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NRF unleashes Dave for their National Awareness Campaign [VIDEO] Against Border Adjustment Tax (BAT)

nrfNational Retail Federation Launches Next Phase of Campaign Against Border Adjustment Tax (TAX)

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Ads Featuring Small Business Owners Will Run in Targeted Congressional Districts

Dave Ratner Against Border Adjustment Tax (BAT) NRFWASHINGTON, April 13, 2017 – The National Retail Federation tomorrow will launch the next phase of a television and digital ad campaign against border adjustment tax (BAT) proposed by House Republicans’, building on the success of satirical “As Seen on TV” ads that described the BAT as an “everything tax” for American consumers. In the new campaign, three small retailers – not actors – tell their own stories and convey their fears that the BAT would put them out of business.

Small business owners are already struggling to survive in an over-regulated marketplace, and the border adjustment tax would push many of them under water,” NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French said.

“Erin, Vivian and Dave represent the millions of Americans who have made enormous sacrifices to build their businesses and now are at risk of being taxed out of existence. Their stories are powerful not just because they are real, but because their fears transcend regional and partisan politics.”

The new phase of NRF’s campaign will launch in several communities across the country and will encourage viewers to go to to tell their members of Congress to oppose the BAT. In addition to digital ads featuring all three small business owners, the campaign will begin with a 30-second television spot sharing the story of Erin Calvo-Bacci, the owner of CB Stuffer, a specialty chocolate manufacturer and retailer in Swampscott, Mass.

In the ad, Calvo-Bacci says the BAT “will be devastating. …It means all of my costs are going to increase.” When asked what she wants lawmakers to know about BAT, she says, “I don’t want my company to go away. This is going to kill us.

The other ads feature Vivian Sayward, owner of Vivacity Sportswear in San Diego, and Dave Ratner, owner of Dave’s Soda and Pet City in Agawam, Mass.

The BAT is included in the House Republican leadership’s “Better Way” plan for tax reform. While NRF strongly supports tax reform, the BAT could cause retailers to see tax bills three to five times the amount of their profits, threatening to drive some merchants out of business. Most at risk would be the small retailers that make up 98 percent of the retail industry and provide 40 percent of its jobs.

The new phase of NRF’s campaign with retailers speaking our Against Border Adjustment Tax (BAT) will begin with a two-week television and digital ad buy in the congressional districts of several Republican members of the House.

NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is the nation’s largest private sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy.

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Posted in National Retail Federation by Dave Ratner.

Dave Ratner Speaks At National Retail Federation Conference [VIDEO]

Posted in National Retail Federation by Dave Ratner.
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Frightful, Yes; Incurable, No: Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking

By Michael D. Shaw

There is an affliction that threatens the livelihoods, as well as the very lives, of a great many people. I exaggerate not in the slightest when I assert, as a scientist and as a writer, that the fear of public speaking is the enemy of progress, the foe of education and the opponent of success in general.

Picture an economist with a breakthrough theory about reducing poverty, an academic who is too wary and timid to present his proposal to a major conference sponsored by the World Bank.

Imagine, too, a doctor with a novel concept about molecular biology and eliminating the risk of hospital-acquired infections, who is too nervous about revealing his findings before a packed auditorium.

Consider also the entrepreneur or established executive with critical insight about green energy or customer loyalty, who is too anxious to stand before a lectern and discuss ways to apply his recommendations.

In each of these instances, individuals lack the benefit of listening to—and the public at large loses a chance to learn from—the work of those respective pioneers referenced above.

So great is the fear of public speaking, and so grave are the stakes concerning the triumph of this aversion to taking the stage, that this problem (in addition to the diagnosis and treatment of related anxiety disorders) costs $42 billion a year.

That figure is one of several statistics from a variety of top-tier sources, including but not limited to the National Institute of Mental Health, Harvard Business School, Gallup, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, and the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Awareness of this problem is critical to overcoming this crippling mindset. But, inasmuch as this challenge is a matter of substance, solving (or significantly alleviating) this phobia is a question of style.

All of which brings me to Dave Ratner, an author, independent retailer, and sought-after speaker on a multitude of topics.

By reading about Dave’s story, which is the culmination of having run a Google Searchfor Business Speakers, a seemingly straightforward process that yields an incomprehensible 305 million results, I now can attest to several things.

