When I started my dog training business, one of the first things I did was set up my website. A professional-looking website is vital in today’s world if you are a business owner. I looked at a lot of websites when deciding what I wanted to do with my own.
A new website can be overwhelming and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. There are a lot of great, reasonably priced website builders that are very user-friendly (even for non-tech savvy people like me). I personally like wix.com, but I have also heard good things about weebly.com and yola.com. If you have the money, it’s wise to have a pro come to pretty it up at the end. I created my site and added my content by myself, and then had a web designer do a final sweep to make it look cohesive and professional. By doing 90% of the legwork, I didn’t have to spend as much money in the long run. But it was a worthwhile investment to have a designer quality-check the functionality and make it look the way I wanted.
Once you’ve decided on a platform, the next big question is: what do you include on your website? The right information set is very important, but again – trying to decide what really needs to be there can be overwhelming. These are what I consider to be “must-haves” for every pet business website:
Pricing. I understand the thought process behind not including pricing on your website: it might turn off potential customers, or allow your competition to know what you’re doing. And you know what? You’re right. You might turn someone off with your pricing, but that’s OK. Because even if you got that person on the phone and sold them on your company, if your price points don’t fit their budget, there’s nothing you can say that will change that (unless you’re willing to undercut yourself to make the sale, which isn’t a sustainable growth strategy for any company). Posting your prices gives you transparency, creates confidence in your company, and saves everyone a lot of time. And don’t worry about your competition; if they want to know your prices, there are many ways they can find out. Just concentrate on being you.
Customer testimonials. Every website should have a testimonial section. First, it adds credibility to your business. Second, it allows your customers to brag about your services (and their pets), and who doesn’t like that? Customers love to be featured, and we all like to hear positive things said about us. 🙂 And even better, customers are more likely to share their featured testimony with others on social media. You can dedicate an entire page to testimonials, or have a rotating gallery on your homepage – include at least a half dozen or so, and be sure to ask new customers for testimonials to keep it fresh.
Service area. Be very specific if you only cover certain areas. If you’re a little more loosey goosey and flexible about coverage, then just mention the overall area or region.
Staff bios. I always want to know who will be coming into my home and looking after my precious family member. It’s very important to include a little information about your staff, including photos. And even better – list their credentials! It’s nice to know that someone is a “lifetime pet lover”, but I also want to know what makes them really qualified to watch my pet. Are they a FetchFind Monthly Pro student? Are they certified in pet first aid & CPR? Do they work at the local shelter as a volunteer? Let your customers know! The more credentialed your staff, the more comfortable your clients will feel, and the more you can differentiate yourself from the competition.
Social media. Have social media buttons clearly displayed on every page of your website; put them either at the top of the page or at the bottom – or both – but keep the placement consistent and easily located. Potential clients want to see what you’re posting on social media. You can also put widgets on your website with up-to-date feeds from Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
About you. Everyone loves a good backstory. Why did you decide to start this business? What is your philosophy or mission? Don’t be afraid to tell your story, and make it as compelling as possible. You can include this on your staff bio page, or you can have an entire page dedicated to it. Photos of you with your pets (past and present) are great to include on this page.
Why you? This information can be in a separate paragraph, page, or tab, or you can scatter the info throughout your site. Tell the client what differentiates you from your competition. Why are your prices worth it? There are pet sitting/dog boarding facilities on just about every corner, so what makes you so special? This is a great place to talk about your education program (*ahem* FetchFind Monthly Pro!), pet first aid & CPR, etc.
Incident reporting. People want to make sure their pets are safe and they want to know how you handle incidents. If an incident occurs, how is it documented? Be transparent. Let them know incidents are seen to quickly, professionally, and compassionately. This is another way you can make yourself stand out from your competition.
Contact us. Your contact information should be on every page of your website, as well as on a dedicated, “contact us” page. You always want to make it easy for someone to hire you.
The Look. First impressions matter, and websites are often the first touch point for your business. A clean, professional, up-to-date website will draw more potential clients in, and will promote confidence in existing clients.
Did I miss anything? What are your “make or break” inclusions for websites? Feel free to share your comments and the tools that have been effective for you.