Collette Taylor, owner of D&W Solutions Email MarketingLLC, and presenter of PSI’s May free member webinar, shared some compelling reasons for why professional pet sitters should take advantage of e-mail marketing:
- Over 95% of internet users between the ages of 18 and 64 send or read emails.
- Of the more than 235 million people across the country that use email, most of them use it every day.
- Direct mail cost 20 times as much for the same results!
E-mail may be one of the most powerful marketing tools for small businesses, but a recent PSI survey found that only 18 percent of its pet-sitting members are actively using an e-mail newsletter to communicate with current and prospective pet-sitting clients.
If you need help getting started with e-mail marketing for your pet-sitting business, PSI offers these three tips to make sure you are sending the right e-mails to the right pet owners in the right way.
1. Remember, no permission = SPAM. You never want to send an e-mail that could be considered SPAM. So, be sure that you have permission to add someone to your e-mail list before sending them your e-mail newsletter.
In PSI’s free member webinar, Taylor explained that permission can be explicit (someone signs up for your e-Newsletter from your business website) or it can be implicit (already an existing customer, requests information from you, provides you with their e-mail at a tradeshow or pet event, etc.)
2. Keep it consistent. Consistency is important in e-mail marketing. First, you want to make sure your e-mail newsletters have a consistent look and feel. Choose an e-mail template that incorporates your pet-sitting business logo and colors. Use the same template for each e-mail so that recipients can clearly identify that this is an e-mail from your company.
Also, be consistent in the distribution of your e-mail newsletter. When pet owners sign up for your e-mails, let them know how often they will receive e-mails—monthly or weekly, for example. If possible, be even more specific, such as sending your e-mail newsletter the first Monday of each month. When pet owners know when to expect your e-mails—and you are consistent in distributing them as promised—more of your recipients are likely to open and read your e-mail newsletters.
3. Quality content is a must. It doesn’t matter how many pet owners you have on your e-mail distribution list if you do not have quality content to send to them. Remember, your e-mail newsletter shouldn’t only be a sales pitch. Taylor advised mixing up the content of your e-mail newsletters to share your expertise, use facts and testimonials, repurpose content and offer discounts.
You do not have to reinvent the wheel. If writing is not one of your skills, aggregate informative articles from outside sources (do not plagiarize—link to the original article and ask permission when necessary!), like the PSI Weekly News Brief, popular pet-owner websites or information provided by other pet-related businesses in your area.
Does your pet-sitting business have an e-mail newsletter?
Are you in the 18 percent of professional pet sitters using e-mail marketing to communicate with current or prospective clients? If so, what other best practices would you suggest for pet sitters who are working on an e-mail marketing strategy?
Or, are you a professional pet sitter who is currently not using e-mail marketing? What’s holding you back?
Share your tips and questions in the comments section below.
Recently, Pet Sitters International (PSI) posed a question on its Facebook page asking pet sitters what their current #1 business challenge was.
While a few pet sitters commented about difficult clients or trouble with office procedures, there were three concerns posted by the majority of pet sitters:
- hiring staff sitters,
- finding time off and
- attracting new pet-sitting clients.
PSI has compiled some of its most-requested resources to share with pet sitters who may be facing similar problems.
#1 Hiring Staff:
Knowing when to hire and where to find reliable staff sitters were concerns noted by the majority of pet sitters responding to our recent post. Using staff sitters is not a decision to be taken lightly—and for good reason. As a pet-sitting business owner, you’ve likely invested years in developing a stellar reputation for your pet-sitting service. It can be risky allowing new sitters to service your clients, particularly if you are not sure if they will deliver the same level of service. Even scarier, some pet-sitting business owners have hired sitters only to discover later that these sitters were liars, thieves or did not show up for visits. Besides those concerns, there’s also the tricky issue of legality—should you use employees or independent contractors? Is there really a difference and what does that mean for your pet-sitting service?
Despite these concerns, hiring staff sitters is often the only way your pet-sitting business can grow beyond a certain point. And fortunately, countless pet sitters have found reliable, trustworthy staff sitters to serve as back-up and enable them to take on new clients.
If you are considering hiring staff pet sitters, be sure to check out these important resources:
#2 Taking Time Off/Achieving Work-Life Balance
There’s no question that pet sitters work long hours—and often, it probably seems as if you are on call 24/7. Your pet-sitting clients depend on you and you strive to always offer the best possible care and customer service. But, as with all professions, burnout is a possibility if you do not find time to relax and take care of yourself.
