Six Free or Cheap Ways to Find New Customers

A well known rule of business is that it is easier to keep existing customers than it is to find new ones. For this reason, it is important that groomers take care to build relationships with their customers. Even for those who have an excellent customer retention rate, all of us need to find new customers from time to time. Here are 6 ideas for ways to get the word out about what you have to offer to new customers. 

  1. Be a walking billboard. A grooming friend of mine designed really stylish shirts and a jacket with her bright, eye catching logo and business name. She wore them out and about, and they were serious conversation starters. Studies show that the average adult has an attention span of just 6-8 seconds to have their interest captured. So, if you are wearing a snazzy shirt emblazoned with your business name and logo, and someone asks you about it, it's a win.  You then have approximately 60 seconds to tell them about your business before they tune out.  Experts suggest that business owners formulate and practice a blurb about what they want people to know about their work that is 60 seconds or less.  Imagine this; you are wearing a jacket or ball cap with your logo and name on it. Someone notices and asks you about it. You are prepared with a quick, enthusiastic explanation of what you have to offer them. And you also have...
  2. A really nice business card.  Many groomers I know try to pinch pennies when they buy cards. I think this is a big mistake. Even really expensive business cards are not a huge investment. An eye catching business card, well designed with all the important information a potential customer needs to get in touch with you in a wise investment in your future. In many cases your card is the very first impression people will have of you. Hand those things out everywhere!  If you are walking your dog and talk to another dog owner, give them a card. If you meet a new person, give them a card. Say you are at a business that has a bulletin board, put a couple cards up there. 
  3. Network with other pet care professionals.  Doggy day care providers, pet photographers, dog walkers, trainers and more can be potential partners. Offer to recommend their services if they recommend yours. You can get a group of pet related businesses together and host a public event to educate people about the services all of you offer. You can also share links on web sites and on social media. This is a huge win/win for all parties involved, and a great way to target the pet owning public. 
  4. Speaking of social media, a 2015 study showed that more than 2/3's of adults engage in social media. You might be surprised at the wide range of people you can reach this way. I recently had a man in his 80's tell me he found my business after someone referred to me on Facebook. Choose a few formats that appeal to you, and publish content often. The more you post photos and interesting information, the greater chance you have of your posts being shared. This is free advertising that has long reaching impact. 
  5. Give something away. People love to get something for nothing. Try offering a free add-on service with grooms for a period of time. Some suggestions are: a hot oil or deep conditioning treatment, a seasonal facial, a paw treatment or  upgraded spa package. These services don't cost much to offer, but can attract new customers to try your business. 
  6. Give a nail clinic.  This month my business will be at the local fire house where a low cost rabies clinic will be held. We will do nail trims for a $10 donation, and all the money raised will go to help support the volunteer fire department. You can do something similar. Many rescue organizations hold public events throughout the year. If you can arrange to do a nail trim clinic there you can meet a lot of pet loving people, and raise money for a worthy cause at the same time. 

As groomers, our advertising efforts should be focused very locally. This makes it easier for us to reach potential customers. Beyond my suggestions, brainstorm ways to target the customers you seek within your community. 



Goodwill towards groomers...

The holiday season is upon us, rich with goodwill towards all. It makes me think about groomers, extending goodwill towards (gasp) OTHER GROOMERS.  A few thousand years ago I went to my very first grooming seminar. It was given by John Stazko, an industry legend. It was a wonderful seminar, and I learned a lot. But all these years later I remember two things. The first thing was that at the beginning of the seminar, John had us all stand up, and introduce ourselves to the groomers sitting on either side of us. We were to shake hands. It was... awkward.

When we all sat down, John said, "There. You just talked to another groomer and you didn't die," (or something to that effect.)  It as then that I realized, many groomers do NOT like to interact with others in our field. I'm not sure if it's insecurity, or competitiveness, or something else entirely. The second thing I remember is that John handed out his business cards to all of us and told us if we ever had a question to call him.  I was in awe. This guy was a BIG DEAL. And he was giving us his personal contact information. He seemed very sincere.  Many years later I DID have a huge question, and I called. Guess what? He called me back! He was on his way to go on vacation, but he took time to call and help me out.  He talked to me for a long time, answering all my questions. Learning from his example and lessons, I have tried to be available to other groomers any time I could. I don't know if I have helped anyone, but the many groomers I have relationships with have certainly enriched my life. 

Some of my best friends are other groomers. I have a bunch of on-line groomer friends, only a key stroke away if I have a question. Better yet, I have some that I see and interact with in real life.  There is nothing like having another groomer for a pal. Only another groomer fully knows the day-long horror of getting a squirt of anal sac "juice" on your face.  Or worse, in your hair. They understand what happens when a dog has blow-out diarrhea when you are using a high velocity dryer. They get it when you tell them that you dropped your favorite, most expensive scissors on concrete. 

In on-line groomer forums there is endless support and encouragement for others in our field. And there is also some terrible meanness.   And locally, so few groomers even speak. It does not have to be that way. At my last job we had a wonderful thing called, "The HAPPY List."  This list encompassed customers that we would be happy to NOT do business with. We shared this with other pet stylists in the area. Here are some examples: the customer with a vicious dog that refused to divulge the fact that their pet would cheerfully remove a finger. Or a facial feature. Then there is the customer who repeatedly bounces checks. The serial last-minute canceller.  Or the one that is never, EVER happy, no matter what you do. Even that customer that makes you cringe when you see their name on the appointment book.  We had a little group of local groomers who would share this info with one another. It was terrific. More  recently, a local groomer bought a new, second, business. I took flowers. I took flowers when she opened her first business, too. The second ones made an impact, we are beginning to be friends. I think you can never have too many friends. Especially if they have a line on a really good local blade sharpener. 

And then there is this. A favorite customer moved away to another state. They sent pictures of their cockapoo after the new groomer had given him a trim. It wasn't what they had in mind. They asked my advice. I wrote up a fairly detailed list of how I used to groom their dog, using groomer language.  I started with the bathing and preparation process and finished with exact trimming notes. I tried to be kind. They took the instructions to the new groomer. She took them to heart and did a terrific job. That made me feel good. My customers were happy. I was happy. I HOPE the new groomer was happy. 

Goodwill. It does not have to be seasonal, and it does not have to be just for people who are not in our profession. I plan to have a "groomer gathering," for the folks that scrub dog butts for a living in my area after the holidays. I've done this before, but it's been too long. There will be food, beverages, and maybe some helpful connections made. How about you? What can you do to foster pleasant relations with others in our industry? Keyword: #Goodwill