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The Parable Group Launches 2nd Annual Writing Contest Sponsored By Westbow Press

Aspiring Authors Writing Contest

The Parable Group, its retail partners and WestBow Press, the strategic self-publishing division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, the world’s largest Christian publisher, announced today that they are accepting submissions for the Second Annual Aspiring Authors Writing Contest. Top 10 finalists will be announced on Sunday, June 21 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando before the International Christian Retail Show.

“Now, more than ever, the world is in need of positive, inspirational Christian messages that help people deal with the challenges of our time,” said Steve Potratz, President of The Parable Group. “I believe books can be used by the Holy Spirit to transform hearts one person at a time, one message at a time. This is why I’m intrigued by the growing movement of undiscovered authors eager to help other people through their books. We’re honored to help those fresh voices get heard.”

The grand prize-winning book of the Second Annual Aspiring Authors Writing Contest will be self-published with WestBow Press and reviewed for possible traditional publication by Thomas Nelson and Zondervan. Additionally, upon publication, the grand prize winner will receive a free marketing package from The Parable Group to promote the prize-winning book in catalogs and in bookstores across the nation.

In 2014, debut author Richard Newberry won the inaugural Aspiring Authors Writing Contest with his young adult Christian novel Light at the Rat Pond, an inspiring story set in 1970s Illinois. His book is available in Parable stores nationwide and on parable.com.

“We’re excited to partner with The Parable Group to give aspiring authors the opportunity to rise above the crowd and get noticed,” said Pete Nikolai, Publisher of WestBow Press and Director of Publishing Services for HarperCollins Christian Publishing.

The 2015 Aspiring Authors Writing Contest is open to authors who are at least 18 years of age and have written an unpublished manuscript that is at least 10,000 words in length. Most genres are eligible, excluding children’s and picture books. All submissions must be received by May 31, 2015.

For more information, including the complete list of prizes, rules and regulations, and an explanation of editorial standards, please visit:  www.westbowpress.com/parable

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WestBow Press is a strategic supported self-publishing alliance between HarperCollins Christian Publishing and Author Solutions, LLC — the world leader in supported self-publishing. Titles published through WestBow Press are evaluated for sales potential and considered for publication through Thomas Nelson and Zondervan.  For more information, visit www.westbowpress.com or call (866)-928-1240. For WestBow Press news, click “Like” at www.facebook.com/WestBowPress and follow @westbowpress on Twitter.

Christian Retailers Discover & Improve Their Online Reputation

How To Improve your Online Presence - The Parable Group

Christian Retailers discover and improve their online brand and reputation with ease using The Parable Group Online Business Claiming service. The service, which launched in 2011 and expanded in 2014, helps stores evaluate, build and monitor their brand health online. Stores receive quarterly reporting, including an overall online brand score, and easy-to-follow recommendations to reach more customers, improve consumer engagement and enhance their brand online.

The scoring model takes into account over 80 data points to create a brand score that not only reflects how strong a brand presence is, but also provides a benchmark for store’s efforts compared to others. The Parable Group evaluates website search results, reviews and social media from various online sources such as Facebook, Foursquare, Yelp, Bing Local, Yahoo! Local, Google Places, Twitter and LinkedIn and other online profiles for retailers, saving them time and allowing them to focus on serving customers.

“As a retailer, it’s tough to know just where to begin and what steps you should and should not take to manage your online reputation. The score provides a gauge of each store’s starting point and measures improvement over time. It’s basically a brand report card,” said Tiffany Davenport, Data Content Coordinator for The Parable Group.

Score strength is measured as high with a score of 650-850, medium with a score of 550-650, and low with a score below 550. Most participating stores saw an increase over the past three months, and the current average brand score of 679 is well within the high score ranking.

“I love that The Parable Group monitors and evaluates my store’s online footprint for me—they save me countless hours of work,” said Danny Vera from Christ Centered Life Store in Fort Myers, Florida. “The reports provide me with our brand score, insights about where we rank on search engines, social media activity and recommendations we can take to raise our score and online engagement. I couldn’t get all of this information about my store on my own.”

Steve Potratz, owner of The Parable Christian Store in San Luis Obispo, CA and President of The Parable Group said, “In 2010 we moved our store from a high traffic downtown location with a lot of tourist traffic to a strip center on the outskirts of town. Months after our move, the internet continued to display the downtown location, so we lost tourist traffic and a lot of local traffic. This caused us to search for a fix. We solved the problem and today our store is prominently listed on all maps and searches online. In fact, if you buy a new car with navigation, you’ll easily find our store in their maps too. We are happy to provide this tremendous solution to help all Christian retailers easily monitor, manage and strengthen their brand presence online.”

 

Christian Retailers Enjoyed December Sales Lift

Christmas Retail Tips

Christian Retailers reported a lift in December sales and traffic, according to The Parable Group. Sales stats by the group show a 3% December sales lift over December 2013, and a 19% increase in sales for the week ending December 27 over the same week in 2013.

“Dozens of our retail partners had a strong month, many in the double-digits, and it really lifted the group number up,” says Erik Ernstrom, Manager of Business Intelligence for The Parable Group. “That week before Christmas was stronger than most of us anticipated.”

Retailers reported that the 12 Days of Christmas daily deals promoted in their catalogs, targeted shared mail (Redplum/Valassis), newspaper inserts, promotional in-store signage, email marketing and Facebook campaigns developed by The Parable Group were effective in driving consumer traffic and increasing sales in their stores.

