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How to Use Pet Influencers to Grow Your Business

Recommendations from micro-influencers are twice as effective as paid advertising.

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This story was originally published in the November 2017 edition of PETS+.

WITH DOTING PET PARENTS setting up profile pages almost as soon as they bring their new pets home, it’s not uncommon nowadays to come across pets racking up huge followings online. In fact, 65 percent of pet owners post their four-legged friends to social media. It just so happens that, for a handful of them, those posts go on to garner thousands of dollars’ worth of monthly revenue as their pets grow from adorable internet distraction to full-blown influencers.

Our studies show that recommendations from micro-influencers are twice as effective as paid advertising. That may be why an increasing number of businesses have added pet influencers to their marketing strategies.

So, as the owner of a pet business, how do you leverage this new crop of micro-influencers to grow your brand?

Where to Find Them

The vast majority of pet influencers live on social media, so hit that direct message button and let their owners know why you should be partnering together.

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But as a small business owner, sometimes it’s about finding inspiration from what’s around you. Do you or someone you know have a pet? While not (yet) famous, having a pet be the face of your brand is a great way to share your story.

How to Use Them

Why would you reach out to a lovable Pomeranian rather than a seasoned influencer with opposable thumbs? “Human influencers might say something off-brand or that offends. Dogs are on message at all times,” Loni Edwards, owner of pet influencer Chloe and founder of The Dog Agency, told Fast Company. “People like pet content, and there’s higher ability of going viral.”

Now that you understand why you should consider a pet influencer, how do you go about working with them?

#Share the love. Ninety-four percent of pet owners see their pets as a member of the family. With this in mind, Chewy began surprising its customers with commissioned portraits of their pets earlier this year. Chewy also sent out 2 million holiday cards to customers last Christmas. This is the type of personalized service that ends up creating buzz online (along with glowing reviews of your business).

Bring them in-store. Sixty-five percent of stores noticed a correlation between experiential marketing and increased sales. For retailers, bringing in a pet influencer is a great way to engage with consumers. In my past life as an associate working at a pet boutique, the owner would regularly throw “tea parties” — a gathering for her and her top customers’ teacup Yorkies. Those events always boosted sales for the day.

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Take up a cause. Go beyond promoting your brand, and bring attention to a pet issue you care about. Pet parents are particularly amenable to this — most are aware of the plight of unwanted or abused animals and are eager to support businesses that want to help.

Why They Work

Animals evoke an instant feeling of happiness. Tap into your customer’s emotional side to drive success without making the shopping journey feel overly transactional. “People have this perception that pets generate fuzzy feelings,” Edwards told Digiday. “Brands are [reaching] out because [pets] make people happy, and they want their ads to make people happy.”

As Hubba’s millennial retail expert, helping brands connect to the world’s largest consumer demographic is where DAYANA CADET thrives. Her work can be found on Hubba.com and trade publications such as Chain Store Age, Retail Minded and My Total Retail.  

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Pet Sustainability Coalition

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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Shawna Schuh

True Leaders Learn the Skills of Telling, Selling and Asking

Beware the overshare.

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IN AN INTERVIEW FOR a new team member, we sat down and began some preliminary chit-chat.

Admittedly, I am a curious sort; I ask more questions than most. It’s my job, after all, as a leadership coach, so when I began by asking, “Tell me a little about yourself.” I did not expect to hear what I did: The interviewee went on to share and to overshare. We found out about her marriage history, abuse, blended families, a home lost by the recession and what was wrong with her last employer.

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She was talking too much for us to ask additional questions.

According to her resume, she had the skills we needed, but we decided we wouldn’t hire her because of her oversharing habit.

Oversharing lost her the job. Over-sharing can lose you customers, too.

What is a leader to do? Well, first, be sure you aren’t the one who overshares.

My coaching clients learn early that most leaders do three things often.

1. They tell. Usually, leaders are telling their team how to do things, what the vision is, how to handle customers. Leaders tell and tell and tell. They do this because they are the ones in the know. They are making the decisions, and to be good communicators, they tell their teams.

