Co-Founder & Director
Email marketing to the modern pet parent is not your typical email marketing.
Where other industries may have the luxury of sending mostly promotional emails to their audience – you know the kind, “Click here to buy my stuff! Here’s a discount so you can buy my stuff!” – pet parents require a much more thoughtful approach.
In essence, they require nurturing.
They need to feel seen, heard and understood – before they’ll ultimately be willing to commit to buying from your pet brand (even more so if you’re a small, independent pet brand.)
They need to feel connected to you.
Which is why in this blog we want to talk to you about how to use email marketing to connect with pet parents. Particularly if you’ve not yet set up your email marketing or are looking at how to improve your current approach, to better engage and nurture your audience.
So without further ado, let’s dive in.
It’s mostly a given that any legitimate business in the modern world sends marketing emails to their audience.
But rather than blindly following the crowd and implementing email marketing because “it’s expected” or “everyone else is doing it”, it’s important to really understand what the advantages are…so you can maximise those benefits for your pet biz.
A lot of modern eCommerce businesses choose to advertise on social media/search engines, et cetera, and believe that will be enough to 1) build a loyal community, 2) increase their brand visibility over competitors and 3) generate consistent sales.
But the thing is that if you’re advertising on those platforms without having a robust email marketing system in place, you’re going to be constantly competing for advertising space. Reliant on your budget being enough to get you “in front” of pet parents over other businesses, and that they won’t just immediately scroll past your ad anyway.
So it’s always going to be a huge whack of a financial investment to purely rely on paid social media or PPC advertising. Whereas in comparison, with email marketing you’re operating on a much more level playing field.
Platforms like Facebook, Instagram and even TikTok are becoming more and more clogged up with people purchasing advertising space. These spaces are becoming more and more competitive and as a result, becoming more expensive. You’re also at the mercy of unseen algorithms and those platforms operating as they promise to.
Whereas with email, like I said before, it’s a level playing field. For example, if your newsletter or promotional email lands in your customer’s inbox, it’s given the same amount of exposure and priority as any other email they receive.
Whether they open or immediately bin your email really then comes down to the kind of relationship that you’ve nurtured and fostered with them from the get go.
Whilst paid social media advertising and PPC advertising does have proven results for many businesses, customers are becoming increasingly fatigued by adverts popping up on their social media feeds.
So if you do choose to go down that route, just don’t put all your eggs in this one basket. Implement email marketing alongside this, so that you’re not completely relying on algorithms or bidding wars working in your favour.
Leading on from this last point, when it comes to social media – companies like Facebook are the ones who ultimately “own” the relationship you work so hard to build with pet parents.
They’re the ones who own all the data, can control the way you interact with your followers, and (as many of us have experienced) can block/revoke/ban your access to their platform at the drop of a hat…often for no obvious reason at all.
Whereas whenever a new pet parent joins your mailing list, this means that you’re then the one who “owns” that relationship. You have their first name, last name, email address. You can connect with them and begin to nurture that connection on your terms.
You’re also not relying on the social media platform to determine whether you show up in front of them or not.
But as we said before, this isn’t all to say you shouldn’t still have a presence on social media too. In fact, people are reported to be 4x more likely to purchase from you if you’re regularly showing up on their social media feed and in their email inbox.
However, it’s still important to know that pet parents may interact with emails very differently than they do with social media posts.
With social media, we’re conditioned to want to chase that next dopamine hit. To click to the next video, to scroll to the next post, often giving content a split second to capture our attention before we discard it and decide to move on.
Whereas in comparison, with email marketing this is a prime opportunity to deepen the relationship with your pet parent audience.
For example, with emails you can:
…The list could go on.
If you’ve established a brand story and identity that the pet parent resonates with (enough to join your email list) then you’ve already framed up their perception of you so that when an email does land in their inbox, chances are they’re more likely to think…
Oh I love this brand. Let’s see what they’ve got to say!
And will give your email much more focused attention and energy, in comparison to something like social media where we’ve been conditioned to scroll, scroll, scroll.
As mentioned before, with emails you can have so many different kinds of conversations with pet parents.
Perhaps you want it to be a longer, more emotive conversation, where pet parents get to know your brand on a much deeper and more personal level.
Or maybe you want it to be a shorter, more exciting & energetic conversation, where you share one of the 4 Types of Value in a way that is immediately accessible and enticing.
Likewise, with emails it’s much easier to include practical elements like links and calls to action (otherwise called CTAs).
You want to direct pet parents to a specific blog or resource available for free on your website? No problem. Just plug the URL in.
