By MIssi Salzberg
Last week, I attended a marketing and small business development seminar hosted by the local Chamber of Commerce. I am so used to participating in or teaching marketing and business strategy for pet-related businesses specifically, so I was curious to hear another perspective. The woman leading the program had an extensive background in brick-and-mortar store development, as well as online business strategies. Although much of the material she presented was familiar to me, this program did reinforce what I already believed to be the most powerful marketing tool for the independent pet professional, which is social media.
When I first decided to write about this subject, I was going to dive into a step-by-step instruction manual on how to set up a business page, but it’s been done hundreds of times. Just Google it! One link that is very succinct with great images to guide you is http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-to-set-up-a-facebook-page-for-business/. After realizing the overwhelming amount of guides online, I am redirecting this article to why it is so important for you as a small business owner, specifically caring for peoples’ pets, to have a presence and ongoing dialog with your customers on Facebook.
Making the decision to choose a professional pet pro, whether it’s a groomer/stylist, daycare provider, trainer, or veterinarian, is a very personal one. I always come back to the “emotionality” of this decision when I speak at conferences. I liken it to, yes, choosing a pediatrician for my daughter. Choosing Dr. F to be my baby’s pediatrician was easy, because I love him and I trust him. It is the same for pet owners! They want someone they can love and trust to care for their pets. In deciding to entrust Evangeline’s care to Dr. F, I also recognized that I would be having an ongoing relationship with him and his office possibly for the next 18 years. That is a commitment, in my mind, and one my wife and I thought about seriously.
There are many reasons we chose Dr. F. He is in our community, he is accessible, and he is exceptional at what he does. He is extraordinarily kind and patient (very important for me, as I am a wee bit over-protective and I love to worry). I know all of this because I have been in this community my whole life. What if I weren’t, though? What if I just moved to town and had to make a decision about care for my daughter? I would most likely ask friends that use similar services, right? I would also see what businesses they like on the social network we share, which is Facebook. In this marketing sense, Dr. F doesn’t have a strong presence for newbies in town. His practice doesn’t utilize a Facebook page, and I think they are missing the boat on FREE marketing.
Are you missing the boat? Do you have a great Facebook page? Do you regularly engage your fans? Do you post pictures of their “kids” of the four-legged variety on your page? Do you personally respond to their comments and feedback? If you do not, you are missing out on one of the best free marketing tools available to you as a small business, and you need to get on board!
I don’t typically throw numbers at readers, because they can feel so overwhelmed when you are one person running one business. It can make you feel disconnected when you hear “millions” of users; however, when I break numbers down to percentages and smaller figures, it makes sense more easily.
Think about these facts:
There are five new profiles created on Facebook every second of every day, meaning the audience is growing exponentially every day!
From 2010 to 2011, there was a 48% increase in the number of people that log on daily.
Almost 30 % of these people are between the ages of 25 and 34, which is a prime market for pet owners.
With 53% of users being female and 47% male, you are able to reach both genders effectively on Facebook.
Pet owners frequently feature their dogs and cats on their Facebook page as part of the family.
In the last three years, the number of businesses that say Facebook is critical or important to their marketing and business success has increased by 75%.
All of the figures are impressive without question. My Facebook pages for my businesses are very effective, and we have enjoyed many new customers from this social media, but why? What is it that we want to create on Facebook as professional pet care people? Anyone can throw up a Facebook page for fans, but what is your goal?
My goals on Facebook are to create a community of pet-loving fans that interact with one another and to try and convey the sense of love and intimacy that we have inside the store on a daily basis. What I am always thinking of is a sort of tight circle of people that “get it!” They get us. They understand who we are and what we are trying to provide to our customer base. It’s a little “Ya-Ya Sisterhood” in terms of being a bit of a circle of people in the know about this great place called The Village Groomer and Pet Supply.
What are the key elements and ongoing techniques to creating this “intimate” business page on Facebook? If you currently have a Facebook page but are not getting a lot of marketing success from it, what can you do differently to boost engagement with fans?
Be personal, but not too personal. Part of creating an inner circle on Facebook for your business is letting your customers experience a feeling when they see your page, a sense of limited intimacy. For instance, I frequently post pictures of my daughter with our menagerie of animals. People have watched her grow from day one, and they love to see her. I also post pictures and stories about my own herd of hounds and goats and chickens. My customers love hearing about a pinch of my personal world—but just a pinch. I am a very private person when it comes right down to it, so there is a balance.
Offer great deals for Facebook fans only! Make them for that day only and see if you get any response. Offer something special to anyone that becomes a friend. You can see who joins at any time utilizing Facebook analytics.
Be very active. Post every day. Keep in mind that customers log on to Facebook more than once a day, so provide them with something to see or an interesting bit of information related to pets. Create an ongoing dialog like you are talking to a friend.
Share stories about your customers and cool things they do, especially if related to pets. If someone rescues a pet, throw a little birth announcement out there!
Recognize your customers’ losses if their pets pass. We try to honor the pets we care for and their families for these long-term connections we’ve had with them. Many other fans will jump in and send them love.
Send “shout-outs” to people you know are fans about cool things happening in their life. My dad always said he did some dog grooming and a whole lot of talking! If someone mentions their kid got accepted to school, find a cool graphic and put it on your page!
Post community events and items of interest for pet people: links to pet walks, rescue days, fundraisers, etc. Let people know what is happening in their own backyard.
Upload, upload, upload! Pictures are priceless! Feature makeovers and funny pics of dogs in the tub! Customers love to see their own pets featured, and other owners always chime in!
Have photo contests with customers submitting digital photos to your page! In March, we had a St. Patty’s Day contest that got many funny pics of dogs in all sorts of Celtic outfits—with beer, of course.
Feature cool bits about your business from the past! I will throw up a picture of me in the shop from the ‘70s, and my customers will pick on me ruthlessly about my bad haircut or bell-bottoms, but it gets a rise and engages people, and that is the point. I also post pictures of my late father on certain anniversaries, because the business has been around for almost 44 years, and many of our customers knew my dad. I also kept my customers informed about my mom when she was ill a few years ago, and they sent her more messages than I can count.
In my mind, the goal is engagement and a sense of intimacy. You may not be able to create intimacy if your product is duct cleaning or hardware, but we, as professional pet care people have an intimate relationship with our customers on a certain level. It is up to us how close we do or don’t get, but a warm, inviting Facebook presence speaks volumes for your business if it is designed with the love of pets and their peeps in mind!
Finally, when you do get that awesome Facebook page up, ask your fans to share it! Don’t be shy! We jumped over a hundred “likes” when I simply said, “If you love the Village Groomer, share this page with your friends!” The Facebook fans in my “Ya-Ya Sisterhood”were happy to do so!
Here are our numbers from last week, just for fun!
We had 47 new page “likes.”
We reached 1,087 people with posts and shares.
We picked up eight likes from one of our fans recommending us to another person.
We were “shared” by 18 customers to their own personal pages, introducing the Village Groomer to a whole new untapped audience!