How To Start A Pet Sitting Business: The Complete Guide

Have you always had an affinity for furry (or scaly) things? Have you ever needed money? If you answered yes to both these questions, you may want to consider starting a pet-sitting business.

But before you pick up the leashes and pooper-scoopers, it’s a good idea to sit down and plan out the trajectory of your business. If that sounds overwhelming, don’t fret. Below, we’ll lay out the steps you can take to start a pet-sitting business.

Decide On A Location

Since you’re going to be dealing with people’s pets, you’ll need to take into account your proximity to your clients. If they’re dropping their pets off with you, you’ll want to be located somewhere easily accessible to most of your customers, and one that can accommodate animals. Depending on where you live, this can be tricky as the space necessary to accommodate animals will usually be cheaper in less centralized locations.

On the other hand, if you’re going to your customers, you’ll need to take into account the amount of time you need to spend with each client’s pets, the costs of commuting to the job, and how animal-friendly/animal-hostile the infrastructure in your service area is (dog parks, etc.).

Register Your Business

Why should you register your business? Depending on your local laws, you may actually be required to register your business in order to legally pet-sit. But even in jurisdictions where it isn’t compulsory, there are some advantages to doing so.

The first is that you can do business under a name other than your own. So instead of Martha Swearingen, LLC, you can do business as Baron Bark’s Pet Pampering Service (you can have that one for free).

The default configuration for businesses is a sole proprietorship (or a partnership, if you’re starting it with someone else). This essentially means that you’ve started a business with your own name or, if you file a DBA (Doing Business As), a name of your choice.

Sole proprietorships have the advantage of being cheap and easy to start. Your taxes will also be easier to file (and lower) than they would generally be with other forms of incorporation. Keep in mind, however, that for liability purposes, sole proprietorships and the individuals behind them are essentially one and the same.

Other forms of incorporation will require a bit more work and come with their own advantages and disadvantages. Most pet-sitting companies aren’t going to be interested in forming C-suites for governance, so you can probably ignore S-Corps and C-Corps for now. You may, however, want to consider forming an LLC to provide some separation between your personal finances and liabilities and your business ones.

Here are the most popular ways to incorporate:

  • Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs): If you’ve seen LLC after a corporation’s name, you’re dealing with this type of company. LLCs offer limited liability protection for their owners without the full complexity of a corporation. Each state has its own rules for how to start and maintain an LLC, and you don’t necessarily have to register your LLC in the state where you’re doing business (although you’ll generally want to). LLC owners report their business earnings and losses on their personal taxes.
  • C-Corp: This is the “basic,” default form of incorporation. Shareholders are considered the owner(s) of the company and receive limited liability protection; however, the business decisions are made by corporate officers who may or may not be shareholders. The corporation is taxed separately and shareholders pay income tax on dividends. To form a C-corp, you’ll file articles of incorporation with your state.
  • S-Corp: S-corps are similar to C-corps in most ways, but come with a few additional restrictions: you have to have fewer than 100 shareholders and they have to all be U.S. citizens or residents. Unlike C-corps, profits and losses are reported on personal taxes, not unlike an LLC. In addition to filing articles of incorporation, you’ll also need to file IRS Form 2553.

Get Business Insurance

As a pet-sitter, you’re not just dealing with property, you’re dealing with animals whose owners often view them as part of their family. In other words, if something goes wrong, things could get ugly.

Depending on your local laws, you may be required to carry certain types of insurance.

The type of insurance that will probably be of most interest to you is general liability insurance. This protects you in the event of a lawsuit or accident, whether it’s an accidental injury to the animal or if you accidentally damage property within a client’s home. It doesn’t only protect you, however; it also makes you look like a safer option than a business that isn’t covered.

There are other, more specialized types of insurance that are worth taking a look at depending on the specifics of your business. These include:

  • Property Insurance: Protects the property needed to run your business (as opposed to damages you cause to clients’ property).
  • Business Interruption: Covers costs related to unforeseen events that make your business unable to function.
  • Professional Liability (Error and Omissions): Covers the costs of defending your company in lawsuits in cases where your business caused a financial loss.

