Archive for the 'Marketing' category

Radio Interview on July 7th at 4pm Eastern

Jun 15 2012 Published by under Marketing, My Books, Publishing

Hi folks,

I just wanted to give you a heads-up that I will be doing a one-hour radio interview for Internet Voices Radio to discuss my book, The Dog Walker’s Startup Guide, the business of dog walking, and other upcoming literary projects. I hope you’ll join us.

If you miss the live show you can listen on demand here.

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Tax Refund Sale Starts April 15th!

Apr 06 2010 Published by under Marketing

I’m very excited to offer a huge sale on my Dog Walker’s Startup Kit. With the economy hitting so many squarly in the wallet I am happy to help out with huge savings (50% off)!

Check out my site http://www.dogzanny.com for more information and to order.

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Freedom of Information or not?

Mar 09 2010 Published by under Business, Marketing

Folks have been reporting mixed success when requesting the list of licensed dog owners from their city/town. It seems to be a growing problem. I found this story recently regarding a dog walker who is requesting this list and encountering resistance. Check it out.

http://www.delcotimes.com/articles/2010/02/01/news/doc4b6644afbcc77644292615.txt

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Business Friendships = Business Income

Feb 19 2010 Published by under Business, Marketing

In my book, The Dog Walker’s Startup Guide I discuss ways to increase marketing through business partnerships. This is a great way to improve your visibility and reach; while also increasing your business’ trust factor by associating with other local well known businesses. Trading clientele between others in the same industry is hardly new, it’s called referrals. One look at the home improvement sector and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Contractors refer work to plumbers, electricians, masons, structural engineers, etc.

A dog walking business is no different. Groomers, pet stores, veterinarians, shelters, and others regularly get inquiries about dog walking and dog sitting services. Your goal is to get on those lists and preferably at the top of them! How do you do this?

Many businesses, like pet stores will allow you to place your name on a bulletin board in their store, and many vets offer this service too, but this simply gets you a little visibility, it lacks the pizazz of being specifically recommended.

Getting the recommendation of your fellow business owners isn’t very hard if you offer them something in return, and show them what you’re worth. Some options include offering your services to your local vets for discounted walks for the sick and/or healing. You may also purchase your dog-related gifts from your locally owned pet food store and reminding them who you are and that you’re in a related business—ask them to consider recommending your services. You might also offer to pass out specific coupons to your clientele from related businesses which could be useful to dog owners. When your clientele bring the coupons in and do some shopping the store owner will realize you’re helping him/her out and will do the same for you.

Working at a shelter is just a good thing morally speaking but it can have huge beneficial effects on your business as well. Why not consider doing what Cheryl Staab, of DogCentric Inc. did and volunteer your services free of charge for a few hours a day at your local shelter in return for being the exclusive dog walking / sitting service they recommend to their dog’s adopters? It seems to be working out very well for Cheryl! You can read more about this story in the Wall Street Journal by clicking here.

There are a lot more ideas than this but I hope you can see that there is a lot of potential for making friends and increasing your business at the same time. Word-of-mouth is alpha in the dog walking service industry!

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Keep Track of Your Miles With A Pedometer

Nov 17 2009 Published by under Gear, Marketing

It’s time to have some fun! After your schedule has filled up, you’ll become keenly aware of the fact that you’ve never walked so much in your entire life. Dog walker’s who’ve been at it for more than six months know exactly what I’m talking about. Besides investing in a very good pair of walking shoes (for urban environments) or boots (for the trail) you might want to pick up something that’s just plain fun.

Sportline 360 Total Fitness Pedometer

Sportline 360 Total Fitness Pedometer

I think you’ll be shocked when you see how many miles you log each week. The following Pedometers are fairly inexpensive and accurate: This model records distance, strides, and calories, Hj-113 Pocket Pedometer or this inexpensive one which comes in a lots of different colors but only counts mileage DMC-03 Multi-Function Pedometer (color: BLACK) or for the truly hard-core, check this one out Sportline 360 Total Fitness Pedometer.

An added benefit of taking a pedometer around with you is that you can calculate how many miles each of your client’s pets log per week. It’s just another bit of information their owners will appreciate knowing. At the end of the year send them a card with a note thanking them for their business and then tell them how many miles you logged with their pup for that year! You can bet they’ll be talking about it to their friends and family, and you know what happens when people are talking about your business. It GROWS!

They make great stocking suffers too. You don’t really have to wear it all the time. If you have a fairly consistent schedule then wear it for one week then multiply that mileage by 4 for a monthly estimate or by the weeks you will work in a year. I think you’ll be surprised how many calories you’re burning (or are going to burn) in your new profession!

