Pet Business Marketing:
The Definitive Guide
An intelligent marketing strategy is critical to the success of your pet business, whether you operate a retail pet store, dog grooming service, or veterinarian office. Pets represent a $69 billion industry, one that is teeming with opportunity yet crowded by competitors. The following shows you how to market your pet business so you can earn more than your fair share of that pie.
Our pet care marketing advice includes:
- Pet business startup tips you need to know – ideas, plans and statistics
- Pet business branding and design
- Pet business marketing tools
- Pet business copywriting
- Pet business marketing distribution
- Pet business marketing ideas and resources
From startups to industry veterans, this marketing advice will help you attract more customers, increase revenues, and grow your pet business.
1. Pet business startup tips
In the startup phase of your best business? These tips will put you on the path to success.
Pet business ideas
There are dozens of pet business ideas, from everyday services to unique and unusual pet niches, including:
Retail pet store
(online and offline)
Pet food and treats
Pet sitter/doggy daycare
Pet care products
Pet business statistics
Is the pet industry the right business for you? The following statistics will help you decide.
Size of the pet industry
- 65% of all U.S. households own pets
- Here’s the breakdown of pet ownership in the U.S.:
How much it costs to start a pet business
The cost to start a pet business varies significantly from one type of business, market, product, and customer to another. Some ballpark ranges include:
Chron breaks down pet stores into four categories, listed below with estimated startup costs:
- Online (home-based): $20 and up
- Retail product manufacturers: $15,000 to $500,000
- Franchises: $25,000 and up
- Independently-owned retailers: $100,000 and up
Entrepreneur.com says you can start a dog grooming business for under $2,000. If you want to open a shop in a large city, however, it might cost between $50,000 and $150,000. A mobile pet groomer could get started for between $10,000 and $50,000.
Both Chron and Entrepreneur state a doggy daycare can be started for less than $10,000, while Paws Dog Daycare puts the cost between $24,350 and $143,300, with an average of $81,700.
Pet businesses that cost less than $2,000 to start
Seeking low start-up costs? These pet-related businesses all cost less than $2,000 to start:
- Dog walking
- Pet treats
- Obedience school
- Pooper scooper
Pet Business Startup Costs
How much pet businesses make
Your income is dependent on several factors, including the type of business you’re in, the market you serve, and your ability to manage your business. Some pet companies make millions, while other fail without earning a dollar.
These averages will help you set benchmarks for your own success:
Pet stores: $135,000 per year (average total sales per employee)
Dog groomer: $40,000 (average annual salary)
Doggy daycare: $28,631 (average annual salary, self-employed) to $37,331 (company)
Dog walking: $20,341 to $50,298 (average annual salary)
Pet sitting: $17,200 to $56,419 (average annual salary)
Obedience school: $27,000 to $60,000 (average annual salary)
Pooper scooper: Up to $100,000 ( annual salary)
Of course, you won’t be able to make any money if you don’t properly market your pet business!
2. Pet business branding and design
Whether you operate a brick and mortar pet business, an online pet supply mart, or walk neighborhood dogs, you know there’s no shortage of competitors. With so many fish in the sea (or bowl, as it is), a strong brand is crucial to successful pet business marketing.
For newcomers, and even for marketing veterans, it can be difficult to settle on a brand identity. The following information outlines the importance of pet business branding and provides guidelines to defining your company’s image.
Importance of a branded image
If your pet business is not branded, then you’re just another pet business. There’s nothing special about you. If there’s nothing special about you, then why would anyone want to do business with you, especially when your competition is constantly telling everyone how special they are?
A pet business brand elicits emotion, spurs recognition, and fuels sales. It identifies what you’re best at and promotes that idea to your audience. That’s why it’s so important to brand your pet business.
How to identify your branded image
Though it can be tempting to jump right in, taking the time to carefully develop your pet business’s branded image is well worth the investment. It can even mean the difference between failure and success. Follow this five-step process to help you identify your branded image:
1. Define your niche
What is your niche in the pet business industry? Keep in mind that your niche and your brand are two different things: your niche is your primary product or service offering, or what makes it different from your competitors; while your brand represents the psychologically-based ideals associated with your company. A branded image encompasses both. To define your niche, ask yourself how you differ from the competition. Perhaps you’re known as the dog specialist, as the cat groomers, the quality pet food supply store, the affordable pet business or as the all-in-one service pet business.
2. Describe your benefits
What are the benefits of doing business with you? This goes along with why your customers buy from you; but keep in mind that there are often many benefits to doing business with one company over another – and sometimes you have not yet realized all of them.
3. Know your customers
Who buys from you, and why? What are their core values? Strive to know everything you can about your customers. You probably have a “perfect customer” profile, but you also have “secondary” customers who buy from you. Understand what motivates your customers, and you can develop a branded identity that brings comfort and makes an impression on your audience. Building relationships is integral to branding. Knowing your customers helps you develop relationships with your customers that are lasting and mutually rewarding. One of the best ways to gather this information is to simply ask your current customers.
