Finding clients when you’re a newly-certified dog grooming graduate isn’t easy. You’re fresh-faced and eager to work, but how can you convince dog owners that you’re their best choice when you may not have clocked hundreds of hours yet?
Building a solid client list that continues to grow can take years, even when you start diverting your resources to other aspects of your business. It can go by a lot faster, and with relative ease, if you’re on top of your game right from the beginning. If you’re ambitious, hard-working, and eager to find clients, they will come to you!
That being said, there are a few things you can do to help you along the way…keep reading!
Do your research
First and foremost, you need to research dog owners in the area. Look for information about their demographics and lifestyles. Are owners in your area affluent? Do owners like to take their dogs hunting? The last thing you want to do is open up a luxury dog grooming salon in a rural area where people aren’t interested in fancier grooming services. Contact your local government for accurate statistics on pet ownership in your region.
After that, you’ll want to conduct research on your competitors. Learning more about your competition will help you carve out your brand in the grooming industry. Are the most successful groomers in your area ones who have cornered the market on grooming specific breeds? What sorts of services are they offering? How are they packaging their services? Competitive research is indispensable to new groomers—how else would you find out if you’re grossly overpricing your services?
Develop your marketing materials
To be competitive, having an online presence is essential. It helps your attract more clients, provides a showcase for your work, and lists your services and reviews. Your website is the first impression many potential clients have of both you and your services, so ensure that this space is extremely professional and easy-to-navigate.
But just because it’s 2017 doesn’t mean you should be only focusing on your digital presence! You have to make sure your physical marketing materials work well with your online materials and that both best represent what you do. Make sure that you have clear and attractive business cards on you at all times. You could be shopping for grooming supplies at your local pet store and overhear someone inquiring about a reliable groomer! If you’ve got a card on hand and an online portfolio that shows off your work, your skills will speak for themselves.
Attend networking events
Both companies and individuals who are interested in dog grooming services tend to move in certain circles. These include conferences, trade shows, and events that allow industry professionals to get to know one another. We know networking with fellow groomers seems counterintuitive – how could they possibly help you grow your client base if they’re your direct competitor? Well, if they’re swamped with clients or appointments and can’t take any more, they may refer that client over to you. You may also end up with a new business partner if that’s what you’re looking for!
Other related industries will also be milling about these events. Veterinarians, kennels, dog waste removal services, extreme groomers, and even regular pet lovers end up at these events. You never know who you’re going to meet, so make sure you’re at the top of your game when you walk in!
Word-of-mouth referrals are indisputably the best way to secure new clients. People trust their peers’ and friends’ recommendations. After all, the people closest to us are aware of our needs and have trusting relationships with us. If your best friend gave a local restaurant a beaming review, wouldn’t you consider trying it if you were in the area?
If you’ve worked hard on a grooming job, you can feel confident approaching your client to ask them for a referral. In terms of how the referral should be structured, it could be in the form of a testimonial on your website, a review on your Facebook page, or even better, a word-of-mouth referral that could lead to major marketing results for your business. To sweeten the pot, offering a referral discount can incentivize clients to pass on your business card to people they know. There’s nothing to lose for them!
Work for reduced amount/volunteer
In any profession, building a good portfolio takes time. You’ll want to polish up your photos or hire professional pet photographers to take the best before-and-after shots that show off your expertise.
Getting your pet grooming certification is a huge step in launching your career, but experience is what will ultimately improve your chances of being hired. You can offer to work for reduced pay as you’re refining your skills in your local community, but you have to be careful. If you offer steeply discounted rates for too long, you may end up devaluing grooming services in your area. Even worse, you could acquire a reputation as a “discount groomer”—and who knows if you’ll ever be able to raise your prices after that!
With this in mind, you shouldn’t take volunteering off the table. Sometimes volunteering your skills will add more benefit to your business than it takes. Volunteering at animal shelters will help you acquire experience and knowledge, as well as expand your network to people you may not otherwise meet! The ultimate perk? Seeing those adorable dogs go to a good home after a thorough grooming appointment!