First, there are many self-described “Business Speakers” who are not, in my estimation, good communicators: They fidget or fumble, or they speak too quickly or too slowly, failing to capture the attention of the viewer and elicit excitement from the listener.

Secondly, many of these same speakers cause the viewer (at least this viewer) to wince, in embarrassment and pity, as these men and women attempt to summon some rhetorician’s dream candidate; a combination of Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

And thirdly, it is this failed effort to be an orator—it is the mistaken belief that all public speakers must deliver public speeches—that (partially) explains and worsens this phobia. For there is a profound difference between speaking publicly and speaking to the public.

The former is what a business speaker should do, which is what Dave Ratner does so well, while the latter is the responsibility of presidents and prime ministers, and of vainglorious generals and itinerant preachers.

Do, in other words, as Dave says . . . without him ever having to explain what he says, or why he says what he does.

Be a conversationalist by chatting with your audience rather than talking to your audience.

This point is not some otherwise unimportant semantic distinction because, when you listen to how a speaker performs and when you then pay attention to how storyteller behaves, the two are worlds apart.

The lesson this writer derives from this fortuitous happenstance, a thunderbolt of online good luck (with ample scrutiny by yours truly, too), is the following: You can overcome the fear of public speaking by being yourself, by sharing anecdotes (both funny and inspiring) with an audience, by talking about what you know—by sharing what you love—with those who have a genuine interest in listening to, and asking questions (at a designated time) about, what you have to say.

I can, therefore, vouch for what I have seen because of what I have heard; that a master of conversation, a professional of Dave’s caliber and modesty, earns your trust and deserves your applause because he is real.

His sincerity is his greatest asset, and his avuncular style is his strongest rhetorical device.

By conversing with people, and by the sheer act of repetition, you can become an effective public speaker.

You need not speak for the ages for listeners to know you are a sage about business, law, medicine, technology or any other discipline.

By showing up, without showing off, the conversation that ensues will be a personal victory and a professional accomplishment.

Let that conversation begin immediately.

Article From Huffington Post

Posted in Articles by Dave Ratner.

Retail Common Sense

By Greg Girard

The IPCPR Annual Convention & International Trade Show is far more than just an opportunity to spend a few days learning about and buying the newest cigars, pipes, tobaccos and smoking accessories. It’s also a chance to network with industry peers and share tips on good practices over a drink and a smoke at the end of a long day on the trade show floor.

Sometimes it’s good to hear from voices outside of the premium tobacco industry. For many years, the IPCPR has organized seminars presented by retail experts from other industries to communicate lessons they have learned in their own businesses. This year, Dave Ratner, owner of Dave’s Soda and Pet City and author of Creating Customer Love: Make Your Customers Love You So Much They’ll Never Go Anyplace Else!, presented two seminars, “How to Get and Keep Good Customers” and “12 Things to Do As Soon As You Get Back to the Store.”

A member of the National Retail Federation board of directors and the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association board of directors, Ratner started his business selling sodas from an abandoned gas station in Hadley, Massachusetts, in 1975. After buying a dog, he expanded his store’s offerings to include pet supplies and created his own line of pet foods. Today, his business has expanded to seven locations and he employs 150 people. In 2010, he earned the National Retail Federation Silver Award recognizing his contributions to the retail industry and he was inducted into the Massachusetts Retail Hall of Fame.

Ratner attributes his success to one simple formula: identifying who your customers are and then taking good care of them from the first moment they step into your store.

Taking good care of customers begins with asking a few basic questions. Is your store easy to get to and does it have good parking? Are you open when customers want you to be open? Is your store clean inside and outside? Do all the light fixtures work? Do all the point-of-sale materials and signs look fresh? Is your store merchandised in such a way that it makes it easier to shop?

“Encourage add-on sales,” Ratner told the audience of IPCPR retailers. “Think how much more business you would do if every customer spent $1 more. Put impulse items near the cash register. [While your business might be predominantly male-oriented], ask your wife or girlfriend to shop your store for tips on merchandising it in ways that might help your female customers feel more comfortable in the shop.”

Once you feel comfortable with your store’s appearance, you’re ready to market your business to attract new customers. A little basic research—learning who your customers are, what they’re interested in buying and where they live—will make your marketing dollars more effective.

Ratner suggested that retailers should consider ads on local talk radio stations, especially sports talk stations.

