Social media is such a huge part of our lives now that we assume everyone is on there – but it’s not always the case.
During lockdown there has been a rise in demand for pets with charities like the RSPCA, Dogs Trust and smaller rescues like Hope Rescue and Dogs4Rescue reporting more people want to have a dog in their life.
In the week before lockdown, beginning March 15th, Dogs Trust rehomed 25 per cent more animals than they previous year.
Pet insurance provider Bought By Many reported a 78 per cent increase in people registering new animals and many charities are urging people to carefully consider the commitment of having a pet.
While many in the pet service industry have seen their businesses skid to a halt after being forced to shut up shop, these figures are good news for when we return to ‘the new normal.’
And while we may have been spending more time online than ever – not all these new pet parents will be searching for services and products on social media.
This podcast explores other ways to reach people, with examples from pet business owners on what has worked for them.
Ofcom figures for 2019 show nine out of ten households use the internet with the average person spending three hours and 15 minutes a day online.
Research by Statista found there were 44.84 million people in the UK using Facebook from September to March 2020.
Twitter had 17.75 million users according to Statista, making the UK fourth on the list of countries with the most Twitter users worldwide as of April 2020.
As of March 2020, Instagram had 24.46 million users according to the data.
The UK population currently stands at just under 68 million and these figures prove there are people out there who aren’t on social media.
They’re more likely to be older, possibly retired and have more money to spend so, as a business owner, it’s vital that you’re able to communicate with them.
So how do you do it? One way might be to write a list of all your clients, and work out roughly their age and interests and where they hang out.
Or look at your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and see who likes and comments on your posts or pictures. Who’s missing?
Once you’ve worked that out, you can start thinking about where their eyes might be, and that will allow you to reach other people like them.
If you like, you can ask them. Where did they find out about you? Was it in a local magazine? A flyer at the vets? A postcard on the village noticeboard? Word of mouth?
I know I am totally showing my age writing this – I’m 44 – but these are all places where I see businesses highlighting what they do every day.
Take my mum for example. She hates social media. She can’t stand it if she gets a text on her phone so the idea of more notifications is her idea of hell.
If she was looking for a dog walker or sitter, she would do one or more of these things and in this order (I asked her so I know this to be true)
- Ask me if I know of anyone.
- Ask her friends if they can recommend one.
- Have a look in the Warrington Guardian/Village Life magazine for an advert.
- Go to the pet shop and have a look for leaflets.
- Pop into the vets and ask if they know anyone suitable.
- Go to Google and put in ‘dog walker’ and the village where she lives.
How can you ensure you have all these bases covered?
Word of mouth
Of course you want your customers to be shouting about you from the rooftops. Think about what you do that makes your service special.
I speak to pet business owners every week who I know go the extra mile for their customers and it’s about that very personal touch.
It might be something as little as sending Christmas or Birthday cards or small gifts to clients or having an annual professional photoshoot where every dog owner gets a photo of their pup.
For groomers, do you send dogs home with personalised bandanas or collar tags saying they’ve been at your salon like these from House of Henry?
I remember Daisy once coming home with a doggy Oreo!
These are the things that stay in our minds and that people tell family and friends about that can help build your reputation and customer base.
Do you network? I would carefully consider joining a group where you need to invest a lot of money and be at a meeting each week as your schedule may not allow it.
But you can try attending meetings that are more informal because there will be people around the table who have pets and who know other owners.
Can you collaborate with other businesses in your area like vets, pet shops and walkers so everyone knows what you do? All these things help when it comes to word of mouth.
I know this sound very ‘old school’ but do you live in a small community or village with a decent, well read, trusted local magazine?
Can you contact them and ask if they might include a story about your business or ask if you can write a monthly column for them?
If you get a copy, take a look and see if any other pet businesses are advertising. Because I can bet you any money people will be looking for pet services in there.
People who might be retired, who find the internet overwhelming, say it’s not for them, or who find it too complicated.
It’s a small percentage of the population but they are there nonetheless and you can find out more about them in this report into Internet Attitudes by Ofcom from 2017.
While they don’t use the internet, they are likely to want to find out about what’s going on in their community and access products and services via local media.
They may ask you to advertise in return for running a feature or publishing one of your press releases – you can get a template for one here.
You’ll find advertising rates are usually really reasonable and it’s certainly worth trying for a few months.
The same goes for flyers, leaflets and posters. Create them for free on Canva and printing costs have dropped substantially.
Pop them on your village notice board and see if you can leave them in shops, pubs and cafes. It only takes a few minutes.
And if you go into the local vets or pet shop to inquire about leaving business cards, you’re building relationships with businesses who can recommend you.
If you’re running a service business, you need to be showing up in search engines. Do you have a website?
Is your About Me page telling people searching for your service exactly what they need to know? Do you have a FAQ page answering questions potential clients might have?
Do you have a Google My Business page set up? This post from SEO expert and website designer Rosie at Wuf Design explains how it works in this article – Three Reasons why your Google My Business isn’t working.
You don’t need to be a boffin to have a website that works and shows up in search. Working on it can be overwhelming and become one of the things you avoid in your business.
But spending a little bit of time on it each week will reap rewards.
Finally, I wanted to share some examples of activity outside social media that have worked for people in my community.
Heather from Pawsitive Squad, a Community Interest Company supporting children and people under 25 and their families with additional needs says because her work is so niche many find her via Google search.
Jess Kemp, a dog walker from Hoof and Paws says putting flyers and cards in pet shops and coffee shops and attending networking events has helped her grow her customer base.
Rachel Cross, a former dog walker and founder of the Petpreneur Network, says that advertising in local magazines has been cost effective as it put her in front of thousands of pet owners locally, many of whom kept a copy and referred her to other people.
Marie Yates, founder of Canine Perspective, a community interest company working with rescue dogs and survivors of sexual violence and organisations looking to learn ways of building resilience, says talking about her story in relevant magazines has helped.
She also has her website optimised for keywords her potential clients use as well as the Luna Pawdcast – Life Lessons from a Dog – it’s awesome!
Alison Price from House of Henry says her vehicle graphics make an impression as do special touches like collar tags.
And Kirsty Skeates says applying for awards which then results in press coverage has helped put her Fit4Dogs hydrotherapy centre in Hull firmly on the map.
She’s also judged dog shows, puts dog biscuit jars with her business cards in on display in cafes and pubs, donates raffle prizes, attends fairs, invites vets to use her facilities and has a newsletter in her local vets.
So I hope that gives you lots of inspiration, and if you’re thinking of writing a press release for your local paper, you can download my free press release template here: Press Release Template