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Case Study: Daycare & Training

Kim Buchanan
Business Fetch Dog Resort
What Daycare & training facility
Where Carmel, IN
Web fetchacademy.com

The challenges
  • Getting marketing right
  • Growing at a comfortable rate
  • Not working all hours

 

 

Waves of growth
Kim Buchanan refers to the growth phases of her business as “waves.” The foundation of a wave is a marketing push to build awareness and demand. After six months to a year of sustained marketing through one or more channels, or when the wave is big enough, she adds a service or expands an existing one, always on a controllable scale. By the time a new service is up and running, the next marketing push has been under way for a while.

The first of Kim’s waves was simple: A professionally designed logo, a self-made website, and a barrage of business cards, which she distributed to vets in person. She had just opened her daycare and training facility, then called Fetch Academy Behavior Wellness Center, serving wealthy bedroom communities Carmel and Zionsville on the northwestern fringe of Indianapolis.

Training and behavior is Kim’s first love—she made daycare her main service because of her location. Though not yet a well-established concept in the area, daycare was a logical service for Carmel and Zionsville residents whose median income is twice the state average, with many commuting to downtown Indianapolis for long hours of work. The commute factor guided Kim’s choice of location, too; an office park just off a major traffic route. “With a daycare, you want to be easily accessible,” Kim says. “Make drop-off and pick-up easy.” But she also stresses that drive-by traffic is useful for promoting brick-and-mortar business like daycares and kennels, and being in an office park, Fetch is missing out on that.

Her initial business-cards-for-the-vets push did net her some referrals for her 1,500 sq. ft. facility, but not many. She didn’t see returns on her $100/month investment in a Yellow Pages ad either, and Kim supplemented her income by teaching training classes most evenings. Vets, she realized, were uncomfortable referring to a virtual stranger, even if she did take the time to stop by and shake hands. And the concept of doggie daycare was still largely foreign to her target audience.

Kim worked with dogtec to develop her second marketing push, this time with a focus on community-based marketing. She had simple but nice folders made, and created behavior and health sheets to put inside along with an overview of Fetch’s services and philosophy. This substantial vet package landed several new clients (to this day, the folders continue to work for her), and Kim turned her attention to her website, hiring a dogtec-recommended Web designer and SEO consultant to assess its effectiveness. The evaluation contained lots of valuable suggestions, including an observation about her logo and name that, although surprising at first, made perfect sense to Kim the more she thought about it.

A business called ‘Fetch Academy Behavior Wellness Center,’ suggests professionalism, a focus on training, and a slant toward clinical treatment—an impression not lessened by the fact that Kim’s facility sits amid a veterinary specialty complex. All put together, it was easy for people to mistake Fetch for a place that primarily catered to dogs with behavior problems. And Kim’s then-logo, a dark blue drawing of a jumping dog in profile, did little to dispel this notion. Though a first-class drawing, it was impersonal and arguably masculine. And, as the consultant pointed out, 90% of Kim’s clientele were women.

Kim took the advice to heart. She changed the name of her business to the friendlier, more inviting ‘Fetch Dog Resort’ and commissioned a designer to create a new logo. The result was a happy-looking dog drawn in warm colors with an expression that begs for sticks to be thrown or bellies to be rubbed. For further feel-good associations, Kim added the tagline ‘dog life is good.’

Over the next year, Kim built three boarding kennels at her facility, added the hosting of dog pro industry speaking events and workshops to her varied business menu, and cancelled her Yellow Pages advertising.

Wave by wave, it has taken four years to grow the business to its current size. There’s Kim, a part-time employee who helps out with the daycare and boarding kennel, a part-time bookkeeper and admin person, and finally a contract trainer who does most of the private training lessons and one of the evening classes. Kim teaches two classes herself. “By no means a big operation,” she says, “but profitable and manageable.”

She always planned to run things herself while she developed strong processes and a feel for what clients wanted. Her philosophy is, grow slowly. Sure, you will be working all hours for the first year or so, but as you add revenue streams, you can gradually decrease your hours. “Otherwise it’s too easy to burn out. It has to be fun, you know?”

It’s obvious the people at dogtec know the dog pro industry inside out.”

Kim Buchanan


Kim’s Picks
Favorite dog-related website
petplace.com

Favorite industry publications
Dog Watch (Cornell University’s newsletter)
Chronicle of the Dog
Whole Dog Journal

Dog pro networking
Belongs to a local trainers discussion group that meets once a month.

Workshops
dogtec’s How to Run a Dog Business
The Dogs Course at Purdue
Canine First Aid
A Dog is a Terrible Thing to Waste (Pamela Reid)
A Weekend with Sue Sternberg
APDT conferences
And many more…