Why your website might be causing you to miss out on clients

Five years ago, I set up a typical pet service, business-centric website. It was beautifully designed by my IT specialist daughter, and was made up of a few pages of business related content. I loved it! It felt shiny and appealing, and it certainly show cased Custom Canine Care; who we were and what we did. If you go ahead and click on that link, you’ll see a very different site; a dog related info-blog, where messages about the services we offer are no longer the focus.

Why your website might be causing you to miss out on clients

The years between when I started off and today, have seen the internet explode into an ethereal world of well over a billion websites. Only a tiny fraction of these are ever seen by any one person. The “sorting mechanism” for all those sites are the search engines; the unchallenged giant among them, being Google.

Google’s mission statement is:

to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

website might be causing you to miss out on clients
Web marketing is relational

In other words, Google exists to put useful information in the hands of those who search the web. Their ways of measuring and achieving this, have led to huge changes in the way that Google rates a website. These changes are reflected in the shift we see online, towards many websites – in all kinds of industries and interests – becoming information or info-blog based. Sites with new, trustworthy and useful information are rated highly. Sites that are stagnant, inaccurate, unimportant (to users – measured by things like time spent on the site and links back to the site, especially from social media), become irrelevant.

So what do you want from your business website?

I imagine the one word answer to this, from most business owners, would be:

CLIENTS!

So let’s dig a little deeper. Perhaps we want clients to stay on our page and read about us and our services? Why? Presumably, so that they will find us attractive, a good fit or good value. But what determines value to a client?What is attractive to a motivated, invested prospective client? What keeps them on your page? What tells them most about who you are and what you can offer them? Believe me when I say, it’s not a monologue you wrote yourself about how caring and professional you are! Believe me also, when I admit that I did that too.

What do your clients (current and future) want from your site?

Information, yes, but still not your self-review. They want diverse, rich information about dogs in general, about the way your day looks and why you think home boarding, or group walks, are a good idea. They are looking for information about products they would benefit from, training methods (writing about these goes a long way to matching you up with “good fit” clients) and local dog friendly pubs.

They also want someone else to tell them that you are great! This could be auto-generated reviews that you can link to or testimonials by real people, who are willing to be contacted to back up the virtual stuff. Clients’ pets’ pictures with stories go a long way to adding authenticity and interest, but be sure to get the client’s approval first.

Providing answers to their questions, will often be the thing that first draws a prospective client to your site. Do you sound like you care? Do you seem to understand the issues clients often need help with, regarding their animals? Do you come across as confident and calm? Generous and helpful? Will their pet be in safe hands?

Value! Clients want value – and I don’t mean just “for money“. All the things listed add value for the client. The more they can get from you as their primary pet care-giver, the more value you are adding, and the more attractive you will become.

Happily the things that make you attractive (via your website) to a new client, are the same things that make you “sticky” to an established client. Never stop looking for ways to make your website work for you in developing client relationship and trust.

Making the leap

So throw out the old 5-pages-of-info-about-me-and-my-business and make it your mission to start creating a rich, interesting, ever changing, growing, online space, for you and your clients to enjoy.

The majority of pet care related searches involve either Google or Facebook, so ideally you want to have both covered. In the next blog entry, I will address how to develop a blogging site without writing content yourself, for those of you who don’t want to create original content by writing. Following that we will look at what Facebook has to offer, and how you can best promote your business there.

 

Advertising a pet sitting business

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.
Both marketing and advertising are essential for a new business to grow and thrive, but for a pet sitting business I think that advertising becomes less important over time and marketing, more important. This is down to the relational nature of choosing someone to look after your beloved pets. One way to look at this, is to think of advertising as informational and marketing as relational.
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.

advertising a pet sitting business
AdWords will put you straight onto the first page of Google. Beware of cold callers who promise to get you there organically in a matter of weeks.

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:

  1. Recommendation (my holy grail).
  2. Google AdWords
  3. Facebook (occasionally paid adverts)
  4. 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.