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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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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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Editor's Note

What I Learned at the Wellness Summit

The first PETS+ trade event sent us all home armed with shared information and a sense of community.

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IN OCTOBER, PETS+ hosted its first trade event — the PETS+ Wellness Summit — in which we tried an experiment: We wanted to bring the spirit of the magazine to life, complete with retailers and service providers sharing real-world knowledge and experience, alongside experts from manufacturers whose products those businesses stock, sell and use.

During those two days just outside Chicago, I know from the responses of those who attended, folks soaked in that sharing of information and went back home reinvigorated and better prepared to meet the needs — and address the concerns — of their customers.

I too left armed with new knowledge that I hope we’ll soon be pouring into upcoming issues of PETS+.

Specifically, I learned of a growing consensus to refer to raw food as “fresh.” Coming from the perspective of a consumer as much as a pet industry insider, that’s a shift I can appreciate. Deep down, there’s a squeamish factor in “raw” that I realize is irrational, but “fresh” is a term we can all embrace — and already gladly pay more for when shopping for human groceries.

I learned also that pet pros face many of the same challenges, even if their businesses are located thousands of miles apart. But when they sit down at a table together and share those challenges, their peers gladly offer up suggestions based on their own experiences. That’s heartening, and I hope PETS+, our website, Facebook community and Brain Squad will stand in for that dinner table when you aren’t able to meet face to face.

Mostly, though, I confirmed what I suspected: that PETS+ readers are every bit as cool in person as they are when hearing from them via phone and email. I, for one, hope I’ll be seeing you face to face at many more events PETS+ will host in the future. Stay tuned!

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Ralf Kircher
Editor-in-Chief, Pets+
ralf@petsplusmag.com

Five Great Tips From This Issue That You Can Do Today

1. This year, launch a new holiday tradition, such as everyone wearing red and green bowties. (Manager’s To-Do List, page 12)
2. Eliminate clutter and distractions in your business’s “decompression zone” to allow customers to acclimate. (Manager’s To-Do List, page 12)
3. To sell more of an item, try bundling at a set price. (Hot Sellers, page 16)
4. If you sell treat holders, run a buy-one-get-the-treat-free promotion. (Hot Sellers, page 16)
5. Prepare a flu kit for your business, complete with EmergenC, cough drops, vitamin C drops, pain medicine, alcohol wipes, Lysol and more. (Tip Sheet, page 38)

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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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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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5 KPIs to Transform Your Social Media

See few simple targets that even those who dread data will learn to love.

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RECENTLY, I DOVE into the top five key performance indicators (KPIs) that will transform how you market your pet business (petsplusmag.com/11191). Today, we’re going to carry those through to a few top marketing channels to turn your business’s metrics from scary and something you avoid to something you’ll be asking for! The following are a few simple targets that even those who dread data will learn to love.

Competitor Reporting

Set up Facebook competitor reporting to see your top competitors’ top-performing posts. If you haven’t already done this, this is one to set up right now. Buried within Facebook insights is something called “Pages you watch.” Add your top competitors here, and Facebook will automatically deliver you a fresh serving of those pages’ top-performing posts each week — for free! You’ll be able to see what they’re posting in one place and which of those posts got their customers’ attention. (Pro tip: Chances are, if you are competitors, it will get your customers’ attention too.) This is a great way to see instantly how you’re measuring up and get ideas for what will work well for you. It can also give you an idea of how your competitors’ sales posts perform in relation to your own.

All Posts Published

Review Facebook’s All Posts Published report to see which topics are performing best on your page. Facebook makes this super simple and shows you in list form which of your posts received the highest engagement rates in the last 30 days. While some may be obvious — cute or controversial topics tend to have high engagement — some things may surprise you and let you know to talk more about them. For example, we have a pet business that kept trying to talk about topics unrelated to what they sold. However, a quick look at this report proved that posts dealing directly with the products and services they provided had the highest response from people who followed their page. Suddenly, the other kinds of posts were a lot less important to their strategy.

Audience Reports

Take a peek at Facebook and Instagram’s audience reports to see when your audience is online (and when to post). Both Instagram and Facebook pages provide businesses with a roundup of what time of day your audience is using the platforms. Consider posting shortly before the morning rush and evening rush for maximum exposure. Likewise, some email platforms will suggest times of day for emails based on where the people in your list are located.

1,000 Followers

Get past 1,000 followers on each important social channel, then reevaluate whether you need more. We’ve often noticed that 1,000 followers seems to be a sort of magic threshold for pet businesses: Suddenly potential customers are able to see that other people like and trust you, and are therefore more likely to do so as well. Yet, our experience shows that struggling to hit 10,000-plus seems to make little difference for local pet-industry brands. While some additional functionality is opened up at 10,000 followers on Instagram and it’s helpful for national entities, keep a close eye on whether it’s worth the time and money to get there. You may get more bang for the buck on building out recent stellar online reviews, or placing your products on Pinterest once you pass the magic 1,000-follower number as a local business.

Traffic Drivers

Take a quarterly peek at which channels are driving the most traffic to your website and to your store. Typically, these will be very different and not include Instagram at all. Many pet brands that have well-optimized websites find that Pinterest, email and Google drive the most clicks to the website while Facebook’s still a strong performer for foot-traffic (along with Google and email). Knowing which channels will lend themselves to driving specific actions will help you streamline your communications and prioritize your budget based on the sales goals you’ve set.

Give the above five KPIs a quick scan every few months to see what stands out and surprises you — that’s usually a good indicator of an opportunity!

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