Why getting where you want to be with your pet business is easier (and less expensive) than you think.

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Whether you have a new brand new pet product or you’re ready to take an existing pet business to the next level, there are an enormous amount of tools that can help you lower your risk and make better decisions.

Two market research tools that make running your pet business easier:

1. Field an online concept test to make sure you don’t waste energy on low potential ideas.

Marketing people use market research to validate the strength of an idea before you invest too much time and money.   Tools like online concept tests are predictive of in market results (really) and can be invaluable to give you demographic and psychographics about those who are most interested in your idea.  This information is used to refine your target, sharpen your creative, and can make a huge difference on the ROI of your marketing spend (particularly search & social).  Another way market research can increase your chances of success is to put concept inputs and projected marketing spend into a volume-forecasting model.  These models are built off of in market results from thousands of new products and can forecast new product volume to an accuracy of +/-17%. Investing upfront to find out how big your business will be (and how much marketing you will need to spend) simply makes so much sense when dealing with investors or the Finance department.   A concept test costs approximately $30,000 assuming you have strong concepts to test and are interested in looking at a few variations.

2. A pricing study can pay for itself if it ensures that you don’t leave money on the table by charging too little.

If your product is really whiz bang, consumers may pay more than you think they will.  Some companies will launch and adjust price afterwards.  It’s an option but coming out priced too high can waste early marketing monies that generate consumer awareness only to have them drop off because the value was wrong.  Conversely, charging too little can hamper early profitability by selling early volume at less than you could.  An online pricing study can help you identify the profit-maximizing price point and can deal with the complexity of base pricing/subscription pricing combinations as well.  A pricing test costs approximately $22K, presuming you have a strong concept already developed.

Two marketing steps that make running your pet business easier:

1. Hire creative and strategic types to help you through critical gates of success.

There are some decisions that your new business or brand just has to get right:  Creation of your distinctive brand, identification of the highest potential audience, designing cohesive brand assets (brand name, logo and packaging), and finally, development of an affordable and effective marketing plan.  You may be the world’s best engineer but that doesn’t mean you can do a good job with these specialized tasks.  That doesn’t, however, mean that a full time agency is your only option.  You can find high-caliber consultants or small creative teams to take you through critical projects in an affordable manner.  There are lots of very talented people who have done their time in corporate America and are now on their own.  They typically have low overhead and are every bit as smart as when they ran the big account for someone else.  Of particular value is the network of former colleagues that consultants maintain.  If you go this route, you’re not getting the junior person and you’re not getting the dysfunctional team that doesn’t play nicely together.   People who respect one another and have worked well together in the past, look for opportunities to collaborate again.  Your pet business can profit from this expertise for as little as $150/hour.

2. Partner with Key Influencers that can extend the reach of your marketing message.

Today’s consumer is resistant to being marketed to; they want the opinion of other users and credible people not under the thumb of the manufacturer.  Partnering with a “key influencer” is a smart way to deliver your message through a credible channel.  It can also open the door to trade association mailing lists, speaking engagements, affiliate programs, etc., that can get your message out to a broader audience cost effectively.  In the pet industry, there are several powerful influencers with whom a brand could partner; it’s important to understand which makes the most sense for your product.  Is it shelters, vets, groomers, breeders, dog bloggers, independent pet store owners, trainers?  Each of these influencers reach a significant number of pet owners in a meaningful way.  If your product makes sense in their world, you can partner with them to:  a.) Kick the tires on your new idea, helping you get things right before launch; b.) Review your product once it has launched to provide credibility; c.) Be a paid spokesperson for your brand; d.) Spread the word to their colleagues via industry email lists and other tools that may not be available to you; and e.) Launch “tell a friend” campaigns to their clientele.

Lastly, it can be hard to be brilliant all by yourself.  Creativity and good ideas tend to flourish when they’re shared amongst smart people.  There are marketing research tools, consultants and agencies that can effectively increase your chances of success.  All you have to invest is the time to make the initial consult phone call.

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