Petpreneurs typically have two ways to make their marketing successful: You can hustle, meaning you hit the pavement to get the word out. Or you have to pay for it, which won’t produce the results you need to see if you don’t have sufficient budget.

Fortunately, Instagram has come up with a way to have the best of both worlds ... for free. Instagram Direct is one of the best networking and business development opportunities in a long time. With 700 million users and 65 percent of the world’s top 100 brands using the platform, Instagram is no longer just where the kids are hanging out. And with privacy permissions being non-existent currently for the users, you can direct-message any user. That’s right! Time to go find those ideal clients, because this free advertising opportunity won’t last forever!

Here’s my step-by-step guide to Instagram Direct to increase your opportunities.

Track Down the Best Accounts to Target 

The amazing part of Instagram is that you can find an infinite number of leads by searching for hashtags, or — better yet for local accounts — searching accounts based on your store location under “places” in the search bar. Then start looking at the most popular or recent posts of the type of person you’re targeting. The point here is to find people who are already sharing their lives on Instagram, because once a customer of yours, they will likely post about you. Dogs, cats and even pigs have their own Instagram accounts, and they often have thousands of followers!

Sniff ’Em Out for a Minute

Scroll through an account. What types of posts do they share about their pet? Where do they take them? Activities? Interests? Likes and dislikes? All it’s going to take is a single direct message to start building a relationship, so get a little background first to craft a message that will offer them the best value.

Jump In and Be a Good Dog

Good dogs don’t jump on people and they don’t bark constantly for what they want. Who doesn’t love a good dog? Take that example and think about it as it relates to starting a new relationship. It should always be about them from the start and not about you. How you can truly help them? Make their life easier? Provide a solution? How will you bring value to their needs, situation, and interests? 

The key is to connect with the person first, provide value and then ask for the sale. Maybe you notice they love getting outside with their dog and you have a “Dog Walk Meetup” coming up. Send them a message letting them know you noticed they love getting out with their dog. Compliment them on being great active pet parent extend them a personal invitation to come to your free event.

Become Obsessed, as in a Game of Fetch

Success is still a numbers game. Sometimes we catch the ball in the air. Sometimes we get it on the bounce, and sometimes we’ve run for that ball so much that we’re finally satisfied. I know you’re busy, but you need to commit to this every day for an hour or more. Come on! It’s free! And you can target your exact ideal customer! Those registers will be ringing if you stay consistent. 

Sitting in your business wondering where all the customers are and complaining that you don’t have enough sales is like doing nothing at all. This will work. 

You aren’t paying a marketing company to tackle this task, so you’ll have to hustle a little.

Candace D’Agnolo owns a successful pet business, Dogaholics, and offers business consulting at Pet Boss Nation. Get a free 90-day Pet Boss Action planner to tackle all your business goals, at petbossnation.com/petsplus. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


This article originally appeared in the September-October 2017 edition of PETS+.