If you aren’t sure where to look, we can help you.

Invest In Business Software

While not absolutely necessary, you can save yourself and your customers some hassle with strategically chosen business software. For pet sitting, there are probably three types most worthy of consideration.

Payment Processing

Doing business with cash can be convenient when you’re first starting out, but as you grow, you’ll probably be missing out on clients if you can’t accommodate other forms of payment.

Recommended Option: Square

Best Overall Mobile POS


Review Visit Site

Highlights

  • No contract or monthly fee
  • Instant account setup
  • Retail upgrade available
  • Restaurant upgrade available
  • For iOS and Android mobile devices
  • 2.75% per in-person card swipe

Retail POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)

 

Restaurant POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)

 

Square POS: Always free

If you have an iOS or Android device, Square offers an extremely convenient way to accept mobile payments while on the go via a small add-on you plug into your device. It’s also a very scalable service; if you’re running a retail location, there are even more features and service options you can take advantage of.

Best of all, there aren’t any monthly fees to worry about. Square charges between 2.75  – 3.5 percent per transaction (depending on whether you swipe or key in the info), so you’ll want to factor those costs into your expenses.

Scheduling Software

As you add clients, it will get harder to remember their particular preferences, not to mention more difficult to fit them all into your schedule. With booking or scheduling software, you can track your time, note customer needs, and efficiently plan your days’ work. Many of these offer their basic features free of charge.

Accounting Software

Most businesses can benefit from accounting software. What you don’t want is to spend money unnecessarily on one. Wave offers most of the features you need at no cost.

With no monthly fee, you’ll get invoicing, estimates, contact management, expense tracking, accounts payable, and inventory tracking.

Seek Funding

Pet-sitting, especially, if you’re going to your clients, doesn’t have a lot of overhead when you’re first starting out. In the event that you do need to scare up some money to cover starting expenses or equipment, there are a number of options available to you.

Personal Savings

If you can avoid taking on debt, it’s usually a good idea. It may hurt to part with some of your rainy day funds, but you won’t be accumulating expensive interest and fees.

Tap Your Support Network

If you do need money from an outside source, you can often get a better deal from your support system than you can from a private lender.

Keep in mind that this comes with its own risks. You may stress your relationships, especially if you aren’t able to pay back these so-called friendly loans quickly. One way to avoid this is to formalize any agreements you make with friends and family so that everyone fully understands what they’re getting into and what the expectations are. You may even want to draw up a formal contract that outlines any expected payments and return on investment.

Credit Cards

For the relatively low expenses you will encounter when you start a pet-sitting business, credit cards can probably suffice for most of your needs.

The general rules of thumb when it comes to using credit cards effectively are these:

  1. Use credit cards for expenses that you can pay off within their interest-free grace period.
  2. Pick a card with a reward program that matches your spending habits and needs.
  3. Do not take out cash advances on your credit card.

If you follow these rules, you can actually save money by using your credit card to make purchases.

Recommended Option: American Express SimplyCash Plus

SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express



Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


14.49% – 21.49%, Variable

Amex’s SimplyCash Plus offers one of the best cash back programs available without an annual fee. You’ll get 1 percent back on generic purchases, 5 percent back on wireless telephone purchases and office supply stores in the U.S. But it’s the middle tier that’s most interesting. You can select a category of your choosing (airfare, hotel rooms, car rentals, gas stations, restaurants, advertising, shipping, or computer hardware) to get 3 percent back.

It also carries an introductory 0% APR for the first nine months, which can be helpful if you’re just starting out.

Recommended Option: Amazon Business Prime American Express Card

Amazon Business Prime American Express Card


Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


16.24% – 24.24%, Variable

This one’s a little more niche. But if you find yourself buying supplies and random pet-related doodads on Amazon frequently, you can get a lot of value out of the Amazon Business Prime American Express Card.