“Buy one or two days a month and then make those days your own,” he said. “Buy seven or eight ad spots on those days. Do the ad yourself if you have a great personality, but have someone else do them if you feel uncomfortable doing them, because a bad ad is worse than no ad at all. Only talk about one thing in the ad to ensure that your message gets to the audience. The price is very reasonable and usually presents a good return on your investment.”

Buying ads is just one weapon in your marketing arsenal. Retailers should also consider renting a list of subscribers to magazines that might appeal to cigar smokers, such as hunting and fishing magazines or magazines that are devoted to people who are getting married or having kids.

Retailers should have a presence at home shows and wedding shows. They should speak at Rotary Clubs and other organizations and become active in those organizations. They should also identify business partners that sell products that have similar customers.

“Partner up!” Ratner exhorted the audience. “Get other people to do your marketing for you. Perhaps you can create relationships with liquor store owners, wedding planners and local restaurants. Who can you team with to add value to your store? Do what you’re best at and let someone else do the rest.”

Like attracting new customers, keeping them requires a little basic common sense. Get a customer’s contact information and purchase history so that you can develop a relationship with each customer and then use it.

“Getting a customer’s information and then never contacting them is like going out on a date, having a great time and then never calling your date again,” Ratner told the audience.

Hire friendly employees who are willing to do whatever is necessary to guarantee that your customers have a great experience inside your store. Ratner suggested that retailers offer to carry packages to the cars of female customers. He also suggested that, if a customer wants an item that you don’t carry, find it, buy it and then deliver to the customer.

Quoting Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ definition of your brand being what people say about you when you’re not in the room, Ratner explained that “customer service is defined by dealing with problems. I have every employee sign two pieces of paper when they’re hired declaring that they understand that their job is to make sure that the customer has such a great experience at the store that he or she will tell his or her friends to shop there and that each employee is empowered to solve customer problems on the spot.”

While your customer service may be unsurpassed, your prices might not be the lowest, especially in the competitive premium tobacco market when traditional mom-and-pop brick-and-mortar stores compete with Internet and catalog companies. Should retailers match the lower prices available on the Internet when a customer brings up the difference?

“Yes,” Ratner said. “If you don’t match the price then you risk losing the customer forever. If you do match the price then you have the chance to get the customer to buy something else. Focus on your store and worry less about your competitors.”

Retailers can make the pain of matching lower prices hurt less by monitoring their own expenses. Ratner encouraged the audience to check their credit card processor expenses. And when shopping processors, he suggested giving a potential processor two to three months of receipts to estimate how much their service would cost.

While ensuring that your customers get great service, it’s also important to make sure that your inventory is fresh. Ask your customers what else you should carry, and always have new things. Let your customers know when new products arrive in the store, and reward them for their loyalty by creating a frequent buyers rewards club in which they receive gift certificates.

While attracting and keeping customers might seem like a daunting task, all it takes is a little bit of common sense and a willingness to dedicate some time each day to putting that intention into action. The reward for all that effort will be a stronger business and a more loyal customer base.

More Ratner Tips for Business Success

  • The minute you think you’re doing great, you won’t be.
  • Always welcome customer feedback.
  • Ask yourself, What is my competition doing better than I am? Then do that thing better.
  • Keep in contact with your customers, but “don’t send out stupid emails.” Make each contact with your customers worth their time.
  • Never be out of stock.
  • Don’t sell things on social media. Use it to create a community for your customers and to announce news and events.
  • Empower your employees to solve problems on the spot.

Article Posted in Tobacconist

Posted in Articles, Management, Retail by Dave Ratner.

Dave Ratner of Dave’s Soda and Pet City featured on national ad campaign

By Jim Kinney |

AGWAM – Dave Ratner and Dave’s Soda and Pet City will be a part of the National Retail Federation’s Retail Across America campaign.

Ratner, who is celebrating 40 years of Dave’s Soda and Pet City this year, is very active with the federation advocating on behalf of the nation’s brick-and-mortar retailers in Capital Hill hearings and acting as a voice for smaller businesses on boards with the heads of national chains.

The National Retail Federation’s Retail Across America Team will be at Dave’s Agawam location Friday filming for the organization’s Retail Across America Campaign. Dave’s Soda and Pet City announced the event in a news release Thursday.

