You might be wondering whether you really need a pet business marketing plan.
After all, if you’re running a small pet business what’s the point?
Surely you can just continue to hand out your business cards and put up flyers in the local grocery store and get more clients like you always have?
Sure – you could go on like that.
Unless, of course, you would like to increase your leads, or sell more to your existing clients. Then you’ll need a plan. After all – nothing changes if you change nothing!
A pet business marketing plan is really nothing more complicated than a clear road map outlining what you want to achieve with your business and how you’re going to get there.
The plan will also help you stay focused and on track to help you reach your marketing goals and objectives – whether that is getting more clients or increasing your revenue.
A Pet Business Marketing plan doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated – but it is an essential tool if you’re looking to grow your business, or if you’re battling against successful competitors. In the sections below you will learn exactly what you need to include in an effective marketing plan.
How to Make an Effective Pet Business Marketing Plan
1. Set Your Marketing Objectives and Goals
What, specifically, do you want your marketing efforts to do for your pet business? Yes I know you want to make more money, but to create a solid marketing plan you need to be more specific. After all, achieving a goal that you can envision and articulate is a whole lot easier – and you will actually know when you’re winning.
The S.M.A.R.T criteria for setting goals and objectives can be really helpful when thinking up marketing objectives for your pet business. Every objective needs to be:
- Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
- Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
- Assignable – specify who will do it.
- Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
- Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.
Some examples of S.M.A.R.T goals could be:
- In Q1, Melissa will gain 20 new dog walking clients, by networking with local vets and pet stores.
- In Q2, Angela will have generated 15 new customer reviews for our website, by contacting customers after their visits.
2. List your own strengths and weaknesses
You and the people on your team have knowledge and talents that can help drive your business forward. For example, perhaps you have an employee who takes really good photos, or someone who is really good at social media. List out everyones unique skills and try and think how you could use them best in your business.
In a similar way, we all need to continue learning so also list who could benefit from what training course. Perhaps you could organize an internal ‘knowledge swap’ type training where you learn from each other?
3. List your Business Strengths and Weaknesses
When producing a marketing plan, one of the most useful tools around is a SWOT report. Don’t worry – its not rocket science. All it means is that you identify your own business Strengths, Weaknesses and Opportunities and Threats so you can use them to your advantage when pulling together your marketing plan.
Strengths & Weaknesses
Anything that makes your pet business unique could be considered a strength or weakness, for example:
- Is your customer service excellent or poor?
- Are the products and services you provide of excellent or poor quality?
- Is your reputation with your customers good or bad?
- Is your location great or do customers have trouble finding you?
This section of the SWOT report looks at opportunities facing your pet business.
- Are there other distribution channels where you could distribute your products or services?
- Could you add new services to your portfolio?
- Are your competitors missing an obvious opportunity that you could cash in on?
- Who are your main competitors? (see competitor review section further down on the page)
- What are their products and services like compared to yours?
- Is their location better or worse than yours?
4. Define your Target Audience
Getting to know your customers is really important if you want to be able to meet their needs and wants. Obviously every customer is a unique individual – but you can probably think about a couple of things your customers all have in common.
Being able to identify and define your customers, or target audience means you can better pinpoint offers and services because you know exactly what problems you can offer to solve for them.
- Age and gender
- Where do they live
- Income level
- What Pets do they have
- Leisure activities – with or without their pets
- Where do they shop?
- What social media networks do they use?
Once you have gathered the information it will help to create a personna card – with a mock up individual who is typical of your target audience, and how your business can help them.
5. What is your Unique Selling Proposition or USP?
Your USP is a summary of what makes your business unique and valuable to your customers. It answers the question: How do your business services benefit your clients better than anyone else can?
In other words – What makes your dog walking service different from your closest competitors? Why would anyone choose your dog training program instead of your competitors?
A successful USP can be translated into a company slogan and you should make sure to incorporate it in all of your marketing materials.
Here’s how you define your USP:
1. Describe your target audience
Use the information you gathered in the target audience section for this exercise. For example a dog boutique in an upmarket part of town might describe their customers as:
‘Affluent pet parents living in x town who are cash rich and time poor. They have one or two small sized dogs who they consider part of their family and they are looking for ways to make up for lost time’.
2. Explain the problem you solve
This is where you should put on your customer hat and think about your business from their point of view. What problems do you solve for them?
The dog boutique in the example above could perhaps be solving the problem of the customers feeling guilty for not spending enough time with their dogs.
‘making sure my doggie knows I love him even though I haven’t had much time to spend with him lately’
3. List the biggest distinctive benefits
In this step, keep your customer hat on and describe 2-5 of the biggest benefits your customers would get from choosing you over a competitor. Think about what really sets you apart from your competition and why your services are important to your customer.
Continuing with the example of the dog boutique – some of their benefits may include:
Only place in town where you can buy human grade dog treats and food
Our staff have been trained in canine nutrition
We have a doggie playground where small dogs can play and socialize under supervision from our staff while the pet parents mingle.
