‘Tis the Season: Growing Your Cat Boarding Clientele
By Deborah Hansen
With more families predicted to travel this holiday season than last year, now is the time to start attracting your holiday boarding clients. This is the year to have a well-planned-out strategy to entice existing and new clients for feline boarding. As many businesses are eager to start making up for the lost profits of last year’s holiday season, having a good plan in place is key.
Many times the kitties are left at home while the doggies get to go to boarding. A great way to extend your business is by reaching out to your regular dog clients and let them know you also board cats. You never know when your favorite dog client has a kitty at home—or when they will refer you to their feline-owning friends!
Offering a multiple pet bonus and a small referral bonus can go a long way in driving your sales in the upward direction. Notice I am recommending a “bonus” versus a “discount.” Because, after last year, I suspect you need to get every penny you can so you want to stay away from offering discounts. Instead, try something that does not directly cost you anything, like an extra play session or add a water fountain during the cat’s boarding. Take one of your add-ons that has no direct cost and offer it as the reward for referring a friend or for a dog client who also brings in their cat for boarding.
In today’s climate we need to work on creative ways to get those new cat clients coming to us. One idea may be to advertise a free holiday meal. The kitties could have a small portion of boiled chicken breast for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. This dinner special could easily be staged and photographed this weekend and run on social media and on a print flyer inside your business. Your photoshoot can be simple but should look stylish utilizing what you have or can easily borrow. The goal is to make the cat owners know that while they are away this holiday season, their kitty will still celebrate the seasons’ festivities and traditions.
Another idea is to offer a free holiday photo with boarding. While adding a person or Santa into a picture can be difficult for some kitties, a better solution is to have a background and props. A simple plastic tablecloth can make a great backdrop. Then add a few props like several small trees and a snowman, or a sleigh and Santa. You can use a feather or ribbon to get the cat to look at the camera. While cat photography can be intimidating, cat parents will appreciate any special holiday picture they receive.
If you do advertise a holiday photo and the feline ends up being too difficult to handle, you can decorate the outside of the enclosure, take the picture then remove the decorations. Make sure you never leave a cat unsupervised with any decorations. Cats love to eat ribbon, strings and reflective items so they should admire holiday decorations from a distance for their safety.
If you have a feline play area, supervised playtime can also have added festive holiday touches. This goes a long way if you send the family daily pictures of their cat enjoying their stay. Use brown and orange toys in November and green and red toys in December. If you have shelves for the cats to walk on, use museum wax and tack down a resin or wooden turkey or Santa. Wood and resin tend to be more durable and easier to disinfect in between the cats that use the cat play area. They are also harder for cats to take a bite out of.
Now is a great time to think of catchy lines that fit your branding to include in messages you send your clients during the holidays. I am a big supporter of a quick daily picture and message about how the pet did during the day. Having a bank of holiday sayings will make these messages go quicker and give a touch of festivity to the owners. Your list might include, “Fluffy was very thankful for her turkey paté today,” “Fluffy was as stuffed as a turkey after she finished her kibble,” “Fluffy purred as she counted her blessings after playtime,” etc.
Making a list now when you are not in the middle of the holiday hustle and bustle will help you be more creative. If you have staff, you may want to challenge them to come up with 10 catchy sayings each. That way you can have a wide variety of unique sayings to share with your customers for years to come. Then, when the holidays roll around, you can simply cut and paste a catchy phrase onto each cat’s message for the day.
Marketing to and attracting new clients are always important for a healthy business. With the lack of families traveling last holiday season, it is even more important to head into this holiday season with a well-established plan on how to retain existing clients and attract new ones.
The easiest way to get new clients is by getting the kitties of your loyal dog clients to board with you. A holiday meal promotion with holiday photos can bring in new clients that are shopping around for a boarding facility while encouraging your existing clients to use you again this year. Holiday decorations and catchy holiday sayings for your client communications can reassure the clients they made the right decision in leaving their furry family member in your care during the holiday season.