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Basic Info and Stats

Simple guidance for entering the basics.

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YOU’VE DETERMINED that you’re eligible, made note of your login email address and password (and put them in a place they won’t get lost), appointed someone to take the lead on your contest entry and scheduled a few minutes each week to work on it. At this point, it’s time to start your entry.

Those New Checkboxes Up Top

This year, we have two new checkbox options at the top of the page that we need you to check before continuing with your entry.

The first checkbox is to confirm that you understand that all winners of the contest — from first place through honorable mention — are required to give an interview to PETS+ editors for a feature story in the magazine.

Quick background: In the past, in our three publications, we’ve had several instances where, after judging was completed, business owners decided that they weren’t happy with where their store finished (“We only want to be featured if we come in first place!”) and refused to be interviewed.

This is unfair to all the other participants, as well as to the judges who spent their time judging the contest. If you can’t handle not finishing first, then please don’t enter the contest. America’s Coolest Stores is an extremely competitive contest, the toughest and most comprehensive in the industry, and to be voted anywhere in our top 12 businesses should be a point of pride and a testament to the extremely cool business you have built.

But if you can’t handle second place, then please don’t waste your time … or ours.

The second checkbox asks if you’d like to have editors review your entry before judging begins and provide hints on ways in which you can improve it.

This is a new service we’ve started offering this year, in an effort to increase the overall quality of entries and to help stores differentiate themselves from competitors. To benefit from this service, you must submit your entry before our early bird March 1 deadline.

Finish your entry, click “Submit”, and our editors will get back in touch with you with a review of your entry and some basic ideas on where you might improve it. For some businesses, this might be better or different photography, or more examples of marketing, or a different approach to your text entry. For some businesses, we might not have any advice at all.

For entries where we recommend additional changes, we will then provide you with a link that lets you revise your submitted entry.

Please remember that, if you submit your entry after March 1, you won’t be able to benefit from this service.

General Info and Business Stats

The general information required is pretty straightforward. One potentially tricky bit: It’s possible that your contact email (see below) will be different from your login email.

For example, maybe you, the owner, signed in initially using your email address as the login. But now you’ve handed the job off to an employee who has her own email.

The contact email is exactly what it sounds like: the email address we’ll use to get in touch with you about your entry. So the contact email should be that of whoever is handling the contest entry. If it’s the same as the login email, that’s fine. If it’s different, just remember that, so that you’re not confused later about which address to use to log in. (That would be the login email.)

You can skip the “Online Presence” section for the moment; we’ll cover it later. For now, go to “Business Stats.”

Again, pretty straightforward. If your location hasn’t been renovated since it opened, enter the same year for “Year Opened Featured Location” and “Year Last Renovated.” (It seems redundant, but that way we know you didn’t just accidentally miss filling that line out.)

Other questions include your number of full and part-time employees, your total square footage, top brands and buildout cost (if you don’t have the exact numbers for any of these, just give us the closest estimate you can provide.)

Finally, we ask for to the people who helped you build your store — the architect and design firms that helped you build your dream business.

If you have any questions about preparing your entry for the America’s Coolest Stores contest, email them to us at coolstores@petsplusmag.com.

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America's Coolest 2019 Entries

America’s Coolest Stores: Fine-Tune Your Online Presence

We’re looking for great things in the “Online Presence” section of your contest entry.

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TECHNOLOGY MOVES FAST, so now’s a good time to make sure your online presence is up to speed.

Here at PETS+, we pride ourselves on being up on technology, and we try to devote a portion of every issue to showing pet pros how to use new media to their best advantage.

So it should come as no surprise that we look for great things in the “Online Presence” section of your America’s Coolest Stores contest entry.

