Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello, my name is Abhishek Joshi and I am the founder of Dog with Blog. We aim at finding loving homes for abandoned and stray dogs using content marketing and social media. We have an active community of 116k fans across our social handles who help with adoptions. Our blog features articles related to pet care, adoptions, and dogs in pop culture.
We have driven 900+ adoptions for homeless dogs using social media.
We also partner with brands for content partnerships, for instance, we ran a post with National Geographic on the stray dogs of India.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Post my MBA, I started as a digital marketer for an IT firm and I was managing the company website - content, social media, blogs, etc. Since my professional domain was digital and I had a keen interest in the same, I experimented with creating a personal blog of my own over a weekend. Since I was most interested in dogs and was volunteering towards their care, that came to be the theme of the blog.
Dog with Blog was conceptualized in 2010 when I thought of attempting to make a difference (in my humble capacity) towards the stray animal cause. I was merely concocting a cocktail of the twin loves of my life – dogs, and words – in that order. In India, there are many homeless dogs who rarely fund takers despite them being best suited to withstand and flourish in the tropical climates. We try to raise awareness towards their plight and with our active communities we run a dog adoption network which is completely free.
The power of social media is unquestionable and the very fact that we have been able to find some of the strays, abandoned dogs loving homes bears testimony to the same. Minus the digital channels, there wasn’t an efficient way to reach out to dog lovers across the length and breadth of the country.
The blog received a warm welcome thanks to word of mouth and an encouraging reader base. The community culture sits at the core of the blog, and we have vibrant social media pages.
Interestingly, the Facebook page which was started two years later than the blog faced no hurdles in finding a community as the blog had had a substantial reader base by then. At present, there are more than 100k+ dog lovers in our communities – all organically built.
We also compiled and listed city-wide rescue and adoption centers so that people who were considering ‘buy dogs’ can also explore shelters and adoption.
I work extra hours, late till night, and on weekends but I enjoy every minute of it as there's just so much to learn and soak in.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
To be honest, there were no slide decks or grand plans on how the final product would shape up. It started as a virtual community to help with what I was doing in free time (volunteering and helping with fosters) - putting out blog posts, social media updates, etc. helped amplify the adoption queries and I was driven by what I was seeing, an odd post could drive more interest regarding adoptions than multiple visits around residential societies and putting out posters. My plan at that stage was to build a community of like-minded dog lovers.
It started with writing which led to building a network of volunteers who would be helping at other shelters etc. This helped track adoption cases and we could centrally share and follow up with the prospective leads and families since NGOs were almost always lacking resources.
The Internet gave us a level playing field where there were no immediate needs of significant funds, however, thanks to our content resonating with the audience - we were approached by a pet products company that sponsored the monthly blog post and social media contest. The long term contract with them helped with the tech fees.
We also get approached by multiple ecomm sites to host their content or ads but since many of them are into breed sales, we don’t work with them. We are exploring opportunities to tie up directly with firms like Royal Canin, Pedigree, etc. without compromising on our content strategy.
We started with an MVP of sorts, a generic WordPress blog to dip our toes in. After two years of running the same (and finishing B school, parallelly), we opted for a self-hosted solution and the blog was live. Having a handy list of subscribers from the earlier blog (a free WordPress site) made the journey easier as we weren’t dependent on advertising costs to reach out to our network.
Describe the process of launching the business.
We started small, having local nuances integrated and looking for basic questions like what if someone wants to adopt a dog in an Indian city - what information would he need - how, where, when, etc. What would the search journey be like - how can we tap and maybe, convert people looking to buy ‘pedigree’ and help them see the goodness that comes with adoption, etc.
Something that's pivotal and must be considered foremost is finding the product-market fit, everything else can wait.
I designed the website in WordPress, the plugins - themes were all taken into consideration the persona of the end-user. When it came to social media, I created our pages and profiles and experimented with different content buckets to discover our voice that resonated with our TG. Once you have built a prototype and have seen initial traction, upscaling it gets relatively easier - you know the path and you can push the throttle.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Although I have focused more on content marketing, there are ideas I have I’ve experimented upon, be it Facebook and Instagram ads, email marketing, or WhatsApp outreach. I have had the most success with SEO and social media. When it comes to referral sites - Reddit is an often underlooked treasure trove for traffic and connecting with your niche. It is a channel I am still working on and when it clicks, it sends significant traffic your way!
The other thing that's critical but often goes missing is following a ritual. You need to be regular when it comes to content - social media, blog posts, outreach, link building. Efforts take some time, but going dark after the initial enthusiasm isn't going to help.
Twitter is another channel that has worked well for us
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are closing in on our one-thousandth adoption and that’s honestly the most important metric we have! Since Dog with Blog started as a side project to help find homes for needy animals, sales and revenues weren’t something we were aiming at but partnerships happened as brands reached out to us and now we take these monies to help feed and look after more stray dogs. We have built a community of 100k+ users and have an active email newsletter outreach to not depend upon paid mediums.
We are optimistic about the future - more adoptions, brand associations and perhaps exploring a book deal. We are looking to expand as a publisher site and increase the content on site.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
To remember the raison d'être has helped me focus on why I curated this venture. It has helped me make decisions in terms of who to collaborate with, why, and how to turn down investment opportunities (because not all funding managers would understand it). When it comes to dependency on finances, I have dealt in lean mode and it has been a great learning experience.
I work extra hours, late till night, and on weekends but I enjoy every minute of it as there's just so much to learn and soak in - the digital word keeps ever-changing. To keep oneself updated and scout for synergies keeps startups agile.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Email marketing: Mailchimp
- Team communication: Microsoft Teams
- Customer service: Slack
- Social media management: Hootsuite
- SEO: SEMrush and Ahrefs
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
In podcasts, I regularly listen to ‘Business Wars’ and ‘Indie Hackers’ among others.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
I guess something pivotal and must be considered foremost is finding the product-market fit, everything else can wait. Sure it'd be nice to have a robust social media strategy or be well prepared to scale, but all of it comes second. Until you are building something that solves a problem, the traction wouldn't sustain itself.
Building an MVP is the first thing. Scaling it up, optimizing it, putting marketing dollars can all wait. It also helps you tweak, refine, or pivot your idea if needed.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Yes, we are looking for Content marketing interns. These are remote positions due to the pandemic and interested candidates may fill their details here.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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