Home Podcast TOP #35: How To Market Your Dog Products

TOP #35: How To Market Your Dog Products

Have you ever wanted to become an entrepreneur in the pet industry? Do you have an idea for a pet product that you're starting to work on and not sure how to get that into the world? Today's podcast episode is for petpreneurs who are interested in getting their dog products off the ground.

I'm joined by Jonathan from Dog's Choice who's gone through a similar journey of coming up with an idea for a pet product, getting it designed and manufactured, acquiring funding and marketing it. We're discussing everything related to this process and how everyone interested in becoming an entrepreneur should approach this.

Listen to the episode in the video above and find the full podcast transcript below. For more, visit this episode’s post on the official Theory of Pets website.

How To Market Your Dog Products
(raw podcast transcript)

How To Market Dog Products

INTRO: This week I have a really interesting topic for you guys about launching a dog product. In the process of telling you about launching a product and what it involves, I'm also going to tell you a little bit about a new product that is on the market, and it is called Dog's Choice Dog Wash. Obviously it is a dog grooming soap for your pets, shampoo and conditioner that you can order. This idea was created and is now coming to life; it's in the process of coming to life.

Jonathan from Dog's Choice is speaking with me today about how he created the idea and how they got started, and now they're in the crowd funding phase, they're looking for pre-orders; they are trying to gather the income that they need to continue with production. So, not only did he talk to me about dog wash, and their dog wash, Dog's Choice Dog Wash, it's a completely customizable dog wash, and it's a plant-based product as well. So, that's why it is unique.

It's new to the market, it's something where you can get on and fill out a little survey about what kind of skin your dog has, and what type of product you are looking for. If you have to have something that's fragrance free, or whatever, then you can order your customized dog wash. It will be the first of it's kind on the market. Jonathan told me a little bit about the product itself, and then, of course, about the process he is going through — the hard parts, the easy parts, none of it's really easy, I guess, when you are trying to launch new products. But, it will give you some information if you have something in the back of your mind, if you have a product that you've been thinking about, or if you have a product that you have already created for your dog.

If your dog had a unique need, and you created a product to help with that need, maybe you want to market it; maybe there are other dog owners, or pet owners out there, maybe you created a product for your cat, and there are other owners out there that might be looking for the same thing. This might give you a little bit of information on what you can do to get started.

Interview with Jonathan

Samantha: Can you tell me a little bit about how you got started with pet shampoo and in the pet industry?

Jonathan: So basically it is great to see how many people out there are so passionate about their dogs but it is sad to see that there is not really a solution for dog hair needs. So Dog's Choice Wash was started a couple of months back by three really focused entrepreneurs, pet lovers and dog owners. We just realized that dogs have special hair needs just like humans. We also saw that humans had customizable hair products and we thought — what do people love most besides themselves? — so we thought of their dogs, and that's how we created Dog's Choice Wash, and we want it to be an all encompassing solution to any hair needs for dogs, but we also wanted to make sure that we express what we stand for a product to stay plant based, cruelty free and to use safe product.

We noticed that many dog shampoos not only remove dirt and oils but remove the natural oils that typically irritated the skin. So we made sure to talk to many manufacturers who are involved in the shampoo formulation industry until we found a plant based and essential oil company who will be able to deliver what we stand for.

So here we are today with an online store, products ready to be delivered, KickStarter ready to be launched and pre-orders ready to be accepted.

Samantha: That's exciting.

Jonathan: I know. It's like a bunch of things happening at once and we are excited as well.

Samantha: Overwhelming I'm sure.

So you touched on it a little bit about some of the dangers of those traditional commercial shampoos and grooming products that we see, and one of those is stripping the oils. I think pet parents don't realize that your dog's coat actually has natural oils that are what keeps the skin moisturized and what gives the coat that kind of silky shine we all want our dogs to have, and a lot of those commercial products are made with harsh chemicals that actually strip those good oils as well. Can you talk about some of the dangers of some of the traditional commercial pet shampoo's that we see, especially in some of the big box stores? A lot of pet parents will find shampoo that costs $2 for a bottle or $3 for a bottle. And they think that that's — it's fine. They're selling it at a pet store, so it's going to work for my dog. Right?

