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Puppy Love

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When it comes to marketing, I’d like to think we’ve tried it all.

That isn’t true, of course. It couldn’t be, probably because there are as many marketing programs as there are potential markets. Every marketing adventure should appeal to a specialized segment of your chosen demographic. But, unfortunately, it’s generally at the exclusion of some other portion of the market and to a large degree that’s the point.

You could argue that the broader your potential audience, the more effective your potential for success might be. But, you could just as easily argue the more tailored and specific a program, the more powerful the result.

Truth be told, both answers are correct and that’s why we keep slugging away in what we hope will be an endless cycle of creative success—one powerful and positive program result after another. And recently, our shop hit one out of the park.

It wasn’t one of the reward programs we’ve instituted over the years and it wasn’t a new and clever loyalty point program either. It was something so different and powerful I feel compelled to share it if for no other reason than to see if it might work for you.

It started about six months ago with a friend’s vacation pictures, which included the latest edition to his family, a travel pet they “adopted” from a Portland hotel while traveling. The pet was a soft and cuddly stuffed dog and they were excited because a portion of the proceeds from the “adoption” went to a local rescue shelter.

I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but more than any other marketing idea I’ve ever been exposed to, this idea of offering a “pet” up for adoption with a portion of the proceeds going to a local no-kill rescue organization resonated with me to the point I couldn’t get it out of my head.

Staff GraphicAll I could think of was, “How can I make this work for us? How could I reward my customers and at the same time make a statement and give something back to the community?”

I started searching for a stuffed animal that was cute, cuddly and irresistible. It turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be. I went to the promotional products guy I’ve been using for years only to be told he couldn’t find what I was looking for. Then, I tried a new promotional products specialist who attacked the challenge as if world peace depended upon it. He was unsuccessful at first, but he refused to quit and eventually came up with a company and a product—eight products, in fact. Eight breeds, all of which are irresistible.

After finding the perfect puppy we had to find a worthy organization. One of our clients is deeply involved in animal rescue and I reached out to her for advice. She not only knew where to go and what to do, she had the perfect partner to do it with: A no-kill rescue shelter called Rescue From The Hart, here in Los Angeles.

We met and it was obvious this was going to be it. At least, for the time being. The only thing left would be figuring out exactly what we needed to do to make it work.

How do you do that? How do you juggle the cost of the premium, the cost of the “puppy,” with the cost of adoption and then a donation to a local shelter? The “puppy” would be a giveaway with any purchase of automotive service greater than $150. The cost of the giveaway itself was just over $8, about 5 percent of the minimum purchase required for adoption. So, anyone spending more than $150 would leave here with a puppy.

But, our average invoice is more than three times greater than $150.

After we place the puppy on the counter, we tell whoever is receiving it that we will also donate $15 in their name to Rescue From The Hart, and then have them fill out their name and address on our puppy log. We also have them fill out an adoption certificate, with their name and the name they’ve given to their puppy, and place it on the wall.

I knew this would be an expensive program when we started it and I knew it would be complicated. I hoped it would result in at least a little goodwill from our clients for the warm fuzzies we were sending their way. However, I never expected the powerful emotional response we’ve been getting from our clients—the appreciation, gratitude and respect.

We’ve had clients purchase additional puppies and others donate directly to Rescue From The Hart. We’ve had people come in that were sent here by friends who insisted we were the only place to take their vehicles because of what we were doing. And, we’ve had the shelter tell the story on their website, which has over 100,000 subscribers, many of whom live our marketing area.

With more than 300 puppies adopted and $4,500 donated to Rescue from the Hart in the past few months, this feel-good program seems to be working for everyone, including us. And, who knows, maybe something like this could work for you, too.

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