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3 Ways to Develop Relationships with Local Customers Via Instagram

Instagram is great at some things but extremely tricky if you’re trying to use it to drive direct sales.

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HOW DO I GROWTH-HACK a local audience on Instagram for my pet business?

We get this question a lot and, first, our answer is always a question:

“What are you trying to do?”

The fact is that Instagram is great at some things (raising awareness and building brand loyalty, especially for local businesses), but extremely tricky if you’re trying to use it to drive direct sales.

The reason why is simple:

Instagram lacks one thing: an easy way to link from a post to buy — unless, of course, you pay for an ad. Unlike Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, Instagram gives you only one link off the platform — on your bio — making it much less likely to drive traffic to your website to buy now.

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However, my team and I often see strong success for local pet brands looking to develop relationships with current and potential customers on Instagram. In some ways, the lack of direct sales appears to create a stronger bond with those individuals because they sense that selling is not the brand’s main objective.

Creating and developing a relationship with your customers becomes the main objective for a local business using Instagram. (And then driving them to your email list or store for direct sales.)
Your local pet business’s feed then becomes a refreshing way for local people to connect with your brand — making it a great channel for building customer loyalty and awareness.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Use hyper-local targeting when you’re interacting with others on Instagram. For example, if you’re using Instagram to grow, then focus on leaving comments on local hashtags like #upperwestsidedogs. This builds on the community who uses #upperwestside and draws out the dog-lovers from there. Don’t worry about spending time interacting on national or massively used hashtags, like #catsofinstagram or #greyhounds. In most cases, that will just attract a lot of spammers.

2. Create hyper-local content that shows off your brand. While you may write or do a video about puppy training, spring grooming or the great new pet treats in stock, look for ways to slip in information about local dog-friendly places and landmarks in all you do. This constantly reminds people they are interacting with a real person in the area.

Post about the best dog-friendly parks in the area. Or post about the best time to practice loose-leash walking at those parks using those new treats. More broadly, post about the top behavior challenges you see local people struggle with when parenting a dog. Regardless of what you post, frequently end with a call to action to have the person sign up for your email for tips on how to solve the issue.

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3. Post using local hashtags, mixing in bigger ones occasionally. On Instagram, try looking at your neighborhood’s local “places” and seeing what people are using when they’re posting in your area. Typing in “upperwestside” and looking at the related tags may give you things you didn’t know about to try. Finally, look at other local businesses (even ones in different industries) and see what tags they’re using that aren’t industry-specific. There could be some fairly popular tags you could incorporate with your posts.

Jane Harrell is president of ’cause Digital Marketing, co-owner of Working With Dog and has spent the last 16 years working with pet businesses to find simple, scalable marketing solutions that work so they can focus on what matters most — helping pets and the people who care about them.

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The Basics Stats You Need From Every Customer

You’re missing out if you don’t collect customer data. Here’s what you should be asking for.

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IF YOU ARE not collecting your customer’s information, you are missing a huge opportunity.

One of the main reasons is so you can send something in the mail to customers. I know: You’re already thinking mail is dead. However, Chewy.com sends lots and lots of mail. Not just direct-mail flyers, but handwritten thank-you cards, complete with the pet’s name and the product purchased! It shows the customer that they matter to the company and that Chewy cares about them. How do you show your customers you care?

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If you wanted to do something special for a customer, do you have enough information about them? Could you pick up the phone to inform them of a recall? Could you mail them a card congratulating them on their wedding? Could you remind them that their pet’s birthday is just around the corner?

Your list is everything. Think about how pet sitters, dog walkers, sales reps and mobile groomers have all of their clients’ information in a database. That’s like gold to them. They know every last detail about the pets and their owners. Now, apply this to retail, groomers, trainers and day cares, and think how these businesses can benefit as well from having their own thorough customer list and database.

Consider if you decide to move locations, or sell the business. You’ll want everyone to know about your move, or that a new owner is taking over and encourage their continued support and thank them for their years of business.

Here’s the information I believe you should collect from your customers and how you should tag them in your system/identify them so you can communicate with them based on their needs.

  • Full Name
  • Spouse’s / Partner’s Name
  • Address
  • Email
  • Cell Phone
  • Pet’s Names and Birthdays
  • Customer’s Birthday
  • Dog, Cat, Fish, Horse or Bird Owner
  • Breed of Dog, Cat, Bird, Etc.
  • Puppy vs. Senior Pet
  • Pet Gender
  • Multiple Pet Family
  • New Pet Owner
  • Loyalty Program Users or Frequent Buyer Food Program Users
  • Event Attendance
  • Participate in Training Classes
  • Grooming Customers
  • Top Customers (25 Percent Customers)

Having this kind of data about your customer is key. The online stores have it and use it. So should you. You will impress your customers when you’re ringing them up and you ask about their pet by name, or mention an upcoming birthday. It is a step above and beyond that shows you care.

Along with this process comes having a Customer Relationship Management — or CRM — system in place to easily insert the above information, utilize your customer segmentation, pull sales reports, send emails and so on. A good point-of-sale system should allow you to track all this information right in your system, then you can export that information and load it into one of these systems, which have all kinds of relevant strategies that you could use. Of course, there’s Mailchimp and Constant Contact, but there is also Zoho, Hubspot, Salesforce, Insightly and FreshSales.

Get started immediately, even if you just use an Excel sheet. Every person you meet in person (or even online) is a potential customer, and you should grab the information that you can! In September’s PETS+, I’ll share creative ways to get this information, so stay tuned!

