Customers become the best ads with incentives to tell their friends.

If the pups who visit Treats on a Leash could talk, they would tell all of their pals about the store’s tasty offerings. They can’t, of course, so their humans provide the positive word of mouth that has helped make the Ames, IA, business so successful.

Owners Michael and Barb Morris recently gave their top spenders a financial incentive for such high praise. After all, Michael says, “Our best customers are our best advertisements.”


THE IDEA

Rewards for Referrals

Michael and Barb belong to Pet Boss Club, run by Candace D’Agnolo, who recommends sending thank you letters to top spenders.

The couple took her advice a step further in October 2017.

“We wrote letters to our top 25 customers and included two $20 gift certificates: one for them and another for someone who had never been to our store,” Michael says. The goal was to bring in new shoppers while rewarding their most loyal.


THE EXECUTION 

Snail Mail Marketing

Michael and Barb pulled the names and addresses of their top-25 spenders for the year from the Treats on a Leash point-of-sale system. They then sat down and handwrote thank you letters on store stationery.

“For the most part, the body of the letter was the same, but we did personalize them with pet names and a few other details,” Barb says.

They mailed the letters and gift certificates, with instructions to pass along the second one, and awaited their redemption. Certificates were good through Jan. 31, encouraging holiday shopping but allowing for busy schedules.


THE RESULTS

68 Percent Response

Of the 25 sets of certificates sent out, 17 were used by both the existing customer and the new — a 68 percent response rate. Four sets had one or the other certificate redeemed.

Employees tracked their use and tailored service to suit the redeemer.

“If someone was new to us, we put them in our system and signed them up for our loyalty program. We gave them a brochure about our store and asked questions about their pets,” Michael says. “It was a good opportunity to get to know them and for them to get to know us.”

The couple was especially thrilled when their products proved a match for new shoppers.

“We had a referral come in, and they saw that we carry Taste of the Wild. ‘That’s what we feed our dog,’ they said. Now we have a new pet food customer. We love them because they come back again and again. 

 

Do It Yourself: Five Steps to Thank You Rewards and Referrals 

  • Decide when to mail. During a slow time to boost business? During the holidays with the spirit of giving in mind?
  • Determine how many certificates you feel comfortable sending and at what value, considering your store’s markup.
  • Identify top spenders, crossing staff off the list as they already get rewarded via employee discounts.
  • Handwrite letters to customers and their pets, mailing them with pet-centric stamps
  • To tailor service, put existing customer names on both certificates but mark one as the referral.

 This article originally appeared in the April 2018 edition of PETS+.