PetAge_Cover_NOV14

Education Is Key to a Successful Business

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Another SuperZoo has come and gone.  This year it was even bigger and better than ever.  I understand that it is now so popular they had to turn away many prospective vendors.  They ran out of booth space. If you have never been, make sure you go next year.

Take an extra day and come to the Pet Industry Executive Summit conference.  You have probably gotten emails and seen ads for it. It is not to be missed.

The one day conference is open to all, and I don’t think there was an “executive “ in the room, just a bunch of retailers from single store operators to distributor folks to manufacturer reps, so don’t think you will feel out of place.

There were sessions throughout the day that were informative,  timely and  truly relevant to our business. My goal when I attend a seminar or conference is to take home just one idea that will improve my business.  I hit the jackpot at the PIES conference.

Michael Johnson, who is a Chuck Latham vice president, gave us some consumer data and insights that  we all need to pay attention to. Forgive me for not getting this exactly correct. The customer most of us  are all going after is the baby boomer female. She is a fabulous customer but she and her millions of sisters are getting older and there will be fewer and fewer of them.

This is not an issue today but will become an issue in the not too distant future. So not only are we competing with e-commerce sites, chain stores, hardware stores, etc. but that segment of customers will start to dramatically shrink.

So here is what scares me the most. As our best customers grow older they will want their lives to become easier. That will probably mean products delivered to them, before they run out. Think auto ship. At this point I am not ready to do this. It is a huge undertaking. But I am pretty certain my business will need to do this soon.

You may be thinking most folks still shop in brick and mortar stores. You are correct, but I can only imagine how many sales I am losing to Amazon, PetFlow etc.  Why wouldn’t you have your food and flea medication delivered to you when you need it?

Speaking of PetFlow, one of the principals told us about how they market to customers using social media. There were a couple of indie retailers on that panel as well. I learned that a single store  can advertise on Facebook effectively since you can target the area right around your store. I was the moderator of a panel in customer service and somehow we got talking about communicating with customers via social media. I failed to articulate correctly a point about not advertising sales, etc on Facebook.

What I should have said is not to blatantly advertise in your posts which the experts agreed with.

I was talking with the fellow from PetFlow, who said what they might do, as an example, is have a picture of a dog happily eating a bully stick in a post  and there is an ad for bully sticks on the page. So this is being written on the Sunday night after Superzoo. Tomorrow morning  when I get back to the store we will start to learn all about local advertising on the social media sites. Actually, I already googled “how a single store can advertise on Face book.”  Try it, see what pops up.

At a session on nutrition, several indie retailers told us about how they pick and sell products.  This session paid for every attendees  trip. One of the retailers told us about a service she uses that is just  absolutely fabulous. I am not going to share that tip. Hopefully  that will convince you to get out of your store and learn what other successful retailers are doing.

If the PIES summit wasn’t enough, there were great seminars at Superzoo all three days. The sessions on how to use social media. The internet and other marketing and management ideas were outstanding.  To be honest, I don’t think there is anybody reading this that wouldn’t benefit from at least some of the seminars.  Frankly, as someone who attends every seminar I can, I just don’t understand why more business folks don’t attend the seminars.  The good news is Global and Backer also have great speakers and experts who really can help you grow your business.

– Dave Ratner

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