In the pet industry, most of your clients will come from referrals, usually from professional pet-related organizations like humane societies, rescue networks, veterinarians, and consumers as well as by word-of-mouth from past and present clients. Because of this, a good portion of your marketing dollars will be spent on marketing materials and promotional items to encourage these referral sources.
To start though, exactly what is marketing? There are many definitions of marketing. These are some of my personal favorites:
- Marketing is the social process by which individuals and groups obtain what they need and want through creating and exchanging products and value with others - Kotler
- Marketing is the management process that identifies, anticipates and satisfies client requirements profitably - The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM)
- The right product, in the right place, at the right time, at the right price - Adcock
- Marketing is essentially about marshaling the resources of an organization so that they meet the changing needs of the client on whom the organization depends - Palmer
Regardless of which definition you prefer, you need to understand that marketing is:
- A continuous process through which we plan, research, implement, control, and evaluate our efforts, which are designed to satisfy both clients’ requirements and our own objectives.
- Everything we do to make our service attractive and available to potential clients and to satisfy their needs and wants. It includes EVERY discipline - sales, public relations, pricing, packaging, operations and distribution.
- Part art and part science and integrates all aspects of our business together.
What Are You Marketing?
You are in the business of solving problems. You help your clients with what matters to them. You are marketing all of your products and services to people who need and desire them. In the service industry, however, recognize that this is based on the trust and confidence your clients have granted you. You are marketing both the “sizzle” and the “steak,” or the “peace of mind” that comes from having a qualified, insured, bonded, certified pet sitter or dog trainer, as well as the actual pet sitting or dog training service. As service providers, we have to perform the pet sitting, training, grooming, and/or dog walking in the most professional and exceptional manner. What we actually market is what all this represents to the client – peace of mind, and the safety, happiness and well-being of their pet.
Now you understand what marketing is let’s talk about marketing strategy and its process so you can develop a workable and effective marketing plan.
The Marketing Strategy Process
Marketing plans do not need to be complicated and convoluted. They can be simple outlines that identify what you plan to do, when and how. All of your marketing activities should revolve around the four points you need to focus on to increase your business and profitability:
Find new clients. This can be through advertising, community involvement, referrals, events, and networking. Most of your marketing will be education-based, where you give away samples (e.g. demonstrations, guides, introductory courses) to encourage prospects to become lifetime clients.
Increase the average spend/sales per client. Up-sell your clients with higher quality services. If they choose the minimum pet sitting service, show them the value in purchasing the more inclusive packages.
Increase the frequency or quantity of your client’s purchases. Sell your clients additional products and services (cross-selling) such as dog food, pet sitting, dog walking and doggy parties. Follow up on services, measure your clients' activities (e.g. why haven’t they used you over Christmas, did they not go away or are they using the competition?)
Hold on to your clients for life. By being the most reliable, fair, ethical, professional, effective business person on the planet, you will keep your clients for life. Measure your operation’s effectiveness and satisfaction through surveys and testimonials. Talk to your clients and LISTEN. Maintain the relationship even when you are not in an active buying-selling transaction. It is far more expensive to earn a new client than it is to keep an existing client.
Once you have a marketing plan it is important to constantly review, revise and update it so the process is ongoing. All parts of your plan must work together, support each other and complement one another.
To develop a marketing plan, you should follow these simple steps:
- Determine who and what your clients are.
What are your clients' needs and desires? Who is buying and using your services? How are they buying and using your services? Can they be segmented into groups by age, type of service used, type of dog or dog activity? Can they be segmented geographically? You need to know who your clients are if you are to meet the goals of the marketing definition.
- Determine what your market is like.
What is the market? How many consumers are there, where do they live, what is their buying power?
- Analyze your competition.
Who are they, what do they do better, what do you do better? How are they advertising? Who do they know, how are they networked?
- Determine how you will deliver your services.
What are the available venues or facilities where you can deliver your services, what will they cost, and will clients come to them? What is the availability of contractors to deliver your services in your area?
- Develop a mix of marketing methods.
What is the optimum mix of marketing method to keep your mix as small as you can without sacrificing effectiveness? What free marketing is available, how creative can you be, do you have more time that money or less time and a financial budget to invest?
- Evaluate if what you are doing makes financial sense.
What is the real cost of each effort and does it pay, is it profitable? You should not endeavor to participate in any paid marketing if you do not have the ability to track and manage its effectiveness.
- Revise, Review and then go back to step 1.
Measure, calculate, analyze and consider what works and what does not work as well. Then you can make educated decisions and tweak, update your marketing plan.
The Marketing Equation
Once you have a plan in place I can guarantee it will include activities like social media posts, newsletters or simple sales tools such as rack cards, business cards or home printed flyers for community notice boards. These can be very effective marketing tools if used correctly. Remember that nice graphics do not always convert to good advertisement or sales copy. Graphics are an important part of developing sales tools because they support the marketing equation, but they do not replace it.
The marketing equation is a very effective equation. If you take the time to use this when you work on social media posts, newsletter campaigns and the design and development of flyers, you will find your response rate, click through ratios and sales conversions will yield a better return-on-investment.
The Marketing Equation is Interrupt + Engage + Educate + Offer = Results
To get qualified prospects to pay attention you need to identify and emphasize your key selling points, which you should have determined when you worked on your marketing strategy. Who are your clients and what are their hot buttons, needs and desires? A key selling point (KSP) or hot button is anything your prospect deems to be important and relevant. Good KSPs encourage target prospects to begin searching for more information.
If the Interrupt is based on good hot buttons, prospects will want more information. Make it clear to that the information is coming. Ensure that once they are focused on your message that they are engaged to continue on reading.
Identify the important and relevant issues of concern to your prospects. Feel their pain and listen to their concerns then provide them with the information they need to make their buying decision. The information has to be easily and quickly read and understood. The more educated a potential client is, the more services you will sell. Most marketing campaigns are aimed at making the sell now. These so called “now” buyers comprise the smallest percentage of consumers. We are looking to build long-term client relationships which represent the vast majority of consumers.
Always minimize your potential clients' fear by providing them with a low risk way to sign up for your services. Give them all the information they need so they feel they are in control of their decision and are not being talked into anything. Your goal is to solve their problem, not sell them something they don’t need or want.
Establish leads that will convert to long-term clients who will become an active part of your business growth.
Adcock, D., Halborg, A.L., & Ross, C. (2001). Marketing Principles and Practice. Essex, England: Pearson Education
Kotler, P. (2010). Principles of Marketing. Essex, England: Pearson Education
Palmer, A. (2000). Principles of Marketing. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press
The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM). (2001). http://www.cim.co.uk