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Get Your Business’s Story In Front of the Right Journalist

A few tricks of the trade to get your news into the hands of journalists via a compelling pitch…

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HERE ARE A few tricks of the trade to get your news into the hands of journalists via a compelling pitch. Pace yourself; this takes a bit of endurance.

A pitch is essentially a short synopsis to share a story idea. The best way to get started is to compose an email. If this is your first time reaching out to a media contact, be sure to introduce yourself first, addressing the reporter by name (Dear Tabitha etc.). Then summarize your news in a short paragraph or two. You don’t need to tell them everything. Just give enough detail to share the main elements and pique their interest. Lead with how your service, product or company would be beneficial to their audience. Some journalists receive dozens or even a hundred pitches a day. Get to your point quickly, and make your idea stand out. Personalize the first sentence by mentioning a topic they recently covered and how that relates to your pitch.

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Think of your angle. What is new, surprising, challenging or local about the story? Use that slant to set your tone. If there’s an emotional element, be sure to include that too. We’re all human and sometimes make choices simply because it speaks to our heart.

Write in your own words using natural language. Basically, write as if you were talking. Speaking of that, be sure to read your pitch out loud before sending. You’ll find you may need to tweak a word or two that sounds awkward or isn’t flowing. Once you complete that step, spell-check is a must.

Ready to send? Not so fast. You’re not going to send a pitch with an empty subject line are you? This is your first impression, so make it count. Here are a couple of ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • New Cat Toy Saves Furniture
  • Pet Food So Nutritious You Can Eat It Too
  • CBD Product That Gets Sedentary Dog Off Couch in One Week

OK, now you’re ready to send! Where to? You want to reach relevant journalists — most likely in the retail, pet product or pet services space. To find the right contacts, follow industry-related publications. LinkedIn.com is one great source. You can also search a topic on Google News and browse articles from there. You’ll find there is a consistent group of writers who cover topics related to your industry.

Many writers include their email address at the end of an article or on their Twitter bio. If not, you may need to do a bit of sleuthing. You can call the outlet newsroom and ask for the information, or if you spot an address at the same publication, you can borrow the formula. For example: firstname@petsplusmag.com.

If building your own target list seems too daunting, then there are also subscription-based media databases where you can find almost all U.S. outlets, including journalists’ email addresses, phone numbers and contact tips. The downside is that they can be costly. To learn more, Google “media database.”

Phew! That was a lot of work! But you’re not done yet. How many emails get lost in your inbox? Give it a few days and follow up with a friendly phone call, highlighting the main points of your email pitch. If you’re feeling nervous, you can always ask if they’re on deadline first. If they pick up their phone, chances are they have a quick minute. Again, keep it brief and don’t take it personally if they reject your idea. If you don’t catch them at their desk, leave a polite message and let them know you’re following up on the story idea sent on X date, and reference the catchy subject line you crafted. Clearly articulate your name and phone number slowly and then repeat. You’ve got about 30 seconds to hold their interest.

Good luck! I’m rooting for you!

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Choose the Right Social Media Platform to Reach Your Customer Base

Ask yourself and your team these important questions.

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EVERYONE KNOWS WE as businesses should be on social … right? The logic seems obvious:

At a minimum, active and vibrant social media channels can give prospective customers a way to check you out before they buy. They provide instant social validation and customer trust.

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At a maximum, social done well can become a major sales channel, rivaled only by things like word-of-mouth and Google.

So creating an active and vibrant branded community on every social media channel you can find is a great marketing strategy, right?

Wrong. And I’d argue that the majority of pet brands I see probably won’t ever make back their investment in building those channels.

For the last 12-plus years, I’ve been teaching pet businesses how to achieve their business and marketing goals through social media. And for just as long I’ve seen the mix of shock, followed by relief when I frequently tell businesses to stop their efforts on the majority of the social platforms they’re using.

The reason is simple: Many small businesses aren’t really sure why they’re on social media to begin with. Worse, many are hoping to achieve goals that are super-duper hard to do on their chosen channels. Combine this with the fact that most social “best practices” involve a member of your team spending significant time on the platform, and suddenly you have a marketing money pit.

So how do you make sure your social is paying off? Easy. The first step is making sure you’re on the right one.

Ask yourself and your team the following questions:

Who am I trying to reach?

This is your core client or influencer. Write everything you know about them, leaving nothing out. Make sure to include both demographic information (age and gender) and psychographic information (your customers’ wants and fears).

Which social media channel does that person frequent?

Different social media channels attract different people. It may seem obvious that trying to reach teens on LinkedIn or business decision-makers on Instagram may be making your job harder, but don’t forget the nuances of the audiences these platforms attract, and that they change over time.

Is that social media channel compatible with my goals?

This is a big one many petpreneurs forget to ask, but the key is understanding the technical side of the platform and what it’s meant to do. For example, we find most brands struggling to drive direct sales from Instagram unless they pay for advertising. The reason? Instagram’s unpaid content usually doesn’t include any kind of links on the post. Alternatively, even though many brands abandoned Pinterest years ago, the platform is showing the second-strongest sales for consumer brands in the brands we’re able to sample.

What will have to occur to turn this into a sale?

Not all pet owners live on Pinterest, so pet brands leveraging other channels to build audiences will need to think about how that audience will then need to be directed in other ways to create sales. (Like subscribing them to a mailing list first.)

I teach a social media bootcamp for petpreneurs. Access the workbook for it for free as a friend of PETS+. It’ll provide you with facts and stats to help you fill in the questions above, to pick your channel and to get going. Visit causedigitalmarketing.com/petsplusmag.

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