2. They sell. This is one most leaders don’t realize they are doing, but they do it all the time. After all, you want your team bought into your vision, and you want people to get excited. Leaders are the most knowledgeable about the product or business, and most started by selling so they sell.

When you are telling and selling, sometimes you forget and overshare. Leaders get zealous about things and sometimes that leads to oversharing.
What can you do to stop yourself from the overshare? What would have helped the interviewee land the job?

3. They ask. Leaders learn to be expert askers. When you ask questions, many wonderful things happen: The people you ask questions feel valued — like their opinion matters. You learn something. And you allow others to talk, which means you aren’t talking or oversharing.

To become an expert asker, all you need do is, of course, ask questions. This is a simple concept like dieting, and, like dieting, usually not easy.

Here are two questions most any leader or anyone will benefit from asking:

What is it you want?

This question helps the other person define their goals. For customers, it helps you help them. Note: Be prepared for some silence, a lot of people really don’t know what they want. If they are quiet, simply smile and ask them something else like, “What makes you happiest?”

What can I do for you?

This question gets to the core of need. It also shows them that you are focused on them. That’s the beauty of questions: They are outward focused, and when you are outward focused, it helps you be the kind of leader, teammate, partner, a parent that others want to be around.

If nothing else, please think before you overshare!

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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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Create an Empowering Relationship Between Your Business and Your Life

Avoid burnout!

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IN THE FIRST few years running my own pet business, I made mistakes that drained me physically and emotionally and almost caused me to walk away. Instead of quitting, I made major changes to my business that have given me a life I could have only dreamed of years ago. As a pet business coach, I encourage business owners through the same mistakes with the following strategies:

Burnout Mistake: Doing All the Work Yourself

Before I transformed my business, I was working 12-hour days and still felt like I couldn’t take a day off without everything falling apart. Along the same lines, I have coaching clients tell me they have hired staff members, but spend more time dealing with staff drama than anything else.

Solution: Hire staff members you trust and are excited to introduce to your clients. After an appropriate amount of training, set your staff free to do their jobs. If you don’t think someone you are interviewing will be trustworthy to work alone, don’t hire them.

Burnout Mistake: Drowning in Administration Details

When I was starting out in business, I enjoyed the phone calls and emails. As my business becomes more successful, however, returning phone calls and emails becomes one of the most stressful and time-consuming business tasks.

Solution: If you are regularly overwhelmed by client calls and emails, hire an office assistant to help with work that doesn’t require your personal attention. Then, establish boundaries for the work you do — and stick to them. For example, don’t answer your phone after office hours and only give your personal number to your office assistant. Let your assistant act as a boundary between you and your staff and clients, giving your personal life some breathing room.

Burnout Mistake: Letting Difficult Clients Run the Show

When I was running my own pet business, I noticed that around 5 percent of my clients were incredibly difficult to work with. Even though they were a small portion of my client base, I was devoting a large percentage of my time and energy to dealing with their needs and complaints.

Solution: Be understanding but firm with difficult clients. Don’t let them pay or cancel late without a penalty. The same goes for last-minute bookings — always charge a last-minute fee. The first year I charged for last-minute reservations, I earned over $5,000 that year just in last-minute fees! We teach others how to treat us by how we respond. Your clients will either change the way they treat you or take their business elsewhere. Regardless of which they choose, you’ll have more time and energy!

Burnout Mistake: Caring More for Others Than Yourself

Starting and running a business takes large amounts of energy and passion, and most pet care providers are caretakers by nature. This combination leads many pet care business owners to give their passion and creativity to their business, but at the expense of their own health and relationships.

Solution: Value your health and future by giving yourself even a few minutes each day for self care. Knowing that you should make yourself a priority is simple (and obvious to most business owners), but making it happen is not always easy and takes commitment. Disconnecting from screens and going to bed on time, budgeting money and time for nutritious meals, and getting yourself out the door for exercise can be difficult adjustments at first. The payoff in energy and health will be worth the effort.

If your business isn’t working for you in its current state, you may find that it isn’t really working at all. Make the changes you need to establish more balance and peace in your business, and that will have a ripple effect in your personal life.

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