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Candace D'Agnolo

3 Principles Learned While Traveling That You Can Apply to Your Business

A trip to South Africa was ‘one of the best things I’ve done,’ Candace writes.

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TRAVELING TO SOUTH AFRICA was one of the best things I’ve done with my time and money. I went with eight other women entrepreneurs, visiting local businesses that are making a big impact in their communities. While their products and services may have been different from pets, their business models and attitudes provided inspiration, no matter the industry.

Farm-to-table dining and products were available at Babylonstoren.

CURATION. At Babylonstoren, we experienced farm-to-table dining and products. They grow everything they use in their hotel and restaurant right there on the property. From the meats, cheese and vegetables at dinner, to the bath soaps, shampoos and wine in the room, it’s all made on site. Because of seasonal changes in availability of the ingredients, the menu is always variable, consistently fresh and curated.

The takeaway: Are there local farmers, meat packers or treat makers who you can get involved with? Do you have a set of standards you measure your products by? How fresh are your goods? In retail, your entire shop should be averaging a turn of at least 4. We encourage our clients to have new merchandise every 90 days or more.

“Biodynamic” wine from Waterkloof.

QUALITY. At Waterkloof Wine Estate, they produce “biodynamic” wines, which means they don’t put chemicals in their products and work to create a diverse, balanced ecosystem that generates health and vitality. Horses can be seen tilling the ground. Cows walk the vineyards to fertilize the soil. And if a wine doesn’t turn out to their standards, they just don’t use it. Their success comes not only from the great wine they produce, but from the quality they demand every step of the way.

The takeaway: Start caring about the “health” of your business from the inside out. Would taking better care of your team result in better customer service? Yes! Would ensuring your products are looking their best turn into more sales? You bet!

Charcuterie platter served on a tree trunk slab.

EXPERTISE. At Culture Club Cheese, we received a massive charcuterie platter served on a tree trunk slab. The owner of the shop shared with us all about the cheeses, where they came from and the history behind each. As our group asked questions, the shop owner shared further about discovering the cheese at the world’s largest cheese festival in Italy. This story kept many of us engaged and interested, while others listened and shopped for goodies to eat later.

span class=”company-or-featured-name”>The takeaway: Share more about the products you’re selling. Learn the stories behind the brands. Share reasons why you chose to bring it in and what your excitement was when you discovered it. This will help your customers connect to you and the products you represent.

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I really loved that all the places we discovered knew exactly who they were, what their vision was, and the fact they acted in alignment with each every day. Use expertise, quality and curation to build loyal customers, to convert more sales and to position yourself as an industry expert in your community.

Candace D’Agnolo owns successful pet business Dogaholics and offers business consulting at Pet Boss Nation. For help creating a customized 90-day plan to tackle all your business goals, download a free worksheet, at petbossnation.com/petsplus. Contact her at hello@petbossnation.com.

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Pet Sustainability Coalition Presents: Critical Sustainability Strategies for Retailers

This webinar, held on November 7, 2019, is the second in a series from PSC discussing how retailers can establish sustainable practices in their business. Moderated by PSC’s Andrea Czobor, the webinar unveils data behind the increasing consumer demand for sustainable products, what retailers have to gain from connecting with these purpose driven consumers, and a new PSC program that makes finding these products easier for retailers.

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Candace D'Agnolo

10 Questions to Ask Yourself to Ensure Perfect Vision for Your Pet Business

Because authenticity counts.

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IT’S THE BEGINNING of a new year, so you’ve probably been bombarded with media and people talking about your vision and goals. Especially since it’s “2020.” Get it? 20/20. Perfect vision?

I’m not sure that in business a vision can be “perfect” because we never know what roadblocks lay ahead and what pivots we will make. But having a clear vision will motivate your team, inspire you and your customers, and help you make decisions as you scale your business. I’m here to tell you that finding your authenticity is critical to your vision being a success.

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Dictionary.com defines the word “authentic” as:

  • Not false or copied; genuine; real
  • Having an origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified
  • Representing one’s true nature or beliefs; true to oneself or to the person identified

Authenticity has never been more important than it is in today’s hyper-connected world where your customer’s voice is louder and more influential than ever. You’ve likely experienced that to be true with reviews, customer comments in your store and how they act on social media.

There’s something very special at the core of what you do. While many can carry the same products or offer the same services at similar price points in a similar neighborhood with a look and feel that mirrors yours, no one can effectively copycat an authentic business self.

Answer these questions to ensure you’re interweaving authenticity into your business:

  1. Are you always “real”? And honest with your customers, team and vendors?
  2. What makes your company memorable?
  3. What’s one thing you could change/enhance/feature that would make your company more memorable?
  4. How do you make people feel?
  5. What unique traits/skills/talents do you personally contribute to your company?
  6. Are you consistent in your customers experience?
  7. Are you responsive?
  8. Can you back up why you carry what you do? Or back up why you hire who you do? Or why you run your business the way you do?
  9. What are three key words that would describe who you truly are? Can you incorporate them into your business more?
  10. Have you gotten clear on who you serve? Not every pet owner is your customer!

Customer trust is never bought but earned. Their B.S. meter is strong. The more you can convey your company values and beliefs as well as live all of the questions above, your bigger picture vision for your company will come to life! As Maya Angelou said “People may forget what you said, but they will not forget how you made them feel.” Authenticity will carry your vision a long, long way.

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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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Candace D'Agnolo

Purposeful Outreach: How to Segment Your Customer List and Communicate with a Purpose

The best emails, text messages, direct mailers and thank-you cards are relevant to the recipient and timely.

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MY LAST TWO COLUMNS covered why collecting customer information was so important, what you should collect and then ways in which you could encourage your customers to give their information to you. Now that you have your list, it’s time to communicate with them in a purposeful way that adds value. The best emails, text messages, direct mailers, thank-you cards are relevant to the recipient and timely. So how do you do that?

The first step is ensuring that your list is segmented, meaning that all your contacts are in the appropriate categories/lists. You can mark your customers with “tags” or custom fields inside your software (based on recommendations I covered previously — check out past columns here: petsplusmag.com/dagnolo).

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Segmenting will allow you to send relevant information to customers. Wouldn’t it be better for a cat customer to get a cat-related email from your business instead of hearing about a dog mom event? If the cat customer hears only about dogs, they will stop opening your emails or paying attention to your marketing.

Segmenting takes effort on your part, but once you get a system down, it will become easy for you to send the right message to your customers.

Now that you have them segmented to send relevant information, it’s important to send consistent and timely communication.

Here are a bunch of reasons to communicate with your customers:

  • Newsletter (monthly, weekly, bi-weekly)
  • Welcome to “Business Name Family”/Story behind business
  • New client/onboarding
  • Reminders
  • Promotions
  • Re-engagement for customers you haven’t seen in a while
  • Abandoned carts for online stores
  • Milestone emails
  • Special offers
  • Surveys or other request

And here’s a list of things you could share in those communications:

  • Celebrations
  • Announcements
  • Customer and team highlights
  • New products and benefits of others
  • Breaking news/recalls
  • Vendor stories
  • Your stories
  • Events
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Do’s and Don’ts

So, now you’re building your list. You know why you should be communicating with customers and what to talk about. Now it’s about being consistent in your communication. Come up with a plan to communicate at least weekly with your customers — whether it’s to the whole group or targeted segments of your list.

Sending relevant info is key. The right message must reach the right people. The most important thing about your communication is to communicate with purpose. The purpose of your communication will allow you to ensure you’re driving important and interesting communication that still supports your business.

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