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Marketing Your Pet Sitting Business

 - By Mary Shaw

Whether you are just starting a new pet sitting business or are already a seasoned pet sitter, you will need to market your services in order to stay busy.

Here are some ideas for marketing tools for pet sitters, and strategies for putting those tools to good use in growing your business.

Marketing Tools

To market your services effectively, you will need some materials. Here are some types to consider:

  • Business cards: These are a must. They should include your name and contact information, and should indicate that you provide pet sitting services. Many pet sitters use animal clip art on their business cards for easy identification.
     
  • Reference list: A stranger will be more likely to hire you if you can provide a list of references, with contact information for each. Include people for whom you have provided pet sitting services (or other responsible services) in the past. If possible, ask your family veterinarian if he or she will serve as a reference as well. Before listing someone as a reference, be sure to get permission and verify what contact information you can include. (Not everyone will welcome an unsolicited cell phone call from a stranger.)
     
  • Brochures: This can be a simple one-page description of your services, a trifold brochure, or something larger. Use your brochure to highlight the services you provide, the territory you serve, and any other selling points that you want to advertise to prospective clients. If possible, include testimonials from existing clients.
     
  • Flyers: This should be a one-page ad designed to get attention. It should contain key points about your business, but with less detail than the brochure.
     
  • Personalized pet products: Pet sitters can score extra points from existing clients and prospective clients with personalized pet toys. Purchase some pet brushes and paint your name (or business name) and phone number on the handle. Have some food bowls or feeding mats imprinted with the same information. Pick out some easily customizable pet toys and find a unique way to personalize them and turn them into memorable calling cards. Or find a promotional supply company that can produce personalized cat and dog refrigerator magnets.
     
  • A Web site: You don't need to be a technical whiz to develop your own Web site. Many Internet service providers offer free or low-cost Web site hosting, some with free templates and other easy site-building tools. Include detailed information about the services you provide; tips on pet care; a directory of local veterinarians, animal hospitals, and pet shops; and any other information you want to provide that might be useful to pet owners. You might also want to set up some links for affiliate advertising for pet products. Over time, your Web site can help you to build a reputation as a pet care expert - and that can certainly be an asset to your business. Once your site is up and running, be sure to register it with all of the leading search engines.
  • Marketing Strategies

    Now that you've got your marketing materials and handouts, you will need to put them to good use.  Here are some ideas:

  • Existing contacts: Word of mouth is a valuable marketing strategy. Tell everyone you know that you are available for pet sitting services, and ask them to spread the word. Give everyone a supply of your business cards to share, along with some of your brochures, flyers, and personalized pet products, if you have them.
     
  • Veterinarians: Be sure to tell all the veterinarians in your area that you are available for pet sitting, and ask them to recommend you to any of their clients who might be traveling. Also ask for permission to leave some of your cards, brochures, or flyers in their waiting rooms.
     
  • Bulletin boards and store counters: Take some of your marketing materials with you wherever you go, and always look for new places to advertise. Try library bulletin boards, supermarket bulletin boards, bus stops, and cafes. Many private shops allow local entrepreneurs to leave a stack of business cards, flyers, or brochures on the counter or by the door. And don't forget your local pet supply shops!
     
  • Pet shows: Watch for cat shows, dog shows, and any other pet-related events in your area, and be there! If you can afford to rent a table at the show to promote your business, this could be a good way to meet pet lovers in your area who might need your services. If you cannot afford the tabling fees, simply show up and hand out your business cards, brochures, and personalized pet products to everyone you meet.
     
  • Yellow pages: If you can afford a listing (or, better yet, a display ad) in the yellow pages of your local phone book, it may well be worth the investment. Most offer categories for "Pet Sitting" or "Pet Care Services".
     
  • Community newspapers: Most community weeklies and shoppers' newspapers offer low-cost advertising opportunities. Many people turn to these publications when shopping for local service providers. Try one or two, and see if this approach works in your area.
     
  • Pitching to the press: If you can offer a fresh perspective on pet care or pet sitting, your local newspaper or community access cable TV station might find it worth covering. Think about what makes your business noteworthy and newsworthy, and then send a letter to the lifestyles editor suggesting that they run a story about your business using the interesting angle that you can offer. Follow up a few days later with a phone call. If it works, your phone will surely start ringing.
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