5 startup lessons from great pet stores

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A great pet store anticipates what their clients want and always delivers (literally and figuratively). Here are 5 simple lessons from great pet stores that all startups should adopt.

1. Be genuinely excited about all of your customers.

So let me begin by letting you all know that I live in a large city (Toronto) and we have a one-year-old pup. We’ve been going to two amazing local dog boutiques since she was 7 weeks old, both of which are walking distance from our home.Both stores have known and remembered her name since we first brought her in. When she comes to the store, they always greet her and are truly happy to see her. Why? She’s a very nice dog and all of the people who work in these two dog shops genuinely love dogs.

Does everyone in your startup genuinely love what they do? Do they love your startup and do they love your clients? The amazing Marcus Lemonis of CNBC’s The Profit (by far the most genuine show of the reality TV/business genre and by far my personal favorite) very often asks employees of businesses he’s considering investing in “Do you love it? What do you love?” It’s a critically important issue.

2. Treat your best customers like the VIPs they truly are.

Given the fact that we’ve been frequenting these two shops for all of our dog needs (including grooming and general advice, as this is a breed I’ve never had even though I’ve had 7 dogs in my life before her) they know what we like and want.

For example, my dog loves chewing on antlers. Yes – actual antlers (relax – they’re “naturally-shed” – we’re not yanking the rack off a local moose). I didn’t even know this was a thing until her. Both of the shops in issue sell real antlers and one of them let me know when they received an entire rack (yes – the actual full rack of antlers from an antler-based animal). It was not only very cool seeing the whole antler rack, they cut off pieces that we wanted. The end result for the shop was that instead of buying one antler piece, as we do when she chews her way through what she has at home, we bought several pieces at the same time. A win-win and it was really lovely that they let us know.

If your startup has early adopters, customers who have been loyal and vocal on social media, and those who are influencers in any particular niche, find out what they like and give it to them in a way that makes them feel special. If massive credit card corporations can pull this off with their membership campaigns, so can your startup. The trick here is listening to find out what they want then actually remembering. Customers love it when you’re proactive. Show them, in a non-cloying and totally genuine way that you appreciate and deeply value their custom.

3. Make your customers’ lives easier.

Remember that I mentioned that both of the pet stores in issue are walking distance from where we live. That means that we actually walk to them, almost always with our dog. Consequently, the last thing in the world that I want to do when we visit is carry home a 40-pound bag of dog food. Being urban dog stores, they both deliver. Again, you’d think that every store would do this. They don’t. One of the shops sends me a really unobtrusive email when they guess that we’re running low on food. They bring it the same day or next, never a delivery charge. This leads right in to the next point.

4. Anticipate the needs of your customers.

It’s one think to be proactive and courteous to make the loves of your customers easier, it’s another level of excellence to anticipate what they want. Many startups think they’ve found the pot of gold when they achieve some reasonable product-market fit but fail to realize that the minute they achieve this, it’s in the past. Fill the needs of your customers today while anticipating what they’ll want tomorrow. That’s absolutely a process of trial and error, but done well it lets your customers know that you’re looking forward, are interested in how their tastes will develop and evolve (and that you’re interested in playing an actually helpful role in this process), and (back to point number 1) that you truly care.

5. Find a way to be different.

One of my dog stores has an amazing selection of bespoke dog collars. While I’m not in the market for a handcrafted $100+ collar, they’re very cool, elegant, and beautifully made. The other store has a great selection of rain and snow gear for dogs. Having a breed that (especially when she’s tightly shorn) could use a little extra warmth while chasing her colleagues on a frozen lake, she had a Canada Pooch (really) faux fur vest last winter. It had a hood and she looked adorable. She outgrew it so we gave it away and will absolutely replace it when it gets cold.
Become experts in something your competitors don’t do. Find that one thing to differentiate yourself from the pack. Do this thing exceedingly well and communicate to your customers how and why you do it. Have them carry forward your message to attract new customers.

 

This article was originally published here 


Photo via Flickr user Scott Feldstein

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Aron Solomon

Aron is a serial entrepreneur who has launched everything from the first luxury-branded education pop-up, to a global education design studio, to a thriving innovation consultancy that imparts the attributes, values, and techniques of Silicon Valley to audiences around the world. He holds an undergraduate degree in political theory, a graduate degree and teaching certificate in english and economics, and a juris doctor degree. Aron is currently a Senior Advisor at MaRS in Toronto. Find Aron's work on Digital Journal: http://www.digitaljournal.com/user/1054621

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