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03/21/2011

Customer Service is the Key to SmartPak’s Success on Facebook

By staying true to their customer‐focused roots, SmartPak Equine has reached an impressive milestone, surpassing 100,000 Facebook fans. As the largest equine catalog and online retailer in the U.S., SmartPak is accustomed to setting the pace, and Facebook is no exception. SmartPak’s Facebook page now has more fans than all other major equine retailers combined.

Heading up SmartPak’s social media efforts is Donnie Steele, Director of New Media. “When we launched our Facebook presence a little over a year ago, we didn’t know what to expect,” said Steele. “It was a new arena for us, and I’ve heard the riders in the office compare it to changing disciplines. You’re excited, but a little nervous, because it could really not work out. But almost right away you realize the fundamentals are all the same – it’s just good riding. For us, putting customers first is just good business. That’s been true in our customer service, on our website and now on Facebook.”

SmartPak’s CEO, Paal Gisholt, agrees, “I think our Facebook experience reflects the way we’ve built the SmartPak brand. We never set out to reach a certain number of fans. Instead, we focused on providing a great experience – an online community where customers could have fun, learn about better horse care and become a part of our brand and our family.”

In a year in which The Social Network won an Academy Award, a lot of companies have been trying to figure out how to harness the power of social media. With a fan count on par with beloved retail icons like Zappos and Patagonia, retailers outside the horse industry have taken note of SmartPak’s success. Mr. Steele was the closing speaker at the New England Mail Order Association’s Spring 2011 National Conference for Direct Marketers, and made the following comments in a session that was well‐represented with leading multi‐channel retailers.

“Facebook requires a high level of transparency that many companies simply are not willing or able to expose themselves to,” Steele explained. “There are risks involved in encouraging our customers to engage with us as much as we have. But as a company that is committed to ‘knock‐your‐socks‐off’ service, it’s a lot easier for us to put ourselves out there.”

Visitors to SmartPak’s fan page can get a quick overview of what it’s like to be a part of the SmartPak family. Fans share photos of their horses, ask equine health or customer account questions, talk about how supplements have helped their horses and, more often than not, rave about SmartPak’s legendary customer service. One recent comment reads, “You all have the best customer service of any company I have ever dealt with… You hire some awesome people!”

The daily interaction with customers is a source of both pride and inspiration for SmartPak, and they’ve put fan ideas into practice with new services and online features. “We're just completely astonished and grateful to have a community of 115,000 loyal fans who are committed to quality horse care and horsemanship.” Steele noted, “When we’re not helping customers keep their horses going strong, we spend a lot of time trying to develop new ways to entertain and educate our audience.” SmartPak’s near‐daily posts include Q&A sessions with their on‐staff veterinarian, handy how‐to articles, updates from professional Team SmartPak riders and occasional guest blogs. As the Official Tack & Equipment Supplier of the USEF, SmartPak has partnered with other popular equestrian brands, including Kerrits, EquiFit and Horseware Ireland, to host fun contests, including the fan favorite “You Wore That to the Barn?!” SmartPak’s Facebook fans also get exclusive promotional offers and deals. As part of the 100K celebration, all fans received 20% off select tack and equipment at SmartPak.com.

Find SmartPak on Facebook at Facebook.com/SmartPakEquine or visit SmartPak.com to learn more.