Articles by Nick Milano

Did you know that Dirty Dogs Eat?

Friday, July 23rd, 2010


Indianapolis Small Business Owner Gives Away Free Dog Washes – Cleans Up

I had been selling dog food for 12 years before I realized that dirty dogs eat. What a silly idea – of course they do.

Let me explain. After opening my first pet food & supply store in 1992, I was now planning to open our fifth store. We were looking for a unique feature to set this store apart. This was to be a 6400 square foot store – 80 feet wide by 80 feet deep. I had recently heard about a store in Birmingham Alabama that was having success with a Do-It-Yourself Dog Wash. After making a few phone calls I spoke with the owner of the store in Birmingham. He sent me photos and a drawing of his dog wash.

After reviewing the information sent from Birmingham, we laid out a 12’ x 12’ space to be the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Dog Wash for our soon to open Greenwood, IN store. Four years later we had installed a DIY Dog Wash in our new Noblesville and Avon stores. We also remodeled our Broad Ripple store to include a Dog Wash in that store as well. We knew that dirty dogs all over town do indeed eat.

Once all four of our Indy area stores had the DIY Dog Wash we were able to promote it in a big way. We went out on a limb and printed up 10,000 coupons for a free wash. I was inspired by the story of Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota. In their case, they offered to give a glass of ice water to drivers on their way to the Badlands. They started with simple signs along the road to draw traffic into their store. That simple gesture was the backbone of an incredible retail success story that has gone on for over 60 years. Instead of ice water, we would give away a $10 dog wash. We had expenses with each wash – our staff time and utility costs. But similar to Wall Drugs, our free offer drew prospective customers into our store.

At first we mainly gave out the coupons at off-site events to entice people to check out this new service. Then we stepped out to build a network in the animal welfare community. We wanted to offer a FREE dog wash to anyone who opened their home to an animal in need. There were many people fostering pets and we felt they deserved a FREE dog wash for their efforts. We now use a variety of network events to invite pet lovers to our stores, using the dog wash as the main draw. It is our most distinctive offering and because our costs are in line we can use the dog wash to encourage prospects to check us out.

Are we giving a lot away? Yes, but by using the DIY Dog Wash as a draw we have substantially grown our overall store volume. Remember, dirty dogs eat. On the way to the dog wash customers walk by our best selling assortment of food, treats and toys. In five years we’ve gone from zero to over 15,000 paid dog washes per year, roughly $150,000 in revenue. We have expanded our overall sales in those four stores by nearly $1,000,000 since installing the dog wash. In January we raised the dog wash price from $10 to $11 and our numbers continue to go up. We just received our 3rd printing of 10,000 FREE dog wash coupons and can’t wait to get them into the hands of pet lovers in our area.

I challenge other business owners to find something of value to give away. By giving prospects a taste of how you do business you greatly increase your chances of picking up profitable new customers.

Nick Milano

What is the quickest way to add profit to your business? See Chapters 1, 2, and 3 of free e-book. Click HERE to access.

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