Connect with us

Columns

Learn to Network Outside Your Comfort Zone

Building a community is vital for anyone in business.

mm

Published

on

LISTEN TO ANY TOP ENTREPRENEURS or business influencers, read any business books or articles, and they will all reference the “power of networking.” It doesn’t matter what level you are at in business, if you are just starting out or a seasoned pet professional, networking and building a community around you is vital for anyone in business.

Networking is literally how I started and built my business in the pet industry. I started networking in 2002, before I was full-time in the pet industry, I was attending events that had nothing to do with my background in order to build a network of businesspeople, several of which I am still good friends with today.

Many of us got into the pet industry to work with pets and animals and not necessarily people, right? Well, as true (and funny) as that may be, you conduct business with people, so learning good networking skills and getting out there is a must. Even if you don’t like networking, here are some tips to help you get started.

Avoid the Buddy System

You should attend events alone at first — yes, alone, even if you are nervous. This will help build confidence in yourself, your business and help you talk with people you may not have otherwise.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

If you are nervous going to a networking event or mixer, when you get to the event, tell the host you don’t normally network, that you’re a bit nervous and ask them who they would suggest you should talk to. I usually match someone new with someone who has been coming to our events for years, to take them under their wing a bit and introduce them to other pet pros there.

Advertisement

Be Genuine

You may attend networking events to try to get new clients and business, or to let people know what you do, but shoving a business card at someone you just met is not really the best approach. Be genuine in asking what their business is, what they do, what they love about their pet business and so on. Ask them for their business card and this will usually reciprocate in them asking you for your business card. Always be sincere and interested in the person you are speaking with.

Follow Up

Met someone that you had a great connection with? Follow up with an email or phone call to set up a meeting or time to chat further. Keep your followup short and to the point of why you want to meet or have an additional call. Follow up a day or two after the event and don’t be salesy or pushy. That is a complete turnoff for most people. Remember to be genuine in your followup. Also, connect with them on LinkedIn as it shows your professionalism versus just friending someone on Facebook.

The more you network and attend events, the more you will get comfortable with going, and be confident in yourself and your pet business. Attend networking events in and out of the pet industry because you never know who you may meet who could help bring your business to the next level. Happy networking!

Nancy E. Hassel is founder and president of American Pet Professionals (APP), an award-winning networking and educational organization dedicated to helping pet entrepreneurs, businesses and animal rescues to grow, work together and unite the pet industry. Contact her at nancy@americanpetprofessionals.com.

Advertisement

FEATURED VIDEO

JIM ACKERMAN

Digital Marketing Is Great, but It Can’t Solve All Your Problems

You’ve probably been hearing experts talk about digital marketing as if it would be a panacea for pet-business owners, says marketing specialist Jim Ackerman. But for most owners, it hasn’t worked out that way. In this video, Ackerman explains why digital advertising should be just one arrow in your marketing quiver.

Promoted Headlines

Shawna Schuh

Are You a Seeker or a Conquerer?

The seeker finds success daily; the conquerer attains it only at the top.

Published

on

SUCCESS CAN MEAN DIFFERENT things to different people, although the dictionary definition of success is: The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

For me, it’s shifted from a destination to the journey — or what I like to call an adventure — because for me, life, love, pets and relationships are all adventures, usually to undiscovered places or experiences.

As we travel forward in life, we can hold success out in front of us like a carrot for a horse, or we can experience the pleasant feeling of being successful every time we take an action step.

So when you have the aim to learn something, and you do … success!

When you set out to make a customer smile, and you do … success!

When a new concept is presented, and you learn it, use it and excel in it … success, even though the process, the adventure may not be not complete.

When we think and feel successful, we do the actions that produce the results we seek. We also skip the painful process of thinking: “When I reach X, I’ll be successful,” or, “After I have Y, I’ll feel successful.”

We can live more fully, more engaged, energized and creative because every action is a success when we move forward with the right intention.

Let me explain it further with two mountain-climbing analogies:

In one case, the climber is the Seeker: Every prep, every step, every hurdle and every experience is a success getting to the top, and more important, returning from the top of the mountain.

In another case, the Conquerer: Success is only at the top. This permits less focus on getting back down gracefully or safely. So success is measured only by being on top, by taking control and forcing it.

Stop and ask yourself whether you relate more to the Seeker or the Conquerer. I’m not going to judge you. However, in my work with wonderful, successful professionals, I do know the happiest ones are those who seek and experience that happy jolt of success every step, every hurdle and every sale they take or make each day.

How do you become a better Seeker?

1. Set up all the action steps to take you where you want to go.
2. Track those steps so you know you accomplished them.
3. Note your progress and celebrate how far you’ve come.
4. Bask in the fact you are moving in the right direction.
5. Embrace the knowledge that there is no top/end to attain.
6. Revel in being a Seeker because those who seek, find!

This feeling of success is truly wonderful. Being a Seeker reminds me that I am creating the life I live, and if I can do it, so can you.

Continue Reading

Candace D'Agnolo

How Pet Businesses Can Profit From Facebook Live

In 60 minutes or less, you could make as much as you do during an entire business day.

mm

Published

on

PET RETAILERS AND MANUFACTURERS all over the country are making big bucks by going live and hosting what I like to call a virtual “Paw Party.”

A “Paw Party” is when you jump on a Facebook Live, have fun with your audience and sell stuff! In 60 minutes or less, you could make as much as you do during an entire business day. Seriously. My clients are seeing crazy results, and I want you to get a piece of the action.