They’ll talk with Ratner about his advocacy and with his employees about their jobs and their favorite things about working in retail.

According to the National Retail Federation, Massachusetts retailers support 920,000 jobs and retail contributes nearly $58 billion to the state’s economy.

Dave Ratner featured in MassLive
Article Featured in MassLive:

Posted in Articles, Marketing by Dave Ratner.

Dave Ratner of Dave’s Soda & Pet City celebrates 40 years

By Jim Kinney |

AGAWAM – Dave Ratner was a little late for an interview meant to celebrate 40 years of Dave’s Soda & Pet City.

He was in his office, on the phone with a customer from Northampton who hadn’t been able to find a particular item during repeated trips to his store. The next step, Ratner said, was to get on the phone with the manager, find out what was going on and get the item delivered to the customer’s house.

“I want people to be waited on,” Ratner said. “I insist that bags be taken out to people’s cars.”

Ratner, 63, started out in June 1975 selling soda from a former gas station on Route 9 in Hadley. In a story he loves to tell, he felt he needed a dog to help him meet women, so he got a beagle, and Bentley the bagle needed food. Ratner saw that there were only a few companies in the business and there was a demand.

40 years of Dave’s Soda and Pet City
Dave Ratner owner of Dave’s Soda and Pet City has been keeping the local pets well fed and entertained for 40 years.

“So I went back to my office, which was a phone in a bathroom, and got on the phone with 9 Lives and Purina,” he said.

The business grew. He added high-end brands like Iams and Eukanuba when they came out, added locations and now has 150 employees in seven locations and his own brand of Dave’s pet foods wholesaled across the country. He also has his own pet-centered television show.

Ratner has served on the National Retail Federation board of directors and sits on the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association Board of Directors, positions that put him on par with executives at Home Depot, Walgreens and Target.

Soda is now just 2 percent of his business and he only has soda in just three stores. He can’t compete with supermarkets on big-name brands, but specializes in hard-to-find gourmet sodas and forgotten favorites not widely distributed anymore.

Tab, the diet soda still  made by Coca-Cola but supplanted by Diet Coke, is the biggest seller.

“You can’t find it anywhere,” Ratner said. “People come in and buy cases of it.”

Mostly his business is dog and cat related. He sells birds, fish et cetera and supplies related to them, but that business has fallen off as children seem more captivated by electronics instead of an aquarium.

He considers himself the luckiest man in the business world to have entered the pet business just as it took off. Consumers started treating pets as members of the family.

“The lucky part is that pets were to become the most important things in the world. I didn’t know that was going to happen. That was society changing,” Ratner said. “People trust us to help them feed beings they love more than anything else in the world. That’s a big responsibility.”

Americans are expected to spend $60.59 million on pet food, medication and supplies and on the purchase of animals themselves in 2015. That’s up from $58.4 million in 2014 and from $17 million 20 years ago in 1994.

Of that $60.59 million, $23.4 million is spent on food alone.

The problem for Ratner is that Wall Street took notice of all that growth and investors have poured money into national  retail chains focused on pets.

The Internet is also a big competitor. Once, it was common for customers to order only expensive, but light, items from the Web. Ratner would see people come into his stores and check out all the aquarium filters and heaters, then go on their phones and order one from someone else.

But now, some are even ordering pet foods and treats online.

He counters with service, his own line of Dave’s pet foods and by having stores in good locations. Springfield-based Big Y Foods often recruits Ratner to its shopping plazas.

The products he sells don’t really overlap with Big Y, and Big Y knows that Dave’s generates traffic.

“What do you want if you are developing a shopping center, you want the right mix of stores to draw in all the customers,” he said.

Having a Dave’s near a Whole Foods, like the store in Hadley’s Mountain Farms Mall shopping center, is nearly ideal.

“That’s our customer,” Ratner said. “We are after the same type of people.”

He also likes locations with training areas for use by obedience experts and do-it-yourself bathing tubs so people can give Fido a bath without messing up their own bathroom.

Ratner’s own brand of Dave’s Pet Food is also an asset. He wholesales it to independent pet retailers around the country having just signed deals with stores in Oregon.

“Our motto is good food at a reasonable price,” he said, adding that he advertises that some flavors mean “less gas” for the pet.

He comes up with the recipes and flavors and works with manufacturers and canneries to get the food into production.