4. State your mission
Where are you now, and where do you want to take your company? What are your core values? How do you do what you do? Your branded identity should reflect not only who you are now, but also what you represent to your customers’ collective futures.
5. Sum it all up
Now, take everything you know and brainstorm. How can you express what you do, how you do it, and what that means to your customers in a concise phrase or tagline? Your tagline is at the core of your identity, ingrained in everything you do.
Branding through design
Skilled graphic design transforms your pet business’s branded identity from an idea to an image. This image is what the world will see; the audience will perceive the ideals and emotions that your image expresses.
Design is powerful, especially when you incorporate sound brand symbols for your pet business. Your pet business company colors, logo, corporate identity package, website, advertisements, marketing materials, and other collateral are all a reflection of your brand.
When someone can see your materials and instantly recognize the company behind them and what you stand for, you’ve developed a good pet business brand.
3. Pet business marketing tools
You need the right tools to market your pet business. Along with a strong offer, compelling call to action, and well-targeted distribution, these marketing tools will help you launch and grow your pet business now and in the future.
Must-have pet business marketing materials
Business cards – Like all businesses, networking is vital to the success of your pet business; and retail business card printingis the perfect way to make a great first impression and ensure you’re remembered. Business cards can also double as appointment cards for pet groomers and dog walkers.
Posters – Posters are excellent giveaways. Tap into your niche customers’ motivations and delight them with cuddly kitten posters, dynamic dog posters, or fantastic fish posters. Make sure your branded message is attached loud and clear! Or, promote special sales and store events throughout your community with poster printing.
Flyers – Flyers are perfect for promoting a special sale or event.
Pet care booklets/guides – Booklets offer your customers something valuable that they’ll hold on to. A well-written pet care reference guide such as “Setting Up and Caring for a Saltwater Aquarium” or “How to Care for Poodles” can land you a special place on your customers’ bookshelves. Foster trust with expert tips, then sprinkle your products and services throughout your text to influence sales.
Catalogs – If you sell pet supplies, treats, toys, or novelties, you can print mail-order retail catalogsto foster business growth. A prime example is the Doctors Foster and Smith franchise, which publishes niche pet supply mail-order catalogs. Look at one to see how the company adds value through tutorials and informational bits interspersed throughout each catalog.
Brochures – Brochures are incredibly diverse. You can send them via direct-mail, promote point-of-sale products, and leave them on racks and countertops and more. More than a simple mission statement, when brochures are cleverly used they can become invaluable tools for promoting your pet business.
Calendars – Almost everyone will take – and use – a free calendar. What better way to put your pet business front and center 365 days a year? You can theme your calendar around the pets you sell or, better yet, showcase pictures and stories of your customers with their pets. Place reminders throughout your calendar to drum up business: “Time for a grooming? Call us today at 555-555-5555!”
opt-postcards – A direct-marketing staple, opt-postcards are cheap to print and easy to send. Best of all, opt-postcards represent some of the best return on investment opportunities in business. If you own a pet shop, you can print opt-postcards for retail stores; if you’re a vet, you can send opt-postcards as appointment reminders; if you’re a dog groomer, you can mail opt-postcards to promote your grooming specials.
Greeting cards – Show appreciation and build relationships with your clients by sending greeting cards. Holidays are good times for greeting cards, but remember that the unexpected greeting card during a non-holiday season can make a more lasting impression. If you sell pets, send a card for pet birthdays!
Stickers – Stickers can be affixed to anything and used in many clever ways. Give them away to your customers, donate them to schools to use as prizes, or print custom retail stickersshaped like dog footprints that lead customers from your door to a special sales display.
Newsletters – Pet businesses have plenty of material to fill newsletters, which in turn are the perfect medium for staying connected to your customers. Create newsletters with valuable content such as how-to pet care articles; informative, entertaining and interesting features; a regular column written by you; exclusive offers and ads; and customer and pet showcases. Mail your newsletter to your current customers and to a mailing list of pet owners.
Vinyl banners – Vinyl banners are affordable tools for drawing attention to your special event or sale.
Window clings – Use window clings to promote products, services, and sales to passers-by, especially if you have a lot of foot traffic.
Magnets – Print refrigerator magnets featuring local veterinarian numbers, helpful websites, and sources for pet care, pet treats, and pet toys. Feature your own business, of course! You can also print car door magnets to market your pet store on the go.
Greeting cards – Send greeting cards to thank customers for their purchases. Or, send birthday cards to their pets, along with special sales and discount offers – or perhaps a free dog treat gift! You can also send invitation cards to invite potential customers to your events.
