It turns out that our mothers were right. The language we use can help or harm the marketing and advertising for our pet businesses. I’m not just talking about avoiding those “four letter” words (sorry, Mom), though it’s best practice not to use them anyway. In the pet care industry, there are specific ways we refer to each other, our jobs and our clients.
We’re moving away from calling our clients “owners.” Calling them “owners” implies that their pets are things instead of living beings. “Pet guardian” or “pet parents” are more widely accepted, though “pet parents” may be too cutesy for your brand’s voice. Though some people do refer to their pets as their children, others may not be so keen on thinking that Fido is on par with their human children. So, we come to a crossroad – pets aren’t things to own, but they aren’t necessarily on the same level as human children. Calling your clients guardians implies that they deeply care for Fido enough to watch over him or her. “Guardian” also has a pretty noble ring to it.
Pets and Pups
We love our pets, but some people go so far as to call their pets children. We end up with cute words like “furbabies.” When we use this kind of language, it automatically changes the tone of our businesses. Maybe your brand is supposed to be cute because you sell chihuahua-sized pink tutus. In that case, sure, go all in and call every Fido a furbaby. However, those of us who work in pet sitting or dog walking, for example, are open to a much more diverse audience. Referring to our clients’ pets usually sounds best if we stick to phrases like “pets” or even “pups.”
Most of us do a variety of jobs. We walk dogs, drop in to feed and play with the cats for a bit, or we may even have some experience training and grooming pets. The bottom line is that we’re so much more than dog walkers or groomers. We’re pet caretakers. We spend so much time with these animals and we tend to get in sync with their personalities and demeanors. We’re constantly looking out for them – was that a one time sneeze, or is Fido getting sick? Is Fido coming down with something, or is he just feeling lazy today? Whether it’s feeding time, play time, bath time or time to rest, we’re always looking out for what’s best for our animal clients.
Our industry is service based, so our clients aren’t customers. ‘Customer’ has such a retail connotation and our service-based industry relies on people and their pets. Because of this, they are our clients. This is a small difference. Yes, clients can technically still be customers. But calling our clients by this name makes it sound like we are there to serve them, not to serve them something. It also keeps the conversation service oriented – you are a human being providing an important service, not selling an item.
What we say matters, so let’s use specific words to direct the conversation and tone around our businesses. We aren’t “just” dog walkers. We work hard and we take care.