Pet sitters face unique challenges as well. It’s not that you are simply exhausted from long hours and mounds of paperwork. Instead, you also have the burden (and joy) of the emotional connections you make with clients and their pets. The privilege of being so involved with others’ pets is a highlight of the profession, but when pet sickness or death occurs, an emotional toll is taken on you. There are also the other challenges—missing holidays with your family or friends, clients who expect you to be at their beck and call and simply not having much time with your own pets.
Take advantage of these resources that offer tips for handling the unique stress pet sitters face:
#3 Attracting Pet-Sitting Clients
Whether you are just starting pet sitting or have been pet sitting for more than a decade, attracting clients is likely a top priority. As pet owners move in and out of your area, the economy changes and more pet-sitting businesses open, pet sitters must routinely find new ways to promote their services to local pet owners.
PSI’s State of the Industry Survey found that word of mouth, PSI’s Pet Sitter Locator, business cards and a business website were some of the most popular forms of pet-sitter advertising. Need more marketing ideas? Check out these resources with tips for low-cost, proven ways to promote your pet-sitting services:
What is your #1 pet-sitting business challenge?
Is your top business challenges one of the issues discussed above or do you have another pressing issue in your pet-sitting business that you’re currently trying to solve? Share your comments and questions below.
While summer vacations and winter holidays likely mean busy times for your pet-sitting business, don’t forget other holidays and observances can also offer a great opportunity to promote your services and go the extra mile to make your clients happy. With spring in the air, one of the first holidays of the season is Mother’s Day. Whether you have open spots in your pet-sitting calendar that you’d like to fill or you are simply looking for a new idea to wow your current clients, Mother’s Day is an often overlooked time to promote your pet-sitting business.
If you’re in need of some Mother’s Day marketing inspiration, check out these five ideas from Pet Sitters International:
1. If you still have space for pet-sitting assignments Mother’s Day weekend, e-mail is a good place to start. Do you send your clients an e-mail newsletter? If so, consider sending an e-mail with a subject line similar to “Planning a last-minute weekend getaway for Mom? Don't forget your pets!” This type of e-mail is a great way let your clients know you still have a few spots available and to contact you to schedule their pet-sitting visits. You may even consider offering a Mother’s Day coupon.
2. If your pet-sitting schedule is full, an e-mail promotion can still be beneficial. Consider sending a Happy Mother's Day e-mail to your female clients… “Mother's Day is for fur-moms, too!” This e-mail is also a perfect time to include a reminder about how quickly your summer pet-sitting calendar is filling up. If you know any dates that you will not be available, include that information in the e-mail as well. This type of e-mail shows you value your clients and also keeps you top-of-mind with your clients who are likely busy making summer travel plans.
3. Want to put a smile on your clients’ faces? Consider making some simple Mother's Day cards from the pet that you could leave behind for your clients. If possible, include a photo of their pet/s. You can leave these at all of the female clients’ homes you will be visiting Mother’s Day weekend (or the week leading up to Mother’s Day). Happy clients are your best form of advertisement and your clients are sure to spread the word about thoughtful gestures like this!
4. Contact your local media. Consider writing and sending a press release about what to give pet parents for Mother’s Day. This offers a unique twist on the typical articles with Mother’s Day gift ideas for moms. Send the release to your local newspaper and news stations. If you do not already have a relationship with your local media, check out these tips for getting your pet-sitting company’s name in the news. If you have a blog for your pet-sitting business, be sure to post the release there. You can also take advantage of free online distribution sites, such as PRLog.com.
5. Share the love on social media sites. You can also use your pet-sitting company’s social media pages to wish your clients a Happy Mother's Day and share any special offers. Remember, photos and images get more “likes” on Facebook, so consider posting a photo of pets with a “Happy Mother’s Day” message. You can also get your clients involved by asking your female clients to share photos of themselves with their “pet children” on your page. As a special “thank you” to your mom clients, you could even randomly select one client who shares her picture on your page to receive a free pet-sitting visit. When using social media to promote your pet-sitting business, remember to keep these social-media etiquette tips in mind.
How are you sharing the love this Mother’s Day?
Does your company offer any special discounts or plan promotions around Mother’s Day? Are there any other holidays that you use to advertise your business?
Share your experiences and tips in the comments section below.
The summer months are fast approaching—and it’s the perfect time to increase your marketing efforts to reach current and prospective clients who can benefit from your pet-sitting services when they travel this summer.
