By Daryl Conner
Finding customers can be expensive. Even though good pet groomers are in high demand in many parts of the country, most of us still expend a sizable amount of money to help customers find us.
We do this with signage for our businesses, fliers, business cards, social media efforts, telephone listings, traditional advertising such as newspaper and radio, and more. I’ve been known to bake dozens of cookies to distribute to local veterinarians along with a stack of business cards (which works great, by the way!) Advertising is costly, but it’s how we build our trade.
On a recent car ride with my husband, who has spent his entire career in the business world, he mentioned something called “Girard’s Law of 250.” He went on to explain that a car salesman named Joe Girard developed this law during his long and very lucrative career selling cars. Girard was so good at his job that he was named by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s greatest retail salesman. So why is that important to groomers? Because we must sell ourselves to our customers to get them in the door and allow us to groom their pets.
The basics of Girard’s Law of 250 is this, the average person knows 250 people well enough to influence their buying decision. He came up with this law after attending a Catholic funeral. At the mass, the funeral home gave out cards to each visitor with a photograph and name of the departed. Girard asked the funeral director how he knew how many cards to print out. The man told him that he had learned by experience that most funerals had around 250 people attend. Girard derived his law after considering that if the average person had 250 people who cared enough about them to pay last respects, they also had some influence over those peoples’ lives.
Using this theory, he went on to sell more cars than any other salesman in history! He did this by maintaining an excellent relationship with each person he sold a car to. He reached out to them at birthdays and holidays; remembered names of their children and spouses. If they were unhappy with their purchase he did whatever he could to make them happy. Doing this built his epic sales career, and even though we are scrubbing pets, not selling cars, we can do the same thing.
Here are some ideas that will build loyalty once you have a potential customer contact you about grooming:
Return phone calls promptly
Many of us work alone, and let voicemail pick up calls while we are working. It can be tempting to let those messages marinate a while because we are busy and tired. I know I have been guilty of just that. But when I return calls quickly I hear the appreciation in peoples’ voices, “Oh, thank you for getting back to me so fast.” If it’s a new customer, I have just made my first impression.
Check back to see if they are satisfied with your work
After you groom a pet for the first time, make a note to call a day or two after your service to see if the people were happy. If they were, and you are trying to build your business, ask them if they would consider telling their friends and family about you. You would be surprised how many times simply asking for a referral puts the idea in a person’s mind to tell others. If they were unhappy about some aspect of your work; “His claws were still sharp and he scratched up my leg,” or “I really hoped his hair would be shorter,” invite them to come in to fix the problem. The small investment of your time will pay off big because you are showing that you care.
If you have a customer complaint, do whatever it takes to make them happy
Many years ago, I worked as the customer service representative for what was, at the time, the largest pet grooming wholesaling company in the country. When I was hired for the job I asked the owner, “So, what is it that you want me to do, exactly, when someone complains?”
He minced no words, “MAKE them happy.” Those three little words stayed with me to this day. If someone hates the clip you put on their Bichon, offer them a free groom for their next visit. The small investment of your time and products may not only keep a regular customer coming to you, but will have the ripple effect of touching the 250 people in their circle. My husband quips, “The customer may not always be right, but the customer is always the customer.” It’s better to give away one free groom than to lose the customer forever.
Even if you are the greatest groomer in your area and your customers are darn lucky to have you, remember that it is their money that pays you. Thank them for their business.
I had a customer with a small cocker come to me a few years ago. From chatting with him I learned that he took his dog to all the local groomers, calling around to see who could groom her first when she needed it. The dog is small and sweet, and gets zipped from nose to toes with a 7f every three months. An easy groom. When he picked the dog up I asked if she looked nice, he said she did. Then I said, “Thank you so much for bringing her to me. I enjoyed grooming her, she’s a great little dog.” I am not exaggerating when I tell you he stopped in his tracks. “No one has ever said that to me before,” he told me. And he has been bringing his nice little dog to me ever since.
The essential point is this: Customers can be expensive to find, but cheap to keep. One happy customer has the potential to influence 250 people to try your services. One unhappy one can send out career-crashing ripples to that many, too. ✂