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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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JIM ACKERMAN

Things Are Looking Good in the Pet Business … but Don’t Get Too Comfortable

PETS+'s marketing guru just wants to remind you that eventually, the upswing will become a downturn. When that happens, will you be ready?

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Editor's Note

Our Resolutions Include a New Look

With the launch of a new website and a refreshed design, we’re ready for 2019.

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NEW YEAR, NEW LOOK. You may notice the results of our own New Year’s resolution in the following pages. We have refreshed and updated the design of PETS+ in order to make our business-building advice even easier to consume and digest. (We like to think of ourselves as pet business nutritionists!)

Look out for new bells and whistles, like “Favorite Sellers” on our Products+ cover (page 13), in which we ask Brain Squad members what one product they find themselves recommending over and over again. We want readers to have the ability to give a shout out to those companies that not only manufacture great products for independent pet businesses but that also stand behind, even partner with, small businesses, recognizing how important they are to pet-owning consumers.

In our new design, you will see a lot more mentions of our companion website, petsplusmag.com — one of our other New Year’s resolution projects. If you haven’t been to our website in the past few weeks, you’re in for a surprise: We redesigned and rebuilt it from the ground up. You’ll find a vibrant, easy-to-navigate homepage, complete with news, favorite magazine features, photo galleries and educational videos. You’ll also find extra content we just didn’t have room for in the pages of PETS+.

And while it’s great that it’s so easy to search and navigate on a desktop computer, just wait until you try it on your mobile device. It’s going to give your kids another reason to remind you: No phones at the dinner table!
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We’re excited about the projects we have in store for the new year, and we’re encouraged to hear bullish predictions from our readers. Be sure to read some of those — and the overflow online — on page 8.

Best wishes for your business,
 
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Ralf Kircher
Editor-in-Chief, Pets+
ralf@petsplusmag.com

Five Great Tips From This Issue You Can Do Today

  1. Scour Craigslist for a real bakery case for your decorated biscuits. (Hot Sellers, page 14)
  2. Offer a seasonally themed scent-of-the-month spa package. (Hot Sellers, page 14)
  3. Buy discounted holiday cards now to send to your best customers in December. (The Big Story, page 25)
  4. Host a clearance sale with a “detox” theme. (The Big Story, page 25)
  5. Help your customers achieve their pets’ resolutions with a free weigh station. (Tip Sheet, page 38)

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Shawna Schuh

Keep Score. Are You Missing a Big Piece of the Business Puzzle?

When you keep track or keep score, you have so much you can do with that information.

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IS TRACKING YOUR PROGRESS a missing piece of your business puzzle?

Vince Lombardi once said: “If it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?

When you keep track or keep score, you have so much you can do with that information:

1. Know how far you’ve come

One of my business coaches pointed out how often we are focused on the future, and so we miss celebrating how far we’ve come. When you track your progress it’s easier to say, “Wow! We’ve come this far, let’s keep going!”

2. Know if you are winning and by how much

We wouldn’t watch basketball, baseball, or any of the ball sports if two teams were simply playing for fun. We want to know who is the stronger, better or luckier team that day, and we know there is an ending point. We stay to see who won, by how much and how each team acts afterwards. When you keep track of your results, you know where you are and when.
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3. Tweak your actions to shift and improve your results

When you track things, patterns emerge. As a coach that’s one of my jobs: to note my clients’ patterns and tweak to improve results. When you track your progress and results, you are giving yourself the gift of seeing what is working and tweaking or eliminating what isn’t.

4. Celebrate along the way

This is something I missed when I was starting out, and it cost me some team members. I was too focused on the doing, going, getting-it-done attitude, and so I didn’t stop and recognize some of the milestones that would have given me and the team a break, a bigger reason to keep going and a way to create culture. Like dog training, when you recognize and praise the right actions, you get more of them.

5. Teach it down and out

When you track your efforts and results, you have the opportunity during the review of those efforts and results to teach, to demonstrate, or to ask for a lesson in how it worked and how to repeat it. “Show me how you got this result” is a powerful request for when it’s going well and when it isn’t.

If we don’t track what was done, it’s all a mystery. You’re planning or buying or reacting in a void. Are you willing to live in the dark this year?

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A Written Manual Helps Maintain Your Branding Throughout Your Business

Absence of this might be one of the reasons for a drop in a store’s sales.

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ONE OF THE BEST WAYS to guarantee that your employees maintain the look and feel of your store is a custom visual standards manual, or CVSM. Such a manual details how a store should look and how to keep it looking that way. A good manual allows room for change and teaches employees how to be creative while staying within the boundaries of the business’s image and brand.

Visual standards include everything that can be seen as you drive or walk up to, into and through a business. It includes: lighting, signage, flooring, surface materials, fixtures, merchandising, displays, focal areas, aisles, wrap desks, daily maintenance, safety standards, back room standards, washroom standards and office standards.

Each person has his or her own style of creativity. Some of those creative endeavors may not exactly be in keeping with your image. A standards manual clarifies your image and gives clear direction and boundaries to the various styles and quality of individual creativity and expression.

If a chain of pet stores (of any size) has an image that requires presentation standards, or you are recreating your image, a manual is one of the first steps to making this transition happen consistently.

How to develop a CVSM:

1. Assign this job to one or two people who have a clear understanding of your visual merchandising, fixtures, signage, store design direction, and overall brand and image. If you choose two people, consider one in marketing and one in operations. Or, hire someone from the outside with CVSM and pet store experience.

2. Develop an outline for the manual. Add a chapter for each area of your store. You’ll be describing the fixtures in each area and how to merchandise each one. Add chapters on non-selling spaces, lighting, signage and safety.

3. Take a ton of photos. Before and after shots of merchandise presentation and displays are especially valuable and great teaching tools.

4. Determine what final format will work best for your employees and stores: a loose-leaf book, a bound printed manual, a webinar in several parts, or a training movie. In each case, you may consider a quiz after each section to make sure your employees actually looked at the CVSM. Flexibility for changes is important so plan that into your format.

5. Have company-wide meetings and introduce the manual either in a seminar or hand it out to each person. If it’s in digital format, give everyone the link, and let them know when they will be quizzed on the book. That’s pretty much the only way they’ll look at it all the way through.

Rather than just stating rules, explain why the rule exists and why it’s necessary. Pare down the information so it’s a good mix of photos and copy. People today are used to reading bullet points and listening to sound bites. Less is more, and a picture is worth 1,000 words.

The ultimate purpose of producing a CVSM is to have a standard that all employees are required to live up to on a daily basis. If one store is falling down in sales, one of the most easily observable issues may be the visual presentation.

Consider a CVSM even if you have only one location. It will help your business stay attractive, neat, clean and welcoming. All this will reflect on your sales and service in a positive way.

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