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Manager's To Do

February To-Do List: Plan Those Summer Events, Shop A Competitor, Study Your Best Customers

Try these ideas to make the month more productive.

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Feb. 4-9

EVENTS In-store events are one of the best ways for independent retailers to differentiate themselves from their online peers, generate traffic and energy, build relationships, and show you’re human. They can also be a headache to organize. So let’s move on from “seat of the pants” marketing to a yearlong calendar for events and promotions, which will prove to be a huge stress reliever. Get scheduling!

STRATEGY Go out and shop a competitor this week, or send a salesperson to do it. Look to compare their customer service, sales, price points, their “unique selling point.” An understanding of the local competitive landscape will allow you to strategize better.

MARKETING Send press releases to local media outlets offering them a story about what pet owners are buying their loved ones this year. Editors love animal twists on human stories.

Feb. 11-16

PLANNING You’ve no doubt heard of the 80/20 rule. Put it into practice. Identify your top customers and make yearlong plans targeting them. Have your sales staff research what, when and how their best 20 percent of customers buy. Use this information to target their needs and deliver better and more personalized service. Input this information in your customer management database.

DATA SECURITY It’s the time of year to back up all customer and store data and other important files. (Most small business networks can be backed up to a single external hard drive.)

GOODWILL Share the love. Send Valentine’s cards to your customers with a simple message: Enjoy the day!

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Feb. 18-23

FINANCES If your fiscal year ends in December, you should have your financial statements finalized by Feb. 28. Make an appointment to see your CPA.

DECOR Winter drags on … but you can get a jump on spring with fresh flowers in your store.

ONLINE The notion of creating a sea of content in the form of a company blog that Google can’t ignore may seem daunting, but it’s actually not so hard. Start with the 100 questions customers ask on a daily base and you turn them into 100 blog posts with those questions transformed into the titles.

Feb. 25-March 2

MARKETING It’s a humble tool, but the old business-cards-in-the-fishbowl-by-the-cash-register thing still works. The reward for a weekly lucky draw? A gift card.

FINANCES Check with your bank to see if they offer payroll assistance. Many banks now provide a service that allows you to log onto their website and enter your workers’ hours. The bank then makes a direct deposit into employees’ checking account as well as paying your federal and state withholding taxes.

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Manager's To Do

America’s Coolest Pet Store, Global Pet Expo and More of This Month’s To-Do List

Take notes of these important dates!

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March 4-8

BUSINESS GLORY Submit your entry to the 2019 America’s Coolest Stores Contest by March 15. For details: petsplusmag.com/acs

FINANCE April 15, aka Tax Day, will be here before we know it. This one promises to be a particularly busy one as businesses make adjustments to reflect the new tax law’s rules and deductions, let alone the chaos caused by the shutdown. Get busy.

March 11-15

MERCHANDISING Pull out your promotional calendar and view it from the perspective of using the events primarily to manage and reduce specific inventory. Annual customer appreciation sales, food tastings, product launches, anniversary parties can all be profitable, but they will give you a greater boost if you execute them with a view to move certain items.

MANAGEMENT Download a time tracker to your phone and start logging how you spend your work life. The very act of recording can have a powerful psychological impact, leading you to use your time much more efficiently. (Warning: Brace yourself to be alarmed at how you fritter away time.)

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March 18-22

BUYING Global Pet Expo starts on the 20th. Don’t miss the PETS+ Merchandising Success Panel at Global, beginning at 4:15 p.m. America’s Coolest Stores honorees will share their expertise. See you there!

MARKETING Experiment with paid Facebook advertising. Ad prices on Facebook are determined by action, as they are on Google AdWords. You can pay based on either the number of times people see the ad or the number of times people click on it. Try both to see which is more effective. Start with a $20 budget.

March 25-29

CMR List all the people who referred customers over the past three months. Thank them with a gift card that can be used at your business, or another local (independently owned) establishment.

MARKETING Make contact with other small businesses in your market to see if they are interested in some reciprocal social media action via Instagram Highlights. In your case, you could have Florists That Inspire Us, Bakers That Know Our Weakness, and Opticians Our Tired Eyes Love.

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March Comes In Like a Sock Monkey and Goes Out Like a Cuddly Kitten

See what March has for you.

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1 About National Sock Monkey Day, Stacy Busch-Heisserer of Busch Pet Products in Cape Girardeau, MO, has this to suggest: “There are some super cute sock monkey dog toys out there now. Set the monkeys up on a fun display or place them all over the store, in some unusual places, with signage attached, announcing the holiday.”

3 If there were a better occasion for encouraging memes on social media than If Pets Had Thumbs Day, we can’t think of one. Start with your own, and ask followers to contribute. A quick search reveals people have already given this some serious thought.

8 Ethel or Elmer, Hortense or Horatio, Wilhemina or Egbert. Whatever your middle name is, you are duty-bound to share it with the world on Middle Name Pride Day. Fun idea: Make T-shirts with every team member’s middle name printed on them. Gather in the office, and have everybody take off his coat one by one for the big reveal.

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10 Lack of sleep can cause weight gain, moodiness and outright stupidity. Neuroscientist Russell Foster calls sleep our most important behavior, noting that while we sleep our brain consolidates our daily experiences in the form of memories and uses that information to come up with novel solutions to problems. During National Sleep Awareness Week, commit to going to bed early enough so that you wake up without an alarm clock.

