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Candace D'Agnolo

19 Questions Whose Answers Will Have Customers Coming to Buy from You

First, make sure you know who you really are.

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FROM ALL the big-box pet aisles o thousands of online stores, and from direct-sales companies to subscription boxes, it’s getting easier for consumers to spend their money anywhere but your business. The pet marketplace is cluttered. How are you going to compete with that?

If your business is missing the mark, I can’t help but wonder, Do you know who you are? And how are you communicating it to potential customers?

You are bigger than just “pet boutique selling high-quality, unique items” and you’re better than “the best natural pet supply around.” Boring! I’m snoozing over here. Put some life into it! Get excited about you and what you do.

Even though it might seem like the internet is taking away your business, it’s actually not. Less than 8 percent of pet-product spending is happening online. People buy from people. So, it’s not that people don’t want to buy from you — they aren’t connecting with you.

How do you connect with people? Through stories. The stories of your life and business. The stories of your pet parenthood. The stories of products you choose. The stories of manufacturers and partners you decide to work with. The stories of your clients and how their lives have changed for the better because of you. Your story is everything and connects you to your ideal clients.

What Do People Think of You?

Take a look at your brand (that is,  your image, your marketing style). What do people think, and how do they feel when they encounter your brand? If you don’t know, survey customers and non-customers in your area. This will help you determine where you need to pivot and what you should enhance through story.

Uncover Your Story

Wondering what they heck happened to your brand or why you don’t have one? Don’t panic. It’s time to become the face of your business. Let’s uncover your story. Answer my list of questions below. Pull stories from your life experiences that enhance the brand you want, and give people a reason to buy from you instead of your competitor. It doesn’t have to be a perfect story. Remember, people buy from people. Be true to you.

Use It As Your Road Map

Pick out the best story lines from your answers and use them in your social media posts, email campaigns and ads. Integrate them throughout your business in-store and online — touching as many opportunities as possible through signage, video, conversations and more. These stories can guide everything from company culture to customer experience.

Quiz: Your Answers, Your Story

Answer EACH of these questions. After your initial response, think about the story behind why you answered the way you did. Uncover your history and experience with each. After your initial response, think about the story behind why you answered the way you did. Uncover your history and experience with each of the answers.

  • When you do business with me I want you to feel …
  • When you’re unhappy with a product or our service, I will …
  • My closest friends think that I’m …
  • When I throw a party I make sure …
  • Something I really love is …
  • I started this business because …
  • What makes my business special is …
  • What makes me special is …
  • I’m different from my competition because …
  • Causes or issues I care deeply about are …
  • My favorite memory with my pet is ….
  • If I could be anywhere or do anything it would be …
  • Something that had a positive impact on me was …
  • Something I overcame and that made me stronger was …
  • The vendors I work with are special because …
  • The products I carry are special because …
  • The services I offer are special because …
  • I have made an impact to my community by doing …
  • If my business had a personality type or characteristics, those would be …

Candace D’Agnolo owns successful pet business Dogaholics and offers business consulting at Pet Boss Nation. For help creating a customized 90-day plan to tackle all your business goals, download a free worksheet, at petbossnation.com/petsplus. Contact her at hello@petbossnation.com.

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PETS+ Live with Candace D'Agnolo

This North Carolina Pet Business Thrives by Creating Unforgettable Customer Experiences

Catch the replay of this PETS+ Live! webinar hosted by Candace D’Agnolo of Pet Boss Nation. This episode featured Wendy Megyese of Muttigans in Emerald Isle, NC. Learn about ways to combat the big boxes and online — the key is to give your customers an experience they can’t get anywhere else — and learn why the business was honored in the 2018 PETS+ America’s Coolest Stores contest.

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Candace D'Agnolo

Boost Staff Morale with These 3 Holiday Sales Games

It’s important to first identify what your goal is.

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WHEN I WAS running my own pet retail boutique, I found that as the busy days of December rolled on, our team would become more and more run down. Every day gets longer and longer. It becomes harder and harder to keep the team motivated. I needed to find a solution, and I discovered that one of the best ways to perk up everyone was to play games.

