When Amy Lyden got two tiny new kittens back in 1995, little did she know that these cute little cats would trigger her career as an extraordinary successful female entrepreneur. Amy Lyden shares with Leanne Griffiths and Claudia Raab her success story and secrets of how she set up a successful business website.
“I went in search of collars and identification tags for my kittens and was disappointed to find very few choices” Amy Lyden remembers. “Surely there were other pet owners out there who wanted choice and a quality product at a good price. This got me thinking about a business, and I began researching the pet industry.”
Amy quickly realised that there was a gaping hole in a large market of seven million cats and dogs in Australia and decided to fill it by launching her own business “Bow Wow Meow” providing fun and functional name tags for pets.
How Amy spread her wings and customer reach
Fast forward twelve years and you’ll find that Bow Wow Meow is now a market leader with products that are distributed through over 1,500 pet shops and vet clinics throughout Australia, New Zealand, Asia and online to over 75 countries.
“Fiji, Iceland, Russia, Slovenia, Egypt – cats and dogs are now wearing Bow Wow Meow tags on every inhabitable continent on the earth” says Amy excitedly and she has every right to be proud of her terrific achievements.
However, her success didn’t come overnight. Amy, who has also served on the Board of Advisors for the ABN, admits that her twelve year journey with Bow Wow Meow at times felt like being on a roller coaster with a plethora of ups and downs.
How did technology pave the way to Bow Wow Meow’s success?
“Launching our first website, www.bowwow.com.au, as an experiment in 1998 and receiving over four million visitors to the site annually within a few years was a high” Amy reveals. “The site now has a Number 1 ranking amongst all major search engines.”
Understanding technology was crucial for the success of her business websites www.bowwow.com.au and www.pet-tags.com. The year 2000 also caused some negative setbacks in Amy’s professional life. “Virtually all of the business was dependent on technology, which was great when it worked, but terrible when things went wrong! One of the staff downloaded a virus unknowingly, which went through our entire network like wild-fire. We were stopped in our tracks for two days and I went crazy! Luckily I had a company work day and night on it until the issue was resolved, but it was a scary 48 hours!”
What is important when setting your business apart from competitors?
With hundreds of websites selling pet tags, competition for Bow Wow Meow was, and still is, fierce. To survive and strive Amy needed to develop her own marketing edge: “We wanted to be different. We didn’t want to only have a ‘catalogue’; from which people buy from, we wanted to help people choose the right tag for their pet, in a similar way that we had helped people find a name for their pet on our first site.”
“We came up with a way for customers to ‘design their own pet tag’ using a pet tag color matching system. To this day there are no sites selling a similar product that match the level of interactivity and benefit for the customer.”
The strategy worked well: “Feedback from customers shows that they love this process, as it is fun and also selects the right tag for their pet.”
Apart from a great cutting-edge, Amy put together a list of Dos and Don’ts that she applied to her website and is happy to share with fellow businesswomen and ABN members:
- Be clear about your objective on your site – do you simply provide information? Is your goal e-commerce?
- Test your site thoroughly. Have your friends, colleagues and some select customers go through the site with a fine-tooth comb and report any issues or areas of frustration or broken links.
- Make it easy; use your common sense – you know your own frustrations when ordering online and navigating sites – eliminate these from your site.
- Survey your customers and take their advice.
- Spend money on pictures of the product you are selling; invest in close ups – people want to know and see what they are buying – a good example is www.gap.com. Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to see clearly what you want to buy.
- Invest in software that tells you when your site is down.
- Provide free information. It’s a surefire way to attract people to your site. www.bowwow.com.au provides a huge range of information about pet names, provides a newsletter with interesting pet stories and other promotions to involve the customer. This keeps the relationship going. But you need to invest time into providing this information. Hone in on what your customer wants or needs and provide it to them.
- Send an email marketing campaign and not be able to back it up with your site. This happens so often. The site simply can’ t cope with the number of visitors after an email campaign hits. Make sure youtest your site and ensure it is up to speed to handle the traffic and purchases!
- Just put a’ brochure’ up online, unless you really don’t have ANY money to do anything else, and if you do this, then make it look good.
- Just throw something up – Go with a professional designer – remember you and your business will be judged based on your website. Many times people evaluate a business by the website before pursuing a business relationship with them.
After twelve years and a lot of hard work Amy Lyden, mother of a 22-month-old and a four-month-old baby, sold her business last year. “It was time to move on to a new chapter in my life” she says. “I will no doubt become involved in something else eventually.”
Good luck, Amy. We will watch out for another successful Lyden business adventure!