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Integrating Dog Training Into Your Dog Walking Business

Nov 13 2009 Published by under Dog Training, Marketing

Dog training is a natural evolution for dog walker’s. You are informally training the dogs you walk every day. They are learning the routine: the time you arrive, the greeting ritual, the leash hook-up ritual, and of course acceptable behavior on the walk. It’s the last item which is most likely to convert into a paid training opportunity.

Training dogs whose leash manners are less than stellar has many benefits.

Once my business had a good client base, I became a little more picky about the dogs I took on. Not because they weren’t great and loving animals, but because the owners had spent no time training them how to behave on a leash. I introduced “leash-manners” as an add-on to my dog walking service and generally it was mandatory for dogs who pulled like bulls.

I presented it to new clients as a huge value (it was). They could have their dog walked and trained for only a few dollars more than the per walk fee. It was good for them because their dog became much more enjoyable to walk, I didn’t have to endure the yank and pull anymore, and I was paid for my service.

It truly is a win-win, and when presented that way, your clients will happily pay the add-on fee for a few weeks of training. Once the dog is under control the owners will be VERY thankful and you likely will get hired to do more training for them, their friends, and neighbors.

Practice the training technique for leash-manners I demonstrate in The Dog Walker’s Companion DVD until it become second nature. Soon you’ll be confidently training your client’s dogs to be wonderful leash companions, earning more money, and well on your way to becoming a successful trainer.

Remember, be observant and learn from your dogs as well. Dogs look for reliable indicators or cues as to what is expected of them, or as an indicator of the arrival of good or bad things (picking up the leash for example indicates they will be going for a walk). Stay tuned in. Becoming a good trainer involves two-way communication. The better you understand your furry companions, the more effective you’ll be in communicating what you want from their end of the bargain. Observation is the key in determining what might be getting in the way of a given training technique.  Sending mixed signals or cues is a common problem for novice trainers.

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Client Grabbing Marketing Plan IV

Sep 09 2009 Published by under Marketing

Over the past few weeks you’ve learned about seasonal advertising, understanding your clienteles’ needs, creating a campaign that highlights those needs and addresses them using language that elicits an emotional response. We’ve validated, to some degree, our suspicions about the seasonal trends of our market using keyword trending resources. We’ve discovered which keywords are most often used to search for our type of services and we’ve used those keywords in our advertisement copy. The last step is the testing phase phase of our marketing campaign. Since we don’t have much time left we’ll have to limit our test to 5-7 days. During this testing phase we will of course be driving qualified traffic to our website so it won’t exactly be lost time! Let’s get started.

If you have not already done so, please create a Google AdWords account by visiting http://www.adwords.google.com Once you have your account you will need to create a campaign and a keyword list. Creating a quality keyword list is no easy thing. I suggest you read Google’s help documentation as you set up your campaign. With a local advertising campaign (like yours) you may want to start out with “broad match” keywords.

What are keyword matching options?

There are  four keyword matching options that will determine which searches can trigger your ads to appear.

Keywords can have one of the following four settings. The following keyword punctuation examples are standard to Google, MSN, and Yahoo. To use a matching option, add the appropriate punctuation to your keyword:

  1. Broad match: keyword
    Allows your ad to show on similar phrases and relevant variations. For example, if your broad match keyword was dog walking services your ad could be triggered by searches for dog walking business, dog walking service, and even pet sitting services in some cases. It depends on Google’s algorithms and that’s why you must be vigilant in your monitoring of your broad match keyword campaign. If you notice your ads are being triggered by irrelevant search terms you will want to add those terms to your AdGroup or campaign as negative keywords to keep your ads from showing for those searches. For example, if you notice a lot of searches for dog kennels, you might want to ad -kennels as a negative search term, since you don’t offer that service.
  2. Phrase match: “keyword”
    Allows your ad to show for searches that match the exact phrase. For example, your keyword is “dog walking services”, and someone searches for dog walking services in Los Angeles, your ad would be triggered.
  3. Exact match: [keyword]
    Allows your ad to show for searches that match the exact phrase exclusively. Unlike phrase match, exact match will only match the keyword if it’s entered exactly as the one in your campaign. So a search for dog walking services will not trigger your keyword [dog walking service] because they aren’t exactly matching.
  4. Negative match: -keyword
    Ensures your ad doesn’t show for any search that includes that term. As explained above in broad match. For example, adding the negative keyword -kennel to your campaign or AdGroup will stop your ad from appearing when those terms are included in a search.

Depending on the options you choose you will receive more impressions, clicks and potential clients, while others you may get fewer impressions but your targeting will be more precise. There is a lot of testing and I wont pretend that it’s easy to create a winning campaign on your first try. There is some trial and error. I would not advertising in Google’s content network until you have created a profitable search targeting campaign.

So how do I test my ad copy?