If you have a Prime membership, you’ll earn a whopping 5 percent back on purchases made at Amazon.com, Amazon Business, AWS, and Whole Foods Market — or an extra 90 days interest-free grace period for purchases made at those places. Even if you’re not a Prime member, you’ll get 3 percent or 60 days, respectively. You’ll need to spend around $6,000 to recoup the cost of a $119 Prime membership with points alone, but that’s without factoring in money saved through Prime’s programs (shipping, deals, etc).

Personal Loans

If you need more money than you can safely put on a credit card, or need longer to pay it off, you should consider getting a personal loan that can cover business expenses.

There are some disadvantages to taking this route, namely that you’re on the hook rather than your business, but if your credit is good, it’s not the worst option out there.

Recommended Option: Lending Club Personal Loans

lending club logo

Review

Check Rate

Lending Club is a good option for individuals who may not have the strongest credit, but have a good debt-to-income ratio. The borrowing range is fairly narrow at $1k to $40k, but when you’re just starting out, you don’t want to go too deeply into debt anyway. You’ll have three-to-five years to pay it off, which makes it fairly manageable.

Recommended Option: Lendio

Review

Visit Site

If you’re just entering the alternative loan market for the first time, it can be pretty overwhelming. Lendio takes some of that burden off of you by allowing you to effectively apply to their whole network of lenders with one application.

Need more options? Check out our feature on startup loans.

Create Contracts

If you’ve just been watching your friends’ pets, you’ve probably had an informal agreement about the services you’d provide and the expectations of safety and liability involved. And that was probably enough.

When you’re dealing with strangers in a professional capacity, however, it’s smart to formalize these elements in a contract. This can save you a lot of headaches, if not legal troubles, down the road. You’ll want to include critical information about the pet (when and what they eat, how they are with strangers, pertinent medical history, etc.), what’s included in your services, and the client’s expectations for how their home will be treated under your care (if applicable). You’ll also want to include your fees and rates.

If you can, have a lawyer look it over to make sure it checks out legally.

Market Your Business

Getting the word out is always one of the most challenging parts of getting a business off the ground. The easiest place to start is through word of mouth. Are you already looking after the pets of a family or two? Let them know you’re looking to take on more clients, along with your friends, family, and social contacts.

At some point, you’ll probably want to expand outside the reach of your current contacts, which means advertising. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You can post flyers on bulletin boards and leave business cards in places trafficked by pet owners. Online classified sites like Craigslist can also cover a large audience in your area.

Bolster Your Web Presence

When it comes to promoting small business, the internet is one of those things that’s easy to both over- and underestimate. On the one hand, simply buying an ad and hoping for the best likely won’t yield amazing results. On the other, you do need an internet strategy to grow your business.

It doesn’t have to be fancy, but you’ll probably want a website that details your basic services and contact information. Don’t overthink it. There are a lot of great tools available that can help you build a website.

Remember, too, that social media isn’t just for sharing pictures of your dinner with your friends. You can use to communicate with customers, make engaging content that makes them keep your brand in mind, and announce special deals and service changes.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, everything we covered doesn’t look too intimidating. If you’re good with animals and don’t mind turning that love into a source of revenue, you can get a pet-sitting business up and running in no time!

Having second thoughts about pet-sitting but are still looking to open a business? Check out our other beginners’ guides.

The post How To Start A Pet Sitting Business: The Complete Guide appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Are HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Services Right For You?

If you are a marketing guru with loads of experience in the trade, you probably know all about inbound and outbound marketing. And the world absolutely needs people like you. But if you are like the rest of us, just trying to get your product noticed and understood by the teeming masses, these terms are just more industry jargon gibberish.

Fortunately, Merchant Maverick is here to provide definitions and cut through the jargon. Basically, an inbound marketing methodology requires you to market yourself in such a way that customers naturally find their way to you, rather than employing more aggressive marketing efforts and strategies (like cold calls).

What Is Hubspot?

