New Major Competitors
that can take a big bite out of your business
By Laura Laaman
To remain successful in this competitive industry, it’s important to be aware of any new competitors entering your market. DogVacay.com and Rover.com are only two of the newest and biggest competitive threats to have entered the pet care industry. You may not even be aware of them operating in your area.
DogVacay.com and Rover.com specialize in matching vacationing families with in-home pet sitters. Both businesses base their marketing on the idea that pet parents want their pets to have the same care as they would have in their own homes.
Pet parents are wooed by the idea of their pet being in a home-like environment. Rover.com and DogVacay.com realize this and are taking full advantage of it. They promote terribly negative images of “kennels” and highlight the home environments as being kinder and safer. To reassure caring pet parents, some of these pet-sitting networks offer background checks, pet insurance, sitter insurance, an on-call veterinarian, mobile apps, photo sharing and other attractive services.
These businesses are your direct competitors and target the dog boarding and daycare industry. They are prepared to market against you, take as many of your clients and market share as much as possible.
How can you find out if these fierce competitors are in your city? Do a Google search in your area – or almost any reasonably-sized city – for dog boarding and they’ll pop up with Pay-Per Click ads. They have a massive, multi-million dollar marketing budget and they’re using it.
Why are these competitors so attractive to pet parents?
Outstanding Pet Care had an independent research firm to conduct a large survey of pet parents. A high majority of pet parents surveyed reported that they did not want to take their dog to a “kennel.” When asked to explain their fears, they said they were afraid their furry best friend would be sad, get sick, or run away just to name a few highlights. We know that a quality pet care facility has made major investments and taken countless measures to prevent those incidents from happening.
If you own or work for a quality pet care facility, you know that taking your dog to another person’s home cannot provide the same level of care as taking it to a professional facility. Unfortunately most pet parents don’t realize this.
Let’s think about this for a second. If you take your dog to someone else’s home that has a dog living there, how is the resident dog going to feel or act with another dog entering his home turf? How are feedings going to happen? The first dog knows his own home or neighborhood. What about the visiting dog? What precautions have been taken to avoid territorial fighting, escaping, injuries or trauma to the visiting dog? Do the homeowners know canine CPR? Do they know how to give medications and know the signs and symptoms of various illnesses? How important is your pet’s health and safety to the sitting family?
Those are just some of the questions you can and need to raise in your marketing literature. It’s essential that you be able to show how YOUR business positively answers those questions.
What can you do to combat these competitors?
The survey above confirms that, as an industry, we don’t do a good enough job explaining how great of an option we are for countless pet parents. Fortunately there is a powerful tool to help your business prove your superiorities in the face of stiff competition and be successful.
Quality Pet Care Checklist
Wouldn’t it be nice if pet parents actually thought about and asked meaningful pet care questions? Questions that identified a quality pet care provider from inferior options? What would you encourage them to ask?
After great thought and research, we’ve compiled some of the many and meaningful differentiations that we believe caring pet parents should consider before leaving their pet anywhere. Having an independent source ask these questions is likely more credible than you and an individual company posing them. Here is our Quality Pet Care Checklist:
- Vaccination Requirements
Do the vaccination policies and safety protocols of the service provider ensure only HEALTHY companions surround your pet? Some pet sitters forgo vaccination policies. Choose a place that makes policies clear by mentioning vaccination requirements on its website and by verifying proof of vaccinations.
- Clean and Roomy
Make sure the environment offers plenty of outside and/or indoor room for exercise and playtime. Cramped spaces lead to unhappy and stressed pets. Strict cleaning protocols are critical to ensuring a healthy, safe and clutter-free environment. If considering an in-home option, visually inspect for hazards including toxic chemicals such as antifreeze and objects that could be swallowed. Ask the provider what precautions they have taken to remove unsafe objects from the environment where your pet will be staying.
- Security & Safety Protocols
Pet care providers should maintain a clean and secure environment by investing in such things as pet-secure fencing, proper ventilation, temperature controlled rooms, continuous monitoring of pets throughout the day, etc. Personal homes should have similar protections to ensure pet safety.
- Proper Supervision
Trust, training and experience are critical! Dog bites, neglect and property damage are some of the top insurance claims for pet sitters who fail to supervise the pets under their care. Often the PET OWNER is held responsible.
- Hours of Actual Care
Ensure your provider has staff available both during and outside typical business hours to ensure supervision throughout your pet’s entire stay. Many pet sitters only drop in to feed and walk a dog for a short time -- obviously not the best option for pets that deserve more constant care and companionship.
Activities give your furry friend plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation. Activities should be designed and staffed to give dogs the opportunity to socialize and play with other dogs--SAFELY--unlike what they may experience in someone else’s home or with untrained employees.
- Comfortable Accommodations
Your pet should experience the ultimate in comfort and pampering with accommodations such as comfortable/clean bedding, continuous fresh water, soothing music, climate controlled rooms, activities customized to your pet and more. Your pet is family -- he or she should be happy during his or her stay.
- Professional, Trained Staff
Professional, committed, caring and trained staff members are essential to the comfort and safety of your pet. All staff members should be capable of handling critical pet care responsibilities. Beware of individuals who claim they have experience but lack proper credentials and expertise.
Ensure your provider has enough staff members available to deliver the highest quality of care to all furry guests, even when someone is sick or has family issues. They should also make special accommodations to ensure a reliable, pet-loving staff is capable of taking care of issues both before and if they happen.
- Customer & Industry Approval
Find a provider who has gained the trust of other discerning pet parents. Local veterinarian’s recommendations are a great place to start. Check the website for any independent awards, nominations, or certifications, and make sure to ask for references.
- Trustworthy Staff
It’s important that you only leave your pet with someone you know and trust well, especially when someone you don’t know enters your home. Beware of places with any clues the staff may let uninvited guests near your pet.
- Licensed & Approved Business
State and local licenses and other requirements are there for you and your pet’s protection. Make sure your provider follows all state/local requirements and operates a business, not just a paid hobby. This will give you peace of mind that professionals are taking care of your loved one in a secure environment.
The best service providers will have limited availability during busy travel and holiday seasons. Be sure to book early to ensure your pet is taken care of by one of the better providers.
Educating yourself and your staff regarding your competition is only the first step. Next is to teach pet parents the significant differences between quality and non-quality pet care. In future articles we will detail how and where to communicate your differences to prospective pet parents. Great care should equal great financial success but communicating your superiorities is essential.
Laura Laaman is president of Outstanding Pet Care. OPC helps some of the most successful pet care facilities thrive in highly competitive markets and guarantees her client’s success. If you’d like to receive a complimentary phone evaluation, contact the OPC team at www.OutstandingPetCare.com or 1-888-735-5667.