I mean, I just got interviewed by YOU, FREAKIN' GENIUS MARKETING about an ugly old couch with spray paint on it that I drag around and take pictures with.

If you take it for what it is, it is a stupid idea. But it has become so much more than that. It is all about attention and doing something different. If you have an idea or a passion that you want to try....TRY IT! When I started the couch blog, I thought that no one would read it....and I was right. I dropped a link to it on a couple forums that I was a part of, I linked it on Craigslist, I added it in my email signatures and now I get about 45-100 hits a day. If you sit there and try to 'think' of a great idea, you will never have one. You need to just DO it and go with it.

If you have the passion and love for something, others will feel that and be drawn to that vibe. There will always be those people that don't understand why you do what you do or think that you are doing it wrong. Don't focus on those people. The people that DO get what you are doing and LOVE being a part of your blog or site are the ones that will give you the confidence to continue. Bottom line is to just start with something you like and the rest will follow. Blogspot is free and easy to use. When I first started.... I didn't know how to "Blog"....but now I guess I am a Blogger....go figure! lol


Anonymous said...

Love the couch!

Anonymous said...

ya just got to love the guy... no i mean the couch it was the couch talking right...

Brandon Schwab said...

Great interview! Doug is a marketing genius and has brought the couch to in FoxLake a few times! Keep up the good work guys Doug & Mike!

Anonymous said...

Doug and his Couch are pure fun! Our family and friends follow the travels of the couch all the time! Heck, we even bought shirts from him! Great job Doug and BK Boats.

Craig Wallace

Nick Bionda said...

Way to go Doug! Marketing is all about getting noticed and you sure have that mastered! We were so happy to have you at Walla-Pa-Looza and look forward to having you at future events!

Keep sitting!

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