PETPRENEUR, WHY DO you do what you do? Chances are you didn’t say, “To get rich.” I’d venture to guess you responded, “To help people and pets.”
After 20 years as a marketing professional studying what makes pet businesses tick, stick and grow, I’ve learned that the vast majority of us get into this industry to serve some larger purpose. (Yes, even most of the biggest pet companies started out with this in mind.)
And that’s amazing, but not just because we’re out to create something bigger than ourselves. It gives us an advantage: a marketing superpower.
Understand This Superpower
Our passion and purpose give us an opportunity few others have: to relate to our customers, staff and community in a way that strengthens our staff, makes customers refer to us and reduces our overall marketing costs.
This marketing superpower is called a few different things these days — cause marketing, corporate social responsibility, giving back — but the core is the same, and the results are astounding. At my firm, Cause Digital Marketing, we’ve seen the alignment of purpose and passion drive prosperity in big ways with our clients — as much as a 150% increase in sales in one month and a 75% decrease in overall marketing costs. But you don’t have to take my word for it:
- Harvard Business Review notes that a feeling of community and cause are two of the three biggest motivators for attracting and retaining talent. This is above salary or benefits.
- A study by Cone Communications found that authentic connections to causes they care about are not only expected, but demanded by today’s largest pet-owning group: millennials. In fact, more than nine in 10 said they’d switch brands to support a cause they care about.
Access This Superpower
Convinced and even excited? Great! There are three core steps to accessing this marketing superpower. According to our research, most pet businesses are already taking the first two, but many are stumbling on the third.
1. Connect to shared values with your customers. You’re likely already doing this to a degree. And don’t worry, this doesn’t mean taking a social or political stance with every shift in the wind. It does mean finding the hill you and your customers — and potential customers — are jointly willing to defend. If you’re not sure how, check out my August 2020 column for PETS+: “Should I Take a Social or Political Stand on My Pet Business Page?”
2. Actively volunteer to help. This is another step that most of you have down pat. Whether you’re partnering with local animal welfare organizations, raising funds for pets in need, or simply fostering an adoptable store cat, most of the pet businesses we encounter have myriad ways they’re already giving back.
3. Tell people about it. This is where we find many of you fall behind. Whether fear of opening the floodgates to requests for help or of sounding too “preachy,” many are already doing good work, but opting not to take credit. Start small: Add a feature to your newsletter, share a couple of social media posts a month, all low-cost if not free marketing and recruitment efforts. Think of this as practicing with this superpower and getting more comfortable.
Before you know it, you’ll be flying high.