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Marketing & Advertising

Long gone are the days when local businesses relied on newspaper ads and TV commercials to bring in customers. Social media has changed how you advertise and market, for the better in many cases, especially when it comes to cost. Here you share what works best and what doesn’t, with some of you even finding viral success.

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44. Rank the effectiveness of these marketing and advertising methods by your ROI, with time included as an investment.

  1. Free social media posts
  2. Events and community participation
  3. Paid (boosted) social media posts
  4. Free editorial placement in local media (print, digital, radio)
  5. Paid advertising in local media (print, digital, radio)
  6. Encouraged online reviews (Yelp, Google, etc.)
  7. Referral program
  8. Paid search engine ads
  9. Direct-mail
  10. Paid app partnerships (Door Dash, UberEats, etc.)
 

45. Rank the effectiveness of these social media platforms by your ROI, with time included as an investment.

  1. Facebook
  2. Instagram
  3. TikTok
  4. Yelp
  5. NextDoor
  6. Twitter
 

46. Tell us about your most successful campaign.

Many of you say that word-of-mouth driven by outstanding customer service brings in the most business, but these one-off and ongoing campaigns have provided additional boosts:

  • I’ve been advertising on a veterinarian’s radio show for about 15 years. It falls immediately after the organic gardening show, so I get the benefits of that and of the vet talking about me, as I’m first up. We get new customers nearly daily who heard about us on the show.
  • “Curbside Pickup Karaoke” during the pandemic years was outrageous.
  • Pets adopted through our local shelter get a coupon to the store for 20% off an entire first purchase, plus a free ID tag and a free dog wash.
  • Google’s See-What’s-in-Store (SWIS) process. Hands-down winner on generating clicks and store visits. I was scared of SWIS with pricing displayed because I didn’t want to be perceived as high-priced. Turns out that a lot of the time, we are the lowest price and most of the time competitive.
  • A “Raw-gust” campaign we ran in-store, and on Instagram and Facebook with some boosted ads paid for by vendors. Crazy sales!
  • We were coming out with a new flavor of our handcrafted treats and ran a model contest for the packaging. We got a lot of people entering and becoming customers who didn’t know we existed.
  • Annual Blessing of the Animals at the park across the street. We partner with a pastor from a very well-known and well-attended church. They do a lot of advertising for us, and we get a lot of people and pets that show up. We have coffee donated by the local coffee shop, and I give all participants a St. Francis prayer card. They love it! People talk about it all the time.
  • “Do you have a dog?” We did a huge ad in the newspaper with those words in bold on a solid black background. Then we added, “Treat them well” with our logo. We had a lot of people remember the ad, and it wasn’t too costly.
  • We started getting involved with classes with a local trainer, including providing swag bags for all “Puppy 1” participants. It has been a phenomenal way to build brand awareness and sell products.
  • We partner with a local Instagram giveaway account. We pay a fee and put together the prize. We always have the best turnout doing this. More followers and more web sales.
  • Being on the T-shirts of the local high school teams: band, football, cheerleading, etc. We support them all.
 

47. Has one of your social media posts ever gone viral? Tell us about it.

  • Right after the DCM debate took off, I did a post about it and told folks that I would be posting a series of Dr. Ryan Yamka articles debunking much of it. I got “noticed” by those on the other side and was slammed by them in the comments. My post went viral when others (including Dr. Yamka) jumped in to shoot them down. We did get a lot of new followers and likes to the page from locals who ended up becoming customers, so it turned out well despite the conflicts.
  • Several videos of cats/kittens we have available for adoption have gone viral. Our most successful video wasn’t even very good quality and was less than seven seconds. People love cats!
  • Kale Chips, our store dog who lost 50 pounds, was on national and local TV.