Jonathan: Right. So basically you want to avoid anything that the ingredient that says it contains sulfates, parabens, phosates…

Let me just break it down a little more. So what we talked about these chemicals removing natural oils. This mostly comes from the sulfates. Manufacturers will tell you that sulfates capture oil and dirt, but they don't tell you that it's also removing excess oils, stripping the natural oils. And this is why most people's pets, dogs, have irritated skin. Also parabens are a type of preservative, where actually many dog shampoos are actually aware of it.

So you will see most dog shampoos labeled as paraben-free. So there is like a step forward to prevent this kind of chemical in dog shampoos. But the study of paraben is relatively new. But they are thought to pose health risks such as cancer if this chemical is exposed to the skin and dangerous to the reproductive system.

Also artificial colors are synthesized from petroleum and they're actually found to cause health issues and problems like cancer and birth defects.

But overall, there hasn't been a conclusive study to know if your dog will get cancer because of these ingredients, since there are no long-term studies on these chemicals, but they are highly linked to health issues such as skin irritation, reproductive system failures, and cancer problems.

Samantha: Absolutely. And I know we've had issues. We have a dog that has really sensitive skin, and she has some skin allergies and things. So for dogs on that end of the spectrum, which it seems to be quite common now that dogs have some kind of skin irritation, whether it's infestation from fleas and ticks and the scratching or just some sensitivities with their skin. Those products that are made of all those harsh chemicals irritates the skin even more. Even some of the products that say they are made specifically for dogs with itchy, dry skin or they're an oatmeal shampoo to soothe the skin. Some of them, while they might be made with oatmeal or aloe or some of those more soothing components, are also made with chemicals that are kind of counter-balancing the good things.

We learned that lesson the hard way with our dog. We have to be careful about the shampoo we choose for her. And I'm sure a lot of other pet owners, maybe some people that are listening to this podcast, have to deal with that same thing. They're dog has sensitive skin, and they need to be really careful about the choices that they make.

Jonathan: Right. You're totally correct. And it's also kind of scary to see when some people are finding out that their dog has skin problems. The first they think of is — What have they been doing outside? Or is this really… ticks.

And their last sort of thought that really doesn't come to mind is the shampoo that they used. So this is what we're trying to focus on, so people don't have to worry about this anymore.

Samantha: Absolutely. I think that's a good point. A lot of people think about… I've heard people. So much now, everybody talks about food allergies, so they consider that. They consider fleas and ticks. They consider so many different things. What they're getting into outside.

And they don't stop and think about actually the topical products that they're using on their dog like shampoos and conditioners.

So why is Dog's Choice different? Can you tell us a little bit about it? Because you guys have done something that's really… It's unique as far as I know. I did a little bit of research, obviously, before I talked to you. And it seems like you guys are the only ones out there offering what you're offering.

Jonathan: Right. So basically we believe in creating the safest product, and we want to be a solution for dog owners. Whenever you buy traditional commercial stuff, pet shampoo, there's always a lack of choice and flexibility in your ingredient choices. Sometimes it's also unclear what chemicals these commercial pet shampoos use. And shopping for dog shampoos can be such a headache when you see so many bottles and you have no idea which one you need or which one you want. And if you just like one aspect of the shampoo you're currently using, you would need to change your whole completely new brand. And more often than not, you would have no idea which shampoo to use instead. So basically we want to give dog owners complete confidence in our plant-based and cruelty-free ingredients from which they can customize their own dog shampoos and conditioners.

So to break it down even more, you can choose from our wide selection of ingredients, colors, fragrances, sizes and subscriptions through a quiz that lets you personalize the shampoo just for your dog. So these formula goals can include odor removal, dry skin, itchy skin, flea coat, shiny coat, soft coat, and for the skin. And customizations that let you choose up to three of these formula goals along with the fragrance and color to basically have this sort of combination that it's customized just for your dog.

