It’s no secret that Hawaii is the most challenging State in the Nation for Small Businesses. But with all of the pitfalls and challenges that come with owning a business in Hawaii, there is one major benefit that many large business owners and cities will never truly understand…and that is our innate sense of community.

For those of you who aren’t dog enthusiasts, I’d like introduce you to my friend and client, Niki Libarios, co-owner of Hawaii Doggie Bakery, who has recently had the honor of celebrating the Bakery’s 20th Anniversary of doing business in Hawaii!

With Hawaii being the most challenging place for businesses in the United States, it is more important than ever for Small Business Owners to invest in branding and marketing their business – especially on Social Media, which is really where Hawaii Doggie Bakery truly shines. For this reason, I wanted to take a moment to sit down with Niki to discuss some of her marketing strategies, along with a few tips she has for other Business owners who are using Social Media as a platform to help market their business online.

1. Create Experiences

Kicking off their 20th Anniversary at last month’s Hawaii Pet Expo, one of the Bakery’s special promotions was a “doggie lei” photo contest, where customers were encouraged to submit a photo via Instagram of their dog wearing one of the Bakery’s special Anniversary Leis.

At the time of this “interview,” they still had yet to pick a winner.

“Which is crazy,” Niki said, “Because we had about 50 participants…and I didn’t even tell them what the prize would be! That makes me really happy and really says a lot about our customers…I mean, I’m not even sure who the winner is yet and no one’s messaged me about it, which means that they didn’t really care about winning anything, they really just wanted to help us celebrate.”

“And that’s another thing I’ve realized: While the treats and cakes are definitely an important part of our business, what I think really keeps our customers coming back is the experience…We’re giving owners a chance to create memories and share important life moments with their dog(s), whether its a ‘pup-kin pie’ on Thanksgiving or a ‘pup cake’ on their birthday.”

2. Build Engagement

You can’t have a community without interaction, and one of Hawaii Doggie Bakery’s biggest strengths is its Social Media Presence.

But while most people are under the impression that you need to “pay-to-play” or have a large fan base/following to run a successful Social Media campaign, Niki does very little paid marketing campaigns, and instead has found success in focussing on the business’s values to drive engagement through the following areas:

Live Videos

Over the past few years, Facebook’s algorithms have given videos, particularly live streams, top priority, which is one reason why Niki has started to make it a point to do a Live Show every Wednesday on both Facebook and Instagram – with topics ranging from upcoming event announcements to weekly menu specials.

“On Facebook, we don’t get a lot of views during the broadcast itself,” she says, “But I know people must be watching it later, because I’ll have customers coming in and talking to me about something funny I said…and it’s funny, because some of our older customers come in and tell me ‘Oh, I saw you on TV!’ which must have been Facebook, because I haven’t been on TV in quite a while…For Instagram, I get a lot more engagement.”

Regular Posts

While consistency is often a challenge for a lot of independent small business owners (especially when it comes to posting on Social Media), Niki has solved this problem by creating a post grid and plotting out her posts at least one to two weeks in advance.

What that means, is that she will use her brand’s values (i.e. dogs, celebration, family, business/brand) as  a guide for future post topics –  writing them into a 9×9 grid before creating/scheduling the actual post.

This not only helps with content creation, but also insures that people/customers are always aware of the many different events, products and “experiences” that the Bakery has to offer.

3. Community First

Over the years, both Niki and her family have been heavily involved in the local dog community on Oahu. From volunteering at the Humane Society to participating in social clubs like Shiba Inu Hawaii and (more recently) Hawaii Pet Business Networking, collaboration and partnerships have not only contributed, but also expedited Niki, and her sister Tasha’s success as a new(er) business owner.

Today, Hawaii Doggie Bakery features an always changing roster of different local/boutique dog brands and pop ups, along with local business professionals such as Keri Pet Photography and Animal Communicators Hawaii. They also regularly help/support non profits, such as K9 Kokua, The Hawaiian Humane Society and Poi Dogs and Popoki, just to name a few.

In short, the “secret” to Hawaii Doggie Bakery’s 20 years of business success is their love for both their customers/dogs and local community. And it is this love and passion that not only guides, but also drives them to continue to evolve and grow as a business and brand.

Want help building a loyal fanbase and community to market and grow your business, or have any questions about any of the items listed above? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you! -jz

*Photo credits: @hawaiidoggiebakery via Instagram