The most popular flavor: plain chicken and rice. It’s a bland diet vets often prescribe for dogs with upset stomachs.

“It used to be that if your dog was sick, you’d have to go home and start cooking chicken and rice,” Ratner said. “We put it in a can.”

Posted in Articles, Retail by Dave Ratner.

The Big Show

As I write this, I just got back from the National Retail Federation Big Show (a retailer trade show) in New York. Going to the show is a mind-boggling experience and you really should attend it. The show takes up the entire Javits Center in New York, which dwarfs the venues at Global Pet Expo or SuperZoo. The exhibit halls feature every product or service that retailers use. From POS systems and add-on software and hardware to marketing companies and logistics companies and fixture companies and on and on and on. There were several thousand exhibitors and over 35,000 attendees in the three days of the show.

The things I like best about this show are the hundreds of different speakers and the case studies of things individual retailers have done well (and not so well). Many of the sessions and exhibitors focused on the big boys but there was plenty for the indie retailer to learn.

By the time you read this, we will have upgraded our POS system to the latest and greatest Counterpoint system. It has been a slow, painful and very expensive process that included deposits on two systems that we ended up not using because they ended up not doing what we needed.

In the end, the counterpoint was as close as we could get to what we need. Here’s my advice to you: Before you invest in a new or a first POS system, find a consultant who can help you articulate your “must haves” in the new system. Naturally, yours truly didn’t do that.

We did find a compatible piece of software called flexReceipts. It will allow us to email receipts to customers and put targeted coupons on those receipts. The best part is the folks from that company are very savvy tech people who are ahead of the curve with mobile payments, emails, etc.

We also looked at payroll, time and attendance software, mobile payment software, and some cool monitors that you can program through a computer to play or demo anything you have in your store. They are basically televisions that you program.

This was also my fourth year as presenter at the National Retail Federation Big Show. We had more than 850 people in the session, which was “Twelve Very Doable Marketing Strategies.” For me, the best part of the show is always talking to other retailers. You learn so much more by listening than talking. I hung out with the CMO of Sheels All Sports, which is a chain of 22 amazingly well run stores. The stores are world class, industry-leading destination stops. They range in size from about 100,000 sq. ft. to 220,000 sq. ft. They do zillions of dollars and have a wonderful way of doing business.

Firstly, each store is a shopping experience like no other. They understand whoever has the store that is the most fun, wins. They sell, sporting goods, all kinds of apparel, hunting equipment and pet food—including lots of locally made stuff. But what really sets the company apart from the competition is the people who work there and the training that goes into every single employee.

Most retailers don’t invest nearly enough in product training, customer service skill training, management training, etc. But Sheels does. The employees at Sheels are paid very well with great benefits but a lot is expected of those employees. The management sets high expectations but they give the crew the tools they need to meet them.

Listening to my new buddy talk about the culture at Sheels reminded me exactly of how Mindy Grossman runs her company Home Shopping Network. They demonstrate that an owner needs to give the employees tools and opportunities to shine and grow. A company can’t grow without great people.

I went back to my hotel room thinking of ways to run my company like they do. I am so much smaller than they are, how can I possibly do it? Then I realized Mr. Sheels started with one store and a clearly defined vision of how he wanted to run his business. We can all learn from his example.

Here is what I think we can look forward to. Free shipping on pet food will not be here forever. Once investors insist on companies making money, free shipping will go away. Just don’t hold your breath. I also think you and I will have to let our customers order online and pick up at the store or we will have to deliver orders. The companies that are easiest to do business with will win.

Things are changing so fast that indies like us will face challenges staying ahead of the curve. Please take this advice about delivery even if your business is great. Start making a plan to get into the delivery business now and get ahead of the curve.

Dave Ratner featured in Pet Age
Article Featured in Pet Age:

Posted in Articles, National Retail Federation, Retail by Dave Ratner.

Staying in the Game

By the time you read this Christmas will be over and the fabulous week between Christmas and New Year’s Day will also be in the books.

I did something this year that we haven’t done in a few years. We sent the top 20 percent of our customers a postcard that simply said thanks for being one of our best customers.

It also include a $10 gift certificate towards anything in the store. No catch, no minimum purchase, just present this postcard and get $10 off any purchase.