So we also offer an 8-ounce or 16-ounces. Discount on bulk orders. And also what we're trying to do is build up a delivery or subscription option which is where customers can choose to receive these shampoo or conditioners every one month, two month, or three months. And then based on the subscription, you would also get a 10% discount. Our whole sort of persona wants to just give customers complete trust and confidence. So if the customer gets tired of one aspect of the combination after a month, he or she can just go into the online store, change your combination. And if they're on a subscription plan, the next month they'll be able to just receive their new combination that they changed and everything else will be the same.

So basically there is no secret between our product and the customer. And so by doing this, customers and dog owners will be able to understand what is safe for their pet to use.

Samantha: Absolutely. And allowing people to customize those needs — That's a big change from what we're used to. Like you said, a lot of times you just kind of go into the pet store and you look and there's 15 options to choose from. And it's hard to make that choice. So it's nice convenience for pet owners to be able to kind of just plug in what they need and then have a recommendation made.

Jonathan: Oh, yes, definitely.

Samantha: Where are the ingredients that you guys use for your shampoo? Where are they sourced?

Jonathan: Right. So our ingredients… Our product is from the United Kingdom. They're all plant-based and fragrances are from essential oils. Our manufacturers are currently shipping over our first bulk order order, our first inventory.

So along with that, they're going to ship over the ingredient list. But, overall, we made sure our ingredients are just plant-based and that they're safe to use. So once we've received those, we will be happy to provide that information over to you.

Samantha: Yes. Absolutely for, obviously, each of the different recipes, I guess if you would call them, are going to have their own ingredients. But it's good to know that they're all plant-based. And your perfumes — there's no perfumes or artificial fragrances. It's all from essential oils. And are they manufactured in the UK as well?

Jonathan: Yes.

Samantha: Excellent. So you guys, speaking of manufacturing, you guys are getting close now. When I looked last week, you guys were about 3/4 of the way to meeting your funding goal. You're crowdfunding right now. So what are your next steps now that you're assuming that you're going to get to that goal? You guys are gaining very quickly, so it should be happening very soon.

Jonathan: Right. So we're currently just taking pre-orders on our website. We haven't launched our KickStarter yet. So we're excited to talk to dog-loving blogs, publications, news, Instagrams, YouTube, or influencers to help educate all dog owners on the danger of products, so that in the next month or two, when we launch our KickStarter, we'll have an existing audience that are excited about what we're trying to do.

So we actually hope that you'd re-publish this podcast when we are closer to the end of November, the start of December, when we actually launch our KickStarter so that your listeners can help make this larger project more public. And if they're interested, they can go directly to our KickStarter.

We're not the kind of people that want to waste people's time or money. We've already created a website and a top-tier product, and we're ready to look forward to the shipping and fulfilling orders. But in the next month or so, once we receive our goal on KickStarter, we can put this out in front of many more people like yourselves and everyone listening.

So to make financial sense, pushing shampoo and conditioner into production and getting them in front of people takes a lot of money.

Initially marketing our product and exposing our brand of dog wash, takes even more money. And this is the kind of money that we do not have. And we do not want to put just 50% of our effort, trading up quality and top-tier product.

KickStarter is an all-or-nothing platform. So if our project gets funded, we succeed. If not, we're back to square one and everyone is refunded. So we have high hopes for this last step to reach out to the loving dog community. We're just trying to reach out to many publications so that when we do launch on KickStarter, everyone will be aware of the project. And everyone will be just as excited as we are.

Samantha: It must be exciting, but it's a little bit nerve-wracking, I'm sure. Like you said, with crowdfunding it's that all-or-nothing. You're either going to get the money that you need to move forward, or you're not and people are going to be refunded. So there's probably a little bit of anxiety, I'm sure, with that.

Jonathan: Oh, yes, there is. But we're just excited, and we believe that people will get excited about our product. It's hard to find customizable, just anything out there. So we want to be able to present this to all dog lovers, all dog communities, and just hopefully we see a positive feedback and gain their support. And hopefully we can move forward with this. And hopefully every dog owner and dog lover out there will be interested.

