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Building an Emotionally-Invested Customer Base

Combining his passions for dogs and art, Josh White has created a unique dog grooming salon that keeps customers coming back

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Behind the Review host and Yelp's Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week's episode of the podcast.

Dogue

"Doodle" breeds—purebred dogs crossed with poodles—are taking over the country, with Goldendoodles ranking as the fifth most popular breed of 2021. Coveted for being more hypoallergenic and shedding much less than other breeds, the doodle's curly coat requires pretty regular maintenance, as Yelp reviewer Kayla J. discovered when she brought home her adorable doodle puppy last year.

A good groomer is essential for any doodle owner, but as a first-time doodle guardian, Kayla didn't have a regular groomer in mind. Thanks to searches on Instagram and Yelp, she found Dogue Spa in West Hollywood, California.

"I was looking at their Instagram, and they're grooming this dog, and in all of his grooming sessions, he looked fantastic," Kayla said. "They had really good reviews. And I always read the reviews. I like them better when they have photos so I can see firsthand. So I tried it out. I took all the information that I got from Yelp and made my own conclusion that we'd go for it."

Social media is a great marketing tool, especially for a business like Dogue Spa, where photos and video can tell an authentic story about the business, with proof of the quality of work done by owner Josh White and his staff. Josh has always loved dogs, and grooming allows him to combine this love and his artistic side. After all, he named his grooming salon as a play on Vogue magazine.

"I've been grooming for about 10 years. I'm a very creative guy, and I love art. I love fashion. I love pop culture. And I just wanted to mix that into what I do with my dogs," said Josh. "And for grooming, it's definitely an art form. Instead of us painting or sculpting, we're sculpting dog hair."

That art is on display on Dogue Spa's Instagram page but also on the open-air floor of the grooming salon itself. The layout of the grooming area is good for business because owners can see the process of grooming, but it's also fun for the dogs themselves.

"We're confident in what we do, and nothing changes that if someone sees a dog being groomed. But it's good for people to see how the dog is performing, how they're acting. Especially if an owner brings in their puppy and their puppy's just wild and moving, and then you come several months after and see your dog standing perfectly on the table. It's a feeling of accomplishment seeing your dog becoming a good grooming dog."

Josh and his staff take time to educate their clients, both four-legged and two-legged, on how to be a great customer and dog owner. The dogs are trained to stay still for grooming with treats and affection, and the customers are educated on the upkeep required between appointments, something Kayla appreciated as a new doodle owner.

"[Josh] sat down with me. He asked me what our grooming was like at home—what were my desires, maybe the length that I was going for—but also reiterating that if I do want my dog's hair to be longer, since he is a doodle, that it is more high maintenance, and he will have to come every four to six weeks and do the baths at home. So they really do make sure to see if you are doing that part," said Kayla.

That personal attention and education makes things easier for the dog, the owner, and for the team of groomers at Dogue Spa, which is a strategic move Josh makes purposefully.

"It helps us out a lot and will help them out in the long run and for the dog to have a great experience coming to grooming. So we just like to educate them and make sure that it's fun for the both of us. It's a team effort. It's our job to do the cut and groom your dog, but it's also the owner's job to keep that up at home. And you make a mutual respect of it all," he said.

Respecting customers and clients can lead to great word-of-mouth marketing and referrals, as well as good Yelp reviews. The bad reviews will happen, but Josh likes to handle them with more education and awareness rather than get defensive.

"It's never something like, 'This person messed up a haircut; I didn't want this' or 'My dog was hurt.' It's maybe something like, 'I wanted a full teddy bear cut, and they shaved my dog.' But it's also: 'Your dog was very matted. There's nothing we could have done. We explained everything to you. You're just not satisfied,'" he said. "And that still is where we feel like educating the owner. But not everybody wants to hear that. We try our best to explain and educate, but we can't make every single person happy. We just try our best."

Most small businesses can see increased success with a few lessons from Josh and the team at Dogue Spa:

  • Visibility on social media is always important. With a business focused on looks and a final product, it's crucial that Josh shows his work on Instagram and other platforms so potential customers can anticipate their own results.
  • Visibility can extend beyond social media into the brick-and-mortar business front. Josh keeps an open floor plan so customers can see how the dogs are handled while also keeping creativity on display.
  • Put your personality into your business to stand out from the competition. In addition to standard grooms, Josh and his team work as artists creating unique dog grooms for their customers.
  • Educating customers can make your job easier and create good buzz. By creating a team between the groomers and owners, Josh also creates better clients and better marketing.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Josh and Kayla, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

Available on: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Soundcloud

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