Aimed at further development of business, Aussie Pooch Mobile Pty Ltd (APM), one of the Australian leaders in the sphere of dog washing services, needs to implement technical and marketing innovations in its strategic plan.
APM key marketing objectives are to use an interactive marketing strategy and to analyze all customers’ feedbacks gathered by the employees or via the website of the company. Another important issue is creating a company image based on real strategies instead of using insignificant words for the company logos. The main success factors include popularity of the brand among customers and franchisees and increase of the company revenues. With the aim of collaboration regular gatherings of franchisees need to be held. APM management will continue controlling the local initiatives, but will provide more opportunities for expressing their ideas. The main hindrance for realizing of the plan is the competitors in the sphere, whose franchises are already sold to other countries.
Geographical location of the company and Australian desert territories limit its opportunities for attracting new customers and franchisees. APM has got experience of New Zealand market penetration, which appeared to be successful, though the idea was not developed. Simultaneously with entering foreign markets the company is to fortify its positions in the domestic market of household services. The methods for reaching the company goals are pricing variations for referrals and customers using the service in inconvenient period of time. Factors not less important for realization of the plan are training of employees and franchisees and creating comfortable conditions for their work. In case if some of methods appear to be not effective the appropriate measures need to be taken immediately.
Dogs washing services are a relatively new sector of the market enjoying wide popularity among customers and entrepreneurs. Due to the fact that rendering of services appeared to be profitable, numerous franchisers created conditions of severe competition in this sector in Australia.
Aussie Pooch Mobile Pty Ltd (APM) was organized by a 22-year-old Christine Taylor and initially located in Brisbane and the region of Southeast Queensland. Later the geographical boundaries of the enterprise were expanded on other regions of Australia and partially New Zealand through development of a franchise. Business is at the stage of its development, when direct and master franchises are sold to inhabitants of new regions and new customers are attracted.
The geographical position presupposes the limitations of the market. The fact that the inner part of the continent is uninhabitable and the population is concentrated in its coastal part makes competition severer and limits opportunities for the further expansion due to the fact that expansion to other continents is problematic while desert territories do not allow development of the business in the country.
The target market of Aussie Pooch Mobile Pty Ltd (APM) is a segment of the growing household services market. Paid household services were much less popular previously, though there is a strong tendency for its development and expansion in the contemporary society. As cited in Folbre & Bitman’s work (2004) Ruthven (1994) noted that growth of household services is characteristic of post-industrial age. Sociological factor is not less important for increase of the household services popularity; the main factors influencing the customers sector are their personal experience and public opinion. Schneider & Waite (2003) noted that cultural context has impact on people’s habits of purchasing household services. Three main reasons for increasing level of commodification are high income, influence of friends or relatives having high income, high level of parents’ commodification. The main preconditions for development of the household services sector are the standards of industry age, shift of gender roles and marketing consultants, supporting the idea that outsourcing of the domestic services is not only convenient but prestigious as well.
A mobile dog washing service provides its customers with the opportunity to economize their time and efforts. As cited in Gillen’s article (2003) Ericson, Aussie Pooch Mobile manager, noted that many customers schedule their dogs grooming beforehand monthly, or semi-annually. Some customers prefer to plan washing for a year in advance. Work with the continuing customers is very important because their switching to other service providers is costly for the company.
Notwithstanding the fact that dogs’ washing is not a basic need and the public opinion concerning it is still controversial, the society standards are gradually shifted and all dogs’ owners are the potential customers of the service. Lovelock et al. (2008) noted that about four million domestic dogs lived on the country and more than 40 % families owned one or more dogs. Pet lovers consider their animals to be the members of their family and as a rule are ready for some extra expenses for their grooming and washing. Attracting new customers the service provider is to be aimed at those dogs’ owners who lack experience of mobile washing and those who use the services of the other providers. The marketing strategies are to be aimed at propaganda of practicality and usefulness of the service, from one side, and advantages of APM.
The main competitors of APM in the sphere of the dog washing franchising are Jim’s Dogwash and Hydrodog. Success of Jim’s Wash can be explained by creating lower territories and reducing prices for the services and franchises. The emphasis was put on quantity of the franchisees, this approach appeared to be successful due to the fact the lower prices are often the determinant factor for the customers as well as franchisees. Hydrodog strategy is aimed at providing services for different categories of population as they have range in prices for the services from $15 to $40. Making the service price affordable for different categories of population, the company expanded the base of its continuing customers and increased its profits. Hydrodog pays attention to the convenience of the customers and complements the grooming services with blow drying and dogs’ food selling.