If your summer schedule is not already fully-booked and you are looking to increase business, check out these tips you can use now to promote your pet-sitting services to local pet owners.
1. Make sure your profile information is up-to-date on PSI’s Locator (and all online listings). One of the easiest ways to maximize promotion of your business for the upcoming summer months is to make sure the information you currently have online is up-to-date. If you are a PSI member, log-in to make sure your information on PSI’s Official Pet Sitter Locator® includes your correct contact information, notes the services you offer and types of pets you will care for and lists all of the zip codes you service. Review any additional online listings you may have to ensure that you can easily be found by the pet owners you want to reach.
2. Send out a press release. Press releases are still one of the best ways to promote your business. Local media coverage is low cost, can be highly targeted, uses the credibility of neutral third-party endorsements, builds image and can generate leads. Check out this previous blog post with tips for getting your pet-sitting business featured by local news outlets. Make sure your press release is timely and relevant. You could write a press release on the projected increase in summer travel and offer tips for traveling pet owners, or you could share a press release that offers tips on keeping pets safe in the summer months. PSI members can download a customizable press release template, “Surviving the Dog Days of Summer,” in the Members’ area of petsit.com.
3. E-mail your current clients. Your current clients offer your best opportunity to increase your revenues this summer. While social media sites like Facebook and Twitter offer an easy way to connect with your current clients, don’t forget about the power of e-mail marketing. Send an e-Newsletter out to current clients reminding them to book early for their summer pet-sitting needs. Some pet sitters even offer a special discount for clients who book early. This e-Newsletter is also a good time to encourage your current clients to spread the word about your pet-sitting business to their friends and family who may also be in need of pet-sitting services this summer. If you offer any type of referral discount or incentive, be sure to mention it in this e-mail.
4. Ramp up your local advertising. Now is the time to post your pet-sitting business cards, flyers and brochures everywhere you can think of. Be sure to keep a supply of business cards or flyers with you so that you can post them any time you see a bulletin board—at the local grocery stores, pet stores, post office, etc. Contact your local travel agency to see if you could make your brochures available in their office. Local realtors are a good connection to have as well, as they can distribute information about your pet-sitting services to new home buyers year-round.
Don’t forget to also increase advertising in the specific neighborhoods you want to service. Promotional pet-sitting door knob hangers, like those available at the PSIStoreOnline.com, are great to leave on the doors of homes in neighborhoods you are already servicing. Don’t forget to also take advantage of local events that may be going on—offer a pet-sitting gift card as a door prize or charity auction item. It’s also a good time to partner with your local animal shelter and pet-rescue organizations. Those adopting pets now could likely benefit from your services when they begin planning their summer vacations. Having your business card, brochure or even a coupon in the adoption packet that goes to these pet owners is a great advertisement!
5. Get even more social online. By now, you probably already have business accounts on Facebook or Twitter. And if you’ve been following this blog, you’ve probably made note of these social media etiquette tips for pet sitters and taken the six steps to improve your pet-sitting business’ social media presence. So now, with the summer months fast approaching, it’s time to increase your online activity. Schedule daily posts that offer timely pet-care tips, feature funny or cute (but tasteful!) pet photos or cartoons and share information about local upcoming pet events. The more you can get your page’s fans to “like” (or retweet) your content, the more people will be exposed to what you post. This is a great way to bring your business to the attention of local pet owners who may be in the process of planning summer travel.
6. Think outside the box. As you approach the summer months, it’s important to increase the marketing efforts you’ve already been using that are working for you from business cards and flyers to social media promotion. It is also a good time to think outside the box and try new marketing tactics that you may not have considered before. Consider buying advertising in a local school’s yearbook or in a local sports league’s program guide. Both often offer inexpensive advertising options. Is there a spring or summer outdoor concert series in your community? See if there are sponsorship opportunities. If there is a local family friendly restaurant you frequent, see if you can make coloring sheets available (with your company information included) for the staff to pass out to patrons with children. Depending on where you live and the activities available, there are countless ways for you to reach out to local pet owners through free or low-cost promotions.
Are you already booking summer pet-sitting assignments? Tell us what works for you.
How soon do you begin booking your summer pet-sitting assignments? Have you increased your marketing efforts to help fill your summer calendar? Share in the comments section below to let us know if you’ve tried any of these ideas—or if you have other tips—to start promoting your pet-sitting services now to summer travelers.
As a professional pet sitter, it is essential that you have a professional website for your business, but creating one is no small feat. You may be very web savvy and know how to create your own website using a low-cost site builder tool. Or, with the effort needed to manage your pet-sitting business, you may not be able to invest the amount of time to create a professional business website.
