Do you ever have the feeling that your efforts at blogging and creating content are a waste of time? If your blogging and social media efforts aren’t making tangible differences to your web visitors, client sign-ups, or email subscriptions, maybe it’s time to take a hard look at your content strategy.
(In case you’re wondering what we mean by “content,” it’s the articles, blogs, videos, and social media posts you create to market your business. Technically it also includes information pages on your website, but for now, I’ll be talking about the stuff we create specifically to promote ourselves.)
For many small businesses – and that includes dog trainers – “content strategy” usually means “write some stuff that is vaguely relevant to what the business sells, put it on the blog and hope for the best!” But the hope-for-the-best method of anything rarely works well. If you’ve ever used it to train a dog, you’ve probably experienced less than stellar results!
Think, plan, do…
Before you write a word, it’s a good idea to think about where this content is going to be found. There are three main ways of getting your content in front of eyeballs:
- Organic search (Google/SEO/YouTube)
- Social media
Each of these channels will need a slightly different approach: how you write it, what you focus on, and the type of topic you choose to cover will all depend on where it’s going to be viewed most.
Organic search requires a focus on keywords, social media content needs to be focused on stopping people scrolling, and content for your established email list will be different again. You’ll want to be creating material for each of these channels as each serves a different purpose for your business.
You also need to ask yourself what your marketing goals for each piece are going to be:
- Encourage visits to your website?
- Be shared to grow your audience?
- Get someone to sign up for a class?
- Ask someone to subscribe to your email list?
- Keep current subscribers and clients engaged?
As you can see, designing an effective content strategy has a lot of questions you need to answer before you actually start creating anything!
These are big topics and to do them each justice, there will be a more in-depth post about each one to come.
So, for now, Keep the “where to share” question on the back burner because before you share anything, you need to create it. And I have a solution to the “spaghetti on the wall” approach so you never have to wonder “what should I write about?” again.
We’ll start with how someone becomes a customer…
The customer’s journey
- Attraction stage 1: Random stranger who may or may not know they have a problem and don’t know you exist.
- Attraction stage 2: They know they need help and know that you exist.
- Consideration stage: They’re deciding who to hire to solve their problem.
- Fulfillment stage: They decide to buy from you. (And maybe become a loyal repeat customer!)
Mapping content to the customer journey
For content marketing to be successful it makes sense to produce content that directly maps on to your customer’s journey. That means producing the sort of material that helps people move from one stage to another.
Content aimed at the very beginning of the customer’s journey needs to be attractive to a wide range of people who are your potential client or audience. Choose broad educational topics with wide appeal but make sure they fit with your classes and services. For example, there’s no point writing about reactivity if you don’t work with reactive dogs!
Some examples might be:
- Why you’re having (problem X) and how to fix it. (e.g., Why your puppy is peeing in the house and how to teach them to go outside instead)
- How to X even if Y… (e.g., How to teach your dog to come back, even if they’re not interested in treats)
- 10 ways to X without Y… (e.g., 10 ways to keep your dog busy without going for a walk)
A good way to come up with ideas for this type of content is to think of common problems people experience and the barriers and objections people may have to working with a trainer. Create content to allay fears and remove “but…” and worried thinking.
This shows you as the expert AND demonstrates you understand the reader’s situation.
Consideration stage – who will they buy from?
This is where most dog trainers get stuck with content marketing. We’re great at creating engaging and educational material and making people aware of our existence, but we’re not so great at moving people further down the path towards giving us money. Which is a problem, because the goal of a business is that it pays your bills with some to spare.
What is needed at this stage is sales content. Please don’t run away screaming! Sales don’t have to be pushy or sleazy. But your potential customer does need the right information to be able to make an informed decision about whether they might want to work with you.
To create sales/consideration content, focus on topics that align with your services and classes. Be sure to refer to your offerings in your content as examples of how you work, what you can do for the client and a sneak peek into what they’re missing by not signing with you.
Blog posts and videos about your classes and services – how they work and why they’re better than some others – can be very effective. (e.g., Everything you need to know about choosing a great puppy class – and how to avoid a bad one.)
Another approach is to help people understand what working with you might look like. (E.g., What to expect when you sign up for a training package with a dog trainer.)
Consider tackling common questions you get on your typical sales call. (E.g., The ultimate guide to hiring a dog trainer.)
Other ideas might include testimonials and case studies. (E.g., How Lucy the Lagotto went from being terrified of the teeter to loving it in only 6 weeks.)
Your goal with this type of content is to answer common questions and help people feel confident enough to take the plunge and sign up with you.
It’s worth noting that the higher-priced your offers, the more this type of content will help you gain clients. If people have doubts or big questions, they’re often unlikely to ask directly for the answers.
Repel those who won’t be good for you
Although it’s great to focus on attracting new people to your business, you might want to give some thought to how you repel people who won’t be a good fit for you. Those that won’t agree with your training philosophy, won’t do the work, or want to move on to levels they’re not ready for yet.
Non-desirables can be avoided by creating content that makes it clear you have certain boundaries, codes of conduct, or beliefs that are not negotiable.
- “5 reasons you should use treats to train your dog.”
- “3 daily habits you need to change so training can work.”
If there are some types of problems you just don’t work with, make that clear. Create content to explain why you don’t deal with that problem and what to look for in someone who does. Make it useful for the reader, so even if they’re not a good fit for you now, they remember you as a helpful expert for the future.
New educational content
Once you have an audience – whether they’re previous clients, current clients, or email subscribers – you need to keep them happy and engaged with more in-depth material that helps them progress on their learning journey. The options for this are endless and only limited by your imagination! This is where you get to have fun and really indulge in sharing your passion with like-minded people.
Your task now is to brainstorm some ideas for topics you want to cover in your content marketing. Be sure to keep an eye out for upcoming posts. In them, I’ll take deep dives into the nuts and bolts of writing for different channels to align your content with your marketing goals.