Differentiating a B2B Dot Com
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Differentiating a B2B Dot Com

In a time when the phrase “dot com” became somewhat of a scarlet letter, USgift.com needed to cut through the dot com hype and position itself as a viable Internet-based services provider.

Paul Holmes


About USgift.com:  USgift.com is a business-to-business online wholesale distributor for the gift, garden and home decorative accessories industry, which brings together industry players (manufacturers, sales representatives, small to mid-size retailers and online retailers) in an Internet-based marketplace.  The company brings efficiency and speeds up the process of “doing business” in a fragmented industry by integrating technology, forging fulfillment partnerships and offering financing options.  USgift.com seeks to solve the problems each industry player faces in doing business.

The Client Challenges:  

In a time when the phrase “dot com” became somewhat of a scarlet letter, USgift.com needed to cut through the dot com hype and position themselves as a viable Internet-based services provider.

The name USgift.com conjures up the image of a business-to-consumer site.  USgift.com had to position themselves not as a competitor for online and bricks and mortar gift stores but as a pure business-to-business company dedicated to helping individual outlets of the gift industry grow their business while using technology to unite a fragmented marketplace.

USgift.com needed to clearly define their complex service offering to the industry players amid the gift industry’s presumption that USgift.com was like other dot coms…seeking to eliminate traditional intermediaries and serving as just a digital marketplace.  

USgift.com needed to gain brand recognition and market share fast to beat out the other dozen dot coms competing for industry acceptance, however, they had limited advertising budgets and no formal access to the industry’s high visibility Gift Fairs.

The Ketchum Solution:  

Ketchum recommended an initial “75 Influencers in 75 Days” campaign followed by an ongoing media relations program in order to take a stake in the market share.

Ketchum recommended development of strong messaging and visual materials to position USgift.com’s mission to industry players.  Without the “buy in” of industry players, USgift.com would not succeed.


Competitive Analysis – USgift.com did not allocate budget for formal research so Ketchum conducted an analysis via the web of twelve competitors and their service offerings to identify USgift.com’s key differentiators and construct USgift.com’s positioning in this crowded space.  Ketchum discovered the gift industry was flooded with digital marketplaces and that the online wholesaler category more accurately communicated USgift.com’s business model and the services they offered.   

Media Audit of USgift.com and Competitors – Ketchum conducted a media audit of USgift.com and the top competitors, revealing expected low coverage for USgift.com, while the coverage of competitors was marginal.  In addition, the target audiences were defined and the media channels to reach them were identified.  

Industry Research - The media audit revealed that virtually no media (other than gift trades) covered the gift industry.  Ketchum then researched the industry and determined that there were no large public companies to garner regular media and analysts’ interest.  But, estimates projected the value of the gift industry to be more than $160 billion.   The size of this stealth industry paired with supporting statistics were used to create news hooks critical to the success of the media outreach.


To position and raise visibility of USgift.com through the news media to drive business volume with two key objectives.  

Objective 1:  Educate audiences on the “sleeping giant” gift industry as a robust segment of the retail industry and USgift.com as the only national online gift wholesaler.


Capitalize on the power and reach the gift trade publications garner within the industry and cultivate relationships with USgift.com through direct contact with media.

Focus on the value of this stealth industry and the compelling statistics and nuances uncovered in research.

Proactive ongoing media relations with gift trade, business/financial, technology and local press.

Objective 2:  Change the perception of USgift.com in the minds of the industry players from a “threat to their existence” to a “solution provider” to improve and grow their business.


The gift trade publications are product driven and have a dense circulation among industry players.  Initiate join marketing opportunities between industry trades and USgift.com as well as redirect the editorial content focus of these publications.

Educate audiences on the online gift “wholesale” category that did not exist within the gift industry.

Position USgift.com as a guardian to the industry by exploring sponsorship opportunities with the gift industry’s coveted charity, Gift for Life.

Segment and create story angles to cut through the dot com hype with media that describe USgift.com’s offerings to make business easier, faster and more efficient.

Position USgift.com as a thought leader for the gift industry.

Leverage USgift.com’s relationships with other key industry players to gain unofficial access to gift fairs and plan events to heighten visibility of the company within the vicinity of the fair. 


The target audiences identified included: business, technology, retail and local media, gift industry trade press, analysts, investors and customers.

Budget:  $350,000 from Feb – Nov (280K fee/70K OOP)


Tactics to achieve objective 1:

  • Distribute creative package, rather than a press release, tying into the March 17, St. Patrick’s Day launch of USgift.com’s Web site to grasp the media’s attention and to serve as a desk side reminder of the company.
  • Develop press kit materials. 
  • Media train CEO John Hayes.
  • Media Relations: Conduct extensive media outreach program over nine months to develop relationships and raise awareness of the company and deliver specific messages to the key influencers.

Tactics to achieve objective 2:

  • Establish a news bureau to provide a regular flow of news stories to target media, particularly the gift industry trade press.  Develop comprehensive media list and editorial calendar.
  • Negotiate and develop content for monthly-contributed column in industry trade publication, Giftware News. 
  • Established USgift.com as a Platinum sponsor for Gift for Life.
  • Facilitated joint mailing with industry newsletter, Gift Executive.
  • As USgift.com did not have formal access to the gift fairs, Ketchum arranged media interviews, special VIP events for all players within the gift industry as well as advised USgift.com to gain access through existing partner relationships. 
  • Assist in the development of sales collateral and advertorial copy to ensure message consistency.
  • Capitalize on the CEO’s travel schedule to arrange and facilitate interviews with business media. 
  • Submit USgift.com for “best of” lists in target publications.


Results for Objective 1:

  • Recognized by 8 of 10 gift trade publications as a market leader and a thought capital resource (Gift Executive, Giftware Business, Giftware News, Giftbeat, Gifts & Dec, Home Accents Today, Homeworld Business and HFN).
  • Media Placements – 151 influencers contacted and significant relationships cultivated with gift trade and local Atlanta media.
  • Proactively pitched and secured briefings with industry analysts as well as received briefing requests from analysts who had read media coverage.
  • Secured Forbes “Best of the B2B Web” (1 of 200 companies featured, 1 of 8 in the retail industry). 
  • Raised awareness of USgift.com with regular articles in local media outlets such as Atlanta Journal - Constitution, Atlanta Business Chronicle, dBusiness.com, Digital South and local neighborhood newspapers.
  • Attracted attention in technology and e-commerce publications such as Internet World, Pronetlink.com and Electronic Commerce World.
  • Consistently noted on LocalBusiness.com’s (formerly dbusiness.com) 50 to Watch Quarterly listing selecting the hot growth companies within the region advancing the economy.
  • Face-to-face interview arranged for CEO in New York with Fortune and Forbes magazines.

Results for Objective 2:

  • Secured a feature in E-Commerce Business magazine that was read by the CEO of Bluelight.com, K-mart’s Web site, who then contacted USgift.com and became the company’s biggest client.
  • Monthly technology column printed in Giftware News placed in five consecutive issues lending guidance to players within the gift industry on business and technology.
  • Joint newsletter sent by Gift Executive and USgift.com featuring company to suppliers of the gift industry.

Growth of Company From February to November

Sales Agency Contracts:  From 18 to 75                       Registered Retailers:  From 0 to 20,000 +

E-tailer Contracts:  From 0 to 4                                    Registered Suppliers:  From 4 to 300+

Products on site:  From 0 to 150,000

During the first ten months of operation, USgift.com took orders for more than $22 million worth of products.
Transactions on the site doubled ever four weeks between July and November

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Technology-New Media
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