  • We have had several pet videos go viral, one with over 20 million views. Our biggest videos have been a turtle hatching from egg, bird preening, etc.
  • A video of a storm that came through and toppled trees near the rear entrance to our shop. Over 350K views.
  • We did a TikTok on not storing kibble in plastic that hit 4.5 million views.
  • A “Baby Mutt” Reel of a baby Doodle.
  • I did an Instagram Reel about how much I love Dog Mocs, and it went viral (over 20,000 views in a week).
  • I did a post early in the pandemic explaining how poop bags can be a great substitute for gloves (LOL).
  • Warning the community about coyote traps in the area on trails. It created a political firestorm.
  • A video we compiled about the community Dog Fest was hysterical. We’re still getting feedback on it, and that was three years ago, pre-pandemic 2019. It was campy and funny, and reached over 250,000 viewers in one day.
 

48. Has a marketing or advertising effort ever backfired on you?

  • Anything that involves using color when grooming dogs. I have to watch them very carefully.
  • I shared a funny “Dear Abby” column about people complaining about hosts who let their dogs run around the house during a party. Dear Abby told them to suck it up. I asked people to post a funny response that they would give, to win a bag of treats. Instead, people started attacking. I deleted the post.
  • Every time we send out an email newsletter, inevitably one person who had a minor issue with us years ago decides to send a bitchy reply rather than just hit the “Unsubscribe” button. I try to pro-actively remove dissatisfied customers, but what kind of person sends a page-long rant instead of just deleting the email and moving on?
  • We have gotten too much traffic to events and have had to have cars park hundreds of yards along the side of the road to get to us. Parking capacity for our store is approximately 75 parking spots.
  • Yes! Always put an expiration date on coupons and “One per customer”!
  • Ads on the supermarket register tape only ever got the same person to come in for the free treat offered.
  • We once partnered with a “shop local” group that was promoting “jingle mobs” during the holidays at different small businesses around town. They offered to host one at our store. We prepared, hoping for a high influx of holiday shoppers — got cookies and hot chocolate, offered holiday discounts and hoped for the best. I believe we had five people attend … wasn’t much of a mob at all!
  • Yes, with our bounce-back coupons. We had people coming back and making second accounts to use another coupon.
  • I posted and boosted a video of blue death-feigning beetles eating a thawed pinkie rat. A couple of people called me names and got really mad.
  • Direct mail through USPS. Schedule delay meant mailers went out the same week as the last presidential election, along with 762 gazillion political mailers.
  • We tried to show people the extent to which we go to keep dogs happy/ safe during grooming. We had a dog in a hammock for a nail trim. Someone went to corporate and complained (person had never stepped foot in our store and doesn’t live in the same state). We almost had to delete our TikTok over it.
  • We tried an April Fool’s joke that a customer did not get, and they went ballistic.
 

49. How do you respond to positive online reviews?

 

50. How do you respond to negative online reviews?


Again, the “Other” answers to this question expanded upon an answer:

  • I have cameras and audio. I review everything that happened and respond with what the cameras showed, and ask them to come in so that we can review it together.
  • If we are wrong, I state that. Typically, the review is very skewed, so I state what really happened and offer to post the security footage of the interaction. That almost always gets the negative review removed.
  • It greatly depends. We always apologize that they did not leave with a great experience. But sometimes we use it as an educational platform (i.e. they are complaining about their Doodle getting shaved due to matting, and they signed a matted pet release and were sent home with our customer awareness information about how dangerous mats can be and why we do not demat heavily matted pets). I have had customers read our educational responses, and even though they were responding to a negative review, come to us because they could see how much we cared about the animal!
  • We pay a third-party company to respond to every post, and we approve the responses before they are posted. They are great with words to make things right.
  • Your response to a negative review is 200% more important than the negative review itself. It’s not the circumstances, but how you as the owner/manager respond to the circumstances that count with potential customers.
 

51. What percentage of your revenue do you spend on marketing and advertising?

0%
14%
1-2%
58%
3-4%
20%
5% or more
8%

Since launching in 2017, PETS+ has won 17 major international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact PETS+ editors at [email protected].

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