The prices for washing at APM vary from $15 to $30, which is lower and more affordable than prices of other service providers. The company was the first to develop a concept of a pooch party, when several neighbors take their dogs to one owner and the price for the second and following dogs’ washing is reduced. Turner (2003) noted that Jim’s Dogwash motivated people for organizing ‘dog parties’, offering discounts for second and following dogs. APM experience was utilized by their competitors, it means that successful practice of the leading household services providers is to be researched and applied by APM marketing specialists.
Management of APM is looking for opportunities to compete for new territories and customers. Another point is improvement and development of the service itself. APM offers aromatherapy and it is an innovation in the sphere of dogs grooming services. The company has got its niche in the market; still the conditions of severe competition induce the management to research the customers’ needs and preferences and look for new marketing strategies and creative decisions.
APM service concept is focused on washing and grooming, choosing dog bathing as their niche. Chris Taylor admitted that she did not want the company to be “a jack of all trades” (Lovelock et al., 2008, p. 520), she preferred to achieve perfection in one sphere. APM operators offer advice concerning dogs’ diet and health problems, but the emphasis is put on washing and grooming. APM offers blow-drying and elimination of smells, both animals’ health and the customers’ convenience are taken into consideration. Not dissipating one’s energies and setting the priorities APM not only implements all available achievements but takes pains to make one’s own contribution to the service improvement.
The company was founded in 1991 by Christine Taylor, who was a schoolgirl at that distant time. The girl’s love for animals was beneficial for the development of the business; still it was her ability to research the market and implement the current strategies in the work of the company that enhanced development of one of the leading Australia franchisers of the household services. Creative decision to make the dogs’ washing service mobile helped to kill two birds with one stone. The customers did not need to take their animals out of their house; on the other hand, APM hydro baths used water and electricity at the expense of the animals’ owners, maintenance of a trailer was cheaper than leasing of a building could be. APM franchising started in 1995; the decision was preceded by a thorough research of theory and international practice. The dog washing appeared to be an inexpensive business, requiring only basic literacy it could be easily started. With the growth of popularity of self-employment and household services, APM franchise offer interested many people all over Australia. It is important that the company recruiters not only selected the franchisees thoroughly, trained them and supported their business, but controlled their marketing decisions, preserving the unity of the network and trying to prevent possible mistakes of the inexperienced entrepreneurs.
The company goes with the times, using all modern achievements and current strategies. The hotline with the live operator registering customers’ orders and a web-site of the company allow communication with the current customers and attract the new ones. The standardized uniform of the workers and a brightly-colored trailer made APM recognizable in the streets. The company strategy is focused on the care of animals and satisfying needs of their owners. For example, the emotional contact with a dog is taken into consideration, and the employees are to speak to their four-legged customer for its owners to see that the animal is treated well. Despite the aim of gaining new profits the fogs’ needs remain the central issue of APM mission.
Notwithstanding the increasing competition in the sphere of the household services there is a plenty of opportunities opened up before APM for its further development. The continuing technical progress provides options for research of the customers’ needs and interests and successful collaboration with them. The new marketing and public relation researches provide plenty of material for improvement of the company advertising strategies. The main challenges that need to be considered are the sense of harmony and individual style of the company brand. For example, when the competitive companies try to use all the latest technical achievements, it may reduce the possible effectiveness of innovations. Going with the time and absorbing everything modern is not to be an end in itself, implementation of the achievements requires the preliminary formulation of the goals and research of the appropriateness of the methods. For example, it is senseless to design a website because most of the competitors have already done it; it is preferable to concentrate on the site options. Another challenge is choosing slogans which could suit any other company of this segment of the market. The company image is to be connected with the company strategies.
Success of the marketing strategies can be measured analyzing the received profits, and customers’ feedbacks concerning the delivered services. Choosing the marketing strategies APM can implement the latest technical achievements in order to increase the company profits and expand the continuing customers’ base.
Notwithstanding the fact that APM has its niche in the market and its positions are strong enough, the situation in the segment is not stable. APM management and marketers are to take pains for further expansion of the market boundaries, attracting new franchisees, upgrading the methods of communication with customers and improving the quality of the service delivery and satisfying growing demands of the sophisticated customers.
