Business Lessons Learned From Searching For My Cat

On August 9th, my contractor left a door open. My first foster failure (and cat #5) Jack decided that he wanted to check out what was on the other side of that door.

Cue 43 days of frantic searching for an indoor cat whose closest interaction with the outside was meowing at the birds out the window.

Eventually, on the night of day 42, my neighbor called and said she saw what she thought was Jack in her backyard. On day 43 we set a trap and had him 2 hours later.

Then it was off to the vet to make sure he was healthy… and aside from a 4lb weight loss (36% of his total weight!) and slight anemia… he’s back and good as new.

But, now that the ordeal is over and my little a-hole is home… I can share the lessons I learned about marketing.

(wait, what? I thought this was going to be a post with nothing but cute cat pictures?!)

Lesson #1: Get Over The Shame and Fear

The first step in searching for a lost cat is an aggressive physical search. All the websites say so.

(What they don’t say is that the point of the search is more to lay down your scent so your cat can find his way home, but I digress.)

What this meant is that I was one of “those people,” walking through my neighbors’ yards, sweating my ass off (and not caring about how I looked) and asking people for help. 

There was no room for being overly polite or being ashamed.

If I let shame stop me, I wouldn’t have gotten the word out about my boy and how much we missed him.

I wasn’t ashamed to ask people to hang a sign in their storefront. I wasn’t afraid to ask people to share my Facebook post. I wasn’t timid when it came to tromping through backyards.

You can’t be afraid to market your business aggressively. You’ve got to get over worrying what people will think of you. After all, your fear and your shame isn’t putting dollars in your bank account.

Lesson #2: Use multiple methods

Okay, so I didn’t just hang a sign and hope for the best. I used multiple methods to find my cat:

  • Signs on the street corners
  • Flyers door-to-door
  • Talking to any and all people – dog walkers, mailmen, contractors, pizza delivery guys
  • Flyers and signs in local businesses
  • Facebook ads to my neighborhood
  • Dogs Finding Dogs – a K9 tracking service to help us figure out where he was hiding
  • Nextdoor.com and Facebook group posts
  • A sign on my front door for any delivery person that I missed
  • Physical searching (at night, with a flashlight. LOTS of spiders, by the way.)
  • Multiple wildlife traps 
  • Trail cameras to pick up any movement
  • Feeding stations to draw him in
  • Scent markers to help him find his way home
  • Calling shelters regularly to see if he was picked up

Now, this wasn’t a spray-and-pray approach – everything was hyper targeted to my local area and specifically designed to bring Jack back home to me.

Here’s the thing: with your business, you choose ONE specific goal and focus on it 100%. I couldn’t worry about getting the word out about other stray cats. I couldn’t get distracted by other lost cat posters or frolicking in the woods or any of the other things that could take me away from my main goal.

What’s your goal with your business? Is it to get more leads in your pipeline? Is it to make more sales of a specific product or membership? Focus 100% on that until you hit that goal – and THEN move onto focusing on the next thing.

Don’t get distracted by shiny things. Each opportunity that presents itself needs to answer the question: Does this get me further toward finding my goal?

Lesson #3: Never Give Up 

Oh, were there times that I wanted to give up. You bet your tuckus there was. I went through all the stages of grief multiple times. Including accepting that I was never going to see my cat again.

But if I had given up… if I had told my neighbor “nope, that’s probably not him,” he’d still be out there. 

If I hadn’t persisted with the flyers.

If I hadn’t replaced the signs when the rain destroyed them.

If I hadn’t kept walking and getting my scent out there so he could find his way home.

All of those things worked together to bring him home.

So does everything you’re doing with your marketing.

Yes, it feels fruitless to post on social when you’re not getting engagement… but when you do, that’s a potential paying client that wants to hire you (happened to me.)

It can be frustrating to launch a new email campaign and not get the sales you want… but if you send another email (and another)… you’ll get that conversion. (Consider that it takes 7-12 touches for someone to make a buying decision and THEN tell me that 3 emails is enough…)

It can be disheartening to go on another podcast or participate in another JV or have another listbuild and not get the numbers you dreamed of… but each one adds up to a thriving list of potential clients.

You’ve heard that Rome didn’t get built in a day.

