Rappa and Runkle said they have started to delegate duties to contract workers, rather than automatically taking every job themselves.
The couple makes themselves available for emergency and last-minute sitting jobs, but do not charge a premium.
“You have to set limits. Who works 24/7?” Vaughn said. “You have to change your focus. Right now your focus is on serving clients, but you have to change your focus to building your business.”
Vaughn suggested an up-charge for emergency or last-minute calls.
Runkle said if she gets a last-minute call she feels like she has to go, because if not, the customer will go to a competitor.
“And if we try to charge a premium, it doesn’t work, because my competition will jump on that” and steal the customer, Rappa said.
Digital marketing expert Yalovetzky suggested they add an interactive calendar on their website so that customers can see availability and reserve time slots online, relieving the couple of a last-minute scramble of phone calls and texts.
Create a new revenue stream
Develop strategic alliances with complementary businesses, such as vets or groomers, who can refer new clients to you, Vaughn said. Then Dee’s Dogs can make use of their client base to cross sell pet products, the SCORE team advised.
“You’ve got a group of customers, now go fishing and try to sell them things to create more revenue,” Vaughn said. He suggested adding eCommerce capabilities to accept credit cards on the site.
After the first counseling session, the couple became affiliated with two pet product companies, Puppy Bumper and Easy Dog, and began offering products on their site for a commission.
Organize marketing efforts
The couple puts out an email blast monthly to current customers, but has not been active in social media. They have created a website, T-shirts, car magnets and printed materials with a variety of images.
“You want to build a brand identity. You need a consistency of images on your shirts and magnets,” Vaughn said.
The couple also has tried leaving fliers on doors, but do not know if it’s effective. Vaughn suggested they put a discount code on promotional material, so they can track where leads come in.
Rappa and Runkle said they would start tracking promotions to gauge their effectiveness, and evaluate outsourcing social media.
Make the website more user-friendly
A website should showcase products, improve processes such as scheduling or paying, and automate processes so that it works while you sleep, Yalovetzky said. Each service should have its own page, he said, so that customers can quickly find what they’re looking for.
Yalovetzky used Google Analytics to show the site’s bounce rate, or times someone clicked on the site and hit the back button, and the site’s traffic sources. Yalovetzky told the couple that a banner on the site advertising jobs had never been clicked on. The banner could be sold as advertising, and a jobs page could be set up, he said.
Putting a small “contact us” box on every page helps cultivate a list of potential customers, Yalovetzky said. Redeveloping the site using newer technology will allow them to add eCommerce options, be accessible by any search engine or device, and give them the ability to update content as needed.
Rappa and Runkle said they will seek outside expertise to redevelop the site, revamp content and learn how to add and change content themselves.
“When we started, it wasn’t about the money, it was about the animals, and the money came,” Rappa said. “Now it’s about growing the business.”