68% of U.S. households own pets, and that translates to at least 85 million little critters. That’s a lot of pets to care for, and pet parents are pretty dedicated. They want the best for their little ones, and this is the reason why the pet service industry will rake in over $60 billion by the time 2018 is over.
Of course, the bulk of this spending is on vet care and food. However, a large chunk is also spent on pet products services – gear and toys for dogs and cats, pet sitting, dog walking, boarding, grooming, even pet photography, and burials. If you own a pet service business, you already know the challenges of marketing. You don’t have a large budget for marketing, and yet your business cannot grow without it.
You may be advertising locally because that’s where your customers are. So you may be thinking that, other than a website, digital marketing is not for you. Nothing could be further from the truth.
You can create great content and grow both a following and your customer base.
Here are some ways to use content marketing to grow your business:
Start a Blog on Your Website
You have expertise in your niche, and there are people who want the information you have to give them. You also probably have humorous and poignant stories to tell. Pet parents love these (just think about how popular cat pictures have become on social media). While this is a long-term marketing strategy, you will gradually get a following that will share your stories with their friends and family. Also, if your business is selling products, this is definitely a method for spreading your brand.
Of course, you have to like to write, and you have to get a bit creative. Even if you are not, there are inexpensive content writers you can use to create those blog posts. Some writing agencies, like Canada Writers or Get Good Grade, for example, have entire departments that focus on content writing; you can also hire independent freelancers through sites like Upwork or Fivver.
There’s no doubt that many pet business owners have such a passion for their companies and clients. Also, they have amazing stuff to share with their audiences. The key is presenting that information in such creative and intriguing ways that readers cannot resist.
Email – Automate!
An email is a powerful tool for both nurturing new customers and taking care of loyal ones. You want to grow your email list slowly (no spamming). Over time, you will want to segment that list of subscribers according to where they are in their “journeys” with you – potential customers, those who buy your products or use your services regularly, and those who have only been periodic customers. You have different messages for each of these groups, so craft emails that they will find personally valuable.
So many people think that email marketing is ‘dead.’ In fact, it has a high return on investment. The key is to segment out those audiences, to craft amazing subject lines, and then to deliver what you promise in those subject lines.
You want to thank new customers; you want to offer loyal customers discounts; you want to motivate potential customers with special deals.
There are some great free and inexpensive tools and services you can use to segment your audiences and to schedule regular emails to them, based upon their “journeys.” Even if your customer base is entirely local, email is powerful. In fact, email gives a great opportunity to send personalized messages to multiple clients at one time.
You can also use text messaging to personalize your messages even more, and yet this can be somewhat automated.
Using Social Media
You have an amazing advantage here. People love animal photos, videos, and stories. Use these on your social media accounts. Tell your stories; solicit photos, stories, and videos from others; run contests for a free product or service; create quizzes and surveys for pet owners – when they get involved, they are more connected to you.
Give incentives for your current followers to share your posts – something free or a great discount, etc.
Don’t use social media to sell. Use it to develop connections and relationships; use it to entertain and inspire. These things will keep people coming back to your page – they want to see what you are going to post next. Of course, you can stick in special sales, etc. and certainly link to your website. However, the primary focus should be on what the reader/viewer wants, not what you want to sell.
Kester Simmonds, a digital marketer, and content manager at Best Writers Canada, gives this advice to business owners who want to use social media. “Never, never, never use your page for hard sells. That is so ‘last century.’ Put yourself in the shoes of your visitor and think about what he wants to read or view. Then you will have the topics that engage.”
Start Exhibiting Your Products at Tradeshows and Exhibitions
If you want to take your business in an exciting new direction, there’s no better destination to head to tradeshows and pet product exhibitions. The great thing about these kinds of events is that they put you in front of the eyes of a captive audience that’s already sold on the idea of getting new pet products that care for their dogs, and other pets. That means all you need to do is catch the eye of the passing trade, and then convince them that what you offer is more than worth parting with their money.
The secret to success at tradeshows is to sign up and register early, and don’t be afraid of paying a premium for the best pitch in the exhibition center. When you sign up early, you’ll have lots more time than your competitors to showcase the fact that you’re going to be attending. This will create a buzz around your brand, and show everyone who comes into contact with your content that you’re clearly going places. Paying a little extra for a great stand location is also really important. You might think that by being right by the entrance you’ll catch the eye of everyone, but how many people spend all their time by the door? As it gets busy, people will head to the center, which is where you need to be if you want to show them how you help pets stay healthy.
If you’re confident, outgoing, and assured, then you’ll have no problem showcasing your pet business to the very people you want to do business with. Come up with some eye-catching promotional ideas such as free pens and key rings, flyers, and even some free grooming tips. You could also get you and your team some matching polo shirts so that it’s clear you’re the people the crowds need to come and speak to.
Approach Magazines and Leading Websites in the Industry
Pet owners are one of the demographics who still buy printed magazines in their droves, so make the most of this fantastic opportunity. Getting your business featured in one of the big pet magazines is a great way to introduce your offering to a whole new audience that’s already in the market for exactly the kinds of pet products and treats you sell. Ideal if you want to take your pet business to new heights by connecting with thousands of your ideal customers.
Just as magazines are widely read by the animal-loving community, websites are just the same. Getting yourself featured on a major website will not only get you seen by a vast new audience, but it will also work wonders for your SEO. Just what you want when you’re looking to bring more eyes in the direction of your latest training treats.
The secret is to offer the editor something unique that they won’t be able to resist printing. You could showcase a new product they won’t have ever seen before, help create a lifestyle piece that subtly drops in your products, or runs something about how you’ve discovered a niche no one has thought of before. It’s all about getting your business out there and being proud of what you’ve achieved. So, with that in mind, you don’t want to limit yourself by deciding that you can’t do something. Your business meets the needs of your consumers, so get out there and make it happen. Editors will love your positivity and find it virtually impossible not to feature you in their next issue or round of content creation.
Pet parents are dedicated to their little critters. They want to pamper them and to find products and services that will do just that. You have a business that meets some of those needs. It’s a matter of making the connections. When you choose to use content marketing, you are choosing a low-budget method of reaching out to your audience, serving it well, and increasing your revenue at the same time. Be creative and useful to your clients, and you’ll be rewarded with the increased number of customers and orders.
Natalie Andersen is an editorial writer and enthusiastic blogger. She believes that everyone’s life has to be the result of the choices they make, but a helping hand is always welcomed. You can connect with Natalie on LinkedIn or Twitter.