How do I get new or more clients at my doggie daycare?
Linda, Pandosy Doggie Daycare

Hi Linda,
I would first look to your current customers as a way to grow your business. Animal care businesses, such as dog boarding, kennels, and daycares, are centered on the notion of the customer must “know, like, trust” the business and employees even more so than your typical service business. Pet owners are entrusting their “fur babies” into the hands of someone else and they want to know they’ll be treated well. While maybe not to the same extent, it is similar to someone handing off their child to a daycare or school. So, testimonials from your current clients will be crucial to gaining new ones.

I would ask your current customers to leave a review (on Google or Facebook) before you start a more in-depth marketing campaign. You can create an automated email series in your email provider, such as MailChimp, to send reminders to your customers. This will help relieve some of your workload so you’re not having to remember to remind your customers. You’ll have to spend a few minutes creating the email series (I’d suggest three emails over the course of 7-10 days) that will politely ask for a Google or Facebook review. Be sure to include links to the relevant sites where they can leave the review. The fewer barriers they have, the more likely they will be to take action. You can also create a form on your website to collect feedback or send a survey via email to your customers for them to fill out. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to leave positive reviews when they are asked.

That way, when you start sending traffic via Facebook or Google ads, your potential customers will see the social proof from their peers (fellow dog owners) and be much more willing to contact you. I’ve also found that reviews will bump your local Google search listing higher when all other things are equal.

Direct referrals from your current customers are great as well. Think about how you can make this easy for them (again, don’t be afraid to offer incentives for both parties). One option is to hand out a referral card for one free visit or walk to a current customer to give to a friend. Have them put their name on it, and if the friend redeems the card, the referrer also gets a free visit or walk. Remember that a new customer could be worth several hundred, or even thousands, of dollars in revenue over the total time they stay with you. Need more ideas? I’d recommend reading The Referal Engine.

On the website and social side of things, I would try to showcase your facility and the behind the scenes action more. When a potential customer is researching a new facility, this and testimonials will be the first things they want to see. Also, I would make it easier for people to contact and find you on your website. One way to do this is to include your location and phone number on every page.

Collect Leads
A great way to quickly gain a lot of attention for minimal spend is to host a contest or several. If done right, you can cultivate a large number of leads that you can market to via email. Even if they are not ready to use your service, they might be in the near future, or they might know someone who does need it.

One point of caution, make sure your contest offering is related to your services. For instance, don’t offer to give away an iPad for signing up. Sure, you might get a lot of email subscribers, but they aren’t necessarily qualified leads. If people are entering their email to win a free week’s worth of doggie daycare, then you know they are qualified leads and have a real interest in your services.

Get Involved
Last, I would make sure you are active in your community and participate in related events (dog run/walks, adoption days, etc.). Is there a local Facebook group for dogs in your area? If these don’t exist, think about starting them. Work with your local shelters to offer free or reduced visits for anyone who adopts a pet.

There are lots of things you can do, but I’d start with these.

Best of luck!