Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Marketing your pet sitting business

 When I started pet sitting, the Internet was in its infancy, and I didn't have any kind of web site at all. In 1998, I built my own site for the first time, featuring my pet portraits artwork. It wasn't until recently that I added a pet sitting page to my site, because I thought I didn't need it. After all, all my business is local, right?
Yes, my business is local, but even local people search for services on the Web today. I have been amazed. I have gotten several clients who just searched for "pet-sitter, Poway," and found meThey clearly have read every word on my site, and were interested in hearing about my own pets, too. I have found it to be an excellent marketing tool.

Once I built my page, I registered on several pet networking sites, like zootoo.com, and I joined Petsitters Intl. Both have referred new clients to me already. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks. I thought I didn't need the Internet, but now I highly recommend it to all pet sitters! 

Advertising in the local paper, a weekly giveaway, has never done anything for me. I occasionally will advertise at Christmas or Thanksgiving, but that is the only time. I don't think it works well because people don't pay for it, and most copies probably don't even make it into the house, much less get read every week. When I was in the advertising business, we spent our money on paid circulation, not free. 

Word of mouth is your cheapest and most reliable form of marketing. Happy clients will give you good recommendations. My philosophy is to give them more than they pay for. Most of my clients have been with me for years, and I have several groups- networks of friends and neighbors who all hire me to care for their pets. I always give my clients several business cards (shown here)-one for the front of refrigerator, one for their wallet, one for a friend. Couples get one for each spouse. My card features my web site, email, cell phone and regular phone numbers. Note that my home phone number is large enough that people can easily read it. I HATE cards that have little tiny type. Maybe they are pretty from a design format, but not practical, especially if anyone over 40 years old needs to read it! 

One of my best resources for new customers is, believe it or not, kennels. When they get booked up for the holidays, they like having a pet sitter they can refer clients to. When I am overbooked, I like having a kennel I can refer to. I make friends with the kennel staff, regularly visit and drop off cards and flyers, send Christmas cards, and occasionally even a gift for the staff. 

This same relationship works well with veterinarians in town. If I take a client's pet to the vet, I give the staff a card and let them know who I am. They are more likely to refer people to me if they are familiar with me. 

Ask the local pet supply or feed store if you can set up a table out front in October or May, just before the busy season. A busy Saturday morning is the perfect time to meet new clients. 

There are lots of more ways to market your business, but the ones I've mentioned here have been the most effective for me. 

The photo above is me with Pudley, an African Sulcatta tortoise that I pet sit. He eats dandelion greens.

2 comments:

RockArtist said...

This is a great article for anyone wanting to start up a pet sitting business, Terry. Its great to see how you find natural and practical ways to market yourself, so many people think it has to be costly and extremely difficult, whereas just thinking about ways like the Veterinarians and Pet Boarding services is such a great idea. I don't have a lot of space to board dogs and also rent my house, what would you suggest for someone like me who only wants to do maybe just one dog at a time? Is it even worth the time and effort?

Terry said...

Yes, I think it is absolutely worth it-- when I lived in an apartment for 10 months, I still had dogs stay with me, just one at a time. You won't get rich, but it does add up.

Of course if you are doing visits instead of boarding dogs, it doesn't matter where you live!

Terry