Business partnerships in the pet industry are one of those things that sound super simple in theory, but when it actually comes down to forming those partnerships AND knowing what to include as part of the exchange, a lot of pet business owners struggle.
A lot of times, they end up shying away from the partnership OR end up forming an unhealthy or un-beneficial exchange. Personally, when I worked for a doggie daycare and boarding facility, my boss had us go all around town handing out treats, brochures, and business cards to practically every business in a local radius. But what that did was make us seem disingenuous with all of them, instead of forming solid and effective new partners in our area.
So, taking that knowledge and what I've learned working in the pet industry for over a decade, We're sharing all the details you need to form your best pet business partnerships.
What types of pet businesses should I partner with?
This really boils down to the people you'd be working with. For the most part in all aspects of business, it's not necessarily WHAT you're selling so much as it is WHO is selling it. You want to make sure that the business owner you're partnering with is someone you can work with on a personal level. See if you enjoy their company - Go to lunch, exchange a phone conversation, and ask them questions outside of the partnership details. Learn why they started their pet business, learn about their pets, etc.
This is a big one... Make sure the pet business is reputable. Nothing is worse than partnering with a pet business that gets sued for animal abuse, has terrible reviews, or even just doesn't fall into alignment with what your business represents. Take the time to do your research on what pet businesses have similar target markets, similar values, and similar business models.
Sometimes partnering up with pet business owners that offer the same services as you can reward you with even more loyal & high-paying customers. For more information on this, feel free to read my article on partnering with your BIGGEST competitor (I know, weird).
Consider which type of pet businesses would ADD value to yours. For example:
- Doggie Daycare Facilities: Bring a dog trainer to your daycare center for a puppy social. This is mutually beneficial because the dog trainer can get prospective clients & you can get puppies into your business who are better behaved and doggie-friendly.
- Veterinarians: Partner with a doggie daycare facility to educate on the benefits of socialization. It's extremely important to a dog's well-being, social skills, and happiness (especially for pet parents who work all day). This daycare facility can bring their dogs to you if/when any health issues arise and can refer clients back to you.
- Groomers: Partner with a veterinarian to talk about the importance of vaccinating your pets or the importance of expressing anal glands or scheduling regular nail trims. If a reputable groomer is talking about those sorts of things to your clients, you'll be more likely to be trusted as an expert who knows more than just grooming. You'll also ensure the safety and well-being of the pets in your care, which I'm sure clients would appreciate.
- Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers: Partner with a rescue by walking a foster dog or a dog available for adoption and share it on social media. One: this helps you come across as genuine and community-minded. Two: You're helping the rescue adopt more dogs. Three: The rescue will be more likely to refer to you if new pet owners are looking for a dog walker/pet sitter. The rescue can include your business cards in their new adoptee paperwork - maybe even add in a coupon code for their first walk/pet sit with you!
- Pet Photographers: Partner with any pet-related business that has events in your community. Be the photographer for the event and make sure you're on the marketing materials as the official photographer - you can probably also have a booth at the events as well as marketing your services. You can also partner with a physical location by adding your artwork to their walls with flyers showcasing your services.
There are SOOO many pet business partnership ideas/possibilities - I could go on forever!
I know who my pet business wants to partner with... How do I now figure out what to offer?
This depends on your time and needs. My biggest suggestion would be to start small and grow from there!
Here are some ideas to get started:
Exchange business cards or marketing materials with one another and display them in your lobby if you have a physical location.
Promote one another on your social media pages and websites.
Begin regular communication with this partner and start tagging one another on social media when you see a follower interested in their service.
Over time, you can offer packages together, offer discounts with one another, put on events together... the possibilities are endless!
- For example, as a trainer, try partnering with a local rescue. Help train one of their dogs available for adoption and then ask the rescue to give your business information in all new adoptee paperwork.
Again, make sure the partnership is mutually beneficial and works within your normal business process. Consider what pet parents need in the context of complementary products or services. For example, it's normal for a pet owner to want training for a new dog they get from a rescue, so take advantage of that and offer your services. Be the missing link!
How do I approach a prospective pet business partner?
Before you reach out about a partnership, I highly recommend connecting with them without pitching yourself. Like and comment on their photos. Introduce yourself. Build a relationship. From there, you can send an email to the prospective pet business partner so that they do not feel pressured into agreeing with you and saying yes. You only want a partnership that works both ways, otherwise, you'll be referring to them, but maybe they won't be doing the same thing back for you.
If you want help with this email, we've created a FREE email template below that you can customize to your own business along with more business partnership tips and best practices:
Some additional tips when reaching out:
Make sure your NUMBER ONE focus is on making sure the partnership is mutually beneficial. WHY should they partner with you? What's in it for them? What's in it for you?
Let them know that you are already a fan of their business and that you have similar missions. Talk about what importance their service or specialty could have on your audience and vice versa. Show them you understand their audience, and how you can help the community they are also serving.
Get a date on the calendar to talk via phone or in person.
Some final tips for pet business partnerships
Don’t form TOO many partnerships. It comes off as insincere and it’s really hard to manage so many business partnerships in the way that they need to be nurtured. I would say the maximum amount of partnership is one or two partners PER business type; however, this depends on your business and your judgment.
I know I've mentioned this multiple times already, but it is SO important that BOTH businesses benefit from the partnership.
Partnerships can be a wonderful and profitable source of referrals and customers, but you should still never count on it as a reliable and consistent form of income because you can’t rely on other businesses putting in the work to help your business. People move, things change, relationships evolve, etc.
Partnerships are such a great and easy way to create business friends, expand your network, and gain more customers - You name it!
Once you've started to tackle partnerships and have expanded your network, it's time to focus on other areas of your marketing. Just because you have partners doesn't mean that will generate all the sustainable income needed for the evolution and growth of your business.
Here are some next steps: