Whether you are just opening your business, or you are trying to increase your client base — you have to find ways to get people through your doors, and advertising is an effective way to contact prospective customers. Advertising doesn’t have to be expensive. Many entrepreneurs view their advertising dollars as a wise investment that pays off in a big way.

Whether you own a salon, are an independent contractor, a house call groomer or a mobile groomer, one of your first priorities should be to have business cards designed and printed. Your business card tells people that you are a professional. You should have a supply of business cards with you everywhere you go – and hand them out at every opportunity.

Visit the Veterinarians in your community; introduce yourself and tell them about your grooming business. (It never hurts to take a gift of some home baked cookies or donuts to the staff.) Ask permission to leave a supply of your business cards at their check-in desk. Go to any pet stores in your area that don’t have their own grooming department, and where dog licenses are purchased. Leave a supply of business cards there too. Make some eye-catching posters and place them on community bulletin boards, local laundromats, and grocery stores.

If you are just opening your business, or if you are introducing new services, write a press release and submit it to your local newspaper. Also, you can contact the newspaper or a local television station, and possibly be interviewed. In all of your advertising you want to make yourself instantly recognizable. Have a logo designed and place it on all of your advertising pieces, your business cards, and your signage. Use a slogan or catch phrase that people will identify with your business; for example: “We have warm hearts for cold noses”…or… “Pampering your pets is our business”.

Invest in some promotional materials like pens, t-shirts, magnets, pet bandannas, or leashes – all printed with your salon logo and contact information. Then go to a local dog park or any community gathering and hand them out. Make sure that all of your advertising includes your phone number, email address, business address, and website address (if you have one). Make it easy for a prospective client to contact you. Your vehicle can be a rolling advertisement for your business. You can have professional looking magnetic signs made and placed on all of your vehicles.

Here are a few other ideas to get your name out there:

• Participate in community events

• Do pro-bono work

• Offer a free groom to any pet that is adopted from the local shelter or rescue group

• Participate in community events, doing anything from giving free pet nail trims to handing out bottles of water at a 5k race

• Always wear a company t-shirt, hat or other clothing that identifies your business

• Go to career day at the local school or daycare

• Give free pet care classes.

The internet can be a low-cost and very effective way to bring you clients. An informative, professional looking website can be a great way to build your business. It should tell about your business and all the services that you offer. You can create a business blog and start a business email newsletter. Other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can also bring you new clients.

Word of mouth is the best form of advertising you can have. A satisfied client can and will tell all of their friends and family about your business. You may want to institute a referral rewards program that will encourage your existing clients to recommend you to others. As an example, you might reward their pet with a special spa package for every new client that they bring you. And, as a bonus to you, they may continue to purchase the spa services for their pet.

To encourage repeat bookings, attach a promotion to every invoice. Perhaps it’s a free bag of dog treats or an upgraded service that you offer (such as a blueberry facial). Once you get a loyal client, you want to make that client a ‘superstar’ of your business. You want to get (and keep) their pets on a regular schedule of grooming appointments. That helps you plan your schedule in advance; the pets come in to your salon in better shape, pets that are in better shape often take less time to groom, and that can help boost your profits.

It will take some time and effort on your part to implement new business building techniques, but it will really pay off. Eventually, you will have a full appointment book and may never have to advertise again!