Have a selection of products you want to highlight? Easy. And you can add distinct buttons/sections within your email, so that all the CTAs don’t merge into one mess.
There’s no clicking around and getting lost like with social media CTAs – where people A) may not want to leave that social media platform at that specific point in time or B) can’t be bothered to navigate to your profile to follow the #linkinbio.
In fact, from our very own 2021 pet parent survey, we found that the top 3 most popular ways pet parents like to engage with pet brands is:
That’s direct feedback from pet parents that they want to receive emails from pet brands.
Additionally, when you think about how CTAs work in emails on a practical level, pet parents may also be much more likely to click on that URL for a product or blog you want to promote, because they know that link will open in a new window on their screen.
So if they then want to navigate back to the value of your email, it’s easy to. Whereas it may be a bit harder with social media CTAs.
…In other words, if you’re looking to generate revenue and/or increase your website traffic from email marketing, it’s much more effectively set up to help you do so.
Again, from our 2021 research we discovered that 60% of pet parents felt like they were being stereotyped or pigeonholed by pet brands.
That possibly means that over half of your audience feel like you are not having a personal enough conversation with them. They feel like they’re being dealt with in a generic sort of way, rather than you getting to know them or their pets’ needs as individuals.
Yet this is exactly why email marketing can be so powerful. Because it means that you can personalise conversions with pet parents, through collecting information such as the breed of their pet, their pet’s name and age, even their pet’s birthday.
In other words, you can go beyond the basic “tell me your first name, last name and email address” – which again is pretty generic – to ask about their specific interests or needs as a pet parent.
You can also segment your email list based on these interests and needs, sending them tailored communication that talks to those challenges or desires.
For example, as a pet parent my eldest dog Winnie is a rescue, a mutt with a mixture of terrier breeds, and one of her main challenges is barking.
Right there, you already have several distinct (and personal) ways to connect with me as a pet parent.
Rather than sending me generic emails about caring for my dog, what you could instead do is send me emails that specifically talk about caring for terrier breeds – with tailored resources to help with bark training / dealing with a terrier’s chase drive / understanding a terrier breed’s psychology, and suggest product recommendations hand selected just for terriers or medium sized dogs.
Do you see how much more meaningful and valuable your communication then becomes?
How much more memorable you’d be to me as a pet brand, and how much more likely I would be to recommend you to other pet parents who have terrier dogs?
The benefits are obvious.
So now you know why it’s important to implement email marketing, the next step is how.
Here’s some quick tips for how to implement email marketing for your pet business and sustainably grow your list:
If you are unfamiliar with the term CRM, it refers to a customer relationship management system and is essentially a piece of software that helps you to gather your customer’s information, but also kind of track their behaviour online.
Most good quality CRMs also have an email marketing element integrated into their software. Which makes it so much easier to create, schedule and monitor your email marketing results.
Our personal recommendation would be to check out our partners Klaviyo. This CRM integrates especially well with all sizes of ecommerce business, has fantastic personalisation and segmentation options for your email list, and can offer super detailed insight into how each email marketing campaign performs.
Leading on from the last tip, once you have a good CRM system in place, look at automating as much of your email marketing as possible.
Of course, your monthly newsletters will be produced on a more regular basis. But to save you time, money and energy, you can automate other elements of your email marketing in a way that is both structured and strategic.
Automation also helps with the consistency of your emails. Too often we see pet businesses set off with the best of intentions – sending loads of emails to their list in the beginning, but eventually being caught up with other jobs or simply losing momentum & letting it fall by the wayside.
The consequence of this is that pet parents can come to distrust you as a brand – the inconsistency in your communication raising red flags in their mind.
Automation is very much a way to avoid falling into that trap, as you can stagger your email delivery in a way that doesn’t overwhelm or bombard your audience and come across as “spammy”. But in a way that means that you are sending email content that is regular, consistent, dependable, building that trust of a parent by regularly showing up in their inbox.
Regardless of whether they open every single one of your emails or not, when they see your emails landing in their inbox, it means you can regularly remind them of your presence and remain at the forefront of their mind too.
Here’s an idea of some of the automated email marketing flows you can implement:
These are triggered by a customer’s specific behaviour (such as joining your mailing list, putting a product in their basket but then not completing the purchase, or visiting a specific area of your website).
*Interestingly, people that don’t have an abandoned cart sequence in place are missing three to 14% of lost sales – which overall is a lot of sales.
A lot of these automated flows can also be set up to address any questions or concerns a pet parent may have about your product, in a way that is still nurturing the relationship whilst not being overly aggressive, intrusive or promo-heavy.