Once you have created your keyword list you’ll want to start creating ads. Considering our target market for this campaign you’ll want to craft your campaign around that theme. You’ll want to mix and match headlines, body, and call to action statements. You’ll also want to set your ads to ROTATE. Google’s default setting is to show the best performing ad more often. You don’t want that. You want to see the data for your self and figure out which copy is outperforming the rest, and why. Take a look at this example:

Dog Walking Services
Don’t Let Icy Winter Streets
Keep Your Locked Inside!
www.example.com

or

Dog Walking Services
Don’t Let Icy Winter Streets
Keep Your Dog Trapped Inside!
www.example.com

The above example is testing one word vs. another, “locked” and “trapped” on the negative theme of avoiding ice and winter cold. Another example could be:

Dog Walking Services
Our Walkers Brave The Winter
So You Don’t Have To!
www.example.com

In this example we are testing a variation on the theme which avoids severe negatives like in the above examples. Lastly a more traditional ad would include a direct call to action such as this:

Dog Walking Service
Professional, Reliable And
Affordable. Visit Us Today!
www.example.com

You can then test different variations of each theme. Try substituting different words or ways of saying the same thing.

Once you’ve created your ad variations you’ll want to activate your campaign, setting an affordable budget, and monitor it closely adding negative keywords if necessary. Once you have enough data you can decide which copy is performing better and create some new ads incorporating the best copy from all your ads into one super ad which you will use from that point on while deleting the old ads. This copy can then be used in other advertising mediums such as newspaper, email, classifieds, Craigslist, fliers, mass mailings, etc.

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Client Grabbing Marketing Plan Part III

Aug 28 2009 Published by under Marketing

Thanks for coming back for more!

This week we’ll go over how to do some research which will confirm what I’ve been talking about in terms of timing your fall advertising campaign. I’ve included some video to make this a little easier. You’ll want to visit Google Insights For Search and follow along!

Please Select Full Screen Mode When Playing The Video  So You Can See the Screen Text in the Video

So, please use your own keywords and regions to do a little research!

Using my example above I am going to want to incorporate some of the keywords in my own advertising copy or business name. Remember, dog walking services beats dog walking service. So an example might be this:

Venice Beach Dog Walking Services

What if you already named your business? You can always add a tag line under your business name!

Venice Beach Dog Walkers

Professional Pet Care Services

Continue your keyword research and try to uncover as much information as you can about what types of services people are looking for in your area. Dog boarding, kenneling, grooming, pet sitting, etc. Perhaps you don’t want to offer these services but you can create an informal referral network with groomers, so that your business feels like it offers more services than it actually does.

Negotiate discounts within your network so that trading customers between you benefits the customer by creating a clear advantage. The customer benefits by doing business with your dog walking service, and your informal partner, the groomer, because doing so will result in a 10% savings for the customer, for example. Also, consider offering transportation to and from the groomer! Think creatively.

Another way to do some keyword research would be to set up a Google AdWords campaign to test your ad copy. This can be accomplished while at the same time driving potential clients to your website. This involves targeting very relevant keywords in your campaign and ad-groups and developing ad variations to test. An example text ad variation would be:

Dog Walking Services
Icy Streets Keeping You Locked Up?
We Can Help Free Your Dog!
www.example.com/services
Boston, MA

now the variant:

Dog Walking Services
Icy Streets Keeping You Trapped Inside?
We Can Help Free Your Dog!
www.example.com/services
Boston, MA

In this example we are testing the words “trapped” and “locked up” and juxtaposing them with the word “free” which is a service you are offering (freeing their dog and their guilty conscience). The word free, by the way, is a magic word in advertising. Test other messages and variations. The ads that receive the most clicks are the winners. Use the winning copy in your print advertising materials, your website, and your welcome packet.

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Client Grabbing Marketing Plan Part II

Aug 20 2009 Published by under Marketing

To continue the discussion from last week… Guilt, when understood and properly used in an advertising campaign, can be a highly effective means for driving customer conversions. The “feelings” associated with “guilt” are unpleasant and most people try to relieve them somehow. In our example you will provide the quick and easy means to that end. This becomes the core of your autumn advertising campaign. For those of you who feel that this is somehow manipulation, remember, we did not inject this “guilt” into our audiences’ lives or minds, it was there to begin with. We are simply uncovering, acknowledging, and providing support for this condition. In fact, we are helping folks afflicted with guilt enjoy a fast, easy and affordable recovery. Far easier than the shrink’s couch I dare say!

So, how do we use this knowledge? First we want our advertising to acknowledge the malady (guilt). Then we need to provide the solution (our products and services). Then, we want to show our advertising audience the results they can expect. Finally, a “call to action.”  How might this look?

