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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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How to Keep New and Potential Hires From 'Ghosting' You

Catch the replay of this PETS+ Live! Lunch & Learn webinar hosted by Candace D’Agnolo of Pet Boss Nation. This episode featured Candace expanding on her June PETS+ column on preventing new hires and job candidates from “ghosting” you. Hint: Much of her advice will help you make better hires and keep happier employees.

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The Basics Stats You Need From Every Customer

You’re missing out if you don’t collect customer data. Here’s what you should be asking for.

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IF YOU ARE not collecting your customer’s information, you are missing a huge opportunity.

One of the main reasons is so you can send something in the mail to customers. I know: You’re already thinking mail is dead. However, Chewy.com sends lots and lots of mail. Not just direct-mail flyers, but handwritten thank-you cards, complete with the pet’s name and the product purchased! It shows the customer that they matter to the company and that Chewy cares about them. How do you show your customers you care?

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If you wanted to do something special for a customer, do you have enough information about them? Could you pick up the phone to inform them of a recall? Could you mail them a card congratulating them on their wedding? Could you remind them that their pet’s birthday is just around the corner?

Your list is everything. Think about how pet sitters, dog walkers, sales reps and mobile groomers have all of their clients’ information in a database. That’s like gold to them. They know every last detail about the pets and their owners. Now, apply this to retail, groomers, trainers and day cares, and think how these businesses can benefit as well from having their own thorough customer list and database.

Consider if you decide to move locations, or sell the business. You’ll want everyone to know about your move, or that a new owner is taking over and encourage their continued support and thank them for their years of business.

Here’s the information I believe you should collect from your customers and how you should tag them in your system/identify them so you can communicate with them based on their needs.

  • Full Name
  • Spouse’s / Partner’s Name
  • Address
  • Email
  • Cell Phone
  • Pet’s Names and Birthdays
  • Customer’s Birthday
  • Dog, Cat, Fish, Horse or Bird Owner
  • Breed of Dog, Cat, Bird, Etc.
  • Puppy vs. Senior Pet
  • Pet Gender
  • Multiple Pet Family
  • New Pet Owner
  • Loyalty Program Users or Frequent Buyer Food Program Users
  • Event Attendance
  • Participate in Training Classes
  • Grooming Customers
  • Top Customers (25 Percent Customers)

Having this kind of data about your customer is key. The online stores have it and use it. So should you. You will impress your customers when you’re ringing them up and you ask about their pet by name, or mention an upcoming birthday. It is a step above and beyond that shows you care.

Along with this process comes having a Customer Relationship Management — or CRM — system in place to easily insert the above information, utilize your customer segmentation, pull sales reports, send emails and so on. A good point-of-sale system should allow you to track all this information right in your system, then you can export that information and load it into one of these systems, which have all kinds of relevant strategies that you could use. Of course, there’s Mailchimp and Constant Contact, but there is also Zoho, Hubspot, Salesforce, Insightly and FreshSales.

Get started immediately, even if you just use an Excel sheet. Every person you meet in person (or even online) is a potential customer, and you should grab the information that you can! In September’s PETS+, I’ll share creative ways to get this information, so stay tuned!

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Get Your Business’s Story In Front of the Right Journalist

A few tricks of the trade to get your news into the hands of journalists via a compelling pitch…

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HERE ARE A few tricks of the trade to get your news into the hands of journalists via a compelling pitch. Pace yourself; this takes a bit of endurance.

A pitch is essentially a short synopsis to share a story idea. The best way to get started is to compose an email. If this is your first time reaching out to a media contact, be sure to introduce yourself first, addressing the reporter by name (Dear Tabitha etc.). Then summarize your news in a short paragraph or two. You don’t need to tell them everything. Just give enough detail to share the main elements and pique their interest. Lead with how your service, product or company would be beneficial to their audience. Some journalists receive dozens or even a hundred pitches a day. Get to your point quickly, and make your idea stand out. Personalize the first sentence by mentioning a topic they recently covered and how that relates to your pitch.

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Think of your angle. What is new, surprising, challenging or local about the story? Use that slant to set your tone. If there’s an emotional element, be sure to include that too. We’re all human and sometimes make choices simply because it speaks to our heart.

Write in your own words using natural language. Basically, write as if you were talking. Speaking of that, be sure to read your pitch out loud before sending. You’ll find you may need to tweak a word or two that sounds awkward or isn’t flowing. Once you complete that step, spell-check is a must.