How to Do It

Pick a date and time for your Paw Party. Tell your audience in advance, and do it at a time that you think the most people will show up (maybe at 7 or 8 on a weeknight). You’ll want assistance from two people. One can be helping with the camera and review comments on the video as they are coming in. And the other can help prepare product and be your assistant show host.

The merchandise you feature should have a hashtag written on a card assigned to it. When you show the product to the audience, describe it, share the hashtag and tell the price. To increase the desire for the item, you can offer a limited-time discount or have a limited quantity to sell. If a viewer is interested, they type sold and the hashtag in the comments. There are a variety of ways you can accept payment, so come up with the way that will work the easiest for potential buyers and is something you can easily handle — phone call, website, PayPal, in-store, etc.

How to Make It Interesting

Treat it like a party you’d be hosting or would want to go to. Pick a theme based on the season or an upcoming holiday. Wear festive clothing or have an interesting backdrop to create a great visual. Make it BYOB … Bring Your Own Beverage. You could be toasting the viewers and chatting with them about what they chose to bring to the viewing party.

All great parties have games! Utilize a prize wheel (see Pet Pro Gear on page 23), numbered boxes, a dry-erase board, Post-It notes on a wall — really anything you can think of to help create a game of chance that can hold either a number or the name of a prize. Encourage your viewers when it’s time to play the game to participate with you in the comments of your post. Believe it or not, viewers love this! Have fun with your viewers, engage with them and keep your energy up.

How to Make It Profitable

Sell merchandise that you no longer want to carry. Maybe it’s older than six months. (Yes, you should mark it down and move it out if you’ve had it longer than six months!) While selling something at a discount doesn’t seem profitable, goods that are just sitting on your shelves like they are in a museum will serve you better to take what you can get and replace them with something that your customers want to buy. You’ll be surprised that what they won’t buy in store, they will buy on a live video sale. Why do you think the Home Shopping Network is so successful?

Are the wheels already turning? Here are two examples for inspiration: petsplusmag.com/5193, petsplusmag.com/5194.

Grab your smartphone, head to Facebook or Instagram, and hit that “go live” button! Don’t overthink this! Just hit the button, look at the camera and be your wonderful self. This isn’t about perfection, it’s about taking action! We’re all rooting for you and can’t wait to come to your party!

Continue Reading

Columns

Organizations Hitting You Up for Donations? Here’s What to Weigh

Be careful of getting yourself stuck donating to every medical benefit, fundraiser and poker run.

mm

Published

on

IT HAPPENS AT LEAST TWICE a year in my store: They enter, confused or looking a bit lost. They head to the front desk and timidly take out a sheet of paper and hand it to the first employee they see.

It’s the dreaded donation/advertising letter.

Whether it’s for a high school yearbook, a benefit to raise money for medical expenses, or a school fundraiser, I’ve seen it all. I’ve been approached by students, their parents, volunteers, a friend’s cousin’s wife’s best friend, a customer I haven’t seen in four years … you get the picture.

I feel a knot in my stomach every time. Do I say yes? Do I say no? Am I going to offend a customer? Where do I draw the line?

I’m all about alternate forms of advertising, and over the years, I’ve tried it all … the cover of the local county map, high school football schedules, even handheld fans for sporting events (never again on that one).

What works and what doesn’t? It depends on where your store is located and who your target audience is. My experience might be different from yours, but learn who you will be advertising to, and it will help you make the right decision.

For example, our retail store and separate doggie day care are both located in a small town of around 40,000. We get our fair share of yearbook ad requests, and I try to hit at least the two biggest. Depending on the price, I’m usually open to at least a half page ad. I try to be creative by putting both businesses in the same ad.

By advertising in the yearbook, I’m hoping that parents still read those (mine did!) and look at the ads in the back. If you are considering yearbook advertising, make sure your ad is clear, neat, to the point, and more important, contains a photo of a dog or cat. That’s the best way to get people’s attention.

I’m much more likely to say no now to athletic schedules and magnets than I used to be. The paper schedules are thrown away as soon as the season is over, if not before. The magnets might have more staying power … at least for that year … but after that, they aren’t as effective. Use your best judgment on these.

When it comes to benefits, poker runs, fundraisers and so on, you might find them to be more troublesome than beneficial.

I donate to the local private school auctions if a representative actually comes in and asks. A phone call isn’t enough for me. Make them work for it! Chances are, the person asking for the donation is a customer, so I do have some obligation already. What I have found, however, is that if you pick the right items, your donation will be sought after at these events. I’ve had customers tell me they look for my items at these auctions because they know there will be a free self-service dog wash coupon, a bag of treats and a small gift card. To me, that’s a win!

If someone who isn’t a customer bids on and wins the item — and then comes in — that’s a win for both of us. They get to see how awesome we are, and we get a new customer … just for donating to a good cause!

But, not all donations bring new customers. Be careful of getting yourself stuck donating to every medical benefit, fundraiser and poker run. If you feel obligated, give something small, like a dog wash coupon or a small gift card. Services are always easier to donate than goods. Or, check with your manufacturer or distributor reps about bags of treats or small toys.

One final piece of advice: Document everything you donate and when. If the entity is nonprofit, it should supply you with a tax letter to give to your accountant. I also recommend asking your accountant about what you can write off as a donation. In my state, I can donate anything (goods or services), but I am supposed to pay tax on any goods I donate. That’s why I hit up my vendors for free stuff and donate my own services like the washes or gift cards. Plus, those services and cards are more easily written off on taxes.

Continue Reading

Most Popular