Winter Winds Keeping You Locked Up Inside?
(acknowledges that it’s beyond their control and implies they are trapped)

Poor Fido…
(but… what about the dog, he doesn’t understand, and so we find the guilt)

Tri-City Dog Walker’s Can Help!
(the solution)

Providing, Safe, Reliable, Professional Dog Walking Services in Just About Any Kind of Weather.
(how it solves their problem)

Call For A Free Information Packet or Visit Us on The Web: Contact Info
(call to action, offering free information will generate more immediate results rather than them pinning it on their fridge or tossing it, and once you have their mailing information or email you can keep in constant contact)*

Fido Will Thank You!
(hints at the relief from guilt and that they WILL actually profit from this transaction**)

So this is a fairly basic, and not particularly creative, example of what I mean. In some advertising mediums you can use images to get your point across. Think about this in terms of before and after shots. The before shot might be a bored or sad dog, the after picture might be a happy dog or “satisfied” person curled up next to a fire with their dog… Pictures are powerful… remember the crying Native American?

More to come next week!

* Note: Never provide your detailed information on your website for “free”. What do I mean by this? I mean you need get something in return. What you want is an email address. So you need to set up an automatic email delivery service on your site so that once they enter their email address your service will send them your “informational packet”. You might even consider having them fill out a BRIEF questionnaire so that you can better understand their needs and create an offer that works for them.

** Note: If you are new to business you may have been brainwashed to think that business is bad. If you have icky feelings about charging people for your services or if you feel that you should always charge less to make up for some feelings of inadequacy you definitely need to address these feelings. The first thing you must understand is that a business is NOT bad. It is good. Most businesses offer a FAIR and EQUITABLE trade for your hard earned cash. Profit is not bad. Profit is the payment for your intangible expertise. Whether you offer a product or service, it doesn’t matter. The profit (the money you charge over and above the hard costs) is payment for the use value of a product, and in the case of a service, your expertise and time. It’s what puts food on the table and allows you to survive. Learn to start embracing the idea that business transactions are never a one way street. Your customer is profiting from the exchange at least as much as you are, and in some cases more!

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Client Grabbing Marketing Plan Part I

Aug 13 2009 Published by under Marketing

Do you hear the winter winds blowing yet? Neither do I, but I’ll let you in on a little secret, your competition is already gearing up for their fall/winter advertising blitz. If you aren’t preparing your marketing strategy for the fall you might as well throw your money on someone’s lawn because they are going to rake it in. Don’t worry, nobody was born knowing this stuff, but that’s what makes an expert worth the money they charge, isn’t it? You’re just starting out and money is tight, you’d rather not pay an expert for their advice if you can apply a little elbow grease and learn a few things on your own, right? That’s what I thought. Let’s get started, and hopefully, by the end of this series, you’ll have a solid action plan for developing your client base through smart and efficient advertising.

Since you know that effective advertising takes advantage of the seasons you now need to think about how to leverage that to your advantage. How do you think the cold months will affect your business? Do you think business will slow down, or pick up? If you said pick up you’d be right. My experience in running my own dog walking business was that things ramped up quickly starting in September and went straight through the winter. One of the reasons, and it’s going to be the basis from which we will build our marketing plan, is that people don’t like to walk their dogs on snowy, icy streets, in the bitter cold. Now there’s a revelation! When your potential clients get up in the morning it’s dark, and when they get home at night, it’s darker. The last thing they want to do is take the dog for a long walk. Poor Fido!

That’s where your service really takes on a major appeal. Let’s face it, guilt is a big motivator. Heck, I can imagine a lot of tough decisions would never have been made if guilt wasn’t a factor. When was the last time you threw some messy garbage out the window of your car on an empty road? You didn’t, and that’s my point. “Hoot, Hoot, Don’t Pollute” said Woodsy the owl. Aw shucks, I wouldn’t want to hurt a poor little owl and neither would you, which is why we don’t litter. That ad campaign, which was pushed very hard during the late 70s and early 80s, worked very, very well. Prior to that folks used to toss their trash everywhere, and the streets and parks were filled with litter. That’s when Woodsy the owl showed up, along with a few Native Americans. Dressed in traditional Native American garb (think old western movies) they stood on precipices, overlooking the dirty, garbage ridden wastelands, and wept at our selfish indifference. It was emotional stuff and it got the nations attention. That campaign pushed all the right buttons, and here we are some 25 years later and our streets and parks are now mostly clean. This is powerful. That ad campaign changed a society’s behavior by changing its collective attitude. It replaced selfish disregard with a feeling of sadness and guilt when we considered tossing a McDonald’s bag out the window. It introduced shame without creating resistance. So how can you harness the power of guilt when it comes to your business? You’re about to find out.

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