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Get Your Business’s Story In Front of the Right Journalist

A few tricks of the trade to get your news into the hands of journalists via a compelling pitch…

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HERE ARE A few tricks of the trade to get your news into the hands of journalists via a compelling pitch. Pace yourself; this takes a bit of endurance.

A pitch is essentially a short synopsis to share a story idea. The best way to get started is to compose an email. If this is your first time reaching out to a media contact, be sure to introduce yourself first, addressing the reporter by name (Dear Tabitha etc.). Then summarize your news in a short paragraph or two. You don’t need to tell them everything. Just give enough detail to share the main elements and pique their interest. Lead with how your service, product or company would be beneficial to their audience. Some journalists receive dozens or even a hundred pitches a day. Get to your point quickly, and make your idea stand out. Personalize the first sentence by mentioning a topic they recently covered and how that relates to your pitch.

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Think of your angle. What is new, surprising, challenging or local about the story? Use that slant to set your tone. If there’s an emotional element, be sure to include that too. We’re all human and sometimes make choices simply because it speaks to our heart.

Write in your own words using natural language. Basically, write as if you were talking. Speaking of that, be sure to read your pitch out loud before sending. You’ll find you may need to tweak a word or two that sounds awkward or isn’t flowing. Once you complete that step, spell-check is a must.

Ready to send? Not so fast. You’re not going to send a pitch with an empty subject line are you? This is your first impression, so make it count. Here are a couple of ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • New Cat Toy Saves Furniture
  • Pet Food So Nutritious You Can Eat It Too
  • CBD Product That Gets Sedentary Dog Off Couch in One Week

OK, now you’re ready to send! Where to? You want to reach relevant journalists — most likely in the retail, pet product or pet services space. To find the right contacts, follow industry-related publications. LinkedIn.com is one great source. You can also search a topic on Google News and browse articles from there. You’ll find there is a consistent group of writers who cover topics related to your industry.

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Many writers include their email address at the end of an article or on their Twitter bio. If not, you may need to do a bit of sleuthing. You can call the outlet newsroom and ask for the information, or if you spot an address at the same publication, you can borrow the formula. For example: firstname@petsplusmag.com.

If building your own target list seems too daunting, then there are also subscription-based media databases where you can find almost all U.S. outlets, including journalists’ email addresses, phone numbers and contact tips. The downside is that they can be costly. To learn more, Google “media database.”

Phew! That was a lot of work! But you’re not done yet. How many emails get lost in your inbox? Give it a few days and follow up with a friendly phone call, highlighting the main points of your email pitch. If you’re feeling nervous, you can always ask if they’re on deadline first. If they pick up their phone, chances are they have a quick minute. Again, keep it brief and don’t take it personally if they reject your idea. If you don’t catch them at their desk, leave a polite message and let them know you’re following up on the story idea sent on X date, and reference the catchy subject line you crafted. Clearly articulate your name and phone number slowly and then repeat. You’ve got about 30 seconds to hold their interest.

Good luck! I’m rooting for you!

Kristen Levine is regarded as one of the foremost pet marketing experts in the U.S. with more than 25 years of experience. She’s developed a Pet Credible Influencer Program for brands and is a senior vice president at FWV Fetching, an integrated marketing firm that services pet-focused companies, veterinary businesses and consumer brands. Contact her at: klevine@fwv-us.com

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8 Ways to Collect New and Existing Customer Information

Incentivize new and existing customers to give you more of their information.

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LAST MONTH, I SHARED with you why collecting customer information is critical to your success. Now that you know what you want to collect from your customers, I’m focusing here on how you can incentivize new and existing customers to give you more of their information. In this three-part series, I’ll help you move from sending a random monthly mass email newsletter to truly building an engaged and active customer base. This not only means having your customers’ information, but collecting information as much as possible so you can keep growing your business!

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The most obvious example of where/when to collect their information is at the register and/or the time of purchase. (P.S. This should be a non-negotiable standard for your team when ringing people up). Here are eight alternatives to getting oh so much more information:

1. Require people to register in advance for your events. Google Forms is free and provides a link for you to share on social media or in emails for easy online signup. Eventbrite is also a fabulous tool since you can charge for the event, allow people to attend for free, and you can even ask for a donation! Some of the CRM platforms from July/August 2019 issue will allow you to build landing pages that integrate with their software, as well.

2. Do a raffle. Make sure you have each participant’s cellphone, email and address. An idea for this would be to do an online “getting to know your customers” contest on social media. Have them fill out a survey (all their info), and they get entered to win a gift card for the store.

3. Create an “opt-in” to use in a variety of places. Share it on your business cards, social media, website, emails, videos. An opt-in is when you give something away of value in exchange for your customers’ information. This can be a 10 best tips PDF, an educational video, a gift certificate — the options are endless!

4. Implement a texting service. A texting platform will help you automate the opt-in process in a wide range of places. Use your short text in keyword to get people to join a VIP Club, use it events for easy signup, add it to signage in your store and call it out on Facebook Live videos.

5. Utilize surveys, contests, polls and competitions. Outgrow.co, Survey Monkey, Google Forms, Rafflecopter and Poll-maker are among a few websites that allow you to create these for distribution as well as capturing the data you want.

6. Do a pop-up ad on your website that asks anyone visiting to fill out a brief survey for an instant 10 percent off sent to their email upon completion.