Apps like HubSpot are designed to be the backbone of your inbound system. Visit the HubSpot website and you will see multiple references to the company’s commitment to inbound marketing. Specifically, HubSpot offers three separate products that each address a distinct aspect of a business’s inbound marketing strategy. The first is HubSpot’s “free-forever” customer relations management (CRM) system; the second is HubSpot Marketing. Finally, HubSpot offers a Sales tool. But what exactly do these products offer subscribers? And are HubSpot’s inbound marketing services right for you? Join us as we dive into the deep end of inbound marketing. We’ll cover HubSpot pricing, support, and more.

HubSpot CRM Tool

As mentioned above, HubSpot’s CRM tool is free forever. Now, I have been writing and reviewing tech products for a while now, and I have come to expect a few things when I see the “free forever” label. Usually, that just means there is a free version of a software, but with most useful features removed. HubSpot’s CRM is not like that. There are no other subscription tiers, no other fees. HubSpot CRM is 100% free.

But what does it do?

Basically, this tool is designed to help you manage your interactions with customers. When adding a new contact into your database (that can hold up to 1,000,000 people), the CRM begins cataloging every interaction. As you communicate with prospective customers, you retain access to your entire history with them. No more losing emails in the depths of your inbox. All the details are saved and easy to access. In addition to the microscopic view of each contact, the CRM also provides you a broad perspective on what HubSpot calls your “sales funnel.” Using the dashboard, you can quickly identify which customers are locked in on the road to closing a deal and which ones might need more assistance. You can use this tool to automate those communications as well, ensuring no customer falls through the cracks.

So do you need HubSpot’s CRM? Basically, if you are attempting to sell any sort of customizable product where different customers will receive individually tailored products, then you definitely want some kind of CRM service. And HubSpot’s is free. Not only that, but it works, and works well. So yes, you probably want to at least try it out.

But what about HubSpot’s other products? Let’s take a look.

HubSpot Inbound Marketing

You may have a way to manage your relationships with all your customers, but how do you get those customers in the first place? The obvious answer is that you need to market yourself somehow. Fortunately, HubSpot also offers an inbound marketing service that works seamlessly with their CRM product. You can use the free-forever version of this product, but really you will want to start at the $200/month “Starter” level, which includes such crucial features as Calls To Action pages for your website and email marketing. HubSpot pricing for larger subscriptions (which run into the $2,400/month range) includes marketing automation, A/B testing, and custom event triggers.

This is where HubSpot’s “inbound marketing” philosophy really starts to show through: Most of the marketing that you will do with this product involves creating content that draws prospective customers to you. Inbound methodology could entail content marketing, like writing blogs, or optimizing your website to bring in customers rather than investing in outbound marketing through social media sites Facebook, Google, or other advertising platforms. It is organic lead generation, in other words. Keep in mind that you will need a website already in order for this to work. If you’re using a hosting service like Squarespace or Wix, you will need to add a few lines of code (provided by HubSpot) to the source in order to integrate with HubSpot. If you use WordPress, on the other hand, you can simply install the HubSpot plug-in. So far so good.

But what do you actually get from there?

Like I mentioned above, the idea of HubSpot’s marketing service is to attract customers organically to your own content by optimizing your website. HubSpot provides blog and email templates designed to look great across devices, then allow you to insert the all-important ‘Call to Action’ boxes that encourage people to enter their information to your email list and start that customer relationship. The more money you spend per month, the more automated this process becomes.

So do you need inbound marketing services through HubSpot? In my opinion, yes. This service is worth at least the $200/month subscription. From there you will have to decide how much you want to spend on increased automation.

HubSpot Sales

So now you have a way to attract potential customers and manage your relationship with them. But really the whole point is to convert those leads and prospects into sales. Once again, HubSpot offers a product to fill that gap. HubSpot Sales Hub is all about communicating with customers, lead nurturing, and centralizing the process of negotiation so that you can focus on the warmest leads without sacrificing the others. The free version of this product is relatively viable, including meetings, calls, task tracking, and more. However, by paying for the $50/month subscription, you also gain features like live chat, prospects, and dedicated customer support. For a whopping $400/month, you can automate your sales process, as well as unlock HubSpot’s excellent Salesforce integration.

