April 28, 2015

As I discussed in my last article, problem-solving lectures are single sessions offered at your pet store in which a dog trainer teaches attendees how to address problem behaviors. Stores that offer this type of service will frequently see an increase in product sales and customer loyalty. Product sales should generally average about $62 to $73 per customer.


Plugging Products

It is important to speak with trainers and get a list of the products they recommend for the specific topics they will address. It makes little sense for a trainer to suggest products you don’t carry. Once you are on the same page with the trainer, consider creating a list of products that the trainer or a store staff member can distribute during the lecture.

You can get creative with the shopping list. Consider discounts for anyone purchasing equipment the night of the lecture.

The Bottom Line

While some stores have offered these lectures for free, I suggest charging for them because this creates a perception of value in a customer’s mind and helps you offset any costs you incur. The store should set the prices and can also offer package deals. Single lectures can cost as little as $10 to$15 to attend.

Just look at the numbers. A lecture attended by five customers might generate the following: $62 per person in product sales x 5 = $312
$12 attendance fee per person x 5 = $60

This totals $372 but we need to subtract the cost of the trainer; assume the fee may be about $50 per session.

Fliers may cost you an extra $50 – $100, meaning each lecture can net the store about $220. Not bad, especially if you run two or three per month. What’s more, this doesn’t take into consideration the priceless loyalty from customers who attend this type of event and have a positive experience.

Scheduling and Promotion

Proper scheduling is critical for success. Saturdays are often a good choice because most people aren’t working. So are evenings, although that can be tougher for some. Try offering a few events on different days and times and see which ones work the best.
Promote problem-solving lectures on your company Facebook page at least a month prior to the event. Mention the trainer, topics covered and date of the lectures. Be prepared to answer questions and refresh the information on your FB page every week to keep it topical. Twitter can also be used to promote these events, especially if you have a good group of local people following you. Tweets are limited to 140 characters, which makes it ideal for succinct, pithy messaging, such as: “Dog chewing you into the poorhouse? Has he caused $150 worth of damage in the last few months? Want answers? www.anypetstore.com.”

Link lecture information on social media to your website and allow people to pay for it online if possible. Make sure you keep track of the number of enrollees to avoid being overbooked. Even if you don’t use social media, make sure you mention the upcoming lectures on your website.

Print some fliers and put them by each register. Fliers can ask a question and have a call to action: “Dog chewing up your house? Digging up your yard? We can help. Come to our problem-buster lecture on 4/18/15. Sign up now as space is limited. Cost: $12.” Direct cashiers to stuff these fliers into the bags of everyone that purchases dog supplies.

Educate your staff about the lectures and encourage them to attend. Let the trainer know that your store’s team will be the ones to sign people up for these events. The more your employees support these events, the greater his or her success will be. Equally important, the better your staff understands pet behavior and how products are used to assist in training, the greater their effectiveness in selling those products will be, which is why it makes sense for them to attend.

Stores that get behind the promotion of problem-solving clinics using the methods suggested here will have an outstanding chance of successful, profitable events and satisfied customers. Don’t let the big box stores monopolize on something that can be effectively offered by independent pet retailers.

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