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Candace D'Agnolo

Instagram Direct a Huge (and Temporary) Marketing Opportunity

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Petpreneurs typically have two ways to make their marketing successful: You can hustle, meaning you hit the pavement to get the word out. Or you have to pay for it, which won’t produce the results you need to see if you don’t have sufficient budget.

Fortunately, Instagram has come up with a way to have the best of both worlds … for free. Instagram Direct is one of the best networking and business development opportunities in a long time. With 700 million users and 65 percent of the world’s top 100 brands using the platform, Instagram is no longer just where the kids are hanging out. And with privacy permissions being non-existent currently for the users, you can direct-message any user. That’s right! Time to go find those ideal clients, because this free advertising opportunity won’t last forever!

Here’s my step-by-step guide to Instagram Direct to increase your opportunities.

Track Down the Best Accounts to Target 

The amazing part of Instagram is that you can find an infinite number of leads by searching for hashtags, or — better yet for local accounts — searching accounts based on your store location under “places” in the search bar. Then start looking at the most popular or recent posts of the type of person you’re targeting. The point here is to find people who are already sharing their lives on Instagram, because once a customer of yours, they will likely post about you. Dogs, cats and even pigs have their own Instagram accounts, and they often have thousands of followers!

Sniff ’Em Out for a Minute

Scroll through an account. What types of posts do they share about their pet? Where do they take them? Activities? Interests? Likes and dislikes? All it’s going to take is a single direct message to start building a relationship, so get a little background first to craft a message that will offer them the best value.

Jump In and Be a Good Dog

Good dogs don’t jump on people and they don’t bark constantly for what they want. Who doesn’t love a good dog? Take that example and think about it as it relates to starting a new relationship. It should always be about them from the start and not about you. How you can truly help them? Make their life easier? Provide a solution? How will you bring value to their needs, situation, and interests? 

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The key is to connect with the person first, provide value and then ask for the sale. Maybe you notice they love getting outside with their dog and you have a “Dog Walk Meetup” coming up. Send them a message letting them know you noticed they love getting out with their dog. Compliment them on being great active pet parent extend them a personal invitation to come to your free event.

Become Obsessed, as in a Game of Fetch

Success is still a numbers game. Sometimes we catch the ball in the air. Sometimes we get it on the bounce, and sometimes we’ve run for that ball so much that we’re finally satisfied. I know you’re busy, but you need to commit to this every day for an hour or more. Come on! It’s free! And you can target your exact ideal customer! Those registers will be ringing if you stay consistent. 

Sitting in your business wondering where all the customers are and complaining that you don’t have enough sales is like doing nothing at all. This will work. 

You aren’t paying a marketing company to tackle this task, so you’ll have to hustle a little.

Candace D’Agnolo owns a successful pet business, Dogaholics, and offers business consulting at Pet Boss Nation. Get a free 90-day Pet Boss Action planner to tackle all your business goals, at petbossnation.com/petsplus. Contact her at hello@petbossnation.com.


This article originally appeared in the September-October 2017 edition of PETS+.

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Webinar Replay: How One Store Reached the Top of the (Raw) Food Chain

Catch a PETS+ Live! webinar replay in which host Candace D'Agnolo hosts the owners of Ben’s Barketplace, the largest independent retailer of raw food in California. To see more PETS+ Live! webinars, visit https://petsplusmag.com/petspluslive.

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Candace D'Agnolo

Free Business Tools for Marketing, Growth & Team!

3 apps this writer’s business can’t live without.

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AS A BUSINESS OWNER, it can be so overwhelming to find the proper software, websites or apps to use in your business for some of the most basic tasks. There’s a lot of trial and error involved. They’re time-consuming to set up, and then you find out you dislike the program, or it isn’t working for you. Why even bother, right?!

Elsewhere in this issue (“An App for That,” page 31), readers have suggested their favorite business apps, and here, I share three of my favorites, two of which are shared by readers. These are proven apps that have been highly beneficial in my business for digital marketing, organization and scheduling. I hope you will find them as useful as I do!

Linktr.ee for Instagram

If you use Instagram, you know that you can’t hyperlink to anything in your posts, and you only have one space to put a clickable URL in your profile. This is why you often see, or perhaps write yourself, “Link in Bio,” and then you have to constantly change the link. As time passes on, so does your post, but the link never gets updated because you forget.

Linktr.ee gives you one URL to put in your bio, but you can connect an unlimited amount of destinations to your Linktr.ee URL. There are free and paid versions, allowing for branding, email capture and more. Send your followers anywhere: articles, web store, events, socials and more. Only your custom Linktree URL stays within your Instagram bio.

