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Event Marketing: Take Advantage of Face-to-Face Consumer Pet Shows


Imagine you have a microphone in your hand and more than 18,000 pet owners in front of you eager to hear what you have to share about your company, products and/or services. What message would you deliver to these uniquely qualified prospective customers about your business? 

Retailers, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, crafters and service provider’s love talking about what they do and how they do it. And, consumers enjoy learning about unique problem-solving solutions.  

Event marketing is two-way communication that enables you to clearly and concisely deliver a message, educate the pet owning public and drive business to your brick and mortar and/or online business. The beauty of being at a show is that the playing field is level for everyone. Small companies can create big impressions with a well-designed booth. Pet food and treat companies have the opportunity to discuss the features and benefits of its products and build long-term relationships. 

Case in point: Many years ago, I met a representative, Tommy, who worked for a major pet food company at a show. As he was packing up his booth to leave on Sunday evening, I stopped by to see how the show went. He sung our praises and eventually asked if our family had a dog. I told him about our beloved Chandler, a 90-pound weimaraner. Tommy asked what kind of food I fed him and I told him, “Whatever is the cheapest.”  

Immediately he asked several questions such as, “does your dog shed,” and “does your dog have loose stool” and “does your dog have lots of energy.” I told him Chandler seemed to be shedding non-stop, often had loose stool and frequently did not have much energy when it came to playing in the yard. Tommy talked to me about his plant-based pet food and gave me several sample bags. He suggested I start feeding my dog his pet food and said I would notice a big difference in Chandler’s shedding, minimal if any loose stool and a whole lot more energy. I took his pet food home and the rest is history. Our beloved Chandler was instantly hooked, and we proceeded to pay $40/bag per month for the next 13 years.  

The result: A simple five-minute conversation at an event resulted in a lifetime customer and over $6,000 in pet food purchases.  

How many conversions does it take to justify and — hopefully exceed — your investment of time, money and energy when it comes to event marketing? 

Consumer shows, such as pet shows and local community events, present wonderful marketing opportunities. Many retailers swear by them and they love offering tips to pet owners’ thus driving traffic to their stores.  

America’s Family Pet Expo is the world’s largest pet expo and is product by the World Pet Association. Many consider this show the gold standard for pet events. Numerous other regional events include Super Pet Expo that takes place in Central Jersey and Northern Virginia, Family Pet Expo in Philadelphia and Long Island, World of Pets in Timonium, Maryland, Pittsburgh Pet Expo and many others. 

Events offer something for everyone. They provide pet owners with a panoramic view of the market in products and services, fun features like dog agility shows, luring, guest speakers and more. It’s fun for the entire family and all for the price of a movie theater ticket. In many respects, it’s a pet lovers “dream day” to bring their pets, shop for cool pet products and hang out with many like-minded pet owners.  

Manufacturers and retailers benefit by establishing relationships and driving traffic to brick-and-mortar stores and/or online. The savviest exhibitors provide incentives to make purchases during as well as after the show. Specialty vets routinely ask new patients how they heard about them and “events’ are the number one answer.  

All traditional marketing approaches are one-way communication. The human aspect (touch may not be a great word in times of COVID) of face-to-face interaction is key in an industry where trust is a highly valued commodity. When it comes to pet services such as veterinarians, pet sitters, doggie day cares, etc., it is all about establishing rapport and building relationships.  

Event marketing works. Coupons distributed at events will have a significantly higher redemption rate than other forms of marketing. Pet owners often stick around once rapport is established.  

What works for vendors at a pet show? An eye-catching booth. Something to draw the pet owner into your booth. Maybe it is a display of products or a big screen with a video. Once you have a pet owner in your booth, you should ask questions to see what they are looking for and then offer relevant solutions. Even if a customer leaves without buying anything, you should give them a coupon or special offer to place an order either in the store or online.  

The beauty of a face-to-face event is two-way communication. Events are not easy, especially since many take place on weekends. But they are sure worth it. A 10×10 exhibit space is all you need to dip your toes into the water and I always love seeing retailers bring excess inventory in an effort to have a blowout sale. Pet owners love getting deals and will often splurge for their four legged friends. 

 

Eric Udler loves producing public events. He founded and produces Super Pet Expo, a consumer pet shopping extravaganza that takes place January 21-23 at the New Jersey Expo Center in Edison, New Jersey, and March 18-20 at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Each show attracts 18,000+ affluent, eager to shop pet owners, many bringing their leashed pets along for the fun.

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