Fog City Dogs
How to Grow a Pet Resort and Profit from Selling it in Less than 2 Years
In 2002 Jason Shine and his wife started Fog City Dogs, a pet resort that offered daycare for dogs in the San Francisco Bay area. They wanted to create a service that provided exceptional quality care for dogs and allowed them to play with each other all day long while giving their owners the peace of mind to know that their best friends were very well cared for. Soon, their level of care was of such high quality that their customers requested overnight stays for their dogs, as well, so the Shines added a boarding service to their business. For the next 13 years the Shines did what they could to grow their business. In 2005 they teamed up with friend, Sean Queenan, to co-own the pet resort with them. During this time they also did what they could to market the business themselves. By 2015 the pet resort had grown to the point of attracting investors, and Jason and Sean decided to sell the business. That’s when the Fog City Dogs’ success story took a turn. With competition growing among pet resorts in the area, and with the new owners of the pet resort not doing a good job of managing the business, Fog City Dogs barely turned a profit.
According to Shine, “the new owners didn’t seem to have an interest in growing the business, per se; instead, they assumed it would run on auto pilot and that it would continue to grow on its own.” So the new owners approached Shine and Queenan and asked if they could buy the business back. They did. But this time they had no intention of waiting another 13 years to sell it as a very profitable business.
Investing in Nehmedia to manage all the marketing for us has been very well worth it. It’s definitely been worth every penny.
Investing in the Right Marketing Firm
In June 2017, when Shine and Queenan resumed ownership of Fog City Dogs again, they engaged with pet resort industry consultant, Outstanding Pet Care (OPC), and subsequently hired reservation specialists, changed prices, and did some competitive analysis. Six months later, in early 2018, they also hired Nehmedia, Inc., a marketing firm that specializes in helping pet resorts grow with innovative digital marketing capabilities and services.
Nehmedia helped redesign Fog City Dogs’ website so it would convert more website visitors than ever before into customers. The firm also increased the visibility of Fog City Dogs on the web, making it much easier for pet parents to find the pet resort. “Nehmedia really helped us build the business back up,” said Shine, “by generating more leads and phone calls for us.” Within a few months Fog City Dogs was achieving double-digit growth each month – something that has continued every month since.
According to Shine, one of the best services offered by Nehmedia was a Call Tracking system. Created by Nehmedia, the system allows pet resorts to record and monitor incoming calls in order to deliver superior levels of customer service to callers. “We were constantly using those recordings to tweak things, to make sure our reservation specialists were saying the right things, and to help us provide the best customer service against caller conversion benchmarks,” Shine said. “Best of all, the Nehmedia Call Tracking system enabled us to identify the source of the calls and, in the process, tell us what was working and not working with our marketing efforts.”
After partnering with Nehmedia for 20 months, Fog City Dogs was able to extend their quality pet care services to more customers, regain its competitive edge, turn a high profit and attract new investors. “We’ve been able to turn our business around --- from being barely profitable to becoming very profitable and attractive to investors again --- in 20 months instead of 13 years,” he said. In October 2019 Shine and Queenan received multiple offers from investors and sold Fog City Dogs again.
Investing in the Right Elements of the Marketing Mix
Looking back, Shine said the most important benefit received from Nehmedia was the overall guidance Nehmedia provided. “Knowing where and how to best allocate our marketing dollars each month, which enabled us to reach more pet parents in need of high quality care for their pets, was the most beneficial aspect of our partnership with Nehmedia,” Shine said. Each month Nehmedia provides reports and consultation services in which they help clients understand which of their marketing efforts are working best, least, and where to make adjustments in order to receive the highest return on investment (ROI). “We saw where our leads were coming from and adjusted our advertising spend accordingly whether it was with Yelp, Facebook, Google, or just navigating the entire digital marketing landscape,” Shine said.
Shine and Queenan’s investment in Nehmedia’s services was ultimately an investment in their own business. It helped facilitate and accelerate the growth and subsequent sale of Fog City Dogs. “Investing in Nehmedia to manage all the marketing for us has been very well worth it,” he said. It’s definitely been worth every penny.”