Using “gamification” in your business is a really hot trend right now because it creates engagement, connection and results.

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Video: Cat Surprises Airport Security After Stowing Away in Family’s Luggage

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Photo of Adorable Service Dogs in Theater Gets Viral Attention (VIDEO)

Video: Help Customers Understand What Makes Your Pet Business Unique
Jim Ackerman

Video: Help Customers Understand What Makes Your Pet Business Unique

When it comes to using games as a tool in business, it’s important to first identify what your goal is. Perhaps it’s to move out your holiday-specific merchandise. Maybe it’s to ensure that all the new customers coming in are being added to your database. Or you want to get the team to add on one more item over $10 to each sale. Whatever it is, make sure you pick a specific purpose for your game. Play the game only for up to one week. Games that last longer tend to lose their magic. You can play multiple games throughout the month, too. At my store, we had a different four-day game that would run every Thursday through Sunday. Each game’s tactics were different, and each game’s purpose was different.

Here are a few of my favorite games to play to help you sell more stuff, motivate the team and keep that register ringing to make the most of December.

The Dollar Tree

Tape fake dollar bills on a wall in the shape of a Christmas tree. Encourage your team to ask each customer: “Does your pet have a present under the tree this year?” If the customer says, “No” (or even yes) and that question leads them to purchase a toy, then that team member gets to pull a fake dollar from the tree. At the end of your game, they get to turn their fake dollars into you for real dollars.

Staff Santa Sack

Every time you beat your daily sales goal, each person who worked the floor gets to pull a card from the Staff Santa Sack. The sack can be filled with notecards or something similar, each with a reward, gift or surprise written on it. They can turn their cards into you whenever they want during the months of January or February. The rewards could have ideas like, “Skip my turn to clean the bathroom,” “Go to Lunch with the Boss,” “Pick one item from the store under $20,” “Get a 30-minute paid break.”

Staff Bingo

Play Bingo! Make your own bingo board by filling in the boxes with product names, tasks or questions instead of the typical bingo number. Keep them all the same or make a variety of boards. Hand them out to your team and have them try to get bingo in order to move toward your objective. When they have a completed board, they get a prize.

These are just a few examples of games you could play with your team to keep things interesting and to increase your sales at the same time. If you give one a try, make sure to share your results with PETS+.

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Candace D'Agnolo

Purposeful Outreach: How to Segment Your Customer List and Communicate with a Purpose

The best emails, text messages, direct mailers and thank-you cards are relevant to the recipient and timely.

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MY LAST TWO COLUMNS covered why collecting customer information was so important, what you should collect and then ways in which you could encourage your customers to give their information to you. Now that you have your list, it’s time to communicate with them in a purposeful way that adds value. The best emails, text messages, direct mailers, thank-you cards are relevant to the recipient and timely. So how do you do that?

The first step is ensuring that your list is segmented, meaning that all your contacts are in the appropriate categories/lists. You can mark your customers with “tags” or custom fields inside your software (based on recommendations I covered previously — check out past columns here: petsplusmag.com/dagnolo).

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Podcast: Wellness Junkie “Coach Caitie” Teaches You to Care for Yourself as Well as You Care for Your Pets

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Segmenting will allow you to send relevant information to customers. Wouldn’t it be better for a cat customer to get a cat-related email from your business instead of hearing about a dog mom event? If the cat customer hears only about dogs, they will stop opening your emails or paying attention to your marketing.

Segmenting takes effort on your part, but once you get a system down, it will become easy for you to send the right message to your customers.

Now that you have them segmented to send relevant information, it’s important to send consistent and timely communication.

