May 22, 2019
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Maine firm that ships live lobsters overnight doubles revenue by selling online

Rodrique Ngowi | AP
Rodrique Ngowi | AP
A lobster sits atop others of similar weight in Arundel, May 9, 2019.

A Portland company that ships live lobsters and other seafood overnight to customers primarily outside Maine said it has been doubling revenues each year since it started in 2012 by selling online.

Maine Lobster Now founder and CEO Julian Klenda said he expects the company to break $10 million in revenues this year and possibly reach $15 million. In two to three years, he expects to break $20 million in revenues.

“When people search online, I want our name to come up,” said Klenda, who started selling on the internet soon after the company’s founding. “I saw that people were charging a lot more online for out-of-state consumers.”

Customers also have become more comfortable with buying food online, he said.

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Klenda sells live lobster and other seafood, plus some specialty items such as fiddleheads, via his website and social media. He uses Google search and advertising tools heavily.

A profile story on Maine Lobster Now was included in an economic impact report released Monday by Google.

Google said 25,000 businesses, publishers and nonprofit companies in Maine used Google tools to generate almost $3 billion in economic activity in the state in 2018.

The Small Business Administration estimated that Maine had 145,536 small businesses employing 284,658 people in 2018.

Courtesy of Maine Lobster Now
Courtesy of Maine Lobster Now
Maine Lobster Now founder and CEO Julian Klenda at the company's warehouse next to the Portland Jetport. The company's sales have been doubling every year since its founding in 2012 due to a focus on online sales.

Klenda runs text, display and video ads online using Google Ads. He also uses Google Analytics to see how the ads have performed and Google Trends to watch for consumer sentiment at different times of year.

About 28 percent of the company’s revenue so far this year can be linked to Google Ads, Klenda said, making that Maine Lobster Now’s top revenue generator. Another 20 percent comes in via routine Google searches.

Google Ads involves advertisers such as Maine Lobster Now bidding on keywords so their clickable ads will appear in Google’s search results.

Klenda said the bid price depends on a lot of factors. Some keywords, for example, indicate a person is ready to buy. The price also varies by state, the type of electronic device being used for the search, time of day and gender.

[Maine lobster business looks to crack open new markets as catch soars]

So the search phrase “Buy Lobsters Online” indicates a person is ready to buy. Those words could cost him $2 to $4 for each click on them. The search phrase “Maine Lobsters” indicates a person may only be looking for a recipe rather than being ready to buy, so it is less costly at $1 to $2 per click.

“If we make $50 on sales, we’ll pay about one third of that for advertising,” Klenda said.

The Google Ads can be specific to locations.

“If someone in Louisiana is searching to buy lobster, the ad would say, ‘We ship to Louisiana,’” Klenda said.

The company employs an average of 50 people year-round. It has 30 full-time employees and grows to 75 at Christmas.

It buys 90 percent of its lobsters in Maine, except for jumbo lobsters, which come from Canada.

[Maine lobster harvest value jumps by $46 million]

The company ships the lobsters from its 20,000-square-foot warehouse next to Portland International Jetport.

“We centralize and box the lobsters and ship them by plane,” he said. “We try to sell more of an experience, and include seaweed, bibs and butter warmers. The lobster arrives in a box with a lobster trap printed on it.”

Four lobsters averaging 1.5 pounds each would ship for $100, which includes the cost of shipping. Separate shipping charges apply to orders less than $100.

Some of the biggest buyers are in California, Texas, Florida, New York and the Carolinas.

Online competitors include The Lobster Guy in Narragansett, Rhode Island; Maine Lobster Direct in Portland; and Lobster Gram in Chicago.


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