Fetching Your New Best Friend
By Mary Sigmond, YPO
Dog lovers have a lot to be happy about these days. Thanks to veteran online matchmaker YPO member Greg Liberman, the search for the perfect puppy has gotten a lot easier. After spending a decade at Spark Networks — the parent company of online dating giants JDate and Christian Mingle — Liberman broke up with the online dating business in 2014 to lead the pack at PuppySpot, a site that connects prospective puppy owners with responsible breeders. Through his online puppy-lover community, Liberman’s team has placed nearly 150,000 puppies in forever homes.
When he moved to PuppySpot, Liberman was able to bring 15 of his Spark team with him to use their expertise from the world of online dating to breathe life, mission and purpose to a relatively unknown brand.
A four-legged match in the making
The platform and technology behind PuppySpot originated in 2005 under a different name. With no other platforms or competitors (then or now) in the marketplace that match owners with breeders to find puppies, Liberman and his team had the opportunity to define an entirely new business, renaming the platform to reflect a change in leadership and vision, and to better represent the company’s mission and values.
“When we came to PuppySpot it felt a lot like what online dating did 15 years ago — the technology and platform were in place, but people didn’t know that there was an opportunity to find a puppy online.”
His team first defined PuppySpot’s mission, clarifying not only the role of the online puppy matching service for the customer, but more importantly, to serve as a guide for employees. “Our mission is our North Star in a sense and guides every decision we make,” he explains. “Whenever we question the right thing to do when faced with a dilemma, we simply have to look at our mission statement, which is to make lives better by placing healthy puppies into happy homes, because we know how much joy dogs bring to our own lives.”
As part of the rebrand, Liberman and his team also ensured a hands-on, personalized approach at every stage of the process. PuppySpot strives to delivers a seamless, high quality and enjoyable experience to all of its community members, whether they walk on two legs or four.
“This is not just about throwing up a website and putting puppies on it. We have a very complex system that we built over a number of years,” he says. For people who are looking for a puppy, it’s not something they do daily nor have much experience in explains Liberman. With a screened and vetted network of responsible breeders, each breeder within PuppySpot’s network is held to the highest standards, with health and safety for all dogs as top priorities. Following a comprehensive, proprietary screening process, less than 10 percent of breeders who begin the review process are ultimately invited to join the community.
“What PuppySpot did is remove all the X factors associated with the search for a new puppy, which ensures that people get to make an informed choice about where they’re finding their puppies. There is nothing else like us out there right now, because to get to this scale takes a lot. I’m not sure how many people are willing to invest to do it.”
Building a community of dog lovers
Even though customers reach PuppySpot online, it is a high-touch service from the moment they look at a puppy’s profile. Customers talk to humans throughout the process, including puppy concierges, travel agents who handle puppy transportation needs and health advocates who make sure all puppies’ health is maintained from start to finish. “We are finding that millennials like the online community focus of PuppySpot. They like to share their opinions as well as look to us after they receive their new puppies for ongoing support and education,” explains Liberman, whose staff follows up on each customer review.
The service caters to each customer’s unique set of needs, even handling travel logistics for puppies heading to their new homes. PuppySpot has also developed a Content Center to support the dog owner’s journey, even after puppy arrives home. Full of relevant health, training and lifestyle tips, this resource reflects PuppySpot’s commitment to its relationships with customers, that last long after a puppy is placed in a loving home. Customers who have been through the puppy matchmaking can also supply feedback to others going through the process.
Liberman’s business became personal when his daughter wanted a puppy. “She wanted a dog named Lucy, and whenever a breeder posts a dog on our site, they already have a name. People can change the name (later), but my daughter went on looking for dogs named Lucy and she found a little red poodle.” Soon that red poodle became Lucy Liberman.
“At its core, PuppySpot is a service, but it is far more. It’s a community where dogs are celebrated and where trust, confidence and transparency are paramount,” says Liberman. “Finding Lucy, it was fun to experience PuppySpot firsthand and to really see what we do come to life.”