Like all of HubSpot’s products, the Sales Hub is built with centralization in mind. All your leads are kept in the same place, organized to keep them from getting mixed up or lost. The focus in sales, though, is on communication with clients. All subscribers gain access to HubSpot’s calls feature, which simplifies the process of scheduling phone meetings with customers. You also get access to powerful email marketing tools, allowing you to track which customers read your messages or downloaded your attachments.

So do you need it? I think the free version of the software is definitely worth a try. If you find you like your experience with the free version, you might consider paying a higher price for some more advanced features.

HubSpot Service Hub

Offered at $400/month, HubSpot’s Service Hub is the final square in the grand customer management quilt that HubSpot has created. As with all their other products, the key to understanding the Service Hub is organization. The goal is that you will be able to keep all your customer interactions organized and arranged so that no one gets left out.

The Service Hub comes with several communication tools, including a live chat and enhanced email inbox to ensure your customers never feel ignored. Additionally, you can create a “knowledge base” of self-service articles to allow your more independent customers a chance to figure out their problems on their own. There is even a feature allowing you to create chatbots to increase the efficiency of your customer service interactions. Finally, use comprehensive data insights to make sure you are getting optimal interactions every time.

So do you need the sales hub? Really, it will only be useful if you have a lot of customers every month. Of all the HubSpot products I have reviewed in this post, this is the one I would recommend skipping out on, at least at first. Having said that, if your products require extensive customer service, this might be a great option for you.

Why Go Hubspot?

HubSpot provides products that cover every facet of customer interaction, from marketing to sales to leads to customer service. Supporting all other products is the Hubspot CRM, which serves as the bedrock product that makes the others work smoothly.

But do you need HubSpot? Frankly, I think you do. If you are trying to market or sell a product on the internet today, you will want to use these kinds of products in some way, even if you use low-level or free subscriptions for some of them. The only possible exception would be the customer service hub, depending on the level of service required by your product.

Fortunately, most of HubSpot’s products have a free-forever option, so you can try before you buy. I recommend signing up and putting the different apps through their paces before committing to paying a monthly subscription.

The post Are HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Services Right For You? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Print, Pack, And Ship With FedEx Office

As an online seller, you’re a busy person. Between managing your website’s design and processing incoming orders, you barely have enough time to restock your packaging materials, much less create and print new marketing inserts!

If this is you, it might be time to look into FedEx Office. You know FedEx as a shipping carrier that helps you get your products to your customers’ doorsteps, but they also offer a range of other services that can help simplify your business operations. And if you’re already using FedEx for your shipping, these services should fit right into your current business model.

Take advantage of FedEx Office’s free shipping supplies and DIY design and printing services for marketing materials. If you need a few extra hands, look into FedEx’s packing and design services for assistance.

Read on to learn how you can order free packaging materials and design and print your marketing inserts at your local FedEx store.

Get Started With FedEx Office

Packing & Shipping Supplies

One of FedEx’s best services is their free-to-order shipping supplies.

If you are using FedEx Express for your shipments, you can order FedEx boxes and filler material for free online. Those packages will be delivered to your doorstep within 2-5 business days. Take a look at a list of available packaging materials below, or view this webpage which includes a bit more detail about each option.

Or, if you already have a FedEx account, you can go one step further and login to your account in order to start ordering packaging materials.

Here’s a selection of those supplies:

  • FedEx Envelope
    • Best for papers. Must not exceed 500 grams.
  • FedEx Pak
    • For larger papers. Must not exceed 2.5kg.
  • FedEx Padded Pak
    • Tear and water resistant, for heavier documents that need protection. Must not exceed 2.5kg.
  • FedEx Small Box
    • Self-assembly box, for small documents and items. Must not exceed 9kg.
  • FedEx Medium Box
    • Self-sealing box, for binders, books, and large documents. Must not exceed 9kg.
  • FedEx Large Box
    • Self-sealing box, for large stacks of paper, heavier items, etc. Must not exceed 13kg.
  • FedEx A4 Box
    • Self-sealing box for shipping internationally. Must not exceed 9kg.
  • FedEx Tube
    • Self-sealing tube for posters, photos, etc. Must not exceed 9kg.
  • FedEx 10kg Box
    • Fixed rate via the FedEx International Priority Service.
  • FedEx 25kg Box
    • Fixed rate via the FedEx International Priority Service.
  • FedEx Clinical Pak
    • For shipping noninfectious clinical material. Must not exceed 9kg.
  • FedEx UN 3373 Pak
    • For shipping potentially infectious clinical material. Must not exceed 9kg.