4. Define your promise
Write down what your pledge to your clients is – for example:
‘We pledge to only sell food and treats that have been approved for human consumption and we offer a place for pet owners to meet and mingle with like minded people (while their pooches are entertained and looked after by our staff).’
5. Combine and rework
Take all the information you’ve listed in number 1-4 and re-write into one paragraph, taking note of recurring statements and themes.
“Our Boutique’s customers are generally affluent pet parents living who are cash rich and time poor. They have one or two small sized dogs who they consider part of their family and they are feel guilty for not spending enough time with their fur babies.
Our Boutique is the only place in X town where dog parents can meet and mingle whilst spending quality time with their pets and buy human grade food and treats from our staff who have been trained in canine nutrition.”
Condense your paragraph into one single sentence that delivers your USP in a simple and specific way:
“Spend Quality time with your pooch in our doggie creche and treat him to our human grade dog foods and treats”
6. What is your Pricing & Positioning Strategy?
If you think about all your competitors and their products and services you will probably organize them in your mind somehow – perhaps by price point or how premium their brand is.
- High price v low price
- Basic quality v High quality
- Necessity v luxury
Your business needs to have a clear pricing and positioning strategy that makes sense. For example you could be the one premium dog sitter in town if you charge a higher rate and your branding, marketing collateral and service levels support it – but as soon as you start lowering your prices, your brand image and positioning may be at stake.
What will your pricing and positioning strategy be?
Plotting your competitors on a positioning chart like the one below can help visualize the market you operate in and who you are competing with and on what terms.
7. What is your Distribution Plan?
How do your customers buy your products and services? Do they buy from you directly in your store, or from your website? Or do you have distributors? Is there an opportunity to add distribution channels to your business?
If you are running a pet store you could consider online shopping and home deliveries, and if you’re a groomer you could consider adding a grooming van to your arsenal.
8. Think about Your Offers
Even if you don’t usually set up deals and offers for you business, they can help grow your business and bring your existing customers back for more.
Offers in the pet industry can include things like:
- Free trials – such as free bath, free walk, complimentary nail cut, samples of food and treats, free assessment, free consultation, free home delivery
- Money back guarantees – such as ‘if your dog isn’t better behaved in four weeks, you get your money back’, ‘if you’re not happy with your dog’s haircut, next appointment is free’.
- Discount offers & bundles: Reward cards, buy one get one free, buy a bundle of 10 walks and get one free, half price baths for dog walking clients’ dogs
9. Create a Competitor Review
Do you know who your main competitors are? And more importantly – do you know what they are up to? Keeping track of your main competitors and their marketing activities is incredibly important, and for every dog groomer, or dog walking business out there – there are hundreds more competing for your share of the market online and in your city.
Here are a couple of steps to get you started:
- Go to your local groomers, pet stores and vets and check out what leaflets, flyers and business cards they are handing out. Grab one of each item – these are all your competitors and your marketing collateral must look better and work harder than theirs.
- Search for phrases relevant to your business on Google.
For example if you are a dog walker then type in Dog walker in [your state and or town]. Make a note of the top ranking results and include both the ‘sponsored links’ at the top and the side of the page.
Check out each competitor and make a note of what products and services they offer, any discounts or offers – and use this information to think about what you can offer that others don’t.
10. Marketing Material
Your marketing material include everything that represents or promotes your business online and offline.
Examples include your website, social media accounts, flyers, brochures, leaflets, flyers, business cards, rewards cards, shop signage, trade show banners and hand outs.
A new or existing customer should be able to immediately recognize your brand by taking a quick look at your marketing materials – in other words, every piece should look like they come from the same family.
Here’s a quick checklist:
- Do you have a logo & have you used the same logo for all your marketing material?
- Do you have a color scheme that is unique to your brand, and have you used the same colors for all your marketing materials?
- Are you using the same fonts for all your printed collateral?
- Are you using your USP in all your marketing materials?
- Does every piece of marketing collateral include your address, phone number and web address? Bonus points for including your Facebook URL.
11. What is your Promotions Strategy?
This is the part of your marketing plan where you start outlining exactly how you will reach your target customers with your uniquely tailored offers and marketing materials.
You will choose your tactics and media from both online and offline sources including TV, Radio, Newspapers, Online advertising, Social Media, Trade shows, Blogging, Newsletters, Referrals and so on based on where your target audience is most likely to respond.
You will also outline timings for your marketing activities and schedule them, including seasonal activities such as Christmas and International Pets Day so nothing gets forgotten.
This part of the marketing plan also includes projected costs involved in creating and printing your marketing collateral as well as any media costs.
You can check out our 5 Tried and tested Low Cost Pet Business Marketing Tips for inspiration.
12. Measuring Results
Don’t forget to go back and measure your results so you know if you’re winning! If you set up your marketing objectives according to the S.M.A.R.T criteria mentioned earlier then this should be relatively easy.