Take a moment to think about your audience. Really think about who it is you’d like to call you for your services. If your answer is simply “dog people with enough income” you may be missing some marketing opportunities. Focusing more specifically on who your services are for will help you to market more effectively and less expensively.
Get the message right
If you know exactly who you’re trying to reach you can mold your marketing message more strategically. Want to work with families in your training business? Tell them how you’re going to make their lives easier, how you’ll remove some of their stress. Do you walk only small dogs? Tell small dog owners you understand their special needs, and tell them how you’ll keep their littles safer. Perhaps you offer exclusive boarding in your own home—tell those dog lovers who want the best for their dogs what their dog’s day will be like, emphasizing that they’ll be part of your family. Don’t just tell them you offer “in-home boarding.” Paint the picture, hour by hour, of all the fun things their dog will do, of how he’ll be treated. Make sure they understand they can leave all their guilt and worry behind.
In other words, your marketing message is not a list of your services (boarding, training, dog daycare). And it’s not a simple description of them (drop-in pet sitting seven days a week, small group training classes for puppies and adult dogs). It’s about understanding who your audience is and what concerns them. What problem can you solve for them? How can you make them feel better, take away some burden or frustration or worry? It’s about talking results and benefits—not what you offer, but what using your service will actually do for them. And the more you understand who your exact target audience is, the more focused you can make your message.
Location, location, location
Zeroing in on your audience will often suggest specific marketing outlets. Think about where your potential clients are likely to congregate, or what other services they probably use. Focus your marketing efforts there.
For example, if you are a trainer open to working with families or even specializing in baby prep or child-and-dog issues, market to boutique baby-and-toddler clothing or toy shops. Offer to hold a free talk in their shop and ask to place your newsletter or other materials there. Do the same at OBGYN clinics and moms’ groups.
Market to each other
Other dog professionals can be a great source of referrals, but marketing to each other is often overlooked. If your daycare or walking business caters especially to small dogs, woo the high-end grooming shops in your area. Do you pet sit for dogs with special health requirements? Local vets should know this, as should your fellow sitters and other dog pros in general. Do you walk dogs with behavioral issues? Tell the other walkers in your area, and the daycares and dog trainers, too.
This kind of networking is free and over time can lead to a steady stream of referrals. Email your fellow dog pros to tell them what you do and ask details about their services in return. Make referrals whenever you can—and email them to let them know you did. Ask them out to lunch. Email them to let them know about interesting speakers coming to town—do they want to go? You’re writing an article about pet sitting in your training newsletter—do they mind if you feature them, and can you interview them for it? In other words, use every excuse to be in touch on a frequent basis so they’re more likely to remember to send people your way.
A dedicated niche is always a good idea, but you don’t have to have one to do this kind of marketing. A trainer might market with one set of materials to baby shops and moms’ groups to target families, and another set of materials to grooming shops to target small dog owners, and then take materials focused on dog-dog issues to dog daycares. The point is to really think about who you want your clients to be and what their needs are. Craft your message to speak to those needs and then think carefully about where to spread the word.