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New Stats on Instagram Point to How You Can Use It More Effectively

Knowing who you are as a brand and how to visually express is only half the battle.

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WHETHER YOU ARE LOOKING to build awareness, community or sales, Instagram is a powerful platform to include in your marketing mix. In our 2019 Pet Industry State of Instagram Report, OffLeash Communications breaks down how companies in our industry are currently using the platform, how their performance can be improved and how to further capitalize on the platform in the coming year. Download the report here: petsplusmag.com/4192.

Knowing who you are as a brand and how to visually express that is half the battle when it comes to effectively using Instagram. The other half of the battle is finding a balance between promoting products and showcasing your brand’s personality in an entertaining way that captivates the attention of your audience.

Here are five ways to best utilize the platform to ensure you are making the most of your time, effort and money:

1. Don’t start without refreshing your content and social media strategies. Last year’s strategy won’t work for this year’s objectives. Trends and best practices evolve annually, so you must know how to adjust your content and techniques. Use inspiration from leading accounts and consult with experts to get some neutral third-party input.

2. Collaborate with well-aligned micro-influencers and other brands to find new audiences and broaden your reach. This not only helps your brand build trust with consumers by validating your products, but also allows you to enrich the content on your own feed, which increases the return you will see on your influencer marketing investment.

3. Build anticipation for upcoming products and big announcements for your brand. Given the fact that more and more consumers are using the platform as another way to discover, validate, and shop for brands and their products, it is a great opportunity to get your consumers excited about upcoming changes you’re working on to make their experience with your brand and your products stronger and better.

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4. Tell your story. Just because Instagram is a visual platform, doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to share your story and deepen the connection you have with consumers. Consumers want to know who you are, what you stand for and where you are going as a company.

5. Understand that the insights are your best friend. Regularly monitoring your Instagram analytics allows you to ensure you’re targeting the right demographics, posting enough (or too much), posting on the right day, and making sure you’re aware of who is discovering you.

Sarah Julian is the owner of OffLeash Communications. Her 16 years in the pet products industry include a background in branding, marketing strategy and integrated communications. Since 2011, OffLeash has teamed up with pet product companies to develop their brand into one that resonates with pet parents, delivers a consistent and effective experience, and increases business success.

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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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