For step-by-step instructions on ordering your FedEx shipping supplies online, take a look at this video:

If you choose to go the DIY route for packing, FedEx also provides several pages of advice on how to best pack specific items. Take a look at FedEx’s Service Guide, Packaging Help Hub, and Express Packaging and Labelling Tips.

Alternatively, if you’d prefer FedEx did the packaging on your behalf, that’s an option too. Just take your shipments to a FedEx store nearby, and they will bubble wrap and box your products right there. Take a look at FedEx’s information on these packaging services and view their list of available boxes below:

  • Standard boxes
  • Specialty boxes
  • Bulk boxes
  • Packing supplies

In my opinion, if you’re shipping more than twenty items a week, it’s a better idea to go with the self-packaging options. The materials are free, and after a bit of practice, you’ll be a packaging expert just like the employees at FedEx.

Get Supplies From FedEx Office

Marketing Materials

In addition to their shipping services, FedEx also offers design and printing services for your marketing materials. Create custom marketing materials in-store at the FedEx Office or use an available template to design your materials online.

You’ll be able to create the following items:

  • Banners
  • Business Cards
  • Brochures
  • Direct Mail
  • Flyers
  • Mounted Posters
  • Postcards
  • Posters
  • Presentations
  • Resumes
  • Sell Sheets
  • Signs
  • Design Services
  • Use Design Templates
  • Canvas Prints
  • Invitations
  • Manuals
  • Backlit Prints
  • Photo Posters
  • Car Magnets
  • Decals

Follow the links above to view pricing for each item based on size and materials.

You can pick up your order at a FedEx Office location or have it shipped to you. FedEx offers free shipping on orders of $100 or more.

FedEx is also currently offering a coupon for their printing services. Get $5 on orders of $25 or more.

Start Printing With FedEx Office

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for an easy way to print your marketing inserts, posters, and business cards while getting your shipping done, FedEx Office might be the way to go.

Of course, you’ll need to consider that these FedEx printing services come with some cost, and though the prices are generally very reasonable, you may be able to find lower prices elsewhere. Shop around before you make your decision!

No matter what you decide on the printing services, one thing is certain: If you are using FedEx Express to ship your packages, you absolutely must take advantage of FedEx’s free shipping supplies. Just order the items you need online, and have those supplies delivered directly to your workspace in just a few days.

For more information on what FedEx can offer your business, take a look at their website. Or, for a comparison of FedEx’s shipping services with other major shipping carriers, head over to our article USPS vs UPS vs FedEx: Which Shipping Carrier Is Best?

Get Started With FedEx Office

The post How To Print, Pack, And Ship With FedEx Office appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Should I Use Yelp for Business Owners?

We’ve all heard of Yelp. You might think of it simply as a helpful website that advises you to steer clear of that new Asian-Fusion place on Main Street (the service is terrible and you will get food poisoning). Based on how fellow customers rate restaurants and other businesses on a five-star scale, you can make decisions about whether various establishments are worth your time. You can even see pictures of locations, plates of food, menus, hotel rooms, and more.

But there is more to Yelp than just customer reviews of local services. On the other side of the curtain is a whole array of business tools designed to bring more customers through your doors. Functioning much like a social media account, Yelp for Business Owners lets you post pictures, interact with customers, and even buy targeted advertising to help grow your business. Ranging from free options that allow you to “claim” your business to paid subscriptions providing advertisements and high-quality video support, Yelp for Business Owners might be just the thing you have been looking for to give your business a boost.

