Bella Vasta has grown the one-person pet-sitting business she started right out of college into a thriving enterprise of pet- and house-sitters.
What is her secret?
That there is no secret.
Bella’s success has been powered by a foundation of smart, proven content marketing strategies.
The vast majority of Bella’s clients — 85% — find her on the Internet. And her online marketing skills make her business a great role model for any local business trying to think bigger in 2014.
Bella’s big picture
When she started her business, Bella saw beyond the perceived limitations of a stereotypical hyperlocal small business.
She decided not to stay small, and began using employees to expand her client services — while using content marketing strategy to bring in a constant stream of pet-sitting prospects. With her network of contractors, Bella’s business is pretty much limitless.
Even more amazing is the fact that Bella started her business right out of college. She went directly from being a student to managing her own business, without the trip through corporate America that many entrepreneurs take after graduation.
This woman’s got gumption galore, and her efforts are paying off in BIG ways.
We sat down with Bella to ask her how content marketing has helped her solidify her company as the go-to resource for pet owners in Scottsdale … and how her business fits in with her professional and personal goals.
Building a solid foundation
Bella’s WordPress blog is at the center of her marketing strategy.
She and her team write regular posts about pet-related topics, local community events, pet care tips, plus other educational articles. Because her business targets a hyperlocal market, her blog posts focus on topics of interest to local pet owners.
For example, Bella uses her blog to circulate urgent information about pet food recalls. When she sees a recall announcement, she springs into action. Bella says:
Within the hour, I have [the announcement] posted on my website, and I am sharing that post on my local community Facebook pages, promoting it to pivotal pet people in my community, sending it out to my networking group pages, and sharing the link with other pet sitters so they can send it to their readers and customers.
The way I look at it, why should I promote someone else’s link, when I can write my own post and have that traffic go back to my site? Since we usually break the news within the first few hours, we have become a trusted resource for important pet care news.
After she publishes her “newsjacking” content, Bella uses social networking sites (primarily Facebook and Twitter) to drive traffic back to her posts. She features her business phone number prominently on every page on her website, so anyone who wants to reach her for immediate pet or house sitting needs can get hold of her quickly and easily.
Key takeaways: Make sure a content-rich website is the foundation of your online marketing strategy, then use social networking tools to drive traffic back to your site. If you’re writing about time-sensitive topics, crank out your content quickly in order to be the first in your field to break the news.
Add smart email strategies
Bella uses email regularly to drive people to her articles and alert people to time-sensitive events. Bella says,
I use AWeber, and we have a mailing list of about 400 people. On my site, I have my new subscribers sign up to get a free ebook called “What You Need To Know Before You Hire A Pet Sitter.”
Readers are not checking your site on a regular basis to see if you’ve posted anything new — it’s your responsibility to turn your audience’s heads your way.
Bella also knows that she needs to make her emails mobile-friendly, so she keeps things simple and doesn’t mess around with complicated layouts.
I use email frequently, but I don’t believe in traditional newsletters that are all “done up” in pretty templates and such. I know that people are reading emails on their phones, so I make the margins thin, and make my emails easy to read by using lists and short paragraphs.
Key takeaways: Use email to drive traffic to your content and connect with your audience, but don’t overcomplicate your campaigns. Think simple and make your notes highly readable.
More advice from Bella
Bella’s got more great tips for content marketers. Her recommendations:
- Learn from the best, and model what they’re doing online. Bella says, “I started my business after learning from people like Joshua Cary of PetSittingOlogy and Marcus Sheridan. I started blogging because I knew I ‘should,’ but I became good at it after learning a lot from [mentors and role models].”
- Stay agile. Sometimes, fast content creation can work in your favor — especially if your topic is time-sensitive.
- Get engaged. Respond to your followers when they reply, tweet, or comment on your content. Replying and engaging will help you stand out from your competition.
- Don’t be afraid to revisit subjects that are of particular interest to your audience. Bella says, “Just because I have already written about dog walking in Scottsdale, doesn’t mean I can’t write about it three more times — it’s okay to come back to certain topics again and again.”
What’s next for Bella?
Bella has become so successful that she’s teaching other business owners how to succeed in her industry using online marketing. Her second website, Jump Consulting, focuses on helping pet sitters leverage content marketing to get found online.
Bella’s next goal is to become a wife and mother. Because she uses content marketing techniques to get customers, her business is flexible enough that she can run the entire thing from her home.
We’ve seen previous case studies that focus on the power of super-motivated moms and the amazing impact they can make while still having family flexibility, so we all know what’s possible for parent entrepreneurs.
The short version is this: The sky’s the limit.
Given Bella’s current entrepreneurial trajectory, the future looks very bright for the pet sitting queen. She’s a role model for other college students, for mothers, and for anyone who wants to start a business in a local service industry.
“Anything is possible,” Bella says, “if you understand the Internet.”
About the Author: Beth Hayden is a blogging coach and Pinterest marketing convert. You can follow her pins at @bethhayden. To learn how to market effectively with Pinterest, download her free report, "5 Stupid Mistakes to Avoid if You Want to Make Money with Pinterest."