10 Pet Marketing Commandments

Clearly I am no Moses and my inspiration is far from divine. However, I do know a thing or two about how to be successful in the pet industry. So here are my 10 Pet Marketing commandments, violate them at your own risk. Follow them and you may find success & riches in the pet industry.

10 Pet Marketing Commandments



1. Thou shalt have more than 1 pet product SKU.

You need to build a brand block on the shelf. One SKU products have so many disadvantages – from a buyer not wanting to do the paperwork to being hard to find at retail. Use sizes, colors, scents, etc. to create a minimum of 10 – 12 SKUs which will constitute a product “line”.

2. Thou shalt have great packaging.

Many start-ups try to enter the pet industry with poor brand names, logos and packaging. Your product may be excellent so give it a real chance in the market with great packaging. You can get professional looking packaging much cheaper than you may expect.

3. Know thy pet category.

Before you enter the pet industry know the pet category you are entering. If it is a hotspot lotion you need to know the market potential – how many dogs suffer from hotspots? How many consumers purchase hotspot creams & lotion at retail vs. from their vet. How much does the average hotspot solution cost? How many hotspot solutions are available at Petco & Petsmart? How competitive is the category? This will give you a better idea of what the real opportunity is.

4. Thou shalt get the right pet rep.

Having the right rep is the difference between sitting in front of a legitimate buyer at Petco or Petsmart and endlessly cold calling a buyer and sending samples. Most work on commission only so the risk to you is minimal. Get the right rep and get a real appointment. Stop cold calling and wasting your product on samples.

5. Know thy competition.

Know your competition’s products, pricing and key accounts. Can you match or beat their pricing? What are their strengths, what are their weaknesses? How many competitors are there in your category? Follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. What are they talking about? Is there packaging & marketing better than yours?

6. Thou shalt have a pet marketing budget.

You MUST have a marketing budget to promote your pet product. The typical rule of thumb is 10-15% of gross revenue for marketing. If you are spending less you are at risk. Keep in mind the difference between success and failure is awareness - among the trade and consumers of your product. If you are not generating awareness you aren’t generating sales.

7. Thou shalt go to Global Pet Expo.

If you are series about being in the pet business you need to join APPA and attend Global Pet Expo. It is the only trade show that really matters. Once you grow you can spend the money and attend Superzoo and Backer.

8. Know thy pet customer (retailer).

What are the account’s margin requirements? What are their price points of your competition? Does your product fall into a focus area for them? How many stores do they have? What would an opening order look like? How do they define success for your product category?

9. Thou shalt advertise your pet product.

This is related to #6. You need a budget to spend on advertising. First advertise to the trade in Pet Product News, Pet Business and Pet Age. As you build enough distribution to be found in chains and independent pet stores you can begin advertising to consumers – Dog Fancy & Cesar’s Way are good starting points.

10. Thou shalt conduct pet marketing research.

Test everything -- your name, product concept, advertising, etc. It’s never been easier or cheaper with products like Survey Monkey. Post the questionnaire on your Facebook Page and create Twitter updates about it. Ask for honest opinions and you will get the answers you need. If you really want to do research the same way Procter & Gamble does it will cost you, but not that much with Zoomerang.

I hope you find the commandments helpful. I wish you the best of luck in your pet business.

Need help? Bulldog offers a FREE 30 minute Pet Marketing consultation. Contact us to set an appointment.

Want to learn more? Visit the Pet Marketing blog.

5 Pet Business Killers

Are you killing your pet business?  You may be.  Over 10 years of experience in the pet industry has taught me that if you are doing the following 5 things you may be squeezing the life out of your pet business.  Do any of the following sound like you?

1)      Not understanding the Market for Your Pet Product – you need to know what the real potential for your product is.  For example, you have a hotspot remedy.  Great!  Now, how many dogs suffer from hotspots?  If you don’t know, you shouldn’t develop a product for it.  All product development efforts should start with knowing how many people could potentially purchase your product.  You should have a good estimate of units and dollar volume.  So in this example, if you find out from a reliable source that 25% of dogs suffer from hot spots in any given year then your potential volume could be 78 million dogs (source: APPA) X 25% = 19MM.  So if EVERY dog owner buys your product the total volume potential is 19MM and if you sell your item for a retail of $4.99 the total dollar volume is $97MM.  Now not EVERY person is going to buy YOUR product for hotspots.  There are a lot of other considerations.  How many people will simply do nothing or visit their vet… but I would say you could turn it into a $1MM+ business if you do everything else right.

2)      Using Cost Plus Pricing for your Pet Product – This is a common mistake of inventors or first time entrepreneurs.  You take your cost, let’s say $3 and double it for a 50% margin, 100% markup for a cost to retail of $6.  The retailer doubles it for another 50% margin or 100% markup for a retail price to consumers of $12.  Makes perfect sense right?  A 50% margin is healthy for a startup – maybe too healthy.  Most operate at breakeven or even a negative gross margin for the first year or so.  Back to our example… your item is now $12.  Problem?  Your competition or comparable items are all $9.99 or less.  This is a big problem.  The retailer WILL NOT CUT HIS MARGIN TO SELL MORE OF YOUR PRODUCT.  It is your responsibility to price your item right.  Most product companies are based on economies of scale – sell more and your manufacturing costs drop.  Keep that in mind.  You should use the retail price you believe the ultimate consumer will pay and work backwards to your cost.   If you can’t get the product for that price then either work at a loss for awhile to build volume or don’t get into the business.  Look for something else to make or go get a regular job.

3)      Not doing any Marketing Research for Your Pet Product – I’m sure you think your product is great.  If you didn’t you wouldn’t have created it.  I’m also sure IT IS great.  However, just to be sure ask some people what they think.  Ask your neighbor your co-working or friend.  Show them the product in its packaging and simply ask would you buy this product for X?  X= estimated retail price point.  Now if you want to go further use Survey Monkey and create a more formal survey.  You can post the link on your Facebook page and Tweet about it. Try to get around 100 people to take the survey.  Show a picture of the product with a few sentences explaining what it does and include the suggested retail price point.  If you are worried about secrecy just use a text descriptor to give a general overview of your product.  Ask some questions about it and see if the responses are as enthusiastic as you expected.  Research doesn’t have to be expensive, but it is essential.  The best part is if the results are positive you can use them for your retail sales presentation.

4)      Not Developing Enough SKUs – This is a recurring theme in my blog posts and pet marketing video lessons.  I keep repeating it so it eventually sinks in.  I am going to repeat – MOST 1 SKU PRODUCTS WILL FAIL.  It’s simply not worth a buyer’s time to do the paperwork for 1 SKU.  In addition, the buyer knows it won’t do well.  Why?  It will get lost on the retail shelf and never be found.  It’s not that hard to develop more SKUs.  Think large, medium and small size.  Different flavors, different scents.  A good rule of thumb is to shoot for 10-12 SKUs to create your product line and “brand block” on shelf.

5)      Not Getting Help Early Enough – I have many prospects take advantage of my FREE ½ hour consult.  What I hear more often than not is that tens of thousands of dollars have been spent with little or no results.  Don’t be one of these prospects.  I have spent the last 20 years (the last 10+ in the pet industry) making mistakes and doing testing.  Take advantage of my mistakes!  I know what works and what doesn’t.  I am sure you are really smart, but it takes awhile to understand the pet industry and how to successfully introduce a product into the market.

Want help? Contact us for a FREE Half Hour Consult.

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