Pursuing relationships with your local pet business owners can bring you opportunities for cross referrals and allow you to offer your customers extra convenience.
When I interviewed Joseph Giannini from Chicago based Urban Outsitters last week I discovered that his goal is to fulfill the full range of his customers pet care needs. In the last 4 years he has grown his business from a pet sitting and dog walking service to a business that offers grooming, boarding, and day care. At his boarding and day care locations he also has retail outlets that sell pet foods and accessories. In the next year he also plans to add veterinary services. However, in the pet industry Joseph's business model is fairly unique. Most pet care businesses focus on providing customers one service, or at most two to three complimentary services. These businesses can give customers more value and convenience creating partnerships with other local pet care providers.
Here are a few ideas that you can use to make the most of partnering with non-competitive pet businesses:
Create win-win opportunities for cross-promotion. Organize an exchange of discount coupons for each of your services that can be attributed to your existing customers as appreciation gifts. Make customers feel special by printing "Exclusive offer for clients of XYZ pet services" on the bottom of each of your coupons.
Team up to organize community events. Organizing local events is a great way to get media publicity and give back to local charities. However, they require a large amount of work to organize and run. Why not team up with other local pet business and share the work and publicity.
Co-op Advertising. Advertising in magazines and coupon direct mailings is typically expensive. If you want access to reach these markets but can not justify the price why not split the ad size and share an ad with another local pet business. You can split the cost of the ad and both reach the market you want to target.
Offer a combined service. Your clients need to take their pets to other local businesses to ensure that their diet, training, and maintenance needs are met. To offer them more convenience why not combine your services with the services of other businesses to create service packs. A few examples are:
Pet sitting visit with grooming service
Pet sitting visit with food and treat delivery from local dog bakery
Dog day care visit with annual vaccinations
Dog walking service with training session
Dog birthday party at doggy day care with pampering by groomer and fears from local dog bakery
You will be able to charge a premium price for this service because of the time savings you offer your clients.
Emergency Planning. Your pet business should have an action plan that you will follow if a natural or human caused disaster occurs. A pet business with a large facility such as a dog day care may offer a good central shelter to bring your clients pets if you are no longer able to care for them in their home. Work with other pet business owners to make sure that you can pool resources in an emergency to ensure the safety of the pets in your care.
Do not be afraid to contact local pet business owners and offer to meet for lunch or organize a meeting at their location.
Many business owners shy away from networking with other businesses that provide similar services in the same geographic area. This attitude is often based on scarcity thinking. In reality if you live in a highly populated area there are plenty of pet owners to serve and the advantages of getting to know your competitors can be many.
Advantages of networking with same service businesses include:
Opportunity to share best practices and learn from the experience of others
Have a backup for emergencies and vacation periods
A new source of referrals
Knowing others gives you the confidence to recommend other businesses if you can not accommodate customer needs
Look for a networking group in your area by contacting business associations or asking other pet business owners. If you can find an existing network why not start your own. Associations typically can offer best practices and recommendations for forming networking groups.