Sunday, August 9, 2009

A way to expand your pet sitting business: Marketing to hotels

Here we are in the dog days of summer. August – that last gasp before everyone goes back to school. This is always a busy month for me, even this year in a slow economy. If you're still trying to fill your schedule, consider marketing to local hotels.

The concierge at a hotel, even a big chain, keeps a list of services he or she can call on for the hotel guests. Make a personal visit and take your flyer and business cards with you. Encourage them to visit your website, and strike up a conversation with the concierge, who you hope is a pet owner! More than one person mans the front desk, so try to connect with as many people as possible, maybe by making multiple visits.

A personal visit is much better than a phone call. The staff will feel like they know you personally, and will be more confident recommending you. As an incentive, you could offer a free day of care to staff members so they can get to know you. Provide something useful for their guests, like a list of dog-friendly parks and beaches, with your business info printed at the bottom.

You may want to alter your marketing materials for this segment of your business. Go heavy on the credentials. You are an unknown factor in a strange city, so people will want to know they can trust you with their pet. Include info about your memberships, training, insurance and experience. Provide references they can call. Include your photo, so they feel more of a personal connection (preferably a photo of you with a dog)! Add some testimonial quotes to your flyer.

What can you offer a hotel visitor? If they are leaving for a day of fun, you could come and walk the dog, who is stuck in a crate in their room. If you board dogs in your home, offer a day of doggie day care while they are busy at Disneyland or Sea World. You could also transport the dog to and from a groomer so the dog will be clean when they return from their outing.

Make follow up visits to hotels a few weeks before every holiday season, to remind them you're still in business and ready to serve their guests. If the hotel will let you, make up small welcome bags with some organic doggie treats and your flyer or business card for the hotel to give to every guest when they check in with their dog. You'll have to keep in touch to keep these supplied. The staff probably won't call you to replenish.

Creative marketing will help you build a new resource for customers. Once a few guests have used your services, their positive feedback will ensure the hotel will refer you to more people.

Photos: Trapper enjoys his vacation at Big Bear Lake.
© 2009 Terry Albert All rights reserved.

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