What I Learned About Marketing From Chewy.com

by Ellen Davis
Temple College
Temple, TX

Ellen DavisWhile I frequently get good marketing ideas from other colleges, I also think we need to look to the commercial sector for inspiration. I recently got a lesson in good marketing from – of all things – an online pet supply company.

I’d seen some television ads for a company called chewy.com that promised to deliver pet food and supplies to your door for the same or less than what it costs to buy those products in the store. The company had also sent me a coupon in the mail for $15 off my first order of $49 or more.

So when my husband and I were looking for a special type of cat food that we weren’t able to find in the stores, I called chewy.com and asked if such a product was available. The woman who answered my call helped me find exactly what I was looking for. They even had the food available in all sorts of flavors and quantities. So I placed an order and it arrived the very next day.

But the woman who answered my call did more than just answer the question I asked her. What started with a simple question like, “What is your pet’s name?” turned into a very pleasant conversation in which we both talked all about our cats. When was the last time you had an experience like that with a customer service representative?

I seriously doubt this friendly conversation happened by accident. I’ll bet they train their customer service representatives to engage callers in this manner because after all, who doesn’t like to talk about their pets? What a great way for a new company to build its customer base!

Two weeks after my first purchase, I got a personalized postcard from this customer service representative saying she hoped my cat liked the particular brand of food I had ordered and reminded me that they are available 24/4 if we need help.

So here’s a summary of what chewy.com did to get me as a new customer:

  • Created brand awareness with television commercials
  • Offered a discount for the first order
  • Had customer service representatives who really care about the product they sell
  • Delivered on time
  • Followed up with a personal note

Could these same principles help community colleges attract new students? You bet they could!

Ellen Davis is director of marketing and media relations at Temple College in Temple, Texas. She has more than 30 years experience in various aspects of college marketing, including publications, media relations, social media and website development.

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