You’re a fabulous dog trainer. Your people skills are second to none. You have passion and dedication to your calling —working long hours and giving it 110%… So why isn’t your business doing as well as you’d like?
For many professional dog trainers, a major skill that’s missing is understanding how to market their services. “Marketing” is a huge topic; you can get a marketing degree if that’s what floats your boat. Luckily you don’t need to go quite that far to understand how to get your name and business ‘out there’ and bring in clients to fill your books.
Just like with dog training, the average person “doesn’t know what they don’t know” when it comes to marketing their business. So we’ve put together a collection of great resources to give you a crash course in effective marketing.
What is marketing?
15 years ago, marketing a small, local dog training business meant putting some leaflets and fliers in pet shops and veterinary waiting rooms. Maybe handing out business cards, wearing a branded shirt when training in public, or having your logo on your vehicle. And that would be it. Job done; wait for the phone to start ringing.
Not anymore. Watch this short 6 minute introductory video on marketing to get a great overview of what marketing means today. You might be surprised — it’s not just about advertising!
Who are you hoping to work with?
Before you do ANYTHING, you need to know who it is you want to work with and what they’re looking to achieve. The correct answer isn’t “everybody with a dog!” Here’s a simple guide to help you ask the right questions to find the answers you need.
Who are you and what do you do?
Your next step is working out who you are, what you stand for, and what you’re selling. Why is this so important? Read Pat Flynn’s guide to branding to find out why — and what you need to get started!
Your customer’s journey
Once you know the answer to your “who,” the next question you need to explore is the “how.” That is, “how do you take strangers and convert them into clients?”
At this stage you’ll find answers to more concrete questions such as:
- How will people become aware that my business exists?
- How do they learn more about what I can offer them?
- How do they get in touch?
- What’s next?
This is your marketing funnel and customer’s journey.
Once you understand your customer’s journey you can start exploring the steps necessary to move them along their path — from problem to resolution. This usually this starts with…
No matter how you spread the word about your services, one thing you will undoubtedly need is a website. Think of it as your store front, providing information about who you are and what you do.
These days people want to find and research service providers (such as dog trainers) online. Even if they initially see your business flier or brochure, there’s a good chance they’ll want to find more out about you and your business before getting in touch.
You can either DIY your website or pay someone to create it for you. If you choose to DIY it, you’ll need to think about some key aspects of web design.
Make sure your site:
- Is user friendly. Nothing loses business quicker than a website that’s difficult to navigate or confusing. Just like dogs, people find confusion punishing.
- Appears in search results (SEO). It doesn’t matter how great your site looks, if no one sees it, it won’t increase your client base.
- Has engaging, reader-friendly, persuasive copy. We’re not all born with a proverbial pen in our mouths but good copywriting can be learned — and bad copy can be improved! (Don’t have time to read the long writing guide linked above? Here’s a quick ‘n’ dirty “how to write anything” blog from Laura at Worditude.)
Marketing tactics: Content Marketing
So you’ve sorted your website. Now all you need to do is decide how you’re going to spread the word that you exist. Although SEO is hugely important, it’s only part of a bigger picture. There are many approaches you can take and here we explore some other tried-and-true strategies.
Content marketing refers to the process of creating “content” — such as blog posts and YouTube videos — to start people on their journey to working with you. Pretty much everything you do to market your business online falls under the umbrella of content marketing.
Because it’s a long-term strategy with lots of moving parts, it’s worth getting a good overview of how it works before you dive in. Check out Smartblogger’s Content Marketing Easy Primer for Beginners here.
Blogging is a tactic with multiple benefits that has stood the test of time. Yes, it’s an investment in time and effort but the resulting material can work for you in so many ways.
If you’re struggling with the nitty gritty of how to write a blog post, here’s a great infographic from Social Triggers: anatomy of the perfect blog post. Or check out Smart Blogger’s Ultimate Guide to writing blog posts for more in-depth information.
Did you know that YouTube is a search engine? That’s right! Used well, YouTube can promote your business because it’s totally searchable. Like every other marketing strategy out there, to do well with YouTube you need to have at least a basic understanding of how to use it to promote your business.
If you prefer making videos to writing, YouTube could be a good option for you. Find out how to make the “secret search engine” work for you with Hootesuite’s Complete Guide to YouTube marketing.
Social media marketing is a topic all on its own. If you’ve ever felt like you’re lost in a sea of confusion about marketing on social media, check out Smart Blogger’s guide to developing a successful social media marketing strategy that won’t devour your time, energy, and will to live.
Surprising as it might seem, not all content is suitable for all platforms and you can really boost your success by posting the right content to the right platform.
If you’ve already got a reasonable handle on the basics but you’re finding the myriad of different platforms confusing, here’s a guide to what type of content to post to which platform for success.
Facebook can work really well for dog trainers — pets are a hot topic and there are plenty of groups about dogs. But to really get a business to thrive using Facebook as a platform takes a little bit of skill and understanding. If Facebook is where your audience hangs out, read HubSpot’s Ultimate Guide to Facebook Marketing to really make your efforts pay.
If you’re already right at home with using Facebook as a free platform but you’d like to step up to the next level, why not explore paid ads? Read Buffer’s extensive Facebook Ads Guide here.
Another huge platform used by many dog trainers for marketing is Instagram. If you’ve not explored Instagram for business you can read Hootsuite’s guide to getting started here.
TikTok is a relative newcomer to the social media platform options. However, if you want to reach a younger audience it can be very effective. Find out more about how TikTok works, and how to use it to promote your business here.
Alongside a sound social media marketing strategy, another BIG way to market your business successfully is with email.
If you’ve never considered email as a marketing strategy, you can get the low down on why it’s so powerful with HubSpot’s ultimate email marketing guide. It’s well worth the time to read and (at the time of writing this) it has some interesting free downloads available to help you get started.
That’s a wrap — for now.
And there you have it. Click and Repeat’s crash course in how to market your dog training business. We’ve looked at what marketing is, how it works from your customer’s perspective, planning your marketing strategy, and how some of the most popular platforms and approaches work.
But it’s not enough to just read this post — I suggest bookmarking it. Come back to it repeatedly and dive in to whatever topic is relevant to you as you build your marketing plan. It’ll save you a whole bunch of time. We’ve already done the searching and sifting so you don’t have to worry about what’s good and what’s not — you can just get started!