Ask the expert susan mckay , Pet Industry Profile from Pet Business World UK

Susan McKay is a vet and the founder and managing director of Companion Consultancy, a public relations and marketing agency that services the needs of businesses in the vet and pet space. As well as dedicated design, digital marketing and copywriting teams, the agency employs five veterinary surgeons. This May, the company will celebrate its 20th birthday.


We’ve seen in PBW recently cases where a pet shop has fallen victim to attacks on their reputation. While we do help businesses and vet practices manage issues around negative publicity, both on and offline, it’s so much easier to do this when a business has built a strong positive reputation and has good relationships with local employees.

Actively encouraging positive reviews, talking to local press about your good news stories and generally contributing to the community is the very best defence. We’d encourage retailers to think about doing all of those things and to not be too shy about talking about the good that they do.

One of the primary drivers for setting up the agency was around our belief that great copy is based on insights into the mindset of your audience. Without that, brands become bland and formulaic and are less likely to connect with those they most want to appeal to. These days, marketing based on ‘insights’ has become fashionable but it’s something we have always believed is important.

Retailers can use their intrinsic knowledge of their ‘typical’ customer profiles (eg male/female, rural/urban, age group, income) to think about the messages they will be most receptive to and how they want to receive information (eg email, leaflet, social media), rather than just what the retailer wants to get across. It’s really useful to change perspective in this way and ‘see ourselves as others see us’ (as the Scottish poet Robert Burns puts it!).


Email marketing is a good thing to consider as it’s one of the most cost-effective marketing tools. Once a customer has purchased from you once, they might not visit again for some time. By collecting their email and asking for permission to contact them (there has to be a positive opt in, not an assumption based on not opting out) retailers have the opportunity to continue the conversation and build the relationship. An email client like Mailchimp is relatively easy to use and is free for up to 2000 contacts – so all it costs is your time!

We’re also great fans of having a monthly or even weekly focus where an article on a website can also be linked to from an emailer and chopped up to use in social media. It’s time efficient and also means your customers potentially receive reminders of the same topic in different places.

Provide interesting and educational content as well as promotional offers so that people learn to value the contact as a useful update rather than just a sales mechanic. An emailer can also help build the retailer’s expert credentials so they are front of mind when it comes to a problem solution.

Anyone who uses social media for their business will appreciate how time consuming it can be to do well. Canva is a great tool that allows anyone to create social posts and apply their own logos and texts or even animate their posts. It also offers thousands of images and music for post creation. The platform is not restricted to social and includes templates for letters, leaflets and all sorts of marketing material. It’s simple to use and no graphic design experience is required – although a good eye for design will help!


The digital environment is changing so quickly. However, we believe that expertise will be key to many pet brands. Search engine optimisation will be driven by longer, more authoritative but well written and illustrated articles on websites. This is good news for anyone who is an expert in their field.

People are active in more digital spaces than ever before, and it will be hard for brands to be everywhere, therefore high-quality content owned by the brand and collaborations with expert brand endorsers should be on the marketing agenda, as well as a presence on hubs on publishers’ platforms. Local content will also be popping up on search engines and for this reason every shop should have a website, even if it is a very basic one without an online shopping experience.

On the design side, our team is already working on some of the latest 3D and animation programs (including developing cartoon animations of physical products). The use of video (including 360-degree product videos) on ecommerce sites will increase in pet, and in other sectors already generates incremental sales.


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