Maybe you want to direct customers to your website homepage, then your grooming appointment scheduler, your Facebook Event list for your anniversary party, your training class schedule, your wholesale website. By not utilizing this super-easy tool, you are missing out! And your customers are, too!

Trello for Organization

I’ve been using Trello since 2011 when it was released. I’ve tried a dozen other project management/team tracking/organization tools since, and I just keep coming back to Trello. It allows you to keep all your systems, process, checklists, research, customer conversations and order flow organized, all in one location.

Trello allows you to create all kinds of lists via boards, lists and cards almost like virtual Post-It Notes, all organized into journals. But they are Post-It Notes on steroids! You can make checklists, attach photos, assign team members, link to other cards and communicate with your team about intricate and specific details, from customer issues to shipment details. Additionally, add due dates, duplicate lists easily and store ideas.

You can also set notifications, so when anyone updates a task you see what changes were made, or what was marked completed. Everything is in real time, so when an update happens, everyone sees it immediately. I use Trello for just about everything in my business and personal life to keep on top of my tasks — even to shop for groceries.

When I Work for Scheduling

When I Work allows managers, like at our doggie daycare, to easily schedule their employees, keep track of clocking in and out, and availability, and it is convenient for employees to view and manage their schedules as well. The best part is, you can use this on your mobile device or desktop computer. This also allows you to view multiple locations if you have more than one.

This intuitive program allows companies to easily schedule their staff. You can create shift templates that allow you to quickly copy and paste a previous week, then edit as needed. Managers and employees can communicate and leave notes for each other. Everyone can get notifications as well. Employees can view their schedule, update their availability, request time off, swap shifts and more all from their mobile devices. There is also a function where employees acknowledge they have viewed their schedule. There are free and paid versions of the software.

With these tools, you can successfully funnel new customers, stay more organized than ever with projects and easily schedule employees — all for free!

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Candace D'Agnolo

3 Ways to Get More Bang for Your Buck at Festivals

Just gotta have the right strategy.

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WITH WARMER WEATHER coming, it will be time for outdoor pet fests and fundraisers. Having a booth at an event can be a significant investment, both in money and in time. Get the biggest bang for your buck by having the right strategy.

Be a Center of Attention

One of the first things to consider is hosting an activity. You can ask the organizer whether you can run an activity at your booth or sponsor something already planned. For example, one client sponsored the “fun zone.” Her booth was near the entrance of this area, and as a result she constantly had people standing and waiting for the agility equipment and games. The pet parents shopped while they were in line with their fur kids.

Or you can come up with your own game or activity. It can be a photo booth, doggy tattoos, giant costumed dog, a spin-the-wheel for a prize, doggy ball pit — anything fun that requires participation and garners attention.

Keep Your Booth on Point

Get all the marketing materials you need: branded tablecloth, backdrop, tent, promo items, signs, brochures, cards, stickers. Make sure people know exactly what business booth they are visiting. Avoid overcrowding your booth, and don’t clutter the space with too many messages.

Be clear on your goal for the event and strategize how you can best get that result. A pet sitter’s goal should be to schedule “meet and greets.” So, focus your time and energy on those potential clients. How can you identify them from the sea of people?What questions can you ask to engage people and book that meet and greet while at the event?

Regardless of whether they are potential customers, make sure they walk away remembering your business name and with a way to contact you.

Get Leads

While you want them to take your business name home, you don’t just want to hand out a bunch of promotional materials and not hear back from anyone, right? Great sales are always in the follow-up. You’re the one investing in being at the event, so you should walk away from the event with leads. Get as much information as you can from as many people as possible, dig through them post-event to find your hottest leads, and follow up to hook them as customers.

To start, raffle off something super cool that everyone will want. Something of high perceived value. One year, we invested in an iPad Mini as a prize, and we had a line of 50 people waiting at our booth to sign up throughout event. We collected 400 new leads!

Have your raffle slips gather all kinds of information that will help you after the event: mobile number, email, ZIP code, dog type and age, type of food they feed, even biggest challenge with their dog, which allows for you to have a jumping off point for a follow-up discussion.

Walk the event and network with other vendors and volunteers. Drop off your cards and collect their cards. They may be great partners for cross-promotions.

Follow-up is vital. After the event when you’ve collected all these new contacts, upload them into your system and start getting those follow-up emails, texts and phone calls out. With these strategies, you’ll feel confident while you’re there, you’ll be finding new business, and you’ll feel like it was worth your investment.

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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.

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