The section itself is pretty self-explanatory, so here are a few extra tips that may help as you fill it out:

  • If you’re redesigning your website, link us to a preview. If your new site will be up before the contest deadline on March 15, just give us the standard URL. But if it won’t be ready, chances are your designer can provide you with a preview link, so judges can see what’s in the works. Just make a note in parentheses after the URL, so we know what we’re seeing.
  • Make sure you tell us specifically what’s cool. While our judges take a careful look at entrants’ websites, you’ll improve your chances of winning if you explicitly mention any awesome digital features. (Do you offer online ordering? Post testimonial videos from satisfied clients? Or maybe you’ve just received great comments about how useful your site is.) Alas, there’s no box in this section to make such notes, so make a note of them now to remember to include them in a later section (“What’s cool about your business?” “Provide three fun facts about your business,” or “Tell us one of-of-the-box idea you’ve implemented this year.”)
  • The internet moves fast, so there’s still time to improve things. We love to see great reviews on Yelp or Google. It’s a plus when we see a business has a strong Facebook or Instagram presence too. If you need some work in any of these areas, the good news is that it’s not too late. There’s nothing wrong with asking a few reliable clients to leave you nice reviews, and if you do that now, they’ll be posted before the judging begins. Same goes for asking for Facebook likes. (If you’re especially enterprising, consider setting up a laptop or tablet on the salesfloor, so willing folks can do it right then and there.) It’s certainly not cheating — these are things we think you ought to be doing regardless, so consider the contest a useful kick in the butt.

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America's Coolest 2019 Entries

America’s Coolest Thank You Page 2019

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America's Coolest 2019 Entries

America’s Coolest Stores: The Rest of the Story

We’re looking for stories that capture our attention.

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IN TIP #7, we started in on the text portion of your America’s Coolest Stores contest entry. This time, we’ll finish the rest of those sections.

Our 2019 entry form allows you to select three or more of eight questions. We’re trying to get to know your business as well as we can without setting foot in it, so we’re looking for specifics.

Important note: Make sure you select the checkboxes for the questions you wish to answer. Once you do, the text boxes for those responses will appear. (See sample below.)

Here are the questions:

What’s cool about the physical design of your business?

We realize you may be limited by such things as rules of a strip mall, local ordinances, etc., but what we want to know is how is your physical design, inside and out, different from other pet businesses?

What’s cool about your staff? What cool things do you do for them?

Do you have staff members with any exceptional talents or abilities? Do you train your staff or encourage them to seek out learning opportunities?

What’s cool about your digital presence? (Including website, social media, online ordering, texting, etc.)

Everyone has a website anymore; we’re looking for what makes yours — and your social media — different from other businesses. Tell us about online initiatives that have worked for you.

What’s cool about your marketing?

In the age of the internet, marketing can mean everything from a Yellow Pages ad — which is so old, it’s new again — to radio, to social media. Let us know what has really worked for you.

What’s cool about your community presence?

The coolest businesses are often integral parts of their communities. Let us know what sorts of community outreach you do, even if it may not be pet-related.

What’s cool about the operational or structural part of your business?

Here’s a potentially wonky question. We’ve heard of some businesses that have novel pay or commission structures, that provide insurance even to part-time employees, that hire high school kids seasonally, that go high-tech when it comes to inventory, that build sustainability into all their business practices. Here’s you chance to fill us in on what might be boring minutiae to anyone but us here at PETS+!

What’s cool about your customer experience?

We’re not just talking friendly service with a smile or helping someone take bags of dog food out to the car. Tell us what you do to make your customers want to keep coming back.

What’s one out-of-the-box idea you have implemented in the past year?

This could be a sales event, a promotion or ad campaign, a business policy, a training push, a sweet new product or service you’ve introduced. And remember: We value success, but we also admire courage. Maybe you tried something and it was a bust. That’s OK. If it’s sufficiently out of the ordinary, we’d love to hear about it — and why you think it didn’t work, and what you’d do differently if you try it again.

One final piece of advice: As you’re figuring out these answers, email the questions to your staff and ask for their input. This is the sort of project that is made to be crowdsourced.

That should just about bring your contest entry to a close. As ever, if you’ve got questions, concerns, or suggestions, email us at coolstores@petsplusmag.com.

 

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