Samantha: Yes. Absolutely. So you're kind of — You're going to put it out there for them, and then hopefully you get the money raised.

So your next step after that, as long as everything goes through with your crowdfunding, is then you move right into manufacturing and distributing the shampoos?

Jonathan: Yes. So KickStarter — We offer, for example, if you pledge $15 you can get a free shampoo that we deliver to you once the KickStarter is complete. So basically it's a bunch of pre-orders on KickStarter. So after KickStarter is funded and if it's successful, then we basically just put everything into production. We ship all those orders out. And from the remaining funds, we will be able to market and promote and advertise out there. Hopefully go to more dog events. Talk to more people.

It's just, basically, publicize ourselves, to put ourselves out there a lot more than we are right now.

Samantha: Yes. Absolutely. I know I've talked to some other companies that are starting up in the past, and one of the big things that they like to do is go to the pet industry expos. And, like you said, talking to podcasters, bloggers, Facebook. Social media is huge right now. So getting out there and getting that kind of exposure would really, I guess, be the biggest thing for you guys to just promote your product and then be able to. Do you have plans after that, too? Would you like to eventually expand and go beyond shampoos and include some other grooming products in the future?

Jonathan: Right. So, right now, we're currently directly selling to customers from our online store. But in the sort of near future we hope to reach out to grooming stores and having them understand and learn about the dangers the commercial products and shampoos, and hopefully transition to using our dog wash. And eventually have a product on the shelves of retail stores so that when customers go out to buy dog wash, they immediately understand what we stand for and what we do, and how we can help them with their goals, their formulation goals, for their dogs.

But, for now, we're solely focusing on dog owners and lovers to help spread this project and anyone out there who loves their dog. And especially with the KickStarter, so dog lovers will be able to pre-order while supporting our campaign.

But maybe in the far future, we may lean towards customizing your own healthy and safe dog food. So just keep your eyes peeled. We'll keep you guys updated, and we're excited for this to move forward.

Samantha: Yes. Absolutely. It's the company to watch for sure. I think you guys are right on track with people wanting to customize everything. Shampoo, for sure, is a niche that hasn't been filled yet. And we are just kind of now seeing some companies that are allowing owners to customize the food and the things that they're feeding their dog. So I think we're definitely seeing that trend, and it's going to continue to grow. And, hopefully, pet owners will realize that what they use, the products that they use on their dog and topically for their pet is just as important as what they're putting into their dog, feeding them. And getting rid of those chemicals for plant based ingredients is a much better option.

So I'm hoping that we can help get use guys some exposure and I appreciate you sharing the process with us that's something that we get asked a lot by readers and listeners of our podcasts. They have a great idea for a product and they kind of want to know a little bit of how to go about just getting started and getting it going and I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that, “It's all about money.” You need to get the funding behind you and then you can move on to the manufacturing and distributing. So I appreciate you sharing that with us as well.

Jonathan: Thank you so much for having me on here, I'm excited to see what you listeners have to say, I have high hopes here and we won't let you guys down.

Samantha: Hopefully you guys got a lot of great information out of this podcast about how to start.

If you have an idea for a pet product, the first thing that you need to do obviously is have a prototype created; you need something to show investors, to show people that you want to invest in the product. It's raising the money, that's the hard part, but then you also have to work with blogs and publications, get the word out there and then try to distribute your product as best you can.

I know I've spoken to other people that have created their own products and they started with their local area. For example dog treats are a great one. They start baking in their own kitchen and they start distributing to just local pet stores and convenience stores, things like that in their area, and kind of build up from there, some online sales and things like that. So it really depends on the product and the part of the market that you're in, where you're going to focus your advertising and where you're going to focus your crowd funding efforts.

PREVIOUS PODCAST: How Kids and Dogs Help Each Other

Samantha’s biggest passion in life is spending time with her Boxer dogs. After she rescued her first Boxer in 2004, Samantha fell in love with the breed and has continued to rescue three other Boxers since then. She enjoys hiking and swimming with her Boxers, Maddie and Chloe.