So You Want to Get Into the Pet Business? Part 2 : Competitive Environment

In my last post we looked at a 30,000 feet view of the pet business. We discussed your passion for your new pet product and how you believe everyone will want one. In Part 2, I want to look a little closer at specific categories and put them into 2 buckets...

1. Highly competitive - enter with caution
2. Moderately competitive - You could get in

Now, all of this is predicated on how unique your item truly is. If you have the greatest new dog food with a unique, patented ingredient no one else can get for a few years, then yes you MAY be able to get into the dog food business. Be honest with yourself - is your item really just a me-to? If so, re-think how you could create something really unique. Most of this is really marketing 101, but I am tailoring it to the pet business. So here we go in terms of the buckets...I am not going to cover every single category, but some of the top ones. If you have specific questions about a category - leave a comment and I'll get back to you.

1. Highly competitive - enter with caution
Pet Food - Any - dog, cat, bird, etc.
Apparell - dog clothes is a really difficult business because of sizing. Then it all comes back full of hair!
Fish Tanks, filters, etc.
Any electronics product - it's not really that competitive, but I put it here because electronics products for pets typically DON'T SELL!
Flea & Tick
Poop bags and dispensers

2. Moderately competitive - You could get in with the right items
Treats - there seems to be an openness to new and different treats, even with the big names dominating the top spots.
Toys - retailers want to be fresh. Fact is, pets, like kids get bored with the same old toys, so a fresh inventory of new ideas is always needed.
ID tags - again, consumers love variety here. Probably is that it is typically one and done. No need for a new tag after one is purchased.

So where does your new pet product fall? 1 or 2? In my next post, I'll go into what need once you have selected your product and category. We'll talk about branding and packaging as well as the retail environment and what it takes to get noticed. Have a question? Leave a comment.

Why is Search Engine Optimization Usually The Last Tool in Your Marketing Tool Box?

Why is SEO important? Well if you can get your website on the first few pages of a Google Search Result it can mean the difference between success and failure for your business.  So this leads me to my topic question. Why is SEO overlooked in most marketing campaigns?  Even for businesses that are primarily online and transactional?

I believe it is the "black box" nature of SEO. Ask 10 people what SEO is and how to do it effectively and you will probably get 10 very different answers.  It is a bit of art and science.  It is also fairly new.  TV advertising has been around since the 1950's.  Search Engines have only been around for about 15 years, so it takes time to catch up on the learning and implementation side.

Being a marketer by trade and a salesman by necessity, I realized I needed to get into the Search game.  It is an essential part of any modern marketer's training and toolbox.  It is as important today as media planning and creating great advertising.  So, I got certified by Search Engine College in SEO and Pay-Per-Click advertising (paid search) - these are the ads you see above and on the side of your searches. 

How can you begin your SEO journey?  Bulldog can help, or you can take classes at Search Engine College yourself and learn how to do it.  Getting started in SEO boils down to a few things...

1. Selecting Keywords.  What do you believe consumers are searching for in Google or other search enginges for when they are looking for your products?  For example is it, "dog toys", "dog coats", "Anti-itch shampoo"?  You need to do a lot of homework on this and pick a few key keyword phrases to optimize your site for.  A great tool to help you see how much search volume/traffic for a given keyword is the Google Keyword Tool.  It will also give you ideas on other keywords.  The Keyword Tool will also tell you how competitive the keywords are.  The more competitive, the more difficult to rank for these keywords.

2. On-Page Optimization.  You need to use your selected keywords website title tag, meta description tag, and meta keywords tag in your HTML source code - for each page of your website.  It is important that your tags are different for each page.  You also need to incorporate the keywords carefully into your site copy.  Use Alt-Text tags for the images on your page and include your keywords (if they are naturally relevant).

3. Off-Page Optimization.  Get people to link to your page.  Ask for links or create exciting content like a blog with tips of how to use your product, etc. that people will naturally want to link to.  Become an authority on your category and be seen as a thought leader.  Using Social Media such as Facebook and Twitter can help here.

Let me know if you need any help.  We'll get you started and ranking in no time. Questions? Leave a comment on this post and I'll get back to you.

So You Want to Get Into the Pet Business? Part 1

I decided to write a series of articles on what it takes to get into the pet business. Why? I find that most of my clients, by the time we meet, have made so many mistakes that it is almost too costly and difficult to recover. If you can get some things right from the beginning, it will save you time and money. What's in it for me? Hopefully you will have more money to build your business with Bulldog Marketing & Sales by generating awareness via advertising, SEO, SEM, PR, Promotions, Social Media, etc. rather than fixing your mistakes! Yes, pet is projected to be a $51 BILLION business this year. People tend to get really excited about that number, but before you jump in with both feet you need to do your homework.  Most businesses start with a passion, which is great.  I certainly don't want you not to be passionate, but don't be blindly passionate - know what you are getting yourself into.

Let's begin...

The American Pet Products Association tells us that the pet products business is estimated to be $51 Billion in retail sales in 2011. But before you go running off and created the next dog food, let's look at how that number breaks down.

Food, $19.53 billion, 38%

So this is a pretty big market.  But be careful, it is extremely competitive and very difficult to break into.  Food is one of the most loyal products a pet owners buys for their dog.  It is VERY difficult to switch someone from one food to another.  Usually the vet or breeder makes a recommendation and that is what the dog eats for the rest of its life.  The business is dominated by a few major players (Nestle/Purina, Hills, etc. and several smart and nible players like Wellness and Blue Buffalo - what I feed my dog).

Supplies/OTC Medicine, $11.4 billion, 22%

Another big number, but considering this includes Flea & Tick products like Frontline
and Advantagemade Bayer Healthcare.  APPA doesn't break the number down further, but it also includes toys, beds, collars and leashes, etc.  These are also fairly big markets and highly competitive.  Some more than others.  So enter with caution.

Vet Care, $14.11 billion, 28%

Unless you are a Vet, you can just lop $14 billion off of the $51 billion.  This number includes the money you shell out each time you bring your pet to the vet.  You could stop right here, get a medical degree and become a vet, but if that isn't in the cards, read on.

Live animal purchases, $2.15 billion, 4%

I wouldn't go into the live animal business.  It's difficult and controversial.  So unless you are opening a store that sells puppies, I would stay way.  Even if you are opening a store, you might want to consider not offering live animals.  You don't want to perpetuate puppy mills, etc.

Pet Services: grooming & boarding, $3.65 billion, 7%

It is believed that shampoos are included here as well as when you take your dog in to your local groomer.  In my opinion, shampoo is the next most competitive item from dog food, so enter with caution.

Ok, so there is a broad look at the pet business by the numbers.  What category do you want to get into and why?  In my next article, we'll cover how to decide what do do once you decide what category you want to get into and reveal which categories have the easiest path to entry.

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I just submitted the Pet Marketing Blog to Technorati!

I want to spread the word about the Pet Marketing blog.  I just submitted my blog to Technorati this morning and hope to get listed.  They require a code in a post to verify that I am the owner.  My code happens to be M8RSU2T7FGKC.

Have you listed your blog at Technorati?  You should. For more details visit