Marketing is a key part of every successful business, but small business owners and startup founders seem to choose the spray and pray method, which is a waste of time and money. First, remember that your marketing activities and goals should support your business goals. What results are you hoping to get by marketing your business?

Once you’ve set your business goals, and are clear on what you want to achieve and when, setting your marketing goals, and deciding how and where to spend your marketing dollars, will be far easier. With these ideas in mind, these five questions will help you navigate the marketing side of your business.

  1. What are you selling?
  2. Why would people pay for it?
  3. Who is your ideal customer?
  4. What do you want to tell customers?
  5. What’s the best way to get your message in front of customers?


To illustrate, let’s pretend you want to start a pet-sitting business for people going out of town.

What Are You Selling?

In this case, your pet hotel provides a service, not a product. Why is your version special or different from what’s already on the market? Do the research. Find out what competitors are lacking or missing. Maybe your location is more convenient. How do customers benefit? Customers get peace of mind when they use your business. By understanding what makes your service unique and why it’s important to customers, you’ll be better equipped to identify new customers, and know what message to communicate.

Why Would People Pay For It?

People will pay for a service that solves or alleviates a real problem, so it’s important to understand the problem you solve and the real value you offer. You know you solve the, “Who will take care of my pet while I’m away?” problem and provide a safe, comfortable, trusted place where pets will be taken care of. The service you provide is pet sitting, but the real value you give pet owners, and what they are paying for, is peace of mind.

Who Is Your Ideal Customer?

Who needs a pet-sitting service? Pet owners! You can also segment this audience into cat owners, dog owners or bird owners, for example. What else do you know about this group? Are pet owners in your area primarily men or women? How old are they? The more you know about your ideal customer and what they care about, the more targeted your marketing activities can be.

What Do You Want to Say?

Your message needs to resonate with pet owners. You’re asking them to trust you with their precious little Fido. Pet owners want peace of mind knowing that your staff will treat Fido even better than their own pet. Try to address the problem people have, the obstacles that may be stopping them from giving your business a try, or the thing(s) they really care about. In this case, trust and peace of mind are important.

Don’t forget that marketing is meant to support your business goals. If one of your goals is to get 50 new customers in 6 months, you may need to put your message in front of about 2500 pet owners. Let’s use a Facebook ad as an example of one marketing activity to help you achieve your goal.

Targeting people interested in dogs, cats, or pet-related things within 5 km of your location might be a good enough place to start. Use a great image of a happy dog and owner to help reduce the perceived risk. Add text that relates to the problem, the obstacles, or the benefits. You could try asking a question. “Tired of asking friends to care of your dog while you’re away?” Or, you can speak to the peace of mind you offer pet owners. “The cost of knowing your pet is in amazing hands while you’re away? Priceless.” People need to know your business exists and why it’s the absolute best place to send Fido.

What’s The Best Way To Get Your Message In Front Of Customers?

The goal is to only put your message in front of people likely to be interested in your business. Consider dog owners. Many of them spend time at dog parks. Visit the dog parks (preferably with your dog) in your area and chat with people. Without being pushy, work “What do you do?” into the conversation, giving you an opportunity to tell them about your pet-sitting business and listen to what their needs are. Give them a coupon to incentivize a first visit. If they try it and like it, they will tell their dog-owning friends.

You can reward existing customers for referring new customers. Send along an email to existing customers to tell them about it. Both the coupon and referral options allow you to measure their effectiveness. How many people used the coupon? How many people did Joe from the dog park send your way? Trust is a barrier to trying a service for the first time. People are more likely to trust a referral from a friend over any ad or flyer they see.

Dog owners also go to pet food and supply stores, veterinarian offices, dog walkers, and groomers. These are other marketing channels that will help you place your message in front of potential customers. Try to form relationships with these business owners and establish a referral trade system.

This logic also works for online ads and with social media. What key words do they use when searching for pet things online? What websites, blogs, etc. do they visit? Join online pet-loving communities to gain insight on what’s important to pet owners and what their needs are.


The goal is to put your message in front of potential customers, not everyone. With these basic marketing bases covered, you’ll get much more bang for your marketing buck!

[Photo Credit: Hebi65]