Either way, before deciding to create your own website or outsource the project to a professional designer, consider these factors:
Free programs or do-it-yourself web design kits save you money initially, but remember to factor in the time you will spend. How much is your time worth and do you have the time to devote to designing and creating your site? Before embarking on the task, ask your business contacts or other professionals whose sites you admire what their time and money investments were like.
Even with free programs, you will need web-design knowledge. To build a professional, effective website, you will need a solid understanding of website design and a good understanding of search engine optimization (SEO). Effectively using SEO for your business website is necessary to ensure that your site comes up in web searches for local pet sitters. With the growing number of people using smartphones, you’ll also want to make sure that your website is mobile-compatible. If you are not confident in these areas, consider at least consulting with a professional developer before creating your site.
Do you have time to keep up with the ever-changing World Wide Web? A static website with rare updates will not help drive more traffic to your site. To effectively market your business and stay in the top of search results, your website must constantly offer new content. Maintaining a company blog on your website is a good way to ensure that you always have fresh content.
Make sure that your website platform allows you to make these changes when needed. Make sure your site allows you to integrate your social media pages, blog and e-commerce functionality if needed.
Invest the time necessary to create good online content. When it comes to the creation of website design and content, less is often more. Think from your potential client’s perspective—what information is most important, what will make your site attractive, easy to read and easy to navigate?
You want to make sure that your key information is easy-to-find. Can visitors to your website easily locate your phone number and e-mail address on each page of your website? Also, if you want pet owners to engage with you on social media, do you have your social media icons integrated into your website?
When designing your website, create a consistent look and feel. You own a professional business and your website should reflect this. Your website should be consistent with your business brand. Use colors and images similar to your business logo and other marketing materials.
Think about the websites you visit. Have you ever been to a website that had flashing graphics, used different fonts and almost gave you a feeling that this may not be a safe site to visit? Don’t be that website. Make sure your site looks professional and provides potential clients with confidence in using your services.
Good luck creating or updating your website! A well-planned and professional site is essential for your business. Remember to include your PSI Member logo on your website to display your professionalism.
Are there other tips you would offer to fellow pet sitters either creating or updating their business websites? Share your suggestions below.
PSI’s latest social media survey found that nearly three in five professional pet sitters use at least one social media platform for their pet-sitting businesses. Pet sitters want to engage with local pet owners and fellow pet sitters online, but they don’t want to take a lot of time out of their busy schedules to devote to their business use of social media. In fact, nine out of 10 pet sitters reported spending five hours or less on social media for business use each week.
With social media use among professional pet sitters on the rise, but time to spend on social media at a premium, Pet Sitters International offers these six tips to help pet sitters make the most of their social media presence:
1. Spruce up your social media profiles: It’s time for spring cleaning and the perfect time to take a closer look at your pet-sitting business’ various social media accounts. Whether you are on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or all of the above, make sure your images and profile information are giving the best possible impression of your company.
Take a look at your profile images and cover photos. Make sure the images are not fuzzy and are sized and cropped properly. You don’t want half of your logo cut off! Also make sure you are aware of any changes to the profile restrictions on the various social media sites. Facebook, for example, has removed some of its restrictions for your cover photos and you can now include calls to action in your image.
Be sure to read your profile information as well. Make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors. You’ll also want to make sure that you’ve included your company’s contact information, including website, phone number and e-mail address. You want to make it as easy as possible for potential and current clients to reach you!
2. Share more images: With more than 75 percent of PSI pet sitters sharing photos of clients’ pets on their company’s social media sites, it’s clear that pet sitters are already figuring out that social media users love pictures! In fact, one study found that photos and other images uploaded by businesses to their Facebook pages get 53 percent more “likes” than updates that include only text or a link. Business experts agree that sharing more photos can help increase your number of social media followers—and you can use your own photos and images or share those posted by others. Photos that evoke an emotional response are particularly effective.
If you are sharing images of cartoons or quotes make sure they are in good taste and not offensive to your online audience. Also remember to ask permission before sharing photos of clients’ pets and always take extra precautions to ensure that your online photo sharing doesn’t jeopardize your clients’ privacy.
3. Ask questions: Sharing important pet-related tips, resources and information online can go a long way in establishing you as a local pet-care expert, but make sure you aren’t having a one-sided conversation with your audience. One of the easiest ways to generate online conversation with your fans or followers is to pose a question.
