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Candace D'Agnolo

It’s Not the Internet. It’s You.

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We’ve all been there, cringing when a customer comes in  and asks lots of questions, seeking out solutions for their problems, and then easily says,  “Thanks, I’ll buy it online.” How about the shopper who actually pulls out her mobile and makes the purchase right there and then … in front of you! Or worse, when a shopper inserts herself into others’ conversations and tells them to go somewhere else. Uuuuuggghhhhh! Makes you want to scream in frustration and blame the internet for taking all your customers. (Check out this month’s Real Deal on page 50 for more on this subject.)

Blaming Amazon for why customers don’t return or complaining that Chewy is the reason your food sales are declining might seem logical. But it’s not. Almost 90 percent of all pet parents still shop in brick-and-mortar stores. So I’m sorry, but you can’t blame the internet any longer for why your sales are down.

What will make you stronger is right at your fingertips. Grabbing it will totally transform your business, making your store the best and most profitable shop on the block.

With these three strategies, show online retailers who’s the boss!

Be a Data Boss

The No. 1 way to transform your business is to get a solid POS (point of sale) system. Not a glorified cash register like Square, Shopify POS or Clover. My favorite POS systems are Lightspeed and Springboard Retail. Investing in one of these platforms will change your business faster than building an online store. A good POS is highly customizable for tracking customer data and pulling reports about your inventory and sales. It should integrate with your website and even offer a loyalty program. All its bells and whistles were created to empower you. Facebook and Amazon know everything about your customers. Now you can, too!

Be an Experience Boss

While customer experience is critical (from your policies and hours to the actual experience with your team), I’m talking about you letting your experience shine. In a recent study by e-commerce retailer Zulily, 63 percent of millennial pet owners believe they know more about cats and dogs than pet store employees do! Well, do your customers know that you are an amazing resource for them? The staple of being a trusted retailer was that we were the experts in our fields in customers’ eyes. But with content at their fingertips, what sets you apart now? You can’t win against the internet if you’re the best kept pet parent secret! Could you be better at sharing all that knowledge you’ve gained? Get the word out. Put all your amazing knowledge on your website, share it on social media and in emails to customers. To get a jumpstart, host a regular Facebook Live Q+A show or record 20 quick video responses to your most asked questions. This type of content can be repurposed over and over again. Show millennials that you know more about pet parenting than their mobile device.

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Be a Fresh Boss

Even if you’re not a grocery store, your goods should be “fresh.” How much of your inventory is new in the last 90 days? In an ideal world, it’s 100 percent fresh. Your store should have an average turn of four or more, with food and treats turning much higher. The freshness of your inventory and stock levels says more about your business to customers than any sales associate ever will. Are you out of stock frequently? Is it old, dated merchandise? Is it what your customers want? Is it collecting dust? Has it moved since you put it out? As an independent retailer, you have the luxury to curate a selection of unique merchandise and make a beautiful presentation while doing it. This merchandise is handpicked by you! Fresh new merchandise on a regular basis excites customers to come in frequently.

Candace D’Agnolo owns successful pet business Dogaholics and offers business consulting at Pet Boss Nation. For help creating a customized 90-day plan to tackle all your business goals, download a free worksheet, at petbossnation.com/petsplus. Contact her at hello@petbossnation.com.


 This article originally appeared in the May 2018 edition of PETS+.  

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PETS+ LIVE! WITH CANDACE D'AGNOLO

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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