Ruff Ruff. Did you know, almost 89.7 million dogs live in households in the United States as pets? That’s a lot of dogs.
It should come as no surprise, then, that when Henrik Werdelin decided he wanted to take a bite out of the US’s $60.59 billion pet industry by introducing Bark & Co. in 2011, the company took off. From there, Werdelin started BarkBox, a monthly subscription program, and BarkBuddy, a dog adoption app. But Werdelin and the team at Bark & Co. knew that in order to create a brand with longevity, it needed to ensure customer loyalty and continuous engagement.
Werdelin spoke back in 2016 on the importance of customer engagement and of letting customers do the “marketing” for you: “Brands are what other people say when they hear the name of your company,” he said. No amount of money spent on display ads, web analytics or website traffic can produce the same results as positive customer feedback and reviews. And what’s the best way to engage customers and ensure you’re reaching those positive advocates? The answer’s easy: social media.
Think about it like this: the day before the Super Bowl, BarkBox posted a video of two dogs, rolling on the ground in pure bliss. The video had absolutely nothing to do with football. In the week that followed, however, the video was shared more than 27,905 times on Facebook, putting it up there with companies like Budweiser and Mr. Clean.
BarkBox’s YouTube channel has over 70,000 subscribers and it’s Twitter more than 250,000 followers. It’s Instagram account has 1.4 million followers and it’s Facebook page? Over 2.5 million followers and 2.7 million likes.
So, how does BarkBox engage their customers and create this cult-like following? By sticking solely to what it’s customers and followers want, and throwing the obnoxious marketing ploys and sales pitches to the dogs.
Go to www.barkbox.com. What do you see? The first thing that pops up is this: “Congratulations! You’re a dog person.” Dog lovers are already hooked. It’s Twitter account? The same thing: adorable photos of pups driving cars, wearing Wonder Woman costumes and being, well, adorable.
“If you took out social media, Bark and Co. wouldn’t be a company,” Stacie Grissom told Campaign back in February. “We’ve really invested in entertaining people and engaging with people in deep ways by talking about their dogs and showing them other people’s dogs.”
Engaging customers is not about the immediate sale. Instead, it is about creating an ongoing sales relationship with the customer. Though BarkBox’s 2.5 million Facebook followers are not all customers, there’s a very good chance that if any of them add a canine to their family, they’ll be looking to BarkBox for treats, toys and chews. Even though brand loyalty and “word of mouth” marketing aren’t new ideas, having the ability to reach customers inside the market and to influence customer-to-customer discussions, is now possible because of social media.
Take for example a video on BarkBox’s YouTube channel posted back in June. The video, “Dog Dad Love Song”, has been viewed over 56,000 times and, simply put, is an ode to dogs from dog dads. The video is done in a tongue-and-cheek way and is definitely eye-roll worthy, but when coupled with the hashtag “#DogPeopleGetIt”, the video is turned into an almost symbolic emblem of the “Dog People” club. Research done by Harvard Business Review shows that “the most effective way to maximize customer value is to move beyond mere customer satisfaction and connect with customers at an emotional level – tapping into their fundamental motivations and fulfilling their deep, often unspoken emotional needs.” BarkBox has created a sense of community and membership for its customers and followers, tapping into the emotional motivator of a desire to feel a sense of belonging.
Lessons for Others
As BarkBox demonstrates, engaging with customers over social media is more than just simple marketing ploys and sales pitches. Giving customers an avenue to be entertained, provide feedback and feel a sense of belonging instills brand loyalty and works to increase customer satisfaction and retention. Having a social media strategy in place that puts the customers’ needs first all but ensures the future success of a company.
The consumer marketplace is a dog-eat-dog world, but BarkBox seems to have it all figured out.
Industry: Monthly Subscription Service
Name of Organization Contact: N/A
Authored by: Christina Wild
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