Building Your Brand

Looking for new ways to enhance your business’ image and grow your customer base? These 10 fast marketing hacks for pet brands can get you started.


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If you’re like most petpreneurs, you constantly feel like there is never enough time, money or enough you to meet the demands of your business. I have been a petpreneur for more than a decade, and a year ago I founded working withdog.com, an online community to help mitigate the stress, confusion, data-overload, guilt and potential burnout that often comes with building a pet business. Over at Working with Dog, we are helping petpreneurs create profit and freedom by building brands. 

Building a brand instead of just a business requires a bit of marketing genius, a lot of hustle and the support of like-minded people who just ‘get it.’ In preparation for Global Pet Expo, my team of experts and I put our heads together to collect 10 of our best tricks, tips and tools to make the pursuit of relationships, transactions and profit just a little bit easier.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a retailer, a distributor, a product maker or a service provider—these tips are universal, and we’re confident they will help you save time and money in your efforts to increase conversions, fill your sales funnel and fuel your brand. 



10. Get Serious About Email
Many savvy digital marketers refer to their email list as ATMs–they send an email, they get cash. Getting a potential customer’s email is the second-best thing to getting a sale, so if you’re not actively building an email list, stop reading and go sign up for a free account at mailchimp.com right now.


Hack: Once you have an email list, go to sumome.com and learn about their suite of tools for list-building. Sumome is all about optimizing your website for collecting emails, including making it easy to add those ‘get this free gift’ opt-in boxes within your blogs, emails and other content. 


9. Organize Your Social Media
I feel like I have tried every tool under the sun to make sharing social media content on multiple platforms more manageable. It wasn’t until I found Buffer that I actually felt like I was saving time by using a third-party app. I cannot recommend it enough for managing your Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook pages and groups and even Instagram.

Hack: Use Buffer.com to schedule and post your social media content. Want hand-holding to help get started? We created a walk-through for you at workingwithdog.com/buffer.


8. Don’t Pay for Facebook Likes
The time of reaching even a small percentage of the people who have liked your business’ Facebook page for free has gone. Now you must pay to play. But, if you’re still working on building up your community on Facebook, do not use the ‘pay for likes’ option in Facebook Ads. 

Hack: Regularly post your brand’s content, such as from a blog, to your Facebook business page. Now and then, pay to push it to more people. When people ‘like’ that content, you have a chance to invite them to like your page. Simply click on ‘these people have liked this,’ and a list will show of all the people who already like your page and those who don’t. A button will appear allowing you to invite non-followers to like the page. Your money is much better spent promoting content and inviting the people who like it to follow your page.


7. The Rule of 5’s
You’ve heard it before and will keep hearing it for the foreseeable future–content is king. But there are so many ‘rules’ about how to create and share great content, it can be easy to get discouraged, especially if creating any content at all is a huge hurdle for you or your organization. Instead of trying to do it all, start with this tip from one of my favorite digital marketing exerts, Jane Harrell from ‘cause Digital Marketing.

Hack: When preparing content for your business, the most important thing to remember is to follow the rule of 5’s: Make it easy for your reader to spend five seconds, five minutes or five hours engaging with you and your world. Keeping them for five seconds means you need lots of headers and bullet points to make text easy to skim. This is probably the most essential tip, because if your audience is greeted with a wall of words, they’ll bounce. Five minutes might be a full read-through of the article or full view of a five-minute video. Keeping someone around for five hours would be quite a trick, but the idea is to always link to other relevant content. Make every article or video an excuse to start a new journey, giving the reader somewhere else to go, or something else to learn, download or consume.


6. What is the Point of Twitter Anyway?
Twitter is great for a lot of things, including: customer service, amplifying content, building a platform as an expert, connecting with journalists and other influencers, building relationships, sharing news and yes, even identifying and acquiring new customers.

Hack: Using Twitter’s ‘advanced search’ function you can find your ideal customers. Search terms like ‘my dog’ and then you can add the resulting users to a list named something like ‘cool dog owners.’ This accomplishes two things. First, you can identify potential customers to engage, and second, when they see the notification that they’ve been added to a list, they are likely to click to your profile and check out your business.


