Understand the Competition!
Doing competitive research may not be one of the more exciting aspects of starting your new pet sitting or dog walking business but it might be one of the most important. We’ll dig into the four different types of competition you might be facing a little later but the first step in assessing competition is understanding what your market is. The goal is to determine whether or not there are a lot of pet owners in your area and if they can afford pet care services.
A good way to determine your market is to take a look at other pet-centric businesses. Do you have multiple Veterinarians in your area? Do they tend to be really busy? Are there any other pet businesses (like a pet supply store or a grooming business)? Do these companies seem to be really busy? If you’re not sure, give them a call. If they are busy - it’s likely that you live in an area with a lot of pets.
Another piece of information that can be helpful is the demographics of your area. What is the population? What’s the median age? How much disposable income do the people in your area have? The American Fact Finder is a great place to find this data for locations in the United States.
After determining that you are in a good market to start a pet sitting or dog walking business, you can now take a closer look at your competition. Your direct competitors are obvious but it’s also important to understand who else you may be competing with. These include non-professional pet sitters, alternative pet care facilities and tech companies that provide pet care. But let’s get started with the direct competition.
Other Pet Sitting and Dog Walking Companies
While it’s important to have a good understanding of who your direct competitors are (and how many there are) - it’s equally as important to not focus too much time and energy on them. Your business is special and there is something you do that your competitors don’t. Keep track of what makes you special and be sure to have a couple bullet points you can share with potential clients.
You should also note what your competition’s pricing is but again - don’t focus too much on this. You should always price your services based on the value you bring. If you are focused on being the most affordable provider - you should be. If you are focused on providing high-end pet care services, your prices should reflect that.
Non-Professional Pet Sitters
Non-professional pet sitters are people who provide pet care services as a hobby. These can be neighbors, friends or family members of potential clients. While non-professional pet sitters can be an alternative choice for your clients, they are very different from your business. In most cases, they are not bonded and insured, will not be pet CPR certified and will be significantly less expensive than your company. Just like with other professional pet sitting companies, understand what makes you different and have some talking points ready to demonstrate the value you provide.
Alternative Pet Care Facilities
Instead of hiring an in-home pet sitter, some pet parents may choose to bring their animals to a facility (like a boarding facility, a daycare or a Vet). These secondary competitors are another option for pet parents but in some cases - they might be the best option. Some pets do better in this environment and if you identify any pets in your care that may be better served by a facility, don’t be afraid to mention this to your client.
Ideally, you can build a referral relationship with some local facilities that have similar business principles that you do. They may identify some pets in their care that will be better served by an in-home sitter and can refer you. As always, keep track of some highlights about your business that are different from a facility and be ready to share these with potential clients.
These “Uber for Dog Walkers” are the newest competitor that traditional pet sitters and dog walkers are facing. They provide an easy and simple way for a pet owner to hire someone to care for their animals. In fact, when we ask our customers what concerns them the most - the answer is usually these tech companies.
While they do provide some obvious benefits - there are a couple items that these tech companies can not compete with local pet sitters on. You provide an incredibly personal service where your client gets to meet the owner of the business and can contact you with any questions or concerns. You’re also building a real relationship with the client and their pets. Remember, your customers are hiring someone to care for a member of their family (and also enter their home) and that local, small company feel is huge.
While these differences are substantial - it can be hard for the local pet sitting company to compete with the Uber for Dog Walkers on technology and ease of use. They make it incredibly easy to book services and make payments. That’s where a great software tool (like Time To Pet) can really come in handy for the professional pet sitter.
When starting your new pet sitting or dog walking company, it’s important to have a strong understanding of your market and your competitors. However, you shouldn’t spend all your time here. Focus more of your energy on building a great business and differentiating yourself from the competition.