But is it worth the expenditure? What can Yelp for Business really do for you? Read on to find out.

Do I Have To Pay To Create A Yelp Account For My Business?

Yelp for Business is free on the most basic level, but there are paid options if you want more features. Let’s take a closer look at the costs involved.

Free Tools:

The basic concept behind the free tools is that you can claim your business and establish a greater presence through Yelp. In many cases, your business will already be on Yelp, with positive and negative reviews, photos, and traffic already present. By claiming your own business, you will be able to gain some control over that content, including the ability to respond to reviews and add your own photos. In most cases, and especially if your business is already rated and reviewed on Yelp, there is no reason not to at least check this version of Yelp for Business out.

Self Service:

If you want to take advantage of Yelp’s proven popularity with consumers, you may find it advantageous to try their advertising service. The self-service option allows you to set your own budget for ads and will target people searching similar services to yours within your area. Yelp does not post their prices publically, but I found a general consensus among small business owners that pricing starts at $350 per month. Opting for this plan also allows for an “upgraded slideshow,” and removal of competitor ads when potential customers are looking at your Yelp page.

Full Service:

Signing up for the Full Service option gives you the opportunity to add a video to your Yelp profile, as well as a “call to action button” on your page. Both of these make your Yelp page stand out from competition, which could be valuable if there are lots of similar businesses to yours in your area. The Full Service package also includes support from Yelp’s own team of marketing experts, who will be on hand to help you craft your ads and deal with bad reviews and difficult customers.

How Easy Is It To Use Yelp For Business?

By all accounts, Yelp for Business Owners is very straightforward to use. It is easy to add photos and respond to customers on Yelp’s web platform. Designing an ad campaign is a little more difficult, but that mostly comes down to your own marketing decisions. So far, so good. However, if you do decide to sign up for Yelp’s advertising (hoping to take advantage of Yelp’s high trust rating with internet users), be aware that some things just aren’t possible. Hoping to set geographic boundaries for your advertisements? No can do. Want to specify particular keywords to direct traffic your way? Big nope there. So while the actual operating of Yelp for Business is pretty easy, the lack of things to do does not bode well for the app.

Are There Downsides To Using Yelp?

Well, we have partially answered that question already. The limitations on your advertising potential are a huge drawback for a platform that is supposed to be all about advertising for local businesses. Unfortunately, the bad news does not end there. In addition to being a little opaque in terms of usability, Yelp for Business is expensive. With prices starting at $350 per month and only increased from there, you will be paying exponentially more for Yelp than you would for Google, Facebook, or other ads. On top of that, I read reports from several users (read: most that I saw) claiming that it can be hard to determine just how effective those ads really are. Proponents of Yelp talk about the excellent reputation the site has with consumers and how often users visit an establishment once they look it up on the site. But actually finding how those statistics apply to small business owners can apparently be rather difficult.

On top of that, Yelp’s customer service reps can be charitably described as… persistent. I ran across more complaints about this aspect of Yelp for Business Owners than any other. Once you make it known to Yelp that you might be interested in an advertising contract, they push for it hard, even to the point of insisting that a higher price will be so beneficial to your business that you can’t afford not to give in and sign up. As a small business owner myself, I can’t imagine the frustration of continually having to defend my own decision to limit my budget below what a sales rep thinks is wise. After all, the business is mine.

Final Thoughts

Yelp is a proven platform that users–your future customers–trust almost implicitly. That said, Yelp for Business can be expensive, on the opaque side, and possibly less effective than advertised. My own take on it is this: signing up with Yelp for Business Owners is worthwhile if you already have a significant following on the platform. If your business already has positive reviews and has a decent history, you may as well at least claim your business on Yelp and upload some official photos. It might even be worth it to give in and pay for some ads. Just make sure you have a strategy in place for using Yelp for your business marketing.

If your business is brand new and has little to no Yelp presence, you may not want to go beyond confirming your business. At the very least, you should wait for a more established footprint on this review site before paying at all for their advertising; your money will just be better used elsewhere.

Get Started With Yelp For Business Owners

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