5. Get on the Video Bandwagon
Video is not going away, so you might as well embrace it. Did you know that YouTube is the second largest search engine? Did you know that everything you say in your video gets transcribed and becomes searchable? That means it’s not just the keywords you use, or the title of the video, but the content itself that adds juice to your SEO. Not only that, but it will elevate your click-rate in email too. 

Hack: Consider making videos instead of writing blogs. Create how-to videos, make a ‘vlog,’ which is a bit more personal, take your audience behind the scenes at your business or simply share a weekly tip. Although video may feel a bit daunting at first if you’re not used to it, most of my clients find that after a couple tries, it’s a much faster and more efficient way to create content than writing. It can even be fun, like having your own TV show. What’s more, once you’ve created the video, you can have someone transcribe it, and you can easily convert the video to MP3. Upload the YouTube link to your blog post, throw in the link for the MP3 and now no matter how your audience likes to consume their media, you’ve covered it. Facebook is rewarding videos uploaded natively to their platform with more views, so you can upload it there too and have your content be seen by a lot more people.


4. Go Big or Go Home with Promotions
Unless you already have insane demand for your product, it’s super premium and you never discount it, I don’t ever want to see you advertise a 10 percent off coupon. Ever. It’s just not compelling. 

Hack: Even with all the content and nurturing in the world, you will have to sell to your audience at some point. You have to give them a reason to buy now instead of staying perched up on that fence. When you run promotions, go big. Go 50 percent off, or ‘buy one give one’ or ‘get this free gift worth $100.’ Promotions only work when they’re compelling, which means making the offer a total no-brainer and adding pressure with urgency and scarcity. 


3. Build Relationships on Instagram
Instagram might be the last great free way to build and reach a captive audience on social. Marketing at its core is all about influencing behavior–getting people to click, like, comment, share or buy. For most pet brands, the best way to do this is to build a relationship over time via a combination of content, email and social media.

Hack: To build this relationship on Instagram, use the ‘story’ feature as often as possible. This is a short photo or video feature that you take, add text to and share. It doesn’t live in the regular Insta feed, it sits at the top. Word on the street is that the more you use it, the more priority your photos will get to show up in your followers’ feeds—although, like all things digital, this may change tomorrow.


2. Get in on Influencers
If you’re not yet familiar with what an influencer is or does, it’s time to get clued in. An influencer is a passionate, perceived expert in a niche—a person with social power that amounts to influence over an audience. Through their influence, they can help send eyeballs and buyers your way. They are also very affordable compared to traditional marketing channels, and they usually offer a far more targeted, measureable and effective marketing opportunity.

Hack: If you want to become an influencer or find influencers that might be a good fit for your brand, visit Hubba.com. You can sign up as a pet retailer, brand or influencer and access their massive pet business community. 


1. Optimize Your Why
I admit it’s kind of cheating to put this on this list because it is not fast, but it is too important to leave out. If you don’t do this step first, all of your marketing efforts will be much less effective. In Working with Dog and in my book Million Dollar Dog Brand, I teach a framework called the ‘6 Marketing Senses.’ These senses are a step-by-step guide to shaping your business into a brand, and the first marketing sense is your ‘sense of self’—your why. Why do you do what you do? What do you believe in? You need to know this and communicate it expertly. This means leading with ‘we believe…’ rather than ‘we offer…’ or ‘we are….’ or ‘we make…’ Making this slight change speaks directly to your ability to show up authentically and with a purpose.

Hack: If you want help finding your ‘why’ or crafting it into a delicious brand statement or brand pillars that can provide focus for your communication strategy, consider joining Working with Dog. We can teach you how and help you along the way. 


J. Nichole Smith, founder of Working with Dog, has been engaging with pet businesses for over 10 years. Her approach to keynotes, break-out sessions and workshops alike is an emphasis on honesty, humor and action. As an author, photographer, designer, marketing strategist and serial entrepreneur, Smith’s insights into the mixed-up worlds of creativity, self-employment and marketing are comprehensive and unparalleled in the pet industry. Her results-driven presentations center around a dogged approach to marketing, stories from a fascinating decade as a petpreneur and generous helpings of road-tested strategies for achieving scary goals, taking big leaps, earning serious money and building a dream life. She was also selected as a “40 Under 40” Influencer by Pet Age.

 

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