When starting a brand new pet sitting or dog walking business, the process of getting your first couple of customers can seem overwhelming. It is true that getting your first ten customers will be significantly harder than getting clients ten through one hundred. This is because as a brand new business, you don’t have a reputation yet or any customer references. These are tough hurdles to overcome but they are not impossible.
There are three key steps in marketing to your first clients.
Step 1 - Word of Mouth
The easiest and most effective way to gain your first ten customers is by word of mouth. Don’t be afraid to share your new business with friends, family and neighbors. Encourage them to share the word as well. If you have business cards, hand them out and make sure your friends know how thankful you are for their help and support. This is incredibly effective because even though your business may not have a reputation, you do and your friends, family and neighbors know your character and can vouch for you.
Step 2 - References, Testimonials and Referrals
It goes without saying but doing an incredible job for your first couple of clients (as well as for all of your clients) is huge. These first few customers can help springboard you into your next couple of clients. How so you ask? By turning these first customers into testimonials and references for future customers. If they are willing, promote their experiences and stories of working with you and your company on your website. When talking to a potential new customer, offer to share the names of some references. Remember that it can be incredibly hard for a potential client to hire someone to care for their pets and having the ability to talk to someone who hired your company already can be very powerful.
You may want to also use this opportunity to create (and promote) a strong referral program. Your existing customers may have some friends, family and neighbors of their own who are in need of pet care. Check out our Academy Article on how to create a referral program for more detailed information but keep in mind that creating a referral program is not enough. You need to make sure your clients are well aware of the benefits for them and for their referrals. It’s impossible to have a successful referral program unless your clients know about it.
Step 3 - Traditional Marketing Channels
Now that you’ve got your friends and family promoting your business and your first couple of clients referring you, the snowball is starting to roll. Each customer can be a source of more customers and so on and so forth. To keep the momentum going, you should also start to consider some more traditional types of marketing. Two of the most effective channels we have found is the use of Magnets and Building Relationships with local pet-centric organizations. We’ve got great Academy Articles on how to optimize these two marketing channels but you should also consider utilizing flyers, digital advertising (like Facebook Ads or Google AdWords), and other marketing channels you have found to be effective.
The most important item to keep in mind is that building a business takes time. As they say - Rome was not built in a day and neither was your pet sitting or dog walking business. Stay after it, work hard, deliver an incredible service to your clients and you’ll see the results.