Ask for recommendations for local pet-friendly attractions or events or inquire about favorite pet products. You can get more personal by asking your fans or followers to share about pets that have passed away, a favorite memory with their pet or how their pets have changed their lives. Asking online questions is also a good way to conduct informal market research. For example, you can ask pet owners how far in advance they plan vacations or book pet-sitting assignments. If you ask for specific feedback about your business, be sure to respond to any concerns that may be posted.
4. Curate and share relevant content: A concern we often hear from pet sitters is “how can I possibly find time to search for good information to post on my social media pages?” Fortunately, you’re not expected to share only original content. In addition to sharing information about local pet events, client photos and reminders to book pet-sitting services, share information from other pages you follow. New tips are posted on the PSI Facebook page and PSI Twitter account each day. You can also share articles from the PSI Weekly News Brief—all articles in this weekly e-mail include social share buttons so that you can easily post the articles to your social media pages.
Be sure to follow other local pet professionals, such as veterinarians or pet stores, on your social media sites and share their information when relevant. Companies and publications such as VPI® Pet Insurance and Dog Channel also share great pet tips that you can post on your own pages. Don’t forget to also follow other PSI member pet sitters online—your pet-sitting peers can be a great source for ideas!
5. Stick to a calendar and schedule posts: While many pet sitters worry about having time to find great information to share online, even more worry about simply having enough time to even post on their social media pages at all. When it comes to using social media for your pet-sitting business, preparation is key.
Consider setting aside an hour to draft a social media calendar each month. Make note of any local pet-related events, special offers from your company or pet-related observances (such as Professional Pet Sitters Week or National Pet Month) that you want to highlight and add those to your calendar first. If you want to have planned posts daily, fill in the other days with links to informative pet-related articles, etc.
Use Facebook’s scheduling feature or a site like Hootsuite for Twitter to schedule those posts in advance. Then, as you check your social media pages throughout the month, you can share posts or tweets from others you follow on your own pages as well. These posts, combined with photos of clients’ pets you may share, will ensure you are posting frequently.
6. Don’t forget your current clients. While it’s exciting to gain new pet-sitting clients whom you first “meet” on Facebook or Twitter, don’t forget that social media is a powerful tool for connecting with your current clients as well. Let your current clients know where to find you online by including your social media links in your e-mail newsletter, your e-mail signature, on your business website and your business cards. You can also include a message to find you online on any client handouts you leave behind at clients’ homes or on the daily pet report card you leave at the end of pet-sitting assignments.
If you do share photos of clients’ pets online, be sure to ask their permission first and let them know to follow you so that they can see any photos you post. Consider featuring a “pet client of the week” to highlight the pets you care for and show appreciation for your clients.
You can also offer specials on your social media pages to encourage and thank clients for following you online. Post special deals on Facebook or Twitter than instruct clients to mention the post when they book your services by a certain date to receive a special discount.
How social is your pet-sitting business?
What social media sites do you use for your business? Are you already using the best practices detailed above? Share your experiences and any social media tips you’d like to add to this list in the comments section below.
You’ve decided to open a pet-sitting business. Now what? One of the very first things to do is to name your business. Selecting the perfect name for your pet-sitting business can be tricky.
You can’t pick just any name for your pet-sitting business.
With the ever-increasing number of pet-sitting companies, some business names have already been trademarked, which means these names can’t be used.
Although hiring an attorney may involve some expense, it is a wise initial investment to find out if you have the RIGHT to use a specific business name.
For example, a pet sitter in Florida had been doing business under a certain name for more than a year. She had established an excellent reputation and developed a devoted clientele. Then out of the blue, a letter arrived from an attorney in the Midwest informing her to cease and desist use of her business's name immediately because it was federally trademarked by his client.
To make a long story short, the Florida pet sitter had to hire an attorney to look into the matter, only to find that indeed, she did not have the right to do business under her current name. Her innocent mistake ended up being a very costly one. It was expensive to change all of her forms, stationary and business literature. Having to notify her clients of a new name was awkward as well. It would have been less expensive to go through all the proper name-checking channels at the outset - not to mention the headaches she would have been spared.
How can you select and protect your pet-sitting business name?
When brainstorming business names, consider incorporating your city or community name, your own name or something specific to you to avoid selecting a name that’s already taken.
Once you’ve narrowed down your name selections to a few favorites, you’ll want to take the necessary steps to ensure you pick a final business name you can actually use:
- Check with your county clerk’s office to see if these names are in use by another business in your community.