10 Benjamin Franklin is credited with first proposing the idea of Daylight Saving Time in 1784. He hoped to save on candles. Invite your customers for special daylight “savings” for one extra hour on the first day of the sale.

14 Albert Einstein — big brain, big heart, big lover of animals. On the 140th Anniversary of his Birthday, hold — what else? — a brainstorming session with staff or mentors. Use something he actually said as a starting point: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

15 Julius Caesar never saw it coming. Honorable, trusted, popular Brutus was a member of his inner circle. Is there someone on your team who has the potential to do damage to your business? On Brutus Day, take note: It’s the Ides of March, so remember the three Ts when it comes to underperforming staff: Tolerate, Train or Terminate.

17 Banish snakes? Perish the thought, especially if you sell reptiles. Here’s a much better way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day: Banish the winter blues. It’s the perfect date to raise a toast and bid the cold months farewell. Lay out some green drinks (kombucha, green tea, anything but beer), green edibles and give prominent display to any environmentally friendly pet food and treats. Everyone loves a party … and it’s really not so hard being green.

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23 Hope you had a good night’s sleep: National Puppy Day, World Turtle Day and Cuddly Kitten Day all fall on the same day. You’ve got your work cut out for you.

MORE EVENTS

March 4  Day of Unplugging. The challenge: 24 hours without phone or Internet contact. Can you do it? The benefits are said to be surprising.
March 6  It’s Professional Pet Sitters Week. True professionals are a great resource. Build a database.
March 20-22 Global Pet Expo. Break out — then break in — your comfortable shoes.
March 20 Spring — the season of renewal — brings visions of warmer days, clearer skies, budding flowers and frisky animals. It also means it’s time for spring cleaning. Get to work!
March 30 50th anniversary of Jeopardy, the thinking person’s game. Run some animal quizzes on your Facebook feed to celebrate.

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February Events to Note in Your Business: Chinese New Year, Wear Red Day, Love Your Pet Day

Note these dates on your February calendar.

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1 Brace for an education. The word February comes from februare, which means “to purify” in the dialect of the ancient Sabine, one of the founding tribes of the early Roman kingdom. One theory is that this had to do with how the Romans honored the dead and performed rites of purification in February. And so what’s it got to do with pet retail? Everything. The holiday season is done. The big shows lie ahead; it’s time to purify your dead inventory. If it didn’t sell between November and Feb. 14, it’s probably not going to sell in a hurry. Purify!

2 Today marks 16 years since the first National Wear Red Day to raise awareness about the No. 1 killer of women in the U.S.: heart disease. Bring out a line of red collars or pet jackets. Get involved in a business or community activity or co-host a red-themed party with a neighboring retailer. Check out heart.org/heartorg/volunteer for more ways you can get involved as a small business.

4 No advertising medium divides pet professionals like Facebook. Some swear by it; others swear it’s a waste of time. Still, with more than 2 billion users you need to be sure you’ve fully explored its potential. On the 15th anniversary of the day Mark Zuckerberg and three friends launched The Facebook, adopt the company’s motto, “Move Fast and Break Things,” and commit to shaking things up with your social marketing. Test some sponsored posts. Get super specific with your targeting. Try a contest, try more video, follow the PETS+ Facebook page at
facebook.com/petsplusmag.

5 Bow down and welcome the pig. It’s Chinese New Year, and it’s the swine’s time to shine. Unlike his Western cousin, the pig in China is considered a patient, trusty character that attracts success in all spheres of life. It means 2019 could be a great year to invest and make money, although probably best if you steer clear of the mini pig trend. Who knew those cute little teapot squealers could grow into a 300-pound house guest?

10 Death of a Salesman marks its 70th anniversary today and while never comfortable, viewing it provides a useful reminder about the need to keep up with the times and our aspirations grounded. What’s your American dream in 2019? Maybe this is a good time to ask.

11 In the human world, red-carpet season peaks this month with, first the Grammys and then the Oscars. In the dog world, the spotlight is firmly on the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden. Ready your social media guns to provide daily roundup of commentary and images of the stars strutting their stuff.

14 According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend more than $750 million on their pets for Valentine’s Day this year. Sure, that’s an average sale of only $5.50, although some tickets will be much higher. Stock up on treats, accessories and costumes in the appropriate price ranges.

20 On National Love Your Pet Day, ask customers to share photos of their pets with the hashtag #nationalloveyourpetday. Perhaps run a contest for the most popular post with a gift card as the prize. People love it when their pet is featured on a store’s Instagram or Facebook page, says Stacy Busch-Heisserer, owner of holistic pet supply store Busch Pet Products in Cape Girardeau, MO.

MORE EVENTS

Feb. 1  Pet Dental Health Month … well-being starts at the mouth. Explore dental hygiene products you can promote.
Feb. 1  Beat the Heat Month, National Prevent a Litter Month Spay/Neuter Awareness Month. Yep, the longer days mean something is in the air. Play your part.
Feb. 1  GI Joe, the action figure made his debut on this day 45 years ago, and more than a few came to a grisly end in the jaws of the house pet. Celebrate his birthday with a special on dog chews.
Feb. 3  St. Blaise Day. Light a candle to the bishop, martyr, healer of wild animals and patron saint of veterinarians.
Feb. 4  Pet Theft Awareness Day — Make sure your customers know about micro-chipping and pet protection services available in your area.

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