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Interview: Allan Dick, Vintage Tub And Bath

Vintage Tub and Bath sells unique bathrooms fixtures online. We had the chance to interview Allan Dick, Vintage Tub's Chief Marketing Officer & Senior Plumbing Evangelist, about his experience growing a web business from startup to a specialty category leader. Allan, thanks for taking some time with us today. Could you give us some background on Vintage Tub and Bath – how you got started, the product you folks sell, and what sort of customers you try to reach? Vintage Tub and Bath began in 1993 when my brother, Norman, began taking the clawfoot tubs out of the homes we were renovating and sold them to architectural salvage firms in Philadelphia and New York. He realized fairly quickly that he could make a decent little side business gathering and wholesaling old architectural elements like tubs, sinks, and light fixtures. He did this for about 4 years until he decided to go full time in 1997. With some help from his family, he posted a one-page website and began refinishing tubs on his own. We started selling the new fixtures to go along with the old tubs and the rest, as they say, is history. We no longer sell the antique items – only modern reproductions. We now sell a complete line of fixtures and fittings for period bathrooms like clawfoot tubs, pedestal sinks, and even a $9,800 toilet! Our customers are mostly the end users – folks who are passionate about the look and feel of their homes. Vintage Tub was early to the web. How did using online marketing help you grow and gain market share from larger competitors? Online marketing allowed us to be found for items that had demand but very little exposure. It also allowed us to highlight our expertise with antique plumbing – a very unusual niche market. What are goals, marketing or otherwise, for your blog, The Daily Tubber? What advice would you give to online retailers just getting into blogging? The Daily Tubber was an experiment – a toe in the blogging ocean so to speak. We were curious about how customers would interact with the blog. We also wanted to know how search engines would index and react to various postings. The blog is largely inactive now but we will be applying the lessons we learned to a new blog very shortly. Page tags indicate you’re using Omniture for web analytics. What tips can you share with other online retailers for realizing full value from their analytics investment, regardless of the package they choose? Analytics is a full time job. Don’t bother to purchase a powerhouse analytics tool unless you have a person who can spend at least 30 hours a week verifying, analyzing and accurately reporting the data. These tools can bury you in data – don’t get caught up in the “paralysis by analysis”. Your advice sounds similar to some comments from Avinash Kaushik earlier this week. Gaze into your crystal ball to 2011, five years from now. How will online marketing be the same? How will it be different? It will be the same in that customers will still be in control of when and where they get your message. It will be different in two major ways – first, most marketers will finally grasp that consumers are now in control and realize just how powerful that concept truly is. The concept of “broadcasting” a message online will be outdated and marketers will have the ability to very narrowly tailor their messages to exactly the audience they want. The precision targeting we see today will seem as outdated as a musket on a 21st century battlefield. Next, the ability to accurately measure the ROI of those efforts will improve greatly and further drive online marketing innovations. Once big brands have the analytics to properly measure how their different channels interact with each other you will see ever-increasing amounts of money poured into online advertising. Further driving the increased ad spend from your larger brands will be the simple fact that online marketers will start pushing further up the corporate food chain where they will be in a better position to drive resources from traditional (and difficult to measure) media to online advertising. On the personal side, you shared some great stories on your blog: autoracing, mountain climbing, and Stones fan. So, if I may get personal about plumbing, what sort of bath tub do you use yourself in your own home? I have (shamefully) a built-in tub. Like the cobbler that goes without shoes, the last thing I want to do when I go home after a full day of selling home products is to rip apart my house and do home renovation. In my next home -- lookout! I'll be building a monster bathroom. And of course, I'll blog about it! ;-) Many thanks for the interview, Allan. Good luck with the tubs.
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