- If the name is locally available, the next inquiry should be to the Secretary of State’s office to determine if anyone in your state has registered your preferred business name.
- Next, check to see if your preferred business name has already been trademarked with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. You can determine if there’s a federal trademark on the name by checking registrations through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or by hiring a patent and trademark attorney to do this verification for you.
- Once you’ve decided on a business name, be sure to protect it. Register and trademark your business name to ensure that another business doesn’t, which could prevent you from using it down the road.
How do other pet sitters choose their business name?
Naming your pet-sitting service is not a decision to be taken lightly. It sets the tone for your business and it’s included on all of your company’s materials from your website to business cards and fliers. Recently PSI posed this question on its Facebook page: “How did you select the name of your pet-sitting business? Knowing what you know now, would you have kept the same name for your business?”
Some pet sitters used their city or state in their business name:
Christina B.: I named my business Connecticut Pet Sitter LLC. It was the best decision I ever made and I was even lucky enough to get www.ctpetsitter.com as my website domain.
Others incorporated their own pets’ names into their business name:
Elise N.: “It took me a while to think of my business name, but I finally went with a nickname I use for my dog: Bandito Pet Sitting. It is definitely a lot different than any other pet-sitting business name in my area!”
Many pet sitters mentioned that they selected their business name with a desire to evoke a certain emotion or feeling:
Emery F.: “My name is Emery and people frequently call me ‘Em.’ I wanted clients to have a warm and fuzzy feeling when seeing my business name to create a comfort level. So, the name I chose was Auntie Em’s Pet Sitting & Dog Walking.”
Some selected a name that identified their specific pet-sitting clientele:
Executive Pets: “I selected the business name Executive Pets because I am targeting the executive market—business people who travel regularly for business or pleasure.”
Tracey B.: “My pet-sitting business caters to clients who are wealthy and travel often. So, I chose the name Jet Set Pet Sitters. My motto is ‘when you jet set…we’ll pet sit!’”
Others incorporate their own name into their pet-sitting business name:
Laura W.: “I have an easy last name so Woods Pet Sitting was a no-brainer decision for me. I changed my business name to Woods Pet Care two years ago. As I told my clients, we do more than ‘sit’ with your pets.”
For one pet-sitting company, the business name was a family tradition:
Copy Cat & Dog Care: “I get asked a lot about my business name. My cousin was interested in starting a pet-sitting business in 2005. Her sister had a successful pet-care business in another city at the time and she wanted to try starting her own. She wanted a unique business name. As she was sharing possible business names with her teenage daughter, her daughter accused her of being a ‘copycat’ since she wanted to do the same thing as her sister. My cousin ran with that idea and named her business Copy Cat & Dog Care. When I took over the business in 2008, I kept the name since I, too, was a copycat. It ends up we’re just a family of copycats!”
How did you choose your pet-sitting business name?
Do you have a creative name for your pet-sitting business? Or a simple name that works well for your business and your pet-sitting clients? Tell us your pet-sitting business name and how you chose the name in the comments section below.
You’ve received a phone call from a potential client who is interested in using your services. Now it’s time to schedule an initial consultation, or “meet and greet” consultation.
What is a "Pet-Sitter Meet and Greet" or Initial Consultation?
The meet and greet consultation is an introductory meeting at the prospective client’s home. Many pet sitters offer this initial consultation free-of-charge, but some do require a small fee that is often credited to the client’s account if pet-sitting services are booked.
This consultation allows:
- the client to meet you and feel comfortable with allowing you into their home.
- you to get acquainted with the pet, have the client personally show you the pet’s routine and the home’s layout and detail the services you provide.
As a professional pet sitter, the initial consultation should be a prerequisite to accepting a pet-sitting assignment. Let potential clients know that the pet-sitting reservation will not be confirmed until the initial consultation has taken place and the service contract has been signed.
Here are 8 tips for conducting pet-sitter meet and greet consultations:
- Allow thirty to forty-five minutes for each interview.
- Remember that first impressions are important. Even if you’ve had a long day of sits, it is important to be clean and presentable at these meetings.
- Keep in mind that initial consultations are business calls, not social events. Be friendly and professional as you lead the meeting. Try to conduct it at a dining room table, rather than the sofa—and politely decline any offers of coffee or snacks, especially if you are on a tight schedule!
- Have your pet-sitter presentation book with you to share your information with the clients. Many pet sitters also bring packets of information to leave behind with the clients as well.
