After meeting recently with my Walmart buyer for Gentle Giants dog food, I walked across the street to the 8th & Walton office to say hello to my dear friends there. I was delighted with the warm welcome I was given by fans who remembered and loved the Robin character I played on “Batman” the television series in the late 1960s.
However, for the past 22 years, my wife, Tracy, and I have focused our lives on our nonprofit charity of rescuing dogs and helping them to live longer, healthier, happier lives through our special feeding and care program and our ultra-premium, one-of-a-kind dog food, Gentle Giants.
The conversation came around to the reasons behind our success and how other suppliers might benefit from some of our ideas. Here’s what I want to share with others:
Believe in your brand with all your heart. I do, and everyone who meets me knows that’s true. I love dogs, and I love making a food that helps them live as much as twice as long as they normally would. When I talk about Gentle Giants, people know I mean it.
Don’t cut corners. If you consistently do your best and make the best product possible, you will rise to the top.
Put your personal brand behind your product. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. I’m a celebrity so my personal brand is strong. But you have a personal brand, too. Use it. Talk to friends about what you make. Have samples with you at all times. (I have even asked humans to sample my dog food — and many of them do!) Endorse your product publicly and personally whenever you can.
Commit to great customer service. Do you know that I have my personal cell phone number printed on the back of every bag of our dog food? It’s a powerful statement. When you do that, customers know you really care. I’m the person who answers the phone, 24/7.
I hear about more than my dog food. I hear about pet health, allergies, behaviors and trends, and I help every one of them, and, in turn, their conversations and concerns give me ideas about future products. I share my personal expertise, and I always listen.
Learn from your customers. Answering the phone myself means I know immediately and firsthand what’s good about what we’re doing. I can fix things fast, and I can pump up our volume immediately on successes.
I like to say that I was the Caped Crusader, and now I’m the Canine Crusader. And honestly? This is my favorite role ever.
Burt Ward is founder/owner of Gentle Giants dog food. This fall, look for the Warner Bros. new animated, direct-to-DVD Batman feature, with Ward providing the voice of Robin. Adam West and Julie Newmar will also reprise their roles as Batman and Catwoman, respectively.