Now that you have your business set up, it is time to get clients. In this installment we will discuss your many options and what options have been proven most valuable.
Some of your marketing options include:
Business Card Distribution
Word of Mouth
Flyers: Flyers are a great, cheap way of advertising your business. I don't recommend printing up mass quantities and distributing them door to door. This has been proven to be very uneffective and time-consuming. It is illegal to put them in mailboxes, so you are going to have to walk door to door. People also do not like to have people walking on their property placing advertisements so that may be a turnoff for your potential clients. You can print up a mass quantity and put them on cars in a parking lot, but you have to get a permit for that. Make sure you conduct your business legally to show you are a professional.
The best thing to do with those flyers is to print up a bunch of them and leave them in your car. Anytime you go to a store and notice a bulletin board, place your flyer there. Some of the best places are post offices, pet stores and coffee shops.
Phone Books: Phone books are becoming a thing of the past and are being replaced with the internet. However, phone book advertising still remains very expensive. If you have the expendable income, I would recommend trying it out for a year and see what kind of response you get. If not, I would pass it up. There are so many other ways you can advertise for much cheaper.
Websites: A website will be your BEST advertising tool next to word of mouth. Most of your clients will search for what they need on the internet while they are at work. I definitely recommend a website above anything else. Your website does not have to be fancy, just professional looking and informative. You don't have to spend a fortune on it, you can even make one for free.
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Online Advertising: Once you have your website ready, you can advertise it online for free at many places. Even if you don't have a website, there are many places online to advertise. Some of those places are Craigslist, MerchantCircle, Backpage, Superpages, Google Maps, Yahoo Local and more.I have created a tutorial on how and where to advertise your website. You can find it here.
Newspapers and Magazines: Newspapers are a good option to try out. Some areas do well with newspaper advertising and some do not. The only way you will know is to give it a try. You can advertising in your county paper or you can advertising in the community papers. Magazines are more expensive and do not focus on a certain area in which your service area lies. Magazines may not be a good option to advertise this sort of business.
Car Magnets: Car magnets are a great advertising option. They are a cheap, one time cost, so it doesn't hurt to try it out. Please check with your insurance company to be sure you can put it on your car.
Veterinarian Referrals: This may be a great option for you. It has proven to be quite effective. Go to your local veterinarians and ask if you can display your business cards or flyer there. Many times, business owners will bring along a nice treat for them to try to win them over such as a basket of muffins or dog treats. A nice suggestion would be to bring a business card holder with a flyer insert to display them in a neat and organized manner. You can buy that at your local office supply store.
Business Card Distribution: Handing out business cards to everyone you see is not very cost effective. I don't recommend this form of advertising. However, always have your cards available should you see an opportunity to hand one out or display it.
Valupak: Valupak is, in my opinion, not a good option for this sort of business. For one thing, it is distributed to a large area most of which you may not be covering. Second, it is very expensive. If you have the money to try this form of advertising out, give it a try.
Word of Mouth: This will be your best form of advertising. If you have happy customers, they will tell all their friends and family about you. Always be sure to conduct your business and yourself professionally in order to get those referrals. Leave your clients will plenty of business cards so they can hand them out to their friends and family. It is also a great idea to offer a referral bonus such as one free walk for every paid referral. This is a nice incentive to get them to hand out those referrals.
These are the most common types of advertising methods people use for their dog walking business. I recommend trying out what you can to see what works and what does not. In the beginning, you will spend a lot more money until you are busy enough to stop advertising. Once you hit a slow spot and think you need to advertise again, hopefully, by then you will know what worked and will only need to spend money on that.