Once you have these structures in place, the next thing to consider is what content you’re actually going to include in your emails.
At Pet Biz Creatives, our entire ethos is about being value-driven and purpose-led with your email marketing. Which basically means; never simply sending an email for the sake of being self-promotional and spammy, but ensuring that your communication always serves some genuine, beneficial purpose.
So, first and foremost, come from a place of: I want every email I send to communicate some form of value.
Following this, a great way to confirm what exactly type of content approach your specific pet parent audience prefers is through split testing.
For example, you can try one content approach which is more graphic heavy with minimal text against a minimalist content approach where there’s less focus on graphics and longer sections of text that do more storytelling.
It’s important to understand what approach your audience resonates with. What might work for one pet brand won’t work for another.
Trying out these different approaches will take the pressure off you to get it right the first time, and will also highlight exactly what kind of content and delivery your audience prefers.
Once you’ve had the opportunity to split test your email content approach, and understand what style your specific community prefers, your next step should then be to create a series of email templates.
This refers more to the design of your emails, but is a useful step to help speed up the process of physically creating emails.
Cnce you’ve got your branding elements in place and you know details like “my audience responds well to big, bold hero images with short, snappy text in the body”, you can then create a handful of template designs to plug and play with for future emails.
It means that you’re not starting from scratch every single time, speeding up the efficiency and effectiveness of your newsletter or promotional campaigns. And by having a handful of slightly different designs, this’ll also help to keep the look and feel of your emails fresh (as nothing is more boring than opening up an email from a pet brand, and for it to look exactly the same as every other one you’ve received before.)
You may also be wondering “What do I include? What should I talk about? How long should it be?” etc.
To these questions, my advice is to follow the rule of 3.
Of course, there’ll be exceptions to this rule, but if in doubt think a maximum of three sections to your email. Anymore than that and you’re risking it becoming too long or too confused on a thematic level.
Promotional emails will be different in that you want one core focus and one core CTA. But for your monthly newsletters the rule of 3 can be a general rule of thumb to follow.
But remember, things may evolve and change over time. Which is why it’s important to remain creative and flexible with your email content.
More often than not, pet parents will want a reason to join your email list.
They’re most likely already subscribed to countless other mailing lists and may be resistant to the idea of joining yet another email list – unless there’s a really good reason for them to.
So, you need to offer pet parents this reason or incentive to join your mailing list. This could take the form of a lead magnet (e.g. a free guide, eBook or checklist of some sort) or a financial incentive (like a 10% or 15% discount off their first order with you.)
My advice, if choosing to create a lead magnet, is to ensure that the topic of your guide/eBook/checklist relates to your core product. For example, if you sell dog harnesses you may want to create a lead magnet on “Top Ways to Prevent Your Pup From Pulling”.
In other words, something that is relevant to why a pet parent is interested in your pet brand in the first place.
If from the offset you send pet parents emails that look boring, irrelevant or are a bit of a slog to get through, it’s not going to establish a good association with your brand in their mind. They’ll most likely ignore/delete your emails or quickly unsubscribe.
To ensure your emails stand out, you need to provide them with authentic value. As we’ve mentioned, there are 4 Types of Value you can capture in your emails. And remember to follow the 3 Rs with your email content:
Why make it difficult for pet parents to actually find where to opt-in to your email list? It defeats the purpose if you have your opt-in form hidden away, or force pet parents to jump through several hoops just to join your email list.
Although many people may not like it, pop-ups are an easy and effective way to promote your joining your newsletter.
Other places you can have your email opt-in is in the footer of your website (where a lot of us have been conditioned to look.)
You can also create a simple landing page on your website, and have this visible in your top navigation bar.
Basically, however you want to promote joining your email list on your website, make it super obvious. Make it super clear. And make it super easy.
Likewise, try to keep the fields they have to fill in as few as possible. First name, last name, email address. You can always do more in-depth data gathering later (as we mentioned before, collecting details about their pets + wants/needs as a pet parent.)
So there you have it. A quickfire guide on how to use email marketing to connect with pet parents. I hope you’ve found this information useful and it’s sparked some ideas for your own email marketing.
If you found this blog interesting, you may also want to check out the Pet Biz Project Podcast, where we cover all sorts of topics to do with email marketing & also invite successful pet biz entrepreneurs onto the show to discuss things like developing an exit strategy for your pet brand, the power of video to tell your brand story, scaling your pet business and more.
And, of course, if you’d like our help with getting started or improving your pet biz email marketing, feel free to book in for a complimentary consultation call & we’ll be more than happy to get the ball rolling.