June 2016 Chairman’s Report

Our roadmap for growth promises a formidable future for our organization and the dogs we love.

We come together every quarter to share information about the status of our sport and the financial health of our organization; to introduce new ideas that may shape our future; sometimes to elect our directors; and certainly for camaraderie and the pleasure of catching up with fellow dog people.

The face-to-face interactions that underscore these meetings are unquestionably meaningful and valuable.

But think about all of the things we do online. 

We register litters and dogs online. 

We research pedigrees and plan breedings online. 

We enter dog shows online.

We study our breed standards and improve our judging skills with the help of the Web. 

We share and post on a litany of Facebook pages and enjoy videos on our phones. 

And we’re not alone.  The fact is, the world and its dog lovers are online, spreading the joy and even the challenges that come with being a dog owner. 

In our position as the leading authority on dogs in America and the preeminent publisher of content about dogs,

AKC is not only poised to become – but has a duty to assume the role of the voice for dogs everywhere, especially on the Internet. 

The shift in the public’s embrace of technology makes it clear that digital growth is the lifeblood of many an organization, whether commercial or non-profit. 

It is for this reason that the American Kennel Club created an organization to focus on growing our revenue outside of the sport with particular emphasis on digital expansion.  Our goal is to support our mission as never before and invest in our core constituency.

I would like to take some time today to introduce you to the types of activities our digital team has implemented digitally and the results we have seen so far. 

The digital perspective is relatively new for us, since our corporate yardstick for many years has been Registration numbers and entries in events. 

Today more than four million people visit our web site every month. The number of visitors is growing considerably with no sign of abating; traffic to our web site as a whole has increased more than sixty-five percent this year as compared to last year. 

This wasn’t luck.   We have driven this growth by understanding the habits, needs and aspirations of dog lovers and creating the content that fulfills these needs with the expertise and authority that only AKC can provide. 

The chance to forge relationships with millions of customers through a continual online dialogue and a multitude of digital touchpoints is perhaps our greatest opportunity for growth and, just as importantly, to position the American Kennel Club as the voice of dogs. 

We have increasingly found social media to be fertile ground for our mission and our message. 

On May 1st, we celebrated National Purebred Dog Day, with multiple postings on Facebook and Instagram. 

This campaign highlighted the benefits and importance of purebred dogs through compelling images, videos and themes. 

We reached over a million people, collected thousands of reactions and comments and saw our videos shared thousands of times. 

A video about keeping dogs healthy had even greater success, proving that our educational content attracts a powerful audience of dog enthusiasts seeking guidance from the experts at AKC.

It is through digital efforts like these that we can capture mindshare and focus public attention on the purpose-bred dog. 

And these efforts are paying off.  Our digital channels are growing; we can now count nearly 5 million followers across all of AKC’s social channels, a fan base that also drives one million people to our web site on a monthly basis. 

Another arrow in our quiver is AKC’s rich portfolio of e-newsletters. 

With a total of nine digital newsletters and a combined readership of 2.25 million, this communication channel is another key source of growth for AKC, with reader interactions that greatly exceed industry averages. 

Articles in our newsletters are an important tool to drive people to our web site, with some pieces driving eighty to ninety thousand visits at a time to AKC.org. 

Visits to our web site from our email channel increased thirty five percent earlier this year, thanks to the creative content of our flagship e-newsletter, Your AKC. 

Our highest performing digital article to date introduced dog owners to the dangers of Xylitol. 

These results are another indication that the public is consistently seeking out and relying upon AKC as a source for informative content about responsible pet ownership.

While our reliable sourcebooks will always occupy a prominent space on the bookshelf (or e-reader) of the serious dog lover, the shortened attention span in today’s digital age demands that we continuously innovate in order to educate. 

As an institution that seeks relentlessly to educate the public about the importance of purebred dogs, responsible breeding, and our sport, we have enhanced our toolkit with lighthearted, interactive quizzes.

Quizzes about breeds and Groups have been among our highest performing, reaching hundreds of thousands of people across multiple channels and achieving excellent engagement rates. 

One such quiz asked people to identify with one of the seven Groups; three quarters of a million people became engaged in our digital conversation about connecting ourselves to purebred dogs.

Our outreach through digital channels has allowed us to make great leaps forward in reaching new audiences, engaging with the uninitiated, and educating the public about our mission in creative, new ways. 

However, we cannot merely “count the visits”; we must analyze the ways in which this quickening pulse is driving our business to new heights. 

Digital enhancements to AKC Marketplace have spurred a forty-five percent increase in revenue over the prior year, with a steady increase of AKC-registrable litters being listed. 

Marketplace is being continuously monitored and upgraded to provide a full set of features for responsible breeders to place their puppies.

A recent survey of potential puppy buyers showed extremely high levels of satisfaction with Marketplace in terms of its ease of use and the quality of its search results, and many indicated that they would use Marketplace to purchase a puppy in the future. 

This is an important result for AKC, because as we all know, for better or worse, the public is increasingly turning to the Internet as a source for pets. 

AKC must continue to be a guiding force on the path to pet ownership, so it is critical that we place AKC at the forefront of the new online journey. 

By offering our customers the very best tool for litter listings and puppy searches,

AKC reinforces our value proposition to our breeders and keeps AKC at the center of the conversation about what responsible dog ownership means and how to achieve it. 

I am delighted that our Registration numbers are once again trending upward, driven by operational improvements, exceptional customer service, and innovative new breeder services.

There is no doubt that the success of AKC.org has been a major contributor in increasing demand for purebred dogs and especially AKC puppies.

As we continue down this path to growth, we have a responsibility to nurture and improve our current practices so that we can foster yet more success. 

We must also continue to innovate, through new products and services, which we are committed to doing.

The sphere of pet ownership is growing ever broader and more sophisticated; these targeted strategies will place the AKC brand and mission within our customers’ grasp long after their dogs’ Registration papers have been filed away. 

This will result in a lifetime relationship with pet owners and build respect for the American Kennel Club, and most importantly, purebred dogs.

With a firm commitment to our traditions and our eyes trained on the future, our roadmap for growth promises a formidable future for our organization and the dogs we love. 

 

Sincerely, 

Ron Menaker