When you’re the CEO of company that does about $350 million in sales a year, you would expect to have a swanky corner office with a view of your company’s dog-friendly Tennessee-based campus.
Not the case, when you’re Randy Boyd.
Instead, the chairman, CEO and majority shareholder of Radio Systems Corporation, the parent company of PetSafe, sits among the company’s employees, and changes which department his desk is going to be in every year.
“It gives me a chance to know everyone,” the casually-dressed Boyd recently told a handful of bloggers and writers during the company’s Paw Print Blogger Summit.
The event, in its second year, is a way for the brand to build a stronger relationship with social influencers, create a personal relationship with pet owners and to generate interest in the PetSafe brand.
“We host the summit to get to know the great pet bloggers out there, and to generate interest in the PetSafe brand,” Sarah Folmar, brand specialist, said. “Our goal at the end is to let others hear about our products from individuals. Individuals who were affected by creating an even greater bond with their pets.”
The four-day summit, which includes an all-expense paid trip to the company’s Knoxville headquarters, usually includes about 15-20 influencers, and is part of the company’s overall marketing strategy.
“This gives us a personal relationship with pet owners,” Folmar explained. “We aren’t just a company that makes a product and hopes someone out there will buy it. We want to make products that genuinely improve lives. We want to create a great brand experience, and the blogger summit allows us to do this, one person at a time.”
Jason Hart, PetSafe’s director of marketing, talked directly to the attendees about how valuable they are to the company.
“This is an opportunity to build relationships with you and your followers,” he said. “It helps the relationship with consumers.”
He explained that people no longer just watch a TV commercial, listen to a radio ad or just read an ad in a magazine.
“They go to the web, and ask friends if it’s true,” Hart said, pointing out that’s where bloggers play a critical role.
While brand sponsored trips and blogger outreach is not new to the marketing community as a whole, it is somewhat new to the pet industry. It’s something PetSafe encourages other brands, and retailers, to take advantage of.
“Other brands would benefit because they are reaching people they may not have reached otherwise,” Folmar said. “You could see a commercial for a cola company and not think twice about it. If your favorite health blogger tells you about added enhancements to your well-being with this cola, well, you are probably going to go right out and get it.”
An event like this also gives companies a chance to hear directly from the customer about their products.
“One of the reasons you are here is because we want to hear from you,” Boyd told the group. “You guys are listening and talking to customers all the time. The greatest value of you being here is you being able to share your insight with us.”
But, one question that seems to always come up when talking about trips like these is how much do you share, or not share, with bloggers and writers who come to your facility.
“Some people worry about transparency,” Boyd said. “But, we want people to know everything about us. We like customers to come in and see us, our dogs. We hope you like what you see, but what you see is what we are.”
And, when Boyd talked about being transparent, he wasn’t kidding.
The attendees were taken for a behind-the-scenes tour of the PetSafe offices, including their boarding facility, customer service center and were given the opportunity to talk with, and ask questions of, brand managers, Boyd himself and were even given a sneak peek at some of the new products the company is working on.
If they like what they see, taking that time to build a relationship with these people, can really pay off, because they become an advocate for the brand.
“I have always liked the PetSafe brand and what they stand for, but seeing their operation and meeting the people has kicked my affection up to a whole new level,” Lisa Taron, who writes the blog, The Pet Blog Lady, said. “Building relationships with bloggers in this fashion is well worth the investment of time and money.
“I can’t speak for the others, but I know for myself, meeting them and hearing/seeing what they do has created a strong sense of loyalty. I feel very motivated to help them grow as a company, by connecting as many of my readers to them as I can. To share my excitement for what they offer to pet parents everywhere.”
Editor’s Note: Pet Age was invited on an expenses paid trip by PetSafe to be a part of, and cover, the Paw Print Blogger Summit.