Are you a pet-friendly company?
This weekend my husband and I embarked on one of our favorite annual activities which is to visit the apple orchards in Hendersonville, North Carolina each October. We pile our dogs, Moxie and Tonks, into the car, and take the beautiful drive on 74 through mountain passes and by babbling brooks, through Chimney Rock and into Hendersonville.
Our first stop has always been our favorite. A farm where I can buy some autumn squashes, we can pick up pumpkins, and apples and more. Typically, we purchase some pork sandwiches from the food truck that sets up there, grab a couple of hay bales and chow down while Moxie and Tonks enjoy pats on the head from passerby’s.
Until this year. We arrived to see signs everywhere relegating our dogs to the pet-friendly area, which was basically the parking lot. While I recognize the right of the farm to institute this policy, it was a let down for us, and they lost our annual business. We packed up the pooches and took them over to Grandad’s Apples and Such and Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard, which are both extremely pet-friendly.
There are certainly understandable reasons to choose not to welcome furry friends into your place of business. However, as more and more people want to travel and spend more time with their pets, you are shutting out a considerable segment of your customer base if you do so. Even if you don’t want to invite animals INTO your place of business, there are a few ways you can endear your company to those of us who love their pets.
5 Ways to Have a Pet-Friendly Company.
- Have a Pet Playplace. If you don’t want to invite animals into your building, set up an area outside specifically for people to spend time with their pets. For instance, if this particular farm had equipped their “designated pet area” with a couple of picnic tables, some water, as well as a place to walk the dogs, we would have stayed. Jim and I would have taken turns browsing the produce, bought from the food truck, and had lunch with our pets. Instead, we took our business elsewhere. So many of your customers have pets – why not show them you’re a little pet-friendly?
- Have bowls of water available. Living in Asheville, North Carolina, we see this all the time. Shops downtown and restaurants with bowls of water outside their doors for pets. Many of the restaurants allow dogs on a leash at outside tables as well.
- Give away treats for dogs, cats, birds, etc. When we lived in Florida, I used to love to take our Maltese (may she rest in beautiful peace) through the drive-through window at our bank. A teller named Michael was always ready with some treats for her. If I didn’t have her with me, he’d ask “where’s Snowflake?” Of course, her name was actually Snowball but he got points for good intentions. Michael always sent treats home with me to give to her and whenever I did have Snowball with me she’d get VERY excited watching for the magical tube that contained her treats!
- Have a “Day for Pets.” If you can’t invite pets into your building or business all the time, why not create an annual, quarterly or even monthly day where people can bring their pets. You’ll endear yourself to pet lovers and you may find a whole wealth of new customers who come on other days because they learned about you on the special “pet days.”
- Just decide to be pet-friendly. Some organizations have created a whole niche around being pet-friendly. For instance, Kimpton Hotels is a very pet-friendly company and while I did not have my dogs with me when I stayed at the Winston-Salem location, I did enjoy the list of names of their animal guests at the front desk. Embrace it fully and you’ll find you have some two-legged and four-legged customers for life.
What are your thoughts? Do you wish more companies were pet-friendly? Do you have some ideas for making it so? Or, are you on the other side of the fence and think people should just leave their pets at home? One thing for sure. More and more people are wanting to spend more time with their furry (or feathery) friends and it’s just good business to make your business a little more pet-friendly.
Donna Cutting is the author of 501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers, and the “mother” to two Shih Tzus named Moxie and Tonks. She’s married to Jim, who thinks it’s biologically absurd to be called “daddy” to the dogs, so, although he loves them to pieces, he prefers to be referred to as “that guy Mommy lives with.”