How Surfing Doggies Help One Company Sell

Cathy Traugot

Cathy Traugot

Steven Perissinotto can give a master class on how to create an event that delivers revenue for an online company. He’s the guy behind the Surfing Dog Spectacular, an Australian event that crowns the best surfing dog. It probably doesn’t come as surprise that his company, VetShopAustralia, sells pet supplies (specifically over-the-counter pet medicines).

Perissinotto tells us that to be successful requires a master plan that not only involves selecting the right event, but also choosing the right sponsor and crafting the right lead generation pipeline to take curious consumers from browsers to buyers. “We have a lot of competitors, so standing out from the competition is hard,’’ says Perissinotto. But he makes it look easy – and his suggestions are completely flea and tick free.

Create the Event – Don’t Just Sponsor One

For a B-to-C company looking to gain customers, sponsoring someone else’s event isn’t as useful as creating your own. “When you’re busy, and you know you’ve got to do something, it’s tempting to just find an event, agree to sponsor it, provide them a high-res logo and cross your fingers. But deep down, you know that’s not going to work. You need to own the event and you need to work the event. It’s a lot more fun and the only way to guarantee success,’’ Perissinotto says.

Surfing Dog

But Don’t Go It Alone

Perissinotto teamed up with an existing surfing festival that already had a promotion infrastructure. The dog surfing event is owned by VetShopAustralia, but it’s held within the framework of the established event. The company also sought one sponsor – a firm whose pet medicines they sell. “We identified one who had a product for dogs, which just happened to be waterproof, and we pitched the idea. We explained that we were targeting exactly the sort of pet owners that they wanted as users and that we would give them heaps of national exposure.’’ It made great sense.

Focus on the Imagery

Be ready to capitalize on your cool visuals. “The days of a business just shooting some video on a phone are, with maybe a few exceptions, long gone. The good news is you still don’t have to spend very much money.” For those on a total shoestring budget, Perissinotto recommends an SLR camera and free editing software from a company like Canva.

But he does think it’s worthwhile to spend more if you can to secure a professional photographer and camera team. “Make sure you get them to provide the raw footage, high res and low res versions, and in the case of video, both short and long clips. It’s not just for yourself and your own social media, but also for all the terrific media coverage you’re going to get.’’

Work the Media Hard

If your event is both clever and visual, you can definitely attract media attention. Surfing dogs certainly do – Perissinotto has even gotten coverage from ESPN. But to take advantage of that interest, you must be able to provide pictures and videos quickly (keep them in shareable cloud storage). It also helps to use a vanity URL – his is – in case media outlets would prefer not to mention your company’s name. The vanity URL also serves another purpose: If people see or hear of the event, they’re likely to search on terms related to it (“surfing dogs”), so having a URL with that term helps.

Perissinotto also deploys a modest pay-per-click campaign targeting those words near the time of the event. And what about attracting those pay-to-play bloggers? Rather than payment, consider offering them a fun perk involving the event. In this case, they receive a spot in the dog surfing class that happens with the competition.

Turn Viewers and Browsers Into Customers

“No one is going to say to themselves, ‘I really like that surfing dog event. I think I’ll buy stuff from VetShop.’ Even if we get them to our website to look at pics or a video, the chance of them going on to buy after that casual browse is very small. So we need to take that relationship to the next level. We’ve shared all this deliciously beautiful imagery around surfing dogs, and now we need to make sure we get something in return.”

But that something isn’t a sale. Wait. What? “Our next step is 100% focused on getting an email address,’’ Perissinotto says. The best method for doing that? Offer to keep them up to date on upcoming surfing dog events and “give them a place at one of our exclusive surfing dog workshops. We know they like surfing dogs because they’ve just invested valuable time watching the contest.’’ Even after VetShop secures the address, the emails are content-oriented. And when they finally try to sell something to the email subscriber? “It’s often tied to an outdoor or waterproof-type product.’’ Perissinotto tracks engagement in emails and switches up the content to those that aren’t engaging.

Tabulating the Results

VetShopAustralia has been the sponsor of the surfing dog contest for six years now, and Perissinotto says he’s measured over 19 million combined video views. One video alone on Facebook has over 16 million views, 160,000 likes and 12,000 comments. And he’s received hundreds of media mentions. So how does this translate to actual sales?  Last year, the company saw a 12% increase in traffic in the month leading up to the event and a 36% increase in traffic in the month following the event. Sales were up 4% in the month after the event and 14% the following month (this event has a long tail).

And there are intangible benefits as well. “The event raises our status with suppliers. When you’re on TV, in the press, speaking at conferences, you’re considered a business leader. And business leaders have an advantage when it’s time to negotiate terms and get better support and more attention from suppliers.”

All of that from six adorable surfing dogs.


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