Picture this: You’ve been steadily chugging away at work, finally hitting your groove. Suddenly, you look at your schedule and it’s as empty as a haunted house. It’s enough to give anyone the chills! While we, as business owners, often fear having too much to do, we’re also all too familiar with this terrifying scenario. So, how do you get more clients?
What’s going on?
The first question you’re probably asking yourself is “where have all the clients gone?” The second might be “what did I do wrong?” The third is undoubtedly “Now what do I do?!?!”
First of all, I want to put your mind at ease: it’s not just you. Here at Click and Repeat we’ve talked to stressed dog trainers asking how they can boost client numbers because they’re just not getting enough inquiries.
Here’s a little breakdown of the possible reasons your phone isn’t ringing off the hook and your inbox is suspiciously under control at the moment.
- Client work is seasonal. Every industry has its busy and slow seasons, and that can vary by location. If you’re in the middle of a slump, consider connecting with other dog trainers, especially ones in your area. Are they feeling it too?
- Many people are worried about their changing financial situation right now. The cost of living is skyrocketing. There’s general uncertainty about what the future holds and many families are having to tighten their belts. Basically, the average Joe and their family are likely to have less disposable income — and are less confident about spending it on ‘non-essentials’.
- You haven’t been keeping up a steady marketing effort because times have been good and you haven’t needed to “put yourself out there” very much to see clients come through your door.
Now, there’s not much you can do about the first two reasons, so don’t spend energy worrying about them. However, the third reason certainly deserves some consideration.
And if your first thought was “Marketing?? Eeek!!” take a deep breath and read on…
First steps before panicking
In this day and age, most clients will want to check out your website before reaching out to you. So before we start, ask yourself this: “Am I sure my website is functioning properly?” When was the last time you checked that your contact form worked? Or the links to your booking software were still live?
I’m assuming your website was previously doing its job of selling your services to site visitors — but before implementing a marketing strategy it’s best to make sure everything still works.
All good? Excellent. Let’s look at how to fill those empty slots in your schedule!
Don’t throw marketing spaghetti at the wall
‘Marketing’ as an activity covers a lot of topics. You could spend a lot of time, effort, and money ‘marketing’ and not see much return on your investment. I want to save you from doing that so let’s take a quick peek at the underlying concepts and processes that really matter.
The buyer’s journey
This is the process through which a person goes from having no idea you exist, to knowing about your business, to making themselves known to you, to finally signing up with you.
You can read about the buyer’s journey in more detail here but for now let’s just take a quick look at a typical client: Sally and her dog Spot who’s just jumped on aunt Mary and broken her hip!
It’s worth remembering that every customer journey is going to be slightly different. It might be very convoluted and it unfortunately might not end with them buying from you.
The marketing funnel
The other important concept to keep in mind is the marketing funnel. This is your process for moving people from stranger to client. (You can find out more about marketing funnels here.)
The key point to understand is that you need sufficient numbers of people coming in the top to give you enough clients at the bottom. At each stage of a funnel — each decision point for the person —there is attrition.
Linking the customer’s journey with your funnel
Let’s go back to the example of Sally and her spring-loaded pup, Spot. (You’ll notice that the two figures shown here overlap: they demonstrate how a customer journey intersects with a business’s funnel.)
Before Sally can become a client, she needs to to go through the following steps — italicized steps are the ones that lead her to you, in this example:
1. Decide she has a problem. She might see the accident with Aunt Mary as a fluke, and not do anything about it. But if she decides she has a problem, she then has to…
2. Decide how she’s going to solve it. She has options! She can:
- Do a Google search for training information.
- Watch YouTube videos.
- Read a training book.
- Ask her dog owning friends for advice.
- Find a local dog trainer.
3. To find a local dog trainer she might:
- Do a Google search for trainers in her area.
- Ask local pet services for referrals.
- Search Facebook for local trainers’ pages.
- Ask her friends for referrals.
4. She is directed to your website. If it holds her attention long enough, she needs to decide:
- Can you fix her problem for her?
- Do you work with people like her?
- Does she like what you have to say?
- Does she want to reach out to you for help?
5. After she’s reached out to you, she can be:
- Very pleased with your response and sign up.
- Pleased with your response but decide she can’t make your time slots or fees.
- Pleased with your response but decide she’s not really invested in changing Spot’s behavior after all.
- Disappointed — she moves on to the next trainer.
Once you understand the process of how strangers become clients, you can see where to apply your marketing efforts for maximum effect.
You can’t influence someone’s behavior before they know you exist — but you CAN influence how easily they find out about you.
And you CAN influence what they decide to do once they’re on your website. Finally, how you respond to them once you know about them will directly influence how they feel about you — and whether they’ll consider parting with their cash for you to help them solve their problem.
Maximize your marketing efforts
The section above shows the three areas where you can have the biggest influence are:
- The number of people finding their way to your website. (It doesn’t matter how great your site is — if no one finds it, it can’t do its job!)
- How well your website converts visitors into direct inquiries and email list signups.
- What you do once you know a potential client exists.
If you’re an established business you probably already have points 2 and 3 sorted out. But maybe you’ve dropped the ball on #1. When was the last time you did any active marketing to improve your visibility in the community?
Think, plan, do, REVIEW
The well-known dog trainer’s mantra works just as well for marketing as it does for dog training.
Before rushing off to flood all your social media channels with posts and ads, do a quick check of your Google Analytics account to see where your current website visitors are coming from.
If you’re not getting many visitors from organic search (that’s usually Google searches) it’s going to be worth spending a bit of time optimizing your site to improve its SEO, so people find you when they do their “dog trainer near me” search.
Which of your social channels are most successful? Don’t waste your time and effort marketing on a channel that isn’t working for you!
If your Google Analytics shows a high number of direct visitors (people who typed your business name from a card, brochure, or outdoor signage) it might be worth adding a question to your contact form asking where people first heard about you.
Again, you want to know what’s working so you can keep on doing it — and stop wasting time doing things that aren’t helping you.
Once you know what’s worked for you in the past, you can focus your efforts on doing more of the same in the future.
New avenues to explore
If you’d like some inspiration for further marketing ideas, here are 10 marketing tactics to find new clients. And, as if that wasn’t enough to keep you busy, you can find more ways to gain new clients here.
Unfortunately, marketing is one of those tasks you can’t do once or twice and then forget about. To be successful in business it’s necessary to constantly keep that ball in the air to avoid the “boom and bust” client cycle.
Once your client numbers pick up, ensure you don’t see a lull later on. Carve out some time each week for active marketing to keep clients coming no matter what’s happening outside your control!