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6 Simple Steps to Getting Great Online Reviews

Learn the know-how of excellent online reviews.

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MOST CUSTOMERS CHECK OUT online reviews to see how happy (or ticked off) your customers are and to find out what your product or service is really like before buying. And this spells a huge opportunity. According to Matt Frary writing in Forbes, “Customers spend 31 percent more with a business that has excellent reviews.”
It’s simple: Beyond building a loyal base of these ideal clients, thrilled customers are the folks who can help you attract even more clients to your business and get them to spend more. In its simplest form, this happens through online reviews. But how?

Here are six steps:

1. Create a short customer satisfaction survey. This gives you valuable insight into what your customers liked (or didn’t) about their experience or your products or services. It also helps you understand who’s the happiest about your business and what they’re happy about. Doing this doesn’t have to be hard. Try a 10-question Google Survey.

2. Don’t let your own fear drive your questions. Imposter syndrome is real. Waaaaaaaay too many petpreneurs pre-judge their own offerings, which can shade your survey questions and create a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, someone may not think anything about your price point … until you ask whether it’s “too expensive.” Suddenly, to them, it is because you’ve suggested it is. Instead of asking about price or other things you may be afraid to hear, focus on basics like the value, quality and overall experience of working with you. Give them space for a one- to five-star rating and an open-comment box to describe why they feel this way. This helps you get their deeper perceptions without coloring it for them.

3. Automatically trigger your survey after purchase. Consider enclosing a request for survey participation on your receipts. And never underestimate the value of a good incentive for survey participation.

4. Approach your happiest clients about doing a review. Once the surveys start rolling in, create a second email or outreach that goes out only to the happiest customers. (Some studies suggest that customers believe reviews more readily if not all of them are perfect, so consider reaching out to those who gave you three-plus star ratings instead of just five-star reviews.) The gist is the same for everyone: You’re asking those most satisfied with your offering to help you help other pet guardians by leaving a review.

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5. Make it easy and tell them where to go. Satisfied customers may have goodwill built up toward you, but they’re busy too. Being respectful of their time can help you get far. Make reviewing you take as little time as possible by including some direct quotes from their survey (or even a full copy of it) that they can copy and paste from. Also, be sure to let them know which social review platform you’d like them to use. Give them one to three choices and link directly to each for them.

6. Say thank you. They feel recognized, and it ensures they’ll keep coming back to you time and time again.

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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Very Few Pet Businesses Do This With Their Ads … But You Definitely Should

Testing and tracking your ads can make a huge difference in the ROI that you get, says marketing specialist Jim Ackerman. But very few pet businesses take the proper steps to run successful ad campaigns. Here, Ackerman shows an example of what effective testing looks like.

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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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