Here are a bunch of reasons to communicate with your customers:

  • Newsletter (monthly, weekly, bi-weekly)
  • Welcome to “Business Name Family”/Story behind business
  • New client/onboarding
  • Reminders
  • Promotions
  • Re-engagement for customers you haven’t seen in a while
  • Abandoned carts for online stores
  • Milestone emails
  • Special offers
  • Surveys or other request

And here’s a list of things you could share in those communications:

  • Celebrations
  • Announcements
  • Customer and team highlights
  • New products and benefits of others
  • Breaking news/recalls
  • Vendor stories
  • Your stories
  • Events
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Do’s and Don’ts

So, now you’re building your list. You know why you should be communicating with customers and what to talk about. Now it’s about being consistent in your communication. Come up with a plan to communicate at least weekly with your customers — whether it’s to the whole group or targeted segments of your list.

Sending relevant info is key. The right message must reach the right people. The most important thing about your communication is to communicate with purpose. The purpose of your communication will allow you to ensure you’re driving important and interesting communication that still supports your business.

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Candace D'Agnolo

8 Ways to Collect New and Existing Customer Information

Incentivize new and existing customers to give you more of their information.

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LAST MONTH, I SHARED with you why collecting customer information is critical to your success. Now that you know what you want to collect from your customers, I’m focusing here on how you can incentivize new and existing customers to give you more of their information. In this three-part series, I’ll help you move from sending a random monthly mass email newsletter to truly building an engaged and active customer base. This not only means having your customers’ information, but collecting information as much as possible so you can keep growing your business!

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Behind the Pages

Podcast: Wellness Junkie “Coach Caitie” Teaches You to Care for Yourself as Well as You Care for Your Pets

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Behind the Pages

Podcast: Talking Cybersecurity, and Keeping Your Pet Business Safe Online

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The most obvious example of where/when to collect their information is at the register and/or the time of purchase. (P.S. This should be a non-negotiable standard for your team when ringing people up). Here are eight alternatives to getting oh so much more information:

1. Require people to register in advance for your events. Google Forms is free and provides a link for you to share on social media or in emails for easy online signup. Eventbrite is also a fabulous tool since you can charge for the event, allow people to attend for free, and you can even ask for a donation! Some of the CRM platforms from July/August 2019 issue will allow you to build landing pages that integrate with their software, as well.

2. Do a raffle. Make sure you have each participant’s cellphone, email and address. An idea for this would be to do an online “getting to know your customers” contest on social media. Have them fill out a survey (all their info), and they get entered to win a gift card for the store.

3. Create an “opt-in” to use in a variety of places. Share it on your business cards, social media, website, emails, videos. An opt-in is when you give something away of value in exchange for your customers’ information. This can be a 10 best tips PDF, an educational video, a gift certificate — the options are endless!

4. Implement a texting service. A texting platform will help you automate the opt-in process in a wide range of places. Use your short text in keyword to get people to join a VIP Club, use it events for easy signup, add it to signage in your store and call it out on Facebook Live videos.

5. Utilize surveys, contests, polls and competitions. Outgrow.co, Survey Monkey, Google Forms, Rafflecopter and Poll-maker are among a few websites that allow you to create these for distribution as well as capturing the data you want.

6. Do a pop-up ad on your website that asks anyone visiting to fill out a brief survey for an instant 10 percent off sent to their email upon completion.

7. Offer a “whatever you can fit in [this box] in 5 minutes is yours” shopping spree giveaway on a Facebook Live video. Or if that’s too much of an expense, do a surprise grab-bag giveaway. Fill a box with whatever you want, cover/wrap it up and tell people it can be all theirs if they enter! Really talk up the goodies in there, saying they can have enough gifts and goodies for the next six months! Include a link where they can register to win.

8. Offer a coupon on their next purchase if they leave an online review of their experience. Platforms like Nextpaw + Broadly can help make this easier.

Last month, you learned why it’s important to collect customer info and what you should collect and track (petsplusmag.com/9191). And now, you have ideas to incentivize new people and current customers to opt-in. I’ll share with you ways to best communicate on a regular basis in the last installment of this three-part series in the October issue. Because aside from sending regular newsletter emails, there are lots of strategies to building raving fans who support your business!

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