Ready to send? Not so fast. You’re not going to send a pitch with an empty subject line are you? This is your first impression, so make it count. Here are a couple of ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • New Cat Toy Saves Furniture
  • Pet Food So Nutritious You Can Eat It Too
  • CBD Product That Gets Sedentary Dog Off Couch in One Week

OK, now you’re ready to send! Where to? You want to reach relevant journalists — most likely in the retail, pet product or pet services space. To find the right contacts, follow industry-related publications. LinkedIn.com is one great source. You can also search a topic on Google News and browse articles from there. You’ll find there is a consistent group of writers who cover topics related to your industry.

Many writers include their email address at the end of an article or on their Twitter bio. If not, you may need to do a bit of sleuthing. You can call the outlet newsroom and ask for the information, or if you spot an address at the same publication, you can borrow the formula. For example: firstname@petsplusmag.com.

If building your own target list seems too daunting, then there are also subscription-based media databases where you can find almost all U.S. outlets, including journalists’ email addresses, phone numbers and contact tips. The downside is that they can be costly. To learn more, Google “media database.”

Phew! That was a lot of work! But you’re not done yet. How many emails get lost in your inbox? Give it a few days and follow up with a friendly phone call, highlighting the main points of your email pitch. If you’re feeling nervous, you can always ask if they’re on deadline first. If they pick up their phone, chances are they have a quick minute. Again, keep it brief and don’t take it personally if they reject your idea. If you don’t catch them at their desk, leave a polite message and let them know you’re following up on the story idea sent on X date, and reference the catchy subject line you crafted. Clearly articulate your name and phone number slowly and then repeat. You’ve got about 30 seconds to hold their interest.

Good luck! I’m rooting for you!

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Choose the Right Social Media Platform to Reach Your Customer Base

Ask yourself and your team these important questions.

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EVERYONE KNOWS WE as businesses should be on social … right? The logic seems obvious:

At a minimum, active and vibrant social media channels can give prospective customers a way to check you out before they buy. They provide instant social validation and customer trust.

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At a maximum, social done well can become a major sales channel, rivaled only by things like word-of-mouth and Google.

So creating an active and vibrant branded community on every social media channel you can find is a great marketing strategy, right?

Wrong. And I’d argue that the majority of pet brands I see probably won’t ever make back their investment in building those channels.

For the last 12-plus years, I’ve been teaching pet businesses how to achieve their business and marketing goals through social media. And for just as long I’ve seen the mix of shock, followed by relief when I frequently tell businesses to stop their efforts on the majority of the social platforms they’re using.

The reason is simple: Many small businesses aren’t really sure why they’re on social media to begin with. Worse, many are hoping to achieve goals that are super-duper hard to do on their chosen channels. Combine this with the fact that most social “best practices” involve a member of your team spending significant time on the platform, and suddenly you have a marketing money pit.

So how do you make sure your social is paying off? Easy. The first step is making sure you’re on the right one.

Ask yourself and your team the following questions:

Who am I trying to reach?

This is your core client or influencer. Write everything you know about them, leaving nothing out. Make sure to include both demographic information (age and gender) and psychographic information (your customers’ wants and fears).

Which social media channel does that person frequent?

Different social media channels attract different people. It may seem obvious that trying to reach teens on LinkedIn or business decision-makers on Instagram may be making your job harder, but don’t forget the nuances of the audiences these platforms attract, and that they change over time.

Is that social media channel compatible with my goals?

This is a big one many petpreneurs forget to ask, but the key is understanding the technical side of the platform and what it’s meant to do. For example, we find most brands struggling to drive direct sales from Instagram unless they pay for advertising. The reason? Instagram’s unpaid content usually doesn’t include any kind of links on the post. Alternatively, even though many brands abandoned Pinterest years ago, the platform is showing the second-strongest sales for consumer brands in the brands we’re able to sample.

What will have to occur to turn this into a sale?

Not all pet owners live on Pinterest, so pet brands leveraging other channels to build audiences will need to think about how that audience will then need to be directed in other ways to create sales. (Like subscribing them to a mailing list first.)

I teach a social media bootcamp for petpreneurs. Access the workbook for it for free as a friend of PETS+. It’ll provide you with facts and stats to help you fill in the questions above, to pick your channel and to get going. Visit causedigitalmarketing.com/petsplusmag.

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