Deidre Pagni from His Word…A Parable Christian Store in Reno and Sparks, Nevada said, “The 12 Days of Christmas Sale that we promoted in Red Plum seemed to have a bigger impact for our Reno store and drove some traffic. Plus, we did a better job preparing our stock levels for the 12 Days of Christmas Sale traffic as well.”

Matthew Wright of Praises Family Books & Gifts in Chillicothe, Ohio said, “December was a great month for us. We really pushed the 12 Days of Christmas sales hard. We sent an email reminder every day of the sale to our entire email list. We used the aggressive coupon option to generate traffic from our catalogs. Plus, we gave each customer a bounce back coupon at the completion of the sale encouraging them to come back in. Our promotional plan through Parable print catalogs, SnapRetail emails and proper staff training provided us with a great December and an end to a good year! Higher traffic made the difference in our sales.”

Gift cards were projected to be the most popular holiday gift option, with 80% of shoppers saying they planned to buy at least one, according to a National Retail Federation survey. They aren’t counted as part of a retailer’s sales, though, until they are redeemed.

“The post-Christmas period is when that starts and that’s a great way to start the new year,” says Ernstrom.

The Parable Group Celebrates 30-Year Milestone

The Parable Christian Store 1980s

The Parable Group opened in fall of 1985, in the back room of a Christian bookstore in downtown San Luis Obispo, California. At the time, The Parable Group had two part-time employees, one of which was Steve Potratz.

Steve and his wife Laurie created a simple flyer for their independent Christian retail store called The Parable. It impressed a fellow store owner so much that he asked Steve to print a few for his customers, and the idea of an independent marketing group was born. On a foundation of catalogs, The Parable Group was the first group of its kind to strategically market on behalf of independent Christian retailers.

The business has endured: The Parable Group is celebrating its 30-year anniversary in 2015.

Today, under Potratz’s leadership, The Parable Group serves 179 independent Christian retailers and 120+ faith-based product and service providers with customized advertising, innovative marketing and digital solutions that reach and engage the Christian consumer on their behalf.

Over those three decades, The Parable Group has employed hundreds of people. Many former employees have graduated to leadership at companies such as Thomas Nelson, Zondervan, David C. Cook, Tyndale House Publishers, B&H, Capitol Christian, Living on the Edge, PureFlix, Gap, Nike and LinkedIn.

Former employee, Cheryl Kerwin, now Senior Marketing Manager at Tyndale House Publishers says, “Throughout my 30+ years in the CBA industry, I have been fortunate enough to work for leaders who not only were good business minds, but had a heart and passion for ministry. Parable taught me how to make sure we had our retailer’s best interest in mind when working with vendors to develop promotions for products that were going to make a difference in the consumers’ lives. Now I am able to better understand what type of products and promotions retailers need in order to minister to the spiritual needs of people and I have Parable to thank for that.”

“God orchestrated the last thirty years,” Potratz says. “He faithfully brought us the right people at the right time to help develop the business and impact millions of lives with the products and services that we’ve marketed for stores and vendors. I’ll continue to trust Him as we continue to deliver life-changing content to the Christian consumer.”

The Parable Group has since sent over 388 million catalogs and 64 million emails to Christian consumers. They’ve also reached and engaged Christian consumers through newspaper inserts, television commercials, radio ads, targeted shared mail, postcards, social media campaigns, online display advertising and pre-roll video ads. Their multi-channel approach to marketing provides retailers and brands with customized solutions to fit their unique needs.

“At the end of the day, The Parable Group is about connecting people to Christ-centered products that change lives,” Potratz says. ”That’s what’s kept me going for the last three decades, and it’s what will drive The Parable Group for the next thirty years.”

The Parable Group plans to commemorate their 30th anniversary in several ways throughout 2015. For starters, in the coming months they will be recognizing retailers who have also been in business for at least 30 years.

The Parable Group is also asking their vendors, retailers and industry partners to share their favorite memories of working together. Send comments to sally.ross@parable.com. Comments will be collected in a vault, with one pulled out each month. Each month’s winner will receive a $30 Visa gift card.

Over Fifteen Million Consumer Emails Sent By Cba Retailers Through Snapretail And The Parable Group

Snap Retail - The Parable Group Blog

The Parable Group announced today that nearly 15.9 million consumer emails were sent in 2014 by independent Christian retailers through SnapRetail—an 11% increase from emails sent in 2013. The Parable Group and SnapRetail partnership, launched in March 2012 to CBA, is a comprehensive email and social-marketing solution for the industry with over 115,000 Christian product images from over 80 Christian publishers, music companies and gift companies.

“It’s exciting to see store owners realizing the potential they have for traffic growth and increased sales using SnapRetail. It’s an easy and effective marketing solution that provides stores an affordable and workable way to engage customers through email marketing and various social media channels,” said Steve Potratz, President of The Parable Group.

Participating stores select ready-to-use email templates including newsletters, special events, new arrivals, sales and holiday emails complete with messaging. Ready-to-send vendor emails are also available. Stores customize, schedule, send and simultaneously post emails to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Email images can also be set for customers to pin to Pinterest.

“In December, nearly 30% of all SnapRetail emails sent by Christian retailers were ready-to-send emails, much to the excitement of our vendor partners whose products were featured in them,” Potratz added.

Erik Ernstrom, Manager of Business Intelligence for The Parable Group says, “Now is the time for Christian Retailers to take advantage of SnapRetail’s easy-to-use email platform, build a strategy to connect to customers, and grow their customer list size in time for Easter.”

126 Independent Christian stores across all marketing groups currently use SnapRetail, including Catholic stores, church stores, Parable partner stores, Munce stores, Covenant stores and other independent Christian stores.