To discount or not to discount? That is the question pet business owners continuously ask themselves. The pet sitting and dog walking businesses are no different. As a growing part of the $70 billion a year pet industry, competition is tough. When it comes to marketing your services, every strategy needs to be considered.
Pet walking and sitting services are based entirely on time, knowledge, and skill. There is no merchandise to move or product to bake. Do discounts really bring in the clients? Let’s look at the pros and cons.
Benefits of Offering Discounts
- Bring in new clients. First-time customer discounts have the ability to generate new business. Even though people understand logically that these discounts will not last, sometimes a lowered price for the first few services is all a person needs to agree to hire you. As a marketing tool, whether it is a social-media special or in conjunction with a local pet supply store, these types of discounts create an appeal that can drive new business. **Be aware that this can also become a con quickly: don’t make the deal so sweet that the customer does not want to pay full-price for regular services.
- Keep the customer relationship going. Another positive aspect of discounts is that they can help you maintain relationships with existing customers. Bundling services, such as paying a lower price for dog walks if bought in packages of ten or twenty or offering long-term discounts, such as five or six-month agreements, provide financial incentives for customers to continue their relationship with you.
- Create a cycle of new clients. Referral discounts are our favorite discounts, and they can be very popular among clients. These provide an incentive for word-of-mouth marketing. People trust their friends and neighbors, and they often ask on neighborhood social media pages for recommendations. A reward system for existing clients to refer new customers creates genuine advocates of your business. They engender greater visibility, and eventually more sales.
Disadvantages of Discounts
- Risk losing profits There are downsides to offering discounts, unfortunately, and they cannot be ignored. The first is that by offering too many discounts, you risk cutting into your own profits. Your bottom line will suffer, and that is not acceptable. When you have genuinely experienced dog walkers and sitters who are trained in animal safety and pet first aid, then your business ought to reap the benefits. Requiring your employees to earn certification for pet safety training (many programs exist online, such as Dog Biz Success) offers clients peace of mind that they would not have with say, having a friend’s kid pet sit. Your employees are not raiding the fridge and watching Netflix. Instead, your staff members are assessing the client’s pet’s well-being, completing appointments in extreme weather, and ensuring that pets get the proper amount of exercise. They know how to break up dog fights, or even better, how to read a dog’s body language to prevent the fight in the first place. They know how to administer medications to pets. They know how to administer first aid in the event of ingestion of a toxic substance. They know how your dog generally behaves and moves, and they know if something is “off.” Their job is to keep clients’ dogs and cats safe, fed, and out of harm’s way. No fridge raids and Netflix watching here.
- Risk damaging your brand. You do not want to be known as the “affordable” dog walkers. You want to be known as the premier company in your area whose team understands and cares for your pet and respects your home. By hiring your company, clients receive top-notch pet services that they are more than happy to pay for.
- Risk giving the wrong impression. Discounts can carry the connotation of cutting corners. Nobody would send their child to “Discount Daycare” or hire the “Affordable Nanny.” Those concepts would never work as businesses. For family members, issues of care and safety are as important if not more important than price. The surge of the pet industry in the United States suggests that people care about their pets in a similar manner: they want their dogs and cats treated thoughtfully.
Ultimately, owners of pet sitting and walking businesses tend to regret offering too many discounts. Therefore, instead of focusing on the price of the service, stress the importance of hiring a certified professional pet sitter and walker: somebody who not only develops a bond with a pet but somebody who is well- trained and focused on assessing the pet’s needs. Trusting somebody to go into your home when you are not there requires a great deal of faith in the business. Discounts, particularly those based on referrals, might initially bring in a client and can even maintain some client-relationships. However, it is the quality of the service, not the price, that keeps the business-client relationship going.