Are you marketing your dog training business?
Of course you are!
You do all the social media stuff, make the effort to put yourself out there…but is all that time you spend posting and commenting really increasing your bottom line? And how do you know if you’re doing enough? Or too much?
In this post we’re going to explore those very questions so you can feel confident your efforts are in the Goldilocks zone (not too little, not too much but just right) and are also paying off.
Finding the marketing sweet spot
How much marketing should you do? Ideally, you need to do just enough marketing to keep you busy. And no more. If you market for more than you can handle, then you can’t meet demand. And if you don’t market enough, then you don’t have demand.
So before we go any further, let’s do a quick calculation to find how many clients you need per month:
Step 1: Work out the total for your monthly bills — don’t forget to include taxes (I recommend looking back over your expenses for the last 6 months to calculate the average.)
Step 2: Figure out how much you’d like to pay yourself.
Step 3: Add the results from 1 and 2 to give a total for how much money you need to make.
Step 4: Finally divide that by how much one client is likely to pay you in a given month.
That’s the number of clients you need to work with each month.
Once you have a target number of clients, it’s easier to see how much marketing effort you need to put in to get them — and whether your current marketing strategy is meeting your needs.
Arrggh! Not enough clients!
So, you’ve crunched the numbers and come up short. You’re just not bringing in enough clients. Now what?
The next step is to do a bit of digging to find out where your marketing funnel might be broken. We’ll start at the top with social media. Why social? Because social media marketing can be a huge drain on your time with very little return if you’re not being thoughtful about it.
Social media messaging
First of all, why are you even on social media?
Because a savvy dog trainer like you should be posting on social media as a business for one reason, and one reason only:
TO GET ATTENTION FOR YOUR BUSINESS…
…so they hire you when they have a problem you solve.
To know if your marketing is on the right track, you need to check your numbers.
On social media, the most obvious numbers are likes, shares, and comments. These are often known as “vanity metrics” because getting high numbers of them can make you feel good without being a true reflection of how well your marketing efforts are landing.
Your very first task is to work out whether the people engaging with your content are the right people. If you’re aiming to get pet owners’ eyeballs on your posts but all you see are likes, shares, and comments from fellow dog trainers, you will need to rethink your content.
Got attention from the right audience?
The next thing to note is that liking, sharing, or commenting once doesn’t necessarily lead to that person buying from you…
…but if that person is following you — and is engaging with your posts regularly — then yes, they’re more likely to buy from you. The more someone knows, likes, and trusts you, the higher the chances of them spending money with you.
So, if vanity metrics don’t directly tell us much about how well our marketing efforts are working to gain clients, are they still important? Yep.
Social platforms run on vanity metrics! The more engagement you get, the more frequently the platform will show your posts. High engagement = greater reach. The greater your reach, the more attention your business can get. Which is the whole point of being on social in the first place.
Is it useful attention?
So, you’ve got the right audience following your business pages and engaging with your posts. How do you know if that’s leading to money in the bank? This is where you get nerdy with your website numbers — the answer lies in your Google Analytics data.
Your very first question should be “how many visitors does my website get over all?” Sad to say, a really good website conversion rate is somewhere between 2-5%. Meaning if you’re trying to get five people to reach out and contact you this month, you need to get 100 people to your website. And that’s if your website’s doing a bang-up job of converting visits into sales!
By working backwards from how many clients you want, you can calculate how many people need to check out your website.
To see if the attention you’re getting on social media is the right sort, look at the channels data in your GA account. From there you’ll know whether your social audience is taking the next step and clicking through. Because if people aren’t visiting your site, they’re unlikely to buy from you.
You have visitors, but…
They’re not “converting.” There’s little point in having billions of web visitors if none of them sign up for your newsletter or get in touch about hiring you. Time to take an even closer look in your GA account.
- Which links are visitors coming from? (Check our guide to the Google Analytics URL builder if you want to dig deep into finding out which specific marketing links are working for you.)
- What are they looking at?
- Which pages are they going to?
- How long are they staying?
If you have high visitor numbers but they’re either bouncing straight away or hunting then leaving, that tells you that yes, you’re getting traffic to your website. But either you’re getting traffic that’s not actually people looking for dog trainers, or your website design and copy needs some heavy work.
What’s your sales conversion rate?
Once you’ve worked out where your traffic is coming from and whether your visitors are hanging around, it’s time to put your conversion rate under the microscope.
Let’s say 20 people reached out to you this month and only two of them actually bought something. Well, why?
Were they the wrong people? If so, what’s causing them to initially think you’re a good fit for them when you’re not? Is it that they thought the training would only cost $200 and your lowest package is $1,000? Or did they want a service dog trainer, but you only do aggression cases?
You need to work out why they got in touch. Take a long hard look at your web copy. Is it clear what you do? Can people get a ballpark idea of what your services cost? In a nutshell: does your website messaging match your services and business model?
Good fit but not signing up?
What about if those leads that seemed to be a good fit but they didn’t sign up with you. There’s only one (painful) conclusion: Your sales process is flawed.
Uncomfortable about selling? Don’t be. Here’s a blog post explaining how to not feel sleazy on sales calls.
Marketing in the real world
So now you know how to health check your online efforts — your social, website, and email marketing. But what about all the stuff that happens in real life? You know, the word-of-mouth referrals and business that walks through your door? How on earth do you health check that?
Simple. Ask your clients! Somewhere on either your intake form or during the sales call, ask where they found out about you. If you’re asking on a form, be sure to list all the options as checkboxes or in a nice, easy dropdown.
Keep a record of the answers so you can work out where offline leads are finding you. You may be surprised. Once you know what’s working you can do more of it — and drop the stuff that’s a waste of time.
(Handy tip: Our clients indicate that vet referrals are the #1 source of word-of-mouth business for dog trainers. Nurture those vet relationships like your livelihood depends on them… because the success of your business certainly can.)
How happy are your clients with your results?
Once you have tweaked and perfected your marketing funnel so you’re reliably getting enough clients, it’s time to look at client retention. Repeat business plays a huge role in the success of any business so this is a step that shouldn’t be underrated.
Ask yourself, “roughly what percentage of my clients are repeat clients?”
Ideally, you want your clients to be coming back for multiple classes. Or if they have a new problem with their dog. Or when they get another dog. Or if a family member gets a dog. You get my drift.
Asking your clients directly if they’re happy with your service might be a bit uncomfortable if you’re too blunt about it. Instead, use a testimonial request form to get feedback on how your clients feel after they finish working with you.
You can then use their answers to understand how they feel — what worked, and what didn’t. Then, craft a testimonial from their answers and ask them if you can use it. Kill two birds with one stone!
If you’re getting repeat business but would like to get more, check out our guide to teaching your clients a recall for ideas.
How happy are you with the clients you’re getting?
It’s great getting enough clients but are you happy with the work you’re doing?
It pays to ask yourself the following questions once a quarter:
- Is my marketing working to bring me clients that I enjoy?
- Are the problems I’m seeing things that feel within my wheelhouse and that I enjoy working on?
- Am I happy with the level of challenge my clients bring? Or do I feel overwhelmed and burnt out?
It’s important for your own mental health to check-in with how you’re feeling about your work. If you’re constantly stressed and overstretched — out of your professional depth — or maybe a little bored, it’s time to make some changes to your business.
Change your marketing and messaging. Change your services or change your business model. Do whatever it takes to make your business what you want it to be. That’s the beauty of being self-employed: you get to say what your work looks like. Isn’t that why you went solo in the first place?