4. Pet business copywriting
Pet business marketing materials should take advantage of professional copywriting conventions to motivate prospects to take the next step in the purchasing process. Follow this four-step process to incredible copy that boosts your return on investment:
Four steps for writing winning copy
1) Craft an attention-getting headline – Your headline commands attention and draws customers in. Headlines should make bold statements and address desires, problems, or fears; they can also deliver a special offer.
A postcard aimed at single women in their mid-20s might say: “Tired of being stood up? Get a best friend who never disappoints. Receive a FREE grooming when you find your new buddy at PetStore today!”
2) Highlight your benefits – Think like a customer: what’s in it for you? Identify what benefits you are delivering. Features represent what you do or offer; while benefits explain how your features help your customers. For example, if your pet business provides all-in-one grooming services (feature), the benefit is that your customers only need to make one quick stop to pamper their pets.
3) Develop an incredible offer – A great offer motivates response. Again, think like a customer: what would it take for you to act? If your offer is perceived to have great value, your customers will respond. Your offer could be a free item, a discount, or something else that’s desirable to your audience. Your offer should be time sensitive so your customers must act fast.
4) Motivate with a call to action – What do you want your prospects to do once they’ve read your message? Define this in no uncertain terms and offer several response channels if possible (call a phone number, visit a website, visit a retail location, etc.).
5. Pet business marketing distribution
Crafting the right message for your marketing tools is only part of the process; you also need to get those materials in front of the right audience with an intelligent distribution strategy.
Direct-mail is one of the best distribution strategies for pet businesses. You can send opt-postcards, flyers, booklets, and more to mailing lists comprised of your customers and others who match your customer demographics. If you only serve a local area, you can take advantage of discounted EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail) postcard printing and postage rates.
Repetition is important, so you should develop a strategy that incorporates multiple mailings to yield the best results.
You can deploy advertisements online, in newspapers and magazines, as well as on the radio, television, billboards, relevant apps, and any number of published mediums. Of course, don’t stop there! There are plenty of opportunities to market your pet business “street side.”
Hand out flyers and posters to passers-by or in areas where your target audience congregates. Print stickers to hand out or to affix in high-visibility areas.
And remember: word of mouth is the most powerful advertiser, so make sure your friends and family all know about your pet business so they can help promote it. You might even consider offering your customers incentives for referrals.
Test, track and tweak – these three T’s will help you craft even stronger marketing campaigns over time.
- Test multiple versions of your marketing tools on smaller customer segments to see which yields the best results
- Track your response rates to see which campaigns perform best
- Tweak future campaigns based on your testing and tracking analysis
Before long, you’ll be able to nail down exactly what your customers respond to, so you can market more efficiently and maximize your return on investment (ROI).
6. Pet business marketing ideas and resources
Creative marketing ideas can generate buzz, deliver value to your customers, and increase profits for your company. Try these pet business marketing creative ideas and resources to boost your business this year:
Host an event – Events are great ways to connect with customers, build your brand, and earn sales. Try an adoption day, or “tryout day,” whereby customers can come in and play with your puppies, kittens and other animals to see which they would like to adopt.
Hold classes and seminars on your niche subjects; from dog grooming to fish tank cleaning and maintenance. If you sell exotic birds, develop a course to train birds to talk.
Invite manufacturers to come in for pet supply product demonstrations, or partner with a dog trainer for a quick hands-on obedience course (which you can use to upsell dog training services).
Partner with others – Partnering with complementary and non-competing businesses is a terrific way to network and develop cross promotions that benefit all parties.
As mentioned, you could invite a dog trainer to put on a class at your pet business. The trainer could make sales, and you would get a commission. You could also contract a trainer, tank cleaner or other professional to provide services directly through your pet business.
To save marketing on costs, you could pitch in together on a robust direct-mail marketing campaign. Develop a multiple service package or offer a discount at your pet business to those who purchase services from your partners. This is also a smart way to extend your mailing list.
Creative message placement – You don’t have to stick with traditional advertising outlets. In fact, the more creative your message placement, the more likely your pet business is to stand out from the crowd.
See if you can purchase ad space from local veterinarians. You can put stickers on waiting room magazines, for example. Or, rent space from a local building owner and print a large format wall graphic featuring your cutest pets to mass market your store.
Promote unique angles – Capitalize on what makes your pet business unique. Develop creative product and service names so you can brand not only your company, but also individual offerings. Instead of simply stating you’re offering bird training classes, give your course a name: “Beak Speak: Teach Your Bird to Talk.”
Sell complementary products and services – Point-of-sale products, upsells, and other complementary products and services can dramatically increase your profits.
If you sell reptiles, offer a discount on crickets; if you sell grooming services, upsell a luxury conditioning treatment, nail trimming, or sell a special grooming brush so customers can maintain their pet’s care at home. If someone comes in looking for a fish and an aquarium, also show them the necessities (such as water conditioner) and accessories (such as plastic castles) that will make their pet happy.