- The client will be watching to see how you interact and react to their pet(s). Give the pet time to get used to you and remember to interact with the pet, as well as the clients.
- Obtain good written instructions and notes about the care of the home and pet(s).
- Be knowledgeable and prepared to discuss any company policies, such as payments, late-night visits, insurance carrier, and so on.
- Have your service contract on hand to be completed and signed, if all goes well at the initial consultation.
You can also use these best practices for a successful pet-sitter meet and greet.
Being prepared and knowledgeable is extremely important. Using the best practices below can help as well. PSI member Cara Amour, 2009 Pet Sitter of the Year™ and co-owner of Active Paws, Inc., shared these tips with pet sitters at PSI’s 2012 Quest for Excellence Convention:
- Don’t ring the doorbell for cat interviews.
- Learn the breed of cat or dog before you go into the interview.
- Pay attention to whether the clients have a pile of shoes by the door or are wearing slippers. If so, offer to take your shoes off.
- Always keep a lint roller in your car.
- Review their contact information prior to the meeting. This will help you address both the humans and pets by name.
- Encourage prospective clients to have a copy of their house keys available at the initial consultation, so you will not have to go back to pick up the keys if they schedule pet-sitting visits.
What works for you at pet-sitting meet and greet consultations?
Do you follow the guidelines for meet and greet visits described in this post? Do you have other tips that you recommend to make a great first impression on prospective clients?
Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below. And remember, in this digital age, your website and social media pages may be making your first impression for you. So, be sure your online presence is professional and polished so that you can receive those calls from prospective clients to set up a meet and greet consultation!
When Dr. Tina Wismer, DVM, DABVT, DABT, Medical Director at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, presented Pet Sitters International’s March 2013 free member webinar, “Tips for Pet Poison Prevention,” she reminded the participating pet sitters of a very important point: Pet owners look to their professional pet sitters to be the expert.
March is National Pet Poison Prevention Month and it’s the perfect time to test your pet-poison knowledge and share important tips for pet poison prevention with your clients.
What should you do if you suspect a client’s pet has come in contact with a pet poison?
As a professional pet sitter, there are some basic precautions you should keep in mind when it comes to potential pet poisonings:
- Know your client’s veterinarian's procedures for emergency situations, including phone numbers for their veterinarian, ER clinic and the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center.
- Do not attempt any therapy without contacting a veterinarian.
- If the animal is seizing, unconscious or having difficulty breathing, you should go directly to the veterinarian.
It’s also important to always be prepared and have the supplies that you’ll need on hand to either follow a veterinarian’s instructions to assist the pet or rush a poisoned pet to the veterinarian’s office or emergency clinic.
What should be in your poison safety kit?
- Fresh bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide
- Can of soft dog or cat food
- Turkey baster, bulb syringe or large medicine syringe
- Saline eye solution
- Artificial tear ointment
- Mild grease-cutting dishwashing liquid
- Rubber gloves
- Forceps or tweezers to remove stingers or ticks
- Muzzle (or length of gauze)
- Pet carrier
Toilet water, medications, raisins and silica gel…oh my!
Did you know one Aleve pill can cause kidney failure in a 40 pound dog and one acetaminophen pill can potentially kill a cat?
What’s more, the items you are not familiar with may be the most dangerous. For example, while Poinsettias may be over-rated as a toxic plant, Cycad Palms—a common houseplant—can be dangerous to all animal species, even causing liver failure.
It’s important to not only be aware of what items and substances are potentially harmful to your pets and the pets you care for—but you also need to have an understanding of what quantities/dosages of various substances are dangerous, what symptoms they may cause and how you should respond.
What you need to know to prevent pet poisoning.
PSI members, log-in to the Members’ area of petsit.com to access an on-demand recording of PSI’s free member webinar “Tips for Pet Poison Prevention,” presented by Dr. Tina Wismer.
The webinar offers a comprehensive explanation of common toxins pets may encounter indoors or outdoors. Dr. Wismer also discusses the symptoms and how pet sitters can respond in each situation.
Also be sure to visit the ASPA Animal Poison Control Center website for additional information and free resources to share with your clients.
Have you ever had to deal with a pet-poisoning situation while pet sitting—what happened and how did you respond? Share your stories in the comments section below.
As a professional pet sitter, you likely see your clients’ pets more than any other pet professional—such as groomers or veterinarians—particularly if you are offering daily visits. Because of this, your clients see you as a trusted pet-care advisor and look to you for a variety of pet-related information. Don’t disappoint them. Stay up-to-date on the latest in pet-care trends, pet nutrition and pet-care information by reading pet-related magazines and books, attending animal-care workshops, becoming a Certified Professional Pet Sitter (CPPS) and taking advantage of continuing education opportunities.
