Just because your dog-walking business is small and you focus on serving your local community, your website does not have to look outdated and “home-made”. It can still be attractive while having that coveted “down to earth” vibe.
Before we get into the nitty gritty details of what to add to your dog-walking website, let’s look into why many people find Mom-andPop shops appealing.
While big tech is great at making our lives easier (thanks, Uber, for I no longer have to freeze my behind trying to hail a cab in a snowstorm), we often miss that “home-grown” feel of the pre-app world. Small stores represent what is often hard to find these days: quality, craftsmanship and tradition. Simply put, a local shop that sells poorly made items will not be in business for long.
Here are a few tips on how you can make your website look less “all tech” and more artisanal without sacrificing its functionality.
When it comes to websites, nothing says “mass produced” more than an out of the box template. If you are using one, make sure it is customized. Change main colors, page layouts and whatever else you can to make it look unique and different from other dog walking companies.
Add a little artisanal vibe with hand-drawn icons and illustrations.
Hand-written (script) fonts are an excellent way to add that quirky and informal feeling to your website. Word of caution: use hand-written fonts sparingly as they are notoriously hard to read. Apply them to highlight important words of headlines.
Community feel is what sets Mom-and-Pop shops apart from big box retailers. You get a lot more than the goods you pay for - an experience of being a part of the community. Real people. Real connection.
I love stopping by farm stands when we go out into the country. Not only the produce is excellent, but we get to meet local farmers, chat with other customers, learn tidbits of local history, get recommendations on the best restaurants int he area, you name it.
Luckily for us, there are ways we can create similar experience on our websites.
Using photos or actual employees and clients
We are talking pictures of you, your team and your fur clients. While using stock photos seem like such an easy choice for website imagery, you are missing out on an enormous opportunity to build trust with your website visitors. Stock photos, no matter how good, will never look authentic. Numerous studies have shown that customers trust a company more when they can see faces of actual employees on its website.
Having a short (professionally produced) intro video on your website is another often overlooked way to build connection with website visitors.
Your intro video does not have to be complicated. Explain what you do, what types/sizes of fur babies you take care of, what services you offer.
A lot of pet service business owners are not utilizing video more for their marketing because they think it’s more trouble than it’s worth. After all, if you are a dog walker, people should be able to figure out what you do. Right? Not exactly. The real purpose of an intro video is to give your website visitors an insight into what it’s like to be your client and to work with you. Clients are not hiring you because they do not know or trust you yet. An intro video is a way to fix that.
Show what you believe in
Why did you start your dog walking company? What do you believe in? What do you stand for? Chances are, it’s more than a desire to prove you can make a living without sacrificing your soul to the corporate world.
Perhaps you believe that dogs should be eating as healthy as their owners, and so you only treat your pooches with home-made goodies. Or maybe you know how important it is for dogs to socialize and exercise, and that’s why you opened a dog boarding facility.
Get clear on what it is you believe in. Then show it. Talk about it on your website. Mention it to your current clients. Make it a part of your branding and marketing strategy.
We all care about something. A lot of things, actually. And when we meet someone who believes in what we believe - sparks fly. There is that moment of recognition - they are ”my people.” Future clients will want to hire you not because you offered the best deal on dog walks in town, but simply because you are “their person.”
Show your clients that you care
The most important reason why we love Mom-and-Pop shops is because they make us feel special.
While the only interaction at a big-box store we routinely get is an apathetic “How are you doing” from a cacher who is counting minutes till the end of her shift (and I can’t blame her for doing that), a small shop offers a radically different experience.
A person behind the counter is most likely the owner. She is almost guarantee to bombard you with questions and recommendations. At the end, you will walk away with an even better item than the one you originally wanted and a solid piece of advice no google search can find. Why? Because she cares. She wants you not only to have a pleasant experience but to continue coming back.
Here is how you can recreate this with your website.
Focus on your customers’ needs.
Instead of highlighting how great your services are, address your clients’ problems. What issue can you solve for them? Look over your website from your customer perspective. Make sure it addresses their pain points.
For example, if you offer complimentary dog trainings during walks, mention how much easier it will be for them to walk Fido when he is properly trained. Or if you run a doggy daycare, make sure to communicate how much happier and healthier dogs are when they socialize regularly.
Answer your customers’ questions ahead of time
Are there questions people tend to ask you all the time? May be they want to know whether you charge extra on weekends or whether your meet and greet is free. Have a dedicated section on your website where prospective clients can find those answers. They key is not to offer too much information but the right information that is easy to find.
Answer your phone
Having a phone number listed on your website (and answering it when it rings) will make your dog walking company look more approachable than “email-only” mode of communication. Just think about your own frustrating experiences. Have you ever tried reaching a company only to find out there is no customer support number? So you had to send an email and keep checking your inbox every ten minutes to see if they replied… If you know what I’m talking about then you know the pain your customers are feeling.
These are some of our tips on how to add“Mom-and-Pop” vibe to your dog walking website without making it look outdated and unsightly. If you have more tips, please share in the comments below.