TruDog is a fast-growing, technology-driven pet food company with the mission to help dogs live longer, better lives. Today, TruDog relies on a sophisticated tech stack to support its steep growth trajectory, but in its early days, the company's failure to grasp the importance of technology was almost its undoing. Fortunately for dog lovers everywhere, TruDog founder and CEO Lori R. Taylor pivoted and persevered, driven by a deep-seated desire to make a difference.
TruDog has a poignant origin story. After losing her Great Dane, Truman, to cancer, Taylor began to study the correlation between diet and disease, and how serving dogs healthier, more natural foods could improve their lives. She read about the benefits of feeding dogs raw meat, but doing so was messy and time-consuming. Her "aha moment" came when she discovered a local processor that could freeze-dry fresh meat, making it easier to feed raw. Taylor has been determined to improve the lives of dogs everywhere ever since.
Taylor's background is in marketing, so that part of running a business has always come easy. From the beginning, she knew the importance of defining and communicating her company purpose and brand ideals. But what Taylor didn't realize--at least not at first--was that technology could help her tell that story more effectively. It could also improve her ability to manage her business. "When we launched in 2013, we had all the marketing ideas in the world, but we didn't take enough ownership of the technology," she explains.
Part of the problem was that TruDog didn't have anyone internally to champion technology. The team didn't know what they didn't know, and as such, they were missing opportunities to use technology to activate and optimize their marketing initiatives. They were also lacking visibility into their key performance indicators (KPIs), which made it near impossible to run a healthy business, explains Taylor.
Getting It Right
It took a few years of trial and error to get the technology right. In 2015, the team attempted to "duct tape" a tech stack. And when that failed, they toyed with building a custom solution before ultimately adopting the e-commerce platform Shopify, in 2017. They coupled the tool with their own dashboards to track analytics and have a line of sight to profitability and retention curves.
Today, TruDog has full control of its KPIs, which helps it measure the effectiveness of its marketing. Technology has also made the company a better storyteller. Blogs and email blasts are among the digital marketing tools TruDog uses to educate the market on the ins and outs of canine nutrition.
Now, Taylor is able to determine which content is most effective by measuring engagement metrics, such as time spent on an article and shares on social media. From there, she can revise her strategy accordingly to spend her marketing budget most cost-efficiently and wisely.
In addition to KPIs, TruDog also employs digital tactics to inform its product innovation roadmap, monitoring what content performs best on its website and collecting information from customers via fun online quizzes to identify needs in the market. "If we saw that blog content about joint issues was performing well, and that 80 percent of our customers who filled out a quiz reported having dogs with joint issues, we would consider investing in more solutions to address that," she says.
Taylor observes that it takes both marketing savvy and technology expertise to grow a business, but most entrepreneurs have only one or the other. And, looking at Taylor's story, it's worth it to find which half you are missing. In doing so, Taylor helped TruPet, TruDog's parent company, land at No. 39 on this year's Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in America. That ranking was based on a three-year growth rate of 6,754 percent. Taylor sees this growth as a tribute to Truman and an indicator that the brand is changing the way people care for their pets. This year, the company entered a Series A funding round. One of the first things it will do with the investment is build out the tech team, says Taylor, adding, "The stronger your tech, the stronger your marketing can be." Of course, no matter how tech-savvy she becomes, Taylor will never lose sight of her mission. That is what drives Taylor today, and that is what has driven Taylor since day one. The key difference now is that she has technology as an enabler.