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November 4, 2016

There was a time when marketing a pet retailer–and to be honest, marketing just about anything else–meant paying to expose your name and products to the widest audience possible in the hope that a few would come in and shop, and maybe a healthy percentage of those would become loyal customers. If you could do that, you could argue that your marketing dollars had been well spent.

But as with many things we’ve always done, we only did them because there was nothing else to do.

Remember when you would call your friend in another state to catch up on things? You probably don’t do that anymore, because now you can text or just read each other’s posts on Facebook. And you come to realize over time that you only called each other in the past because there was nothing simpler, cheaper or less intrusive that you could do.

Likewise, you spent those marketing dollars to reach that massive audience because there wasn’t much else you could do but invest in the people who had the massive reach. You were paying an awful lot of money to reach so many people, especially when the vast majority of them would never come into your pet store. But what choice did you have?

Now, of course, you have lots of other choices, and just about all of them are better than what you had been doing. These new options allow you to better target your audience. They allow you to better control the content of your message, as well as the frequency and timing of when it will be delivered.

So I want to examine maximizing your marketing impact with the people you might refer to as your extended family. Who are the members of your extended family? For the purposes of this discussion, I’m talking about people who have, in some way, confirmed an interest in your business.

There are several ways a person can do this, including:
• Liking your Facebook page or following your Twitter feed.
• Signing up for your email list.
• Signing up for a rewards program you offer.
• Having purchased a product from you online.
• Working for you.
• Having previously worked for you.

There are surely some other ways, but those I’ve listed are enough to establish the principle. Most of all of the people in the above categories have expressed an interest in your store and have given you either tacit or explicit permission to send them information.

Now, even if the size of this list is not big enough to make up the kind of customer base you desire, there is still power in marketing to it–and hard. These people have friends and family members. They have neighbors. Some of them may have several thousand Facebook friends. And since they’ve already indicated some interest in your store, they’re in a position to be your ambassadors to others.

How much value is there to having people talk to others about your store, and doing so in a positive way? You don’t even have to pay them to do it. But you do have to arm them with good information.

So what should that information consist of? I’ve found the most effective efforts consist of a health combination of sales, helpful tips and humor. It’s OK to push product offers and specials to your extended family–they do need to buy things and sometimes they appreciate knowing what’s on sale–as long as you mix it in with some other useful content.

We’re all pet people here, right? What can you share with your extended family about the care of their pets? Or about pet nutrition? Maybe there’s some new research about their pets that they’d be interested to know about. The best way to approach this one might be take stock of the kinds of questions customers ask you in the store. That should give you some indication of the kinds of things they’re interested in, or at least of the kind of insight they expect you to have.

And maybe you know about other things and they don’t even realize it.

Share that information! Your extended family will appreciate it, and you’ll strengthen your bond with them.

Oh, and let’s not forget that pets are cute and funny. For all the derogatory remarks you hear about cat videos on social media, there’s a reason people post them. They’re hilarious and highly entertaining. Share the enjoyment of pets with your extended family. If you’ve got something really good, they just might share it with their friends, and you might find that extended family getting a lot bigger.

Now, how do you handle the mechanics of all this? You can often persuade people to sign up for an email list with a modest giveaway, which you can promote through your website, your social media pages or even a paper form on your counter. Promoting your social media pages is simply a matter of making people aware of them on things like receipts and shopping stuffers.

However you do it, build your extended family, and keep in touch. It’s easier than ever and, unlike the old days, you’re no longer wasting your time talking to people who don’t care about you and never will. They’re family! Find out how strong that bond can be, and what it does to enhance the fortunes of your store!

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