The postcards hit the homes the Monday before Thanksgiving and were good through Sunday Dec. 7. I wanted to keep the offer to two weeks and have it end before the days when we do get busy for Christmas.

If ever there was a group of customers I want to make sure I never lose, it is the top 20 percent.

As I told one of my customers, it is such a great feeling to be able to reward the folks who spend so much money in my stores. My guess is that we will get a 60 percent response on the postcard.

Now, the reason I ended the offer on Dec. 7 is so that these customers would come back right before Christmas when they were really in the Christmas mood. I don’t know about you but our business is usually soft the last week of Thanksgiving and the first week of December. This promotion really made the registers sing. Of course the bad news is we gave thousands away in discounts. I kept telling myself, aren’t you happy to give a person who spends $400, $500 or more a year in the store $10? You bet I was.

I am thinking for Valentine’s Day we will send a similar postcard—maybe $5 to everybody who spent more than $250 or $300 last year. Again, February is a pretty slow moth for us and this will be a huge lift. We have done it in years past and will get about a 30 percent response and the average transaction of the folks who use the gift card will be way higher than usual.

I also learned it does produce an added visit to the store so even though it is a huge investment, it pays off.

One of the bad parts is you can’t get vendors to kick in anything since it is a gift card. What we do is take all our specials off for the month so our margins aren’t clobbered.
Speaking of margins, we are just about to upgrade our POS system and are trying to adjust all our pricing in the system before we flick the switch. We now have two price points, $.49 and $.99. So if an item costs $2.10 and we double the item it used to be $4.19, now it will be rounded off to 4.49. If the item costs $2.30, it used to retail for $4.59 it is now $4.99. These are nickels and dimes but at the end of the year it is a lot of nickels and dimes.

One of the things I am most excited about with our POS upgrade is we will have the ability to do email receipts. Plus, the emails can have targeted messages and offers on them and will mobile-friendly emails.

Have you ever noticed the receipts from your grocery store or CVS or Walgreens? Next time you shop in one of the big chain stores look at what you bought and see if there isn’t a coupon from a competitor product and or a similar product to what you bought. If you bought cough syrup, chances are there are coupons of cold and flu products. I can’t wait to sit with my vendors and come up with all kinds of offers like those. Think about it, if the customer buys a brand of dry food, put a coupon on the receipt for that brand of can food or treats. If a customer buys puppy food put a coupon for training pads or stain remover. Really, the sky is the limit on this one. It’s also an easy way to capture customers email addresses.

Another thing the new system will allow us to do is something I am dreading but I know I need to do. We will build an e-commerce site so customers can order anything we carry in the store online at the same price as in the store. It will be huge task but I think a necessary one. We will offer the same delivery terms as Amazon and the pet e-commerce sites but we will only market our site to our geographical area. We will not pay attention to online prices; we will mirror what is going on in our stores. That way, we won’t have to hire folks to shop other sites and constantly change prices.

You know as well as I do that we are losing sales to e-commerce sites, not to mention manufacturers who are now selling directly to consumers. In order to compete and to continue to thrive, I really think we brick and mortar stores will have to be in the delivery business as well.

Dave Ratner featured in Pet Age
Article Featured in Pet Age:

Posted in Articles, Retail by Dave Ratner.

TV Revisited

It’s been a month since my last column and advertising is still on my mind.

My local NBC affiliate put on a lunch sponsored by the network television association. It was great because there was no selling but lots of information. Even with a declining audience, network TV rules the media. The fellow who put on the seminar was very persuasive about the benefits of network advertising. Basically, it has the absolute widest reach of any local media. The problem, as you probably know, is that spots are so expensive and cover too wide an area. If you have one store, it may not really serve your area. However, if there is something going on at your store that folks will travel for it may be worth looking at.

He busted me for spending more money on cable than on network TV. To a certain degree, he convinced me to spend more on some network ads. I bought spots in the morning from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays at a pretty reasonable rate. Again, I am in a small market. Larger metropolitan markets will be more expensive.

We did get into a discussion about which is the better buy though, network or cable.

I can buy a 30-second spot during the national/local news, which has tens of thousands of viewers for about $400 a spot. I can also buy about 40 of the same spots on HGTV or the Cooking Channel or Lifetime for the same $400. I don’t have the exact figures but probably five to ten times more people watch the network channel than the cable channels but I can’t afford to run enough spots on the NBC news to make my ad visible to viewers. You need to run a spot many times before viewers remember it. That goes for radio, internet or TV.