Being the go-to resource for pet-care information doesn’t just benefit your clients—it can also benefit your business. By establishing yourself as a local pet-care expert, you can introduce your services to a much wider audience of potential clients.
So, how exactly can you become your city’s local pet-care resource?
PSI suggests starting with your clients, then expanding your reach:
Share information on the go with client leave-behinds. Keep the lines of communication open and offer timely pet-care tips and news with client leave-behinds. Because you don’t often see your human clients during a pet-sitting assignment, client leave-behinds are a perfect way to share information with clients with little effort on your part. (You’ll already be at their homes, so it’s easy to simply leave a brochure or flyer on the counter.) In addition to a daily pet report card, which you should be completing with every pet-sitting visit, consider leaving behind announcements about upcoming pet-related events, seasonal tips such as winter pet care or even fun resources like a list of games to play with their dog or cat. PSI pet sitters can take advantage of the Handouts for Clients section of the PSI Member Template Gallery. Don’t forget to include your business name, logo and contact information on any resources you leave behind for your clients. You want to make sure that any time they access a particular resource they are remind that it came from you—their trusted professional pet sitter.
Reach out to the local media. Do you want a quick way to let your entire community know that you are a professional resource on pet care? Get quoted in your local newspaper or interviewed by a local news station. Your business can reap many benefits when you are able to position yourself as an expert in the local media and with other influential pet people in your area. This involves developing, managing and maintaining relationships with members of your local media. Media relations is low cost, can be highly targeted, uses the credibility of neutral third-party endorsements, builds image and can generate leads. So how can you get started? Send timely, relevant press releases to your local media contacts. If your area is experiencing a heat wave, send a press release reminding pet owners that their pets are affected too, and offer tips for protecting pets from the heat. You can also send press releases about national/international events such as Professional Pet Sitters Week™ and offer to be a local media contact.
Another way to establish a relationship with local reporters is to simply provide them with backgrounders that give information and explain various topics pertaining to the industry. The backgrounder paper can encourage the reporter to take a closer look at pet sitting. Even if he or she does not write a story right away, you have introduced yourself as a local resource for pet-related stories. If you are ready to begin reaching out to local media, check out these tips on how to get your pet-sitting business featured on local news outlets.
Participate in community events. Participating in a local tradeshow, fair or festival is an excellent way to make face-to-face contact with local pet owners—your potential clients. If you will be having a booth space at a local event, pre-planning is vital to make sure you make the most of your participation. Don’t simply sell to your booth visitors—educate them! Be sure to have plenty of materials available that they can take with them, including pet-care tips, pet-health information and similar resources. Event participation is not only a chance to advertise your pet-sitting services, it also provides you with the opportunity to highlight your professional knowledge of companion animals. As with client handouts, be sure that any materials you make available at events include your company name, logo and contact information. You want these pet owners to be able to easily reach you when they are in need of pet-sitting services. Not sure what to share at your booth? The Event Materials section of the PSI Member Template Gallery offers downloadable, customizable handouts for use at local events.
Host workshops and seminars for local pet owners. If you are comfortable participating in local events, it may be time to take the next step. Host your own event to educate local pet owners. You don’t have to plan your event alone. Consider working in conjunction with local partners including pet store owners, veterinarians and other pet lovers to make an event that’s informative and educational to the general public, while supporting your goal of achieving higher recognition for your pet-sitting service.
Some ideas for event topics include:
- Pet care tips – Demonstrate best ways to clean, groom and care for pets with real life pets as models (or you can use stuffed pets if this is not practical).
- Training tips – Consider including a local pet trainer to demonstrate ways to begin the training process with a new pet or an old best friend.
- Pet first aid – Check with your local Red Cross for availability of an expert in pet first aid or consider enlisting the assistance of a Pet Tech instructor.
- Humane Society, ASPCA and rescue groups public education – If your town has an advocacy group appropriate to include in the event, speak with their leaders about offering a presentation to educate people on their particular local mission.
Interested in planning a local event, but need a little help? Learn more with these tips for pet sitters planning a community event
Have any of these ideas worked for you?
Have you employed any of these ideas for your pet-sitting service? Have you found that sharing your pet-care knowledge has built credibility with your current clients and attracted new ones? Share your experiences and tips in the comments section below.