There are two main ways of promoting any business; marketing and advertising. These are two different things and shouldn’t be confused. There are many definitions of both concepts but I like these:
- Marketing “is the art of inspiring desire that leads to action.” Jerry Beale.
- Advertising is bringing a product/service to the attention of (potential) customers.
Ways of advertising a pet sitting business
Each type of advertising listed has been rated for effectiveness for a pet sitting business from 1 to 10, where 1 is barely effective and 10 is extremely effective.*
- Word of mouth – for example, talking to attendees via a stand at a dog show in your area. This method can involve written information, such as when you pass over of a business card to someone you meet out walking dogs. (6)
- Recommendation – for example, when a client of yours recommends you to a work colleague. Essentially word of mouth from a person who has used your service. (10)
- Google AdWords – this is where you pay Google to feature your advert on the first page for a relevant search. You only pay when the searcher clicks through the advert to your website. These adverts appear to the right and also above the organic listings. (8)
- Organic first page ranking for your website on Google – this is when, by building an information rich site, that is regularly updated, optimised for search engines to find and well linked from other sites and blogs, you rank on the first page of Google for a relevant search. (10)
- Flyer and business cards left at a vet with whom you have relationship – these are then distributed by the receptionist or vet and serve as a personal recommendation of sorts. (7)
- Flyer and business cards left with any other vet – here the people do not know who you are and are less likely to be ready to recommend you. In this scenario, your information will usually be presented alongside that of any other similar businesses who have left their advertising material at the surgery. (variable 1 to 5)
- Leafleting an area – for example posting an A5 flyer or business card through the doors of an estate in your area. (2)
- Social media, especially Facebook – for example having a thriving Facebook page with useful information, photos, videos and events. (6)
- Cards in post office or shop window – usually, these are printed postcards of A5 flyers. (2)
- Newspaper advert – often placed in a local newspaper or free paper. (1)
- Listing on online sites such as Gumtree – these sites take paid advertisements and you can pay extra to have your advert placed at the top of the listing for your category of business. These sites tend to be seen as places to pick up a bargain and customers are just as likely to go with the cheap, often uninsured dog walkers that abound. (2)
- Listing on pet specific agency-type online sites, such as Dog Walking Now – these sites essentially introduce service users to service providers, and usually charge a fee for doing so. I’ve never had a successful client introduction through one of these sites, but you might get lucky. (variable 1 to 5)
*Based on my own experience, the comments of other pet sitters and research into Google ranking.
You may notice a pattern – information is more effective when it is targeted specifically at a dog-owning audience, but relationship is always more powerful. Ranking highly on Google is the exception to this.
I would suggest choosing advertising methods that you think will give you the best return within your budget of both money and time. Then monitor how your clients found out about you, to see what works for your area and type of business.
I used many of the above methods when I was starting up, but over recent years I have settled on four alongside continually building my website to increase its organic ranking. These are:
- Recommendation (my holy grail).
- Google AdWords
- Facebook (occasionally paid adverts)
- Publicity material in my vet’s surgery
I currently only pay for the Google advertising and the occasional Facebook campaign. AdWords is charged on a daily basis and you only pay when someone searches, sees your advert and then clicks through to your website. I pay around £1 a day, which is a tiny campaign, but I still get the majority of my clients through Google. I am aiming towards my business website ranking highly organically and then I will stop using AdWords continually. This, of course, requires building the site over time.