So what I decided to do is run a flight of ads on NBC from the morning shows through the daytime and into the news. I am doing this on the first and third Tuesday of the month.

If I have gotten you to think about TV, please run as many spots as you can in one day, not spread out over the course of the week. You need saturation and you need to hit folks over the head with your ad. The argument was about spending $400 and getting thousands of folks seeing the ad versus $400 on a bunch of ads on cable which has a fraction of the viewers.

I still say the cable buy is better since the viewers will see my ad more often and will remember it (assuming it is a good ad). So please use your local cable and network reps, you may be surprised how affordable TV may be.

Dave Ratner featured in Pet Age
Article Featured in Pet Age:

Posted in Articles, Marketing, Retail by Dave Ratner.

Pet Stores on the Radio

As I write this article I am trying to pull my thoughts together about our Christmas marketing plans as well as some ideas for making my customers love us even more. For the first time in years, I am investing money in radio advertising. I’ve seen a lot of research that says radio has the best ROI of any media. I am in a small market and have seven stores, so radio really makes sense for me.

If your store is in a small market or if you have more than one store, radio may be a great way to advertise your business. The trick is which station to buy, when should you run the spots and how often should those spots run. One more small detail: how to make a good radio ad.

Which station gets the most women listeners in your market? You want the most women since they are most likely the bulk of your customers. Radio stations can show you demographics of who is listening to them and when folks are listening.

How much can you afford to spend? The newer the business, the more you need to spend. The better the location, the less you need to spend. Are you the only game in town or, like most of us, do you have too many competitors? Do you have something new and of interest to a broad base of customers? A pretty standard rule of thumb is to spend about 2 percent of sales on marketing. Again, if your business is new, you need to spend more.

So, you picked the station. Now, let’s get the best deal. Do buy packages from the sales reps. Remember that your sales rep is not a marketing expert; he or she is a sales rep.

Here is what I do. I buy a bunch of spots on one day and I avoid drive-time spots since they are the most expensive spots. So I don’t have two spots a day, five days a week, I have 10 spots on Tuesday. Plus I run them whenever the times are cheapest to run.

You may be thinking, “Don’t you get way more people hearing the ad if you spend more to run in prime time?” Yes, but there is too much clutter and your ads will get lost since you can’t afford to run too many in prime time. Plus, wouldn’t you rather have 100 percent of the smaller audience versus 0 percent of the larger audience? Remember, I am in western Massachusetts so rates are very reasonable. Prime drive time spots on the leading station that women listen to are $60 per spot. I am buying Sunday night thru Monday night at $15 per spot.

I contracted out for a year, which makes it easier for the rep to get your deal accepted by management. When buying the spots, you want to own the day even if it’s two days a month.

I do all my advertising on the same days of the month so no matter what media folks are tuned into they will probably see or hear me. As you probably guessed, I do the radio ads myself. It is so important to connect personally with customers. Doing the spots myself lets the listeners know there is a real Dave. They know they are dealing with a real human being, not a corporation. A word of caution however. If you are not really comfortable or good at doing ads, don’t do them. They will be awful and you will bring shame on your family.

What to advertise? I like to solve customer problems. The object is to get as many folks as possible out of competitors’ stores and into your store. What customer problems do you solve most often? Here’s one idea: “Is your dog or cat overweight? We’ve had great results feeding Food X. Here’s why.”
I have been running the following ad for close to 20 years: “Dog got gas? For immediate relief come to Dave’s Soda and Pet City and pick up a bag of Dave’s Simply the Best Dog Food.” That’s the whole ad. Guess what is the best selling dog food sku in my stores?

Are you having a big promotion or sale at the store? Buy your spots right before the promotion. As I’m writing this in October, we are about to hold a Catoberfest event in conjunction with a rescue in one of our stores. Along with emails, Facebook, press releases, etc., I will buy some radio spots promoting it. I will point out the benefits of coming to the store that day, which are discounts, coupons, free food and all the money and supplies the rescue will get.

The question to ask yourself after you script the ad is “Would that make me come to the store?” If you are not sure, make a new ad.

Dave Ratner featured in Pet Age
Article Featured in Pet Age:

Posted in Marketing, Pets, Retail by Dave Ratner.

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