5 Free Ways to Market Yourself
As the Duty Expert in Pet Care
By Robin Bennett and Susan Briggs
After being in the pet industry for over 18 years, there are two things we can say with certainty. First of all, there is a wide range of ways to run a business. The sizes, layout, and services of various pet care businesses never cease to amaze us. It seems there is really no “one size fits all” to how someone wants to operate their business. This is a great advantage if you are creative and want to try new services within your center. However, this is just as much a disadvantage, because pet owners are inundated with all the bells and whistles of so many pet care centers. Do owners really know how to choose the best facility, or are they just attracted to something that sounds unique and interesting (even if it’s not safe)?
As the New Year begins, make a New Year’s resolution to help educate owners. Work to help owners understand the principles behind a good off-leash play program, and make sure your own facility is measuring up to these standards.
Not all off-leash play environments are safe. Those that are safe need to make sure they are marketing and promoting the reasons why. Two of the biggest safety measures in any well-run off-leash play program include careful temperament testing and excellent staff training. We would consider these items mandatory in any pet care center, but our experience tells us that not all facilities have processes to ensure screening for the proper dogs and educating the staff on handing dogs. If you are doing these things, you need to be sure your community knows about it! Here are a few tips on promoting safety in off-leash play, which will serve a dual purpose of educating dog owners and promoting your own business.
- Write an article for your local paper about what kind of dogs enjoy off-leash play. Be sure to stress that daycare isn’t for every dog, and explain that some dogs prefer an environment that doesn’t involve other dogs. Naturally, you will mention that all daycares should have a screening process to help owners make these decisions before dropping their dog off to play.
- Teach a one-hour class at your local shelter, rescue group, or dog park about canine body language. Owners seldom know the basics about understanding dogs. Simply teaching a few basic stress signals and how to identity when dog play isn’t fun can set you apart as the duty expert in off-leash play in your community. Everyone wants to take their dog to the expert, so your business can benefit from this type of exposure.
- Highlight your formal staff training process. Good businesses provide quality staff training through a formal training program. Outline your staff training process, and be sure to announce it in a press release anytime you have a new staff member go through the training. This is a great way to highlight the professionalism of your business and introduce a new staff member to your community. Many local papers will focus on the human-interest aspect of the story, but the hidden message is that you actually train people to handle dogs safely!
- Highlight your continuing education. If your staff attends conferences, online webinars, or other training workshops, be sure to create a standard press release you can send out to highlight these trade events. Even if these releases aren’t picked up by the local paper, you can use the release on your own website and Facebook pages to let others know your business is serious about continuing education. Be sure to include pictures, too. Photos are great ways to make any press release more interesting. Include photos of certificates your staff received and photos of your staff networking with others in the pet care industry.
- Take the Pet Care Center Safety Pledge and recommend owners take the Dog Owner Safety Pledge. You can find a free pet center safety pledge to take at www.thedoggurus.com. This allows you to pledge your center as a safe place for dogs. You’ll get access to free marketing tools (a press release, social media posts, and a newsletter article) to let your community know about your pledge. You’ll also get a safety pledge badge and certificate you can download free of charge and put on your website and use in promotional materials. This can help set your business apart from your competition.
Take advantage of these five free marketing tips and commit to doing at least one of them each month in 2014. Don’t assume owners know that there are industry seminars, formal programs, or continuing educational events that make you better at what you do. Be sure to tell them. You’ll set the bar of safety higher, and in the long run, you can charge more because the community will place a higher value on the services you provide.
Susan Briggs is co-founder of Urban Tails, a large multiservice pet care center in Houston, Texas. One of the first cage-free sleepover and dog daycare centers in the country, Urban Tails evolved into a training resource for pet professionals on safe daycare operations. Staff training is a passion for Susan, resulting in the development of Crystal Canine, a consulting and training resource for the pet industry (www.crystalcanine.com). In 2008, her first book Off-Leash Dog Play: A Complete Guide to Safety & Fun co-authored with Robin Bennett was published. This successful book inspired a Dog Body Language poster set and pocket guide tools for pet professionals using the traffic signal safety colors. It was also the resource for Knowing Dogs Staff Training a two volume “staff training in a box” program on dog body language and group play produced in 2012. All resources are available from www.robinkbennett.com. Her newest venture provides a one-stop online resource for safe off-leash dog play tools and education.
Robin Bennett is author and consultant for pet care facilities on the subjects of dog daycare, training, and off-leash play. The tools she teaches facility staff and dog owners stems from Robin’s 20 years of involvement in the pet care industry. Her Book, All About Dog Daycare is the number one reference on owning a daycare, and her book, Off-Leash Dog Play, co-authored by Susan Briggs, is the key reference on supervising dogs in playgroups. Together with Susan Briggs, Robin has created an interactive staff training program called Knowing Dogs: a two-part training resource designed for pet care center management to train any staff member working in a pet care facility on safe dog interactions and group play. You can find more about Robin and these resources at www.robinkbennett.com. As “The Dog Gurus”, Robin and Susan’s mission is to improve safety in the dog daycare industry. Check out our new site at TheDogGurus.com