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Pet Camp uses Facebook, e-mail to push new service

Client: Pet Camp?
Generate excitement among current clients for new services at a San Francisco-based pet boarding facility.

As a small business, every one of Pet Camp’s 10,000 ?active customers is vital to its continued growth. The pet boarding facility opened in 1997 and about four years ago, it opened a second location dedicated to cats. When Pet Camp decided to expand further by adding a 13,000-square foot outdoor play area for dogs, the company knew it needed buy-in and participation from its current base to support the new endeavor. “It’s a big undertaking financially and emotionally, as it would be for any small business,” says Mark Klaiman, who founded Pet Camp with his wife. ?

STRATEGY: Klaiman notes that Pet Camp doesn’t have an advertising agency or a marketing budget to rely on, so it turns to cheaper marketing tools such as e-mail and Facebook to stay in contact with many of its customers. It also offers a “frequent camper” loyalty card, gift certificates and a referral program.?

Pet Camp decided to promote the new play area through e-mail and Facebook — two media with which many of its customers are already familiar. The company regularly sends out a monthly newsletter using VerticalResponse templates and services to 5,000 of its current customers. It also has an active group of about 1,200 Facebook fans.?

The January 26 e-mail announced “Pet Camp Expands!!” and explained the changes afoot for their pets’ boarding camp. It also opted to put a fun, participatory spin on it. Pet Camp’s e-mail asked customers, as well as internal staff and business partners, to send in their suggestions — by e-mail or Facebook posts — for a name for the new area. It promised a mystery prize to the winner. The company also posted a link to the e-mail newsletter on its Facebook wall.?

“We want [our customers] to be part of what we’re doing,” Klaiman explains. “We want them to be included, and some of them are damn creative.” ?

He adds that it’s a great opportunity to receive feedback from customers, as well as an “opportunity to reach out to them and let them know how we’re improving.” ?

RESULTS: After Pet Camp sent the e-mail to its 5,000 e-mail subscribers, it immediately received feedback both through e-mail and Facebook from its highly engaged customer base. The initial Facebook post received 10 comments within hours, which multiplied to several dozen suggestions less than a week later. Another dozen suggestions came in through e-mail, which Klaiman also posted on Facebook. All of these comments also showed up in their customers’ friends’ Facebook feeds as well, multiplying the effect. Pet Camp expected to announce the winner through Facebook and e-mail in late February.

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