By Melanie Haber
Having worked in the pet services and product industry for over 20 years, I have found that anyone can put a price tag on a can of food and hope it sells. Rather than just sell a can of dog food, I want to give you the tools to market pet foods for success! Marketing can be a fun and very financially rewarding way to sell any product or service in your facility, but it takes some time, creativity, and commitment. If you can commit, I will provide you with the creative tools needed to sell your pet foods without taking up all of your free time.
Find a quality food. This may be the most important thing you do when selling pet foods. Find a food company that practices safe handling methods. Check FDA.gov for pet food recalls. Check for the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Label on the products to ensure the nutritional adequacy of a pet food.
Consider the health of the pet. Transitioning a pet to a new food should be under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. The last thing you want is a pet getting their stomach upset from changing too quickly to a food you recommended.
Keep it stocked. If you aren’t consistent in providing pet foods to your customers, they will go somewhere else, and that may end up impacting your grooming business, too.
Display. You don’t need to re-invent the wheel with this one. Follow the example of corporations that have spent millions on pet food marketing. Take a walk down the pet food aisle at a grocery or pet superstore to see ideas for successful displays: labels facing out, fully-stocked shelves, and coupon positioning.
Point of Sale (P.O.S.). Make sure to have products positioned at the checkout for impulse buyers. Train your staff to “suggestive sell” at checkout. Suggestive sales at checkout helps sell more food but also tells clients that 1) you carry food, and 2) you can save them a trip to the grocery or pet store. It keeps them from forgetting to buy their pet’s food. With one simple question, “Do you need any pet food or treats today?” your employees can communicate all of the above while increasing the dollar amount of each transaction.
Empower your employees to sell. Empower your employees through education. Have brand-sponsored lunch meetings, product updates during staff meetings, and reduced pricing for employee pet food sales. If your employees aren’t using your products, they will not sell them. Employees are walking billboards for your business, and you can control what this living advertisement says through education. Create employee incentives by having monthly sales contests and reward them with free pet food, pet brand gift cards, or credit for foods on their personal account.
Promote pet food as a service. Include pet food or treat choices on your bathing menus so the sale is made before check-out. (Don’t know what a bathing menu is? Contact me for more details.)
Refills and repeat sales. Based on how frequently the pet returns for grooming (i.e. every 6–8 weeks), make sure they are taking home enough food to get them through to their next visit. This serves two purposes: it keeps them from shopping elsewhere and locks in another reason why they shouldn’t miss their next grooming appointment. For repeat pet food purchasers, you should already know what food they are feeding so you can have a bag ready.
Accessories. Carry food bowls, pet treats, travel kits, water fountains, and other food-related accessories to keep clients from going to your competition for supplies. This doesn’t have to be a whole wall of items—just one brand of large, medium, and small accessories.
The Fun Stuff
This section of marketing should go hand-in-hand with your social media. Any event, promotion, holiday special, or new products should have a mention on your Facebook or other social media platforms. Stick to the 80/20 rules of social media interaction: 80% fun interaction and 20% business. Make selling the pet foods part of the 80% fun! If your business (not you personally) isn’t on at least two social media networks, now is the time!
Tasting parties. Move over wine—it is time for pet food tasting parties! Once a month, invite clients to a private pet food tasting party. Really have fun with this one by using party store pet-themed plates, napkins. and bowls.
Fancy Feline Home Tasting Kits. Since cats are homebodies, create home tasting kits of your kitty food samples. Your local dollar store can provide you with plastic wine glasses, paper doilies, and toy tiaras for the pet owner to set a plate fit for the most finicky of felines. Encourage the owners to take a picture for your Facebook page of their pet eating food out of a “wine” glass all while wearing a tiara sitting on top of a sophisticated place setting.
Picture Promotions. Take pictures of pets eating the food with the bag strategically placed next to the pet. Upload the photos to a digital picture frame or DVD player to run a slideshow in your lobby.
Facebook testimonials. Encourage clients to post pictures of their pets eating food products to your Facebook page with a testimonial.
Twitter specials. Have clients follow you on Twitter to receive notices when there is a special or new promotion.
Birthday parties/puppy parties. Once-a-month birthday parties and puppy parties are the ideal platform to let clients try out new treats for their pets.
Puppy and kitten kits—start them early! Create these kits to sell or give away to create brand loyalty. All-in-one kits should include food bowls, collars, shampoos, leashes, coupons to lock in future food sales, etc. Providing these all-in-one kits keeps clients from having to go to your competitors for accessories.
Home Delivery. Offer pet food delivery to your mobile grooming clients. Food delivery can really boost your per client transaction especially since you are already dealing with someone that likes to have services brought to their front door. If you aren’t a mobile groomer but offer pet pick-ups, you can offer food delivery services, too!
Price Matching. If you are a small business, it can be hard to compete with the pet superstores for sales. Sometimes price matching your top three sellers can create client loyalty. These products (loss leaders) may not make a large profit, but they keep the clients coming through your door. Even if you are just a few cents cheaper, people will choose to buy from you.
Emailing and Texting Specials. Modern forms of communication and client education are necessary for successful sales. Using eNewsletters and texting can be your key to success. Collecting emails and cell phone numbers from EVERY client is a must! Two web companies I like for these services are Constantcontact.com and Demandforce.com.
Video Promotions. Almost everyone can take a video with their smart phone. Take videos of pets eating the foods strategically standing by the bag for “video testimonials.” Burn these videos to a DVD and play on a TV in your lobby or upload to YouTube. If you want to get really creative, use an inexpensive video software program like Nero Vision Xtra to add music, captions, voiceovers, and credits to add flair to your promotions. Ask your brand if they have pre-made video promotions for your use as well.
Co-op Advertising. Many pet food companies budget a certain amount every year for their customer’s advertising either in dollars, advanced marketing materials (videos, educational seminars), and co-sponsoring print ads where their logo is included. Oftentimes, these are perks that you need to ask for.
Don’t overwhelm yourself by starting too many projects at once. Commit to one or two of these ideas each month. Implementing just even a handful of these marketing tools can increase your food sales, strengthen client loyalty, and make marketing of your business fun and easy! If you need more detailed information about these marketing tools, please message me at facebook.com/ePetmarketing or Facebook search Melanie Haber Marketing and look for the peek-a-boo Boston Terrier!
Melanie Haber has been managing pet spas and veterinary practices for over 20 years. She graduated with honors in Business Administration and Management and has a special focus on marketing in the pet industry. Currently, she is Marketing Director for Iv San Bernard fine Italian pet products (USA Division), Animal Health Services and is a private consultant through Melanie Haber Marketing, LLC. She is a former cat groomer, periodical contributor, and world traveler.