In the spring of 2016 The Pet Professional Guild rolled out Project Trade, an “international educational advocacy program promoting the use of force-free pet equipment by asking pet guardians to swap choke, prong and shock collars” (1). In return for swapping their aversive gear, pet guardians are given a discount of up to 15% by participating Project Trade members.
My goals include educating pet owners and eliminating aversive gear from the marketplace so I immediately charged out of the gate like a crazed terrier chasing a squirrel and joined Project Trade. Being a new program I expected it would take time for general PPG membership to catch up.
As the November PPG Summit rapidly approached I stopped in my pseudo-terrier squirrel chasing tracks to look around, and still only saw 45 PPG members participating in Project Trade. Knowing how beneficial it has been for me I scratched the graying hair on my head wondering if there were obstacles keeping others from joining the chase.
I put out some feelers among PPG members and began sensing one possible explanation.
Perhaps some folks wondered whether Project Trade represents a net loss or a net gain to their business.
My first thought was that it cost me absolutely nothing to become a Project Trade member. The application process was simple and free. (2)
I filled out an online opt-in form. Thanks to super-efficient PPG Membership Manager Rebekah King, it was quickly approved. I received a link to the Project Trade website copy and a few minutes later I added the required text and graphics to my website.
Net cost: 0.
Some folks may encounter an expense to pay a webmaster to do the work, but that would be true of any changes to their website.
Project Trade allows participants to select the discount level they prefer for each of the selected aversive gear. I chose to offer a 10% discount for each item across the board. Doing so made the math simple, and I like simple math. Besides, I still had the flexibility to offer a greater discount if I felt it was warranted, which I have done in some compelling situations.
The first thing I did was explore marketing collateral available to me as a Project Trade terrier, er…I mean participant. It was simple as peeing on a fire hydrant.
I went to the Pet Professional Guild website, clicked on the Project Trade graphic and waited for the page to load. Then I hovered my mouse over Project Trade on the bar along the top of the page and selected Marketing Support.
PPG expended resources developing appealing professional marketing materials for my benefit, which I then downloaded at no cost. They included a project trade badge, promotional tri-fold, discount card, book mark, rack card, fridge magnet, bumper sticker and Let’s Trade Poster. If I contracted with a graphic artist to create such things it would have cost me hundreds of dollars.
Net cost: 0.
I downloaded the promotional tri-fold and printed about two hundred copies which I gave to several veterinary clinics, each of my clients, and continue to post on bulletin boards at local businesses in my service area. Prior to Project Trade I already printed and distributed marketing material, so this was no additional cost and gave me a way to invite dog owners already using aversive equipment to join me in partnership.
As to the 10% discount, the math is simple. And I like simple math.
Let’s say I charge a client $100 for an hour of service, and I offer a 10% discount to that client for trading aversive gear. If I gain a $90 profit for $10 marketing to gain a new client I will do that any day of the week, thank you. Project Trade helps us reach new market share we may not otherwise reach, as I have experienced.
The bottom line for my business is I gained several new clients in 2016 who would otherwise not have seen me as an inviting alternative.
Sometimes we who are passionate about force-free methods are perceived as judgmental of those who use aversive equipment and methods. That perception is a barrier to reaching pet owners who we want to reach.
We may limit our reach into new market share and prevent ourselves from helping the very dogs (and owners) we mean to influence with force-free methods if our language is not inviting. If we truly want to “swap gear to make a kinder world for pets” then Project Trade is a no-brainer.
One dog owner who was using a choke collar recently explained to me “We wanted a solution to our problem and went to YouTube for an answer. The first thing we saw was a bunch of videos promoting the use of choke collars. That is what we chose.”
Project Trade gives those well-meaning folks another choice.
The more people who participate in Project Trade and promote it, the more hits we will see in internet searches and the fewer pet owners will be drawn by desperation to methods they would not choose if they knew there were better alternatives.
When we know better, we choose better.
Net cost: 0.
Net gain: Lives saved.
1) PPG web site: What is Project Trade?
2) PPG web site: Project Trade Application
[Photo credits: Daniel H. Antolec, Happy Buddha Dog Training]