Think Tank: How Do You Get a New Business Known?
By Fernando Camacho
A Member of the Dog Daycare Business Think Tank asked: How do you get a new business known in the area without having to spend lots of money on advertising?
This is such a common question and something every business wrestles with early on. We would all love a very powerful tool that could let everyone know about our business for free. However, everything (yes, everything) comes at a cost—especially when it comes to building a business. Sometimes that cost is monetary, sometimes it comes in the form of effort, and it can also be at the cost of your time and patience.
If you want the results, you need to be willing to pay the price. So let’s get rid of the notion of getting traffic to your business for “free;” it will come at a cost. If you understand and accept that, you can move forward and figure out the best methods for you to promote your business and the costs you’re willing to pay.
When it comes to getting your business noticed, there are two main ways: quick and slow. It’s very easy to get your business known and positioned in the marketplace early on, and it’s called paid advertising. Yes, it does require an investment of money; however, you can see results almost immediately.
If you don’t want to spend money, you’ll need to have some patience and be willing to invest your time and effort to make it happen. Most dog daycare owners that I speak with don’t have an abundance of time and/or need customers right now, so doing it organically can be a challenge. You need to have realistic expectations and understand the process.
Here are a few things you can do to grow your brand without spending a lot of money:
Find other local dog businesses (groomers, trainers, pet stores, veterinarians, etc.) and try to form relationships with them. These are places that have your ideal customers, so if you can make friends with them, you’ll be able to access those customers.
Many people know that partnering up with another business is useful; however, they usually do it all wrong. You need to make it more about the other business than yourself. What can you do for them? How can you help them out?
If you go into it just trying to see how the other business can help you, that selfish approach will not get you very far. Give first, then, as your relationship is cultivated, you will start seeing some results that can continue and grow for years to come.
It’s true that organic reach on social media is down and growing a following on the various platforms can be a grind, but it is free. As with partnerships above, you can’t make your page just about you—it has to be about the value you bring to the viewers.
If you’re going to pick one platform, I would probably suggest Instagram for organic traffic and Facebook for paid ads. It’s pretty easy to grow a following on Instagram if you put out good content and use relevant hashtags.
Just keep in mind that social media is not a broadcast medium, it’s an interactive one. You want to encourage people to comment on your posts and send you private messages. Because of this, you need to stay on top of it, monitoring it daily and responding in a timely manner.
There are a ton of local groups on Facebook that have an engaged community. Join all the groups in your area and engage with people. Don’t just broadcast your business, but contribute as well. Watch for people with dog questions and comment on their posts and, in passing, mention that you own a local dog daycare. People in the group will see your comments and you’ll start to get some business from them—and hopefully be known as the dog resource in your area.
Or, better yet, start a local group of your own. Call it something like “(Insert your local town name here) Area Dog Community” and invite all your clients. Then you can engage the group by posting questions, sharing useful info and encouraging interaction within the group. Once you get 100+ people in the group, Facebook will start recommending it to others within Facebook and your group will grow without you having to do anything.
These are just a few ideas to get you going. I focused on digital marketing because it’s what I do, plus it’s much easier to scale since you can do it anytime. And, there’s this whole pandemic thing going on which has made offline methods much less effective.
Give those a try and, just remember, building a business takes time and there is a cost for everything you do. Just decide what you want and what you’re willing to do for it and then get to it.
Questions for this column come from the Facebook group The Dog Daycare Business Think Tank and are answered by Fernando Camacho (Fern). Fern runs Overdog Digital, a digital marketing agency specializing in working with dog daycare and boarding facilities. He does private business consulting, staff training and helps pet businesses utilize modern resources to expand their customer base and grow their businesses. Fern is also the author of six books and is a speaker at national conferences and private events. To join the group or ask a question, go to: www.facebook.com/groups/dogdaycarethinktank