Roger Morgan founded Southlake, Texas-based pawTree in 2014, armed with the knowledge gained as a CEO of a multinational pet products company and service as a chairman of the American Pet Products Association.
He became a student of the direct selling channel and has since expanded the company into all 50 U.S. states. Over the past year or so, the company has begun to hit its stride thanks in part to the introduction of a food seasoning product that allows people to add variety, and boost nutrition, to their pets’ meals. Direct Selling News had an opportunity to speak with Roger Morgan about his company’s progress. Below is a portion of that conversation.
DSN: Let’s start by talking about one of the most unique offerings in pawTree’s catalogue, pawPairings. How did the product come to be?
RM: It’s an important part of our growth and our story. The phrase we use that really seems to resonate with people is, “You don’t like to eat the same thing every day and neither do your pets.”
For people who have pets, we almost all feed them the same thing every single day. There are reasons for that: Pets get digestive upset very easily, and when you start mixing things up, their stomachs react poorly and we end up with messes on our hands. People learn quickly and they stop changing the food.
Talking about pawPairings is usually the first conversation we have with people. Once they try that product, it’s an entry to many other products and solutions that we have to offer. We think of it as the tip of the spear.
DSN: It’s a product that might need a little bit more explanation than some of the other things in your product line. How does the direct selling model help in terms of introducing it to customers?
RM: It does resonate when people hear the story, and most people would never consider it if they just saw a bottle of something on the shelf at a retail store. The product is also very demonstrable. Our petPros are having a lot of success showing a video on their Instagram or Facebook pages. They’ll show a video of them putting the seasonings on the pet food and watching how excited the pets get to have variety in their meal plan, because it just gets so boring eating the same thing literally every day.
This product story has a one-two punch. The one is all about variety and giving pets some excitement at meal time. The two is that all of our pawPairings include eight super foods and a vitamin and mineral pack that goes into every one, and so it’s also very nutritious.
DSN: In addition to the use of video, your petPros also have had success with a sampling program. Tell us a little more about how that program works.
RM: We call our sales approach TSA, for “talk, share, ask.”
First, we talk dog and cat. People who have pets will totally resonate with that concept. When you find somebody who has a pet, you just immediately go to that level, “Oh, let me see a photo of your pet,” or “Let me tell you this story about mine,” or “look at this cute video.” You talk dog and cat.
As part of the “talking dog and cat,” you make the lead-in comment, which is, “You don’t like to eat the same thing every day and neither do your pets. Here are some seasonings you can put on your pet food, would you like to try this? And I’d love to call you tomorrow or the next day and see what Fluffy thought about it.” So that’s the share.
And then the ask is just a follow-up, one to two days later, with the question, “How did Fluffy like it?” And, of course, we always get a resounding, “Wow, Fluffy loved it. That was amazing.” Then the follow-up to that is, “Well, great, would you like to buy some for Fluffy?”
That’s how our sampling program has worked. Also, it’s a smaller product and pretty easy to mail, so you can have a Facebook conversation or a text conversation or a phone call with somebody who is in a different geography and easily follow this same process.
Some of our products are appropriate for certain pets in certain circumstances, but not all pets in all circumstances. An example might be our Joint Support Plus. That’s a really good product for obviously any pet that has joint issues. It can even be used proactively for those pets that don’t right now have joint issues. But not everybody finds a need or sees an immediate benefit.
With pawPairings, every dog and cat can benefit from that product. It doesn’t matter what food you’ve chosen, you can sprinkle this product on top of it. It really opens the conversation to anybody with a pet. And when a pet parent sees how much their fur baby enjoys it, and they know it’s healthy for their pet, they have an interest in buying.
DSN: Now that you have such a replicable process in place, what are some of the things that you’re focused on in terms of the business strategy as you head deeper into 2018 to continue to grow and expand pawTree’s reach?
RM: It’s one of the things I’m most excited about because, as you said, we’ve really narrowed down and simplified and focused on what we call “The One Thing.” Our “One Thing” is pawPairings. So, in 2018 our customer incentive campaigns are all around pawPairings. Our petPro incentive campaigns are all around pawPairings. Our product trainings are all around pawPairings. Our initial conversations that petPros have with customers are all about pawPairings. We’ve really focused our messaging, our training, our strategy, our incentives, our conversations, all around The One Thing.
DSN: When you founded pawTree, you did not come from a traditional direct selling background. You came out of more of the traditional bigger-box pet retail environment. What are some of the things that you’ve learned along the way?
RM: Direct selling is so much fun and so rewarding. I’ve learned this is a people business and I absolutely love these people. One of the things I’ve experienced is the incredible passion that exists in this space. It’s a really exciting convergence of two industries because the pet industry is also really passionate. People who have pets love their pets. They get so excited about their pets. People who are in direct selling, they love their companies and the products they represent. So you combine two very passionate categories into one and you get these fireworks that go off.
Another thing that I’ve learned is what a powerful sales channel direct selling is for sharing stories. pawTree is a story of unconditional love, and our story is being shared over and over in an incredibly powerful way that could never happen through traditional retail stores. My vision for what we’re building at pawTree and what motivates me as a person at this stage of my career is helping to create more happiness in the world. I believe that love is the key to happiness. Our vision statement is to create a world filled with unconditional love where pets and their people thrive. It is really, really exciting to watch that happen.