Well, Jack didn’t come home in a day. So if I could trudge out there at night, walking through spiderwebs (EUGH), scaring deer, catching raccoons, getting icky ucky old cat food all over my hands as I cleaned out the trap…

Surely you can keep going for another day in your biz, right?

Lesson #4: Celebrate the Wins Along The Way

I LIVED for the moments when we got a sighting. Or when my dog tracker found a scent.

That meant Jack was still alive. And still alive meant I had hope.

So we celebrated the little milestones. 

Same for your biz, sweetcheeks. Take time each day to celebrate the little things… but even more than that… focus on what’s working.

Here’s why: When you celebrate and focus on what’s working, you can easily let go of the things that aren’t.

If your social media isn’t getting you any hits… fine. Put that shit on autopilot so you don’t look dead and spend your time on the direct mail that brought you a new client last month. 

If Facebook ads aren’t bringing you leads but you’re rolling in Instagram messages… stop spending money on Facebook ads.

Yes, try all the things. But don’t get so caught up in trying all the things that you forget to actually focus on the ones that are WORKING for you.

Here’s the thing about that: To know what’s working, you’ve got to measure it.

You have to know where your leads are coming from. You have to know what’s making you the money. You have to know where your efforts are being successful so you know where to focus your effort tomorrow.

I celebrated everytime we got a Jack sighting… but that also kept me focused in a specific area of our search. I wasn’t running all over creation trying to find him because I had an idea of where he was… and what’s more, I knew that I could stay the course and have a better chance of success.

So yes, celebrate the wins… but also make sure you know why those wins are happening so you can have more wins tomorrow.

Lesson #5: Get Help

75% of lost cats are reunited with their owners. (and only 2% of those are found in shelters.)

That wasn’t good enough for me. I wasn’t all about that 75% statistic. I wanted more.

So I contacted a company that specializes in finding lost pets. Using tracker dogs – like the kind you see on CSI. Mine wasn’t a bloodhound – he was a German Shepherd named Bond – but he had this awesome way of nose-to-the-ground, tail up, pulling hard on the leash.

But beyond just giving us an area to search in, Bond’s handler Kathleen also gave us a plan. A literal, written, complete-with-map plan. She told me what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and what to expect when I did it.

She told me what to buy. What to put on my posters. How often to spread the ever-so-delightful chum. 

She kept in touch with me via phone call and text. Asked me how I was doing. Reassured me that I was doing everything I could. Talked me off a ledge when I wanted Bond to come over every 3 days and let me know Jack was still alive (that would have gotten expensive, FAST.)

This service wasn’t free. I paid handsomely for it. 

But it was worth it to me to know that I was doing every single thing I could do to find my boy.

Sure, I could have read articles (and I did) on how to find a cat. But in working with Kathy I discovered that much of the information in those articles is DEAD WRONG. (They tell you to put litter pans out – WRONG. They say to aggressively search – PRETTY WRONG. They tell you to XYZ… all wrong.)

I would have been going about it the wrong way if I didn’t have expert information (that I paid for) to guide me.

In your business, it’s really tempting to opt-in for lead magnets and webinars and all the free information. To read blog posts and articles and magazines.

And there’s great information there. I should know – my own lead magnets and blogs are pretty high value if I do say so myself – but I absolutely don’t give away everything I know. And I certainly don’t write copy for free.

At some point, you’re going to go beyond the scope of free information. You’re going to need real, expert help to get where you’re going.

Whether that’s someone to help you run ads or build your website or (ahem) write your copyyou’re going to need to pony up and invest in some help.

Did I LOVE paying a couple hundred bucks for a dog to sniff and tell me where my cat might be? Not really. But I love the result I got from it and consider it an investment in my family.

I recognize that the dog underwent SERIOUS amounts of training to be able to do what he does. His handler knows her stuff.

And the tracking agency has a 97% success rate of returning lost pets to their owners. A success rate that is borne of their experience and investment in their abilities. That’s way better than the 75% chance I had doing it on my own.

So there you have it. 5 Lessons I learned looking for my lost cat. Real lessons that transfer to your business in a real way. And with a happy ending, to boot.

And here’s one more cute cat picture for good measure. Jack, happy at home, snuggled up to my husband during a break from tearing up the carpet in our son’s playroom.