How pet business owners can charge higher prices without losing clients.
Charging higher prices is the easiest way to increase your profits, but how do you do it without pissing off your current clients. Find out in this blog…
In 2011 I left a stable and safe ‘job for life in sales’ to start my dream dog walking business….
If only it were true!
I actually left the sales job I’d held for 10 years without a clue what I would do next. It was only after a holiday and some downtime that I had the germ of an idea to combine my two passions at the time, being outdoors (stuck in a company car for 10 years took its toll) and working with dogs (I’d been helping out at my local rescue centre for a few months).
Mine isn’t an unusual story.
As a business mentor I’ve met many pet business owners who also just ‘stumbled’ into their business. They may have started off walking a neighbour’s dog as a favour, and before they knew it, they were known as ‘the crazy dog’ lady who will walk your dogs while you work.
The only problem with this approach is it often leads to a low priced service which grows through word of mouth. When you are building a business your reputation is paramount, and the last thing you want is a reputation for being cheap.
Little did I know, but my ‘dog adventures’ would revolutionise the pet service sector.
See, until Pack Leader Dog Adventures was born, the standard offering for dog walks was either a 30 minute or 60 minute ‘walks around the block’.
There were two reasons that didn’t interest me.
The first is I’d seen how effective ‘proper exercise’ was in settling down our recent rescue Dogue de Bordueax Barry. Despite the breeds reputation for being lazy, we found Barry to be quite a high energy Dogue. I’d taken to jogging and cycling with him (him running alongside me on the bike!) and even bought a back pack which Barry wore on Saturday morning trips to the butchers. He was quite a sight with his Ruffwear backpack filled with chops and sausages. How ironic that the original Dogue de Bordeaux was known as ‘The butchers dog’. They used to be a popular choice of French butchers and used to guard the livestock.
The second reason I knew I wanted to offer a premium service that was different, better and most importantly ‘more expensive’ than the competition was my experience in the tobacco industry.
As a sales rep for Imperial Tobacco I had monthly targets to hit (if I wanted to earn my bonus, which I did obviously…) To increase market share the company would always bring out new brands, these could be line extensions like a mild or a menthol cigarette, or completely new brands. Two things impacted how successful a brand launch was.
The first was volume. If they could get maximum distribution of a cheap new brand in lots of shops and heavily target the price conscious buyers then the brand would be a success. You can afford to sell cheaply if you are selling a big volume. The only problem is you are always susceptible to a rival company bringing out a brand that is cheaper than yours
Occasionally though, the company would launch an expensive, exclusive, high end cigarette brand, which they didn’t need to sell in as greater quantity because it had a much higher profit margin. This launch would be much more strategic and the outlets chosen to sell the brand would be hand-picked based on their customer base.
I essentially took this strategy and plugged it into my pet business. I knew as long as I marketed my business effectively, to the right kind of affluent customer then I would be able to sell my services at a much higher price, so that’s exactly what I did.
My competition provided ‘walks’ at £10 an hour.
I provided a longer ‘adventure’ and charged more than double that.
This move into the ‘premium, luxury ’ sector paved the way for a lot of the success that followed I my business.
Here’s a few examples;
My higher prices meant I had to work less hours and earn the same amount of money as my competitors.
It also meant my clients were never price buyers. They originally chose my business when cheaper options were available, so they were highly unlikely to every leave when a new cheaper alternative dog walker started up.
My higher prices meant I also attracted a better class of client. I was gobsmacked when I used to see pet business owners in Facebook groups bitching and moaning about their rubbish customers. I never had any, and I still don’t.
The extra money I was earning made cash flow in my business easier to handle. Everyone has periods of the year that are much quieter than others, but I was able to smooth over these tough times because I had money in the bank.
My premium pricing meant I had money to invest in other aspects of my business like staffing, websites, an online store, my books and all the associated costs that come with that like proofreading and cover design.
I’ve come a long way from being a little dog walker in Sunderland. I’m now an author, a mentor, a speaker and I ain’t finished yet!
Your pet dream pet business career will probably go in a completely different direction to mine, as it should do, but it will be more difficult for you to achieve any of your dreams if you don’t get to grips with marketing, and learn how to package up and promote your services to the affluent dog owners in your town.
It doesn’t happen by magic.
It doesn’t happen over time.
And it certainly won’t happen if you do what most ‘average’ pet business owners do, which is to continually invest in your dog training CPD, but neglect your marketing education.
My experience in sales and marketing meant I started my business with the skills required to create a premium pet business. It’s ok if you don’t have those skills now, but what’s not ok is sticking your head in the sand and ignoring the marketing side of your business.
That kind of attitude will keep you perennially pissed off and permanently poor.
Make a commitment to learn how to market your amazing services. You owe it to yourself, your family and the dog owning prospects in your town, who are desperate for your help but unable to find you because you are currently lost among the crappy competition .