7. Offer a “whatever you can fit in [this box] in 5 minutes is yours” shopping spree giveaway on a Facebook Live video. Or if that’s too much of an expense, do a surprise grab-bag giveaway. Fill a box with whatever you want, cover/wrap it up and tell people it can be all theirs if they enter! Really talk up the goodies in there, saying they can have enough gifts and goodies for the next six months! Include a link where they can register to win.

8. Offer a coupon on their next purchase if they leave an online review of their experience. Platforms like Nextpaw + Broadly can help make this easier.

Last month, you learned why it’s important to collect customer info and what you should collect and track (petsplusmag.com/9191). And now, you have ideas to incentivize new people and current customers to opt-in. I’ll share with you ways to best communicate on a regular basis in the last installment of this three-part series in the October issue. Because aside from sending regular newsletter emails, there are lots of strategies to building raving fans who support your business!

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Track These 5 Kpis to Transform Your Marketing

These are absolutely critical to any pet business’s marketing strategy.

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THERE ARE A few key performance indicators (KPIs) that are absolutely critical to any pet business’s marketing strategy. Do you know them all for your own business?

1. Set an annual marketing budget.

Setting yourself up to restrict total marketing costs is a key part of making sure you don’t overspend and, more importantly, don’t try to do too much. Having a marketing budget forces you to prioritize and leave things out of your marketing plan, making sure that only the most important and impactful marketing tactics make the list.

2. Set an annual sales target.

Having a total amount you’d like to bring in in sales for the year lets you know in a brutally straightforward way whether your sales and marketing are achieving what you need. Here’s my pro tip: Make sure that whatever sales figure you set as your annual target is actually achievable. While setting a pie-in-the-sky sales figure invigorates and excites some, it freezes most of the pet business owners I work with. Then, when they don’t hit it (because it was unlikely they would from Day One), they feel terrible. Let your sales target energize you by setting a realistic goal you feel excited about, then watch as you get closer!

3. Check quarterly where you are in relation to each of the above.

Are you hitting your numbers? Great! Stick to your marketing plan and don’t change things up. Are you falling behind or spending more than you’d planned? It’s time to go back to the drawing board and reassess your marketing tactics, what’s working and what’s not.

4. Figure out which product or service has your highest profit margin and which is your best seller.

If this one surprises you, you’re not alone. Very few small businesses I work with know these two figures off the top of their head. The twist is that every single medium and large pet business I work with knows it, tracks it and uses it as a central piece of its selling strategy. Why? Because focusing on selling one to two products or services is infinitely easier and cheaper to do than trying to sell everything. What would be better to focus on than the thing that makes you the most, and the thing your customers love? So, sit down and do the math, and then try running your next sales promo just for these two. You’ll be surprised at the results!

5. Determine your average customer acquisition cost.

You now have a budget, know what and how much you want to sell, and have an idea for how you want to get there. Now here’s the trickiest part: How much do you spend to acquire a new customer? This KPI can be a bit nebulous and hard for even the pros to figure out, so feel free to think of it as a cost per email address or follower on social media instead. (If you use Facebook ads for email collection, this is super-simple: A target of about $2 per pet owner email is a good goal.) While this doesn’t give you a true 1:1 cost to drive a sale, it gives you the cost of finding and beginning to court a new customer. After that, your regular communications fill in, and there’s usually very little difference in cost in talking to 100 or 10,000 potential clients.

There you have it, the top five KPI to watch first to make sure your marketing plan does what it should.

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Repurpose Your Business News for All Platforms

This will leave you more time to run your business.

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LAST ISSUE, I shared advice on how to write a compelling media pitch. While proactively requesting news coverage is one way to enhance brand awareness, you can also reach your target audience by repurposing your store news through social media channels, website newsroom, blog posts, e-newsletters and press releases or media alerts.

The good news is, any content that you create can be condensed, expanded or reworked to fit another platform rather than starting from scratch. Approaching it this way will leave you more time to run your business.

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Whether you’re announcing a new hire, employee promotions, new products or services, awards or an event, there are many ways you can slice and dice to further amplify your news.

First, once you apply my tips for developing a pitch and land a media placement, you can expand visibility by sharing it on your social media channels, your website and even an e-newsletter if you have one.

If the article or news segment is available online, tag the writer and/or news outlet, and include a brief summary of the coverage with a link to the story on the outlet’s website. Journalists appreciate it when you help drive traffic to their stories and give them proper recognition.

If it’s a print piece without a link, snap a pic on your phone and post on your blog along with a brief summary including the name of the reporter and outlet.

Next, if your goal is to engage media, draft a press release or media alert including all of the details you want to share.

If you’re promoting a store event, develop a media alert that includes the who, what, when and where along with a short summary about your business and your contact information. For the headline of the alert, specify if it’s a video or photo opportunity, as well as the name or type of event and scheduled date to grab their attention.

For news related to new services, awards, partnerships, etc., develop a press release as I detailed in my April column (petsplusmag.com/9192).

Condense the content you already created for the media to reach business contacts, sales targets, employees, etc. via Instagram, Facebook, your blog or an e-newsletter. Consider including an image or video to accompany the text like a staff headshot for employee news, a video from an event or a product image. Visuals can help drive traffic to your site by improving search engine optimization, which is an important tool to expand your business. Encourage your contacts and staff to help promote your content by sharing on their social media channels as well.

As you begin to follow these tips, you’ll discover what works best for your business. I wish you luck in enhancing your visibility and meeting your goals! Keep an eye out for my next column on free media tools to help market your business, in the October issue.

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