With the aim of market penetration and further growth of the company franchises might be sold abroad (Bruhn & Dominck, 2006). At the present moment there is only one master franchisee in New Zealand, though penetration in the new markets could be a way out. In the nearest future the local franchisees are to be involved in the interactive marketing. Armstrong (2009) noted that interactive marketing focuses on buyer-seller interaction quality. Therefore, methods for communication and collaboration with the customers are to be found. These could be forums on the company websites or other methods of researching the customers’ feedback. This will increase the popularity of the company, make the business more profitable and attract new and new franchisees. In distant future APM will penetrate other countries and continents.
Business Volumes Objectives
Analysis of practice and business plans of the most successful franchisees and sharing experience with the other participants of the network could be beneficial. All locations are to participate in the programs of interactive marketing and hit the targets of collecting information on the customers’ feedbacks and attracting new customers. Results of the work done may be evaluated through analysis of profits.
As to the financial objectives, in three years APM benefits are to be increased by one third. The emphasis is put on new markets penetration, though the impact of implementation of interactive marketing strategies and application of modern technological achievements is significant as well. The main indicators of hitting the targets are analysis of the revenues, margins and continuing customers’ database.
Service Marketing Mix: Positioning
APM offers its customers a wide range of additional services, though its mission is focused on dog washing. Aiming at improvement of the customer-employee relationship APM conducts consultations of the customers and sells related goods beside dog washing and grooming. It is important to make the service convenient and pleasant for the customers, they need to feel care and demand for service to use it next time. APM consultations concerning animals’ health prove professionalism of the workers and not requiring much resources provide opportunities for communication with customer and researching their opinion about possible improvements of the service. Complex analysis of data gathered by different franchisees is helpful for developing a common strategy.
It is important that the company image is to be based on business realities and the slogans are not to sound like insignificant meaningless words having nothing in common with the real state of affairs. The options of ordering a wash online and forum need to be added to the options of the company website. With the increasing popularity of social commerce the site could provide opportunities for the customers sharing impressions of the service or helpful advice concerning their pets.
Fogli (2006) noted that pricing variations may excite service customers, but importance of making the price profitable is not to be underestimated. Variations with pricing are to become a part of the company marketing strategy. For example, some privileges could be offered to the customers attracting their friends, but these measures need to be well-planned and their influence on margins needs to be taken into consideration.
There are some periods of idle time during the day, at dinner time, for example, as all the customers want their dogs to be washed in the evening or at the weekend. Doyle & Stern (2006) noted that time is one of important factors influencing segmentation of service market. On the condition that the prices are reduced these idle time periods could be shortened. At the same due to the peculiarities of the customers’ categories the service is to be delivered at time convenient for them.
Successful development of business requires satisfaction of customers’ needs, which is impossible without a thorough research of the customers’ reactions and opinions of the service provider. Clarke (2000) noted that present day realities require more sophisticated mechanisms of gathering the customers’ feedbacks and opinions before, during and after delivery of the service, because marketing and customer service are interdependent. Live communication is not enough at the present moment; anonymous surveys conducted at the company website or by the third parties could be much more effective.
All measures aimed at promotion of the services and attracting new customers need to correspond to the company mission and objectives. APM marketers need to find balance between creative decisions and standardizing of separate franchisees. Ferrell & Hartline (2007) noted that every company has to find its own decision looking for a balance between standardized service and individual treating of every separate customer. Standardization is not to be an end in itself. Promo activities need to be oriented on specific regions and local customers’ preferences.
People, Process, Physical Evidence
With the aim of the further development of business APM management needs to take into consideration all elements of the extended marketing mix triangle, including 3 Ps: people, process, physical evidence. Employees and franchisees need to be thoroughly selected and trained, because the process, the quality of the services provided depends upon the level of their proficiency. Another question is that the working conditions of the employees reflect the company attitude to them and influence the level of their devotion to the company and its mission.
The main steps of APM business plan are penetration the new markets, design of the website and development of the options for interactive marketing, gathering the customers’ feedbacks and complex analysis of the data gathered by different franchisees, working at prices variations. Flexibility is a very important factor influencing realization of business plans of the company. For example, if the variations of pricing reduced the revenues of the company the measures need to be taken immediately. The meetings of representatives of different franchisees are to be held with the aim of sharing their experience and collaboration.
Conditions of severe competition in the sphere of dog washing services in present day Australia induce APM to look for the opportunities of penetration new markets and implementation of new marketing techniques. Implementing the interactive marketing strategy for collecting the customers’ feedbacks and reacting to them, the company could increase its revenues and improve quality of the service. Another possible way out is selling the franchises abroad. Notwithstanding the fact that the positions of APM in the market of household services are strong enough, further development requires implementation of technical and marketing innovations.
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