It’s a simple fact:
A dog training business isn’t a business unless you have clients.
But once you’ve exhausted your personal network (and those of your mom and your great aunt Sue), how do you find clients? And how do you find enough clients to go from “just surviving” to truly thriving?
While the right mix of marketing tactics is likely to be a little different for every business, below are 10 marketing tactics for you to test out for your business.
Help a Reporter Out (HARO)
HARO is a service designed to connect journalists and potential sources. Journalists who are looking for sources for an upcoming story submit information on what they’re looking for to HARO. HARO then rounds these up into daily emails based on subject matter, and sends them out to its database. This can be a great way to work on your PR — just review the email when it comes through. And it only takes 5-10 minutes a day! Go to www.helpareporter.com to sign up!
Network & Visit “Dog Places”
Get business cards (I generally recommend Moo.com, though Vistaprint is another option) and drop them off at vets, groomers, pet stores, and other places dog people tend to go. Try to have a real conversation with whoever you find behind the counter — it’ll increase the likelihood they’ll actually hand out your cards. You can even offer to do a free workshop at their location, if you’re so inclined.You can also join your local Better Business Bureau and local Chamber of Commerce — they often add you to a directory on their site with a link back to your website (good for SEO!). Finally, look for local dog walking groups (Meetup.com is a good place!) and if you find one that looks active, consider contacting the organizer and offer a lesson, demo or seminar for the group!
Train in Public
As far as marketing tactics go, this one’s easy — invest in a few shirts with your business logo and information on them. Then take your own dog (or a student and their dog!) and work on tricks, performance work, etc in public places.Parks (especially dog parks), outside shopping centers, and even places like Lowes or Home Depot are great places to work on generalizing behaviors, and I’ve yet to go out with a bait bag and clicker without someone stopping me to ask if I’m a trainer, and even without a shirt that says so, I was often asked for information!
I used to offer several “out and about” classes — including a loose leash walking class, an advanced recalls class (we used long lines), and a advanced version of Denise Fenzi’s Beyond the Backyard class (she offers the instructor’s guide for free).
Create a Before and After Video
Before and after videos can be powerful marketing tactics to show your stuff as a trainer. You can embed the video directly in your site, share it on social media or even use it as a Facebook Ad. Take a bit of footage before you start working — things like a dog jumping up, a dog lunging for a treat in your hand, or a dog pulling on lead all make good before and afters — and then once you’ve taught 4 on the floor, leave it, or loose leash walking, take another video. If you want to make the video look even better, pay for a quick video intro via Fiverr.com and put that at the beginning of your video.
Learn more about before and after videos here.
Google Adwords can be a great way to attract new clients to your website, since you can target people who are “local” to your business. Ads that show up when people search for training related help (not just “dog trainer” but “dog jumping up!” or “stop dog barking”) allow you to get your name and business in front of someone who has a problem and is right then looking for ideas to solve that problem. To get started you’ll need a Google Adwords Account.
Offer a Groupon
If you offer the occasional seminar or private lessons, offering a Groupon may be a good way to get in front of people who might not hear about you otherwise. If you’re unfamiliar with the service, they offer discounts on local experiences and to local retailers to their audience.A word of caution, however — you don’t want to offer your services at a discount too often or it can have a negative impact on how people perceive your business. But once or twice won’t hurt — and may be just what you need to jumpstart a new seminar or get a boost in business.
Unlike Google Adwords, Facebook Ads aren’t targeted at someone during the search process – however, Facebook allows you to target a much more specific audience than Google Adwords does. You can even say you want to advertise to Facebook users in a specific Facebook group or who have liked another pet business’ Facebook page (like maybe your favorite local vet!).These ads then show up in a users Facebook timeline, just like an update from a friend. Not sure how to get started? Here’s a great Facebook Guide from Neil Patel!
Having a blog (especially one connected to your site!) is one of my top marketing tactics to help your business grow. It’s beneficial in several specific ways.First, when people land on your website, it gives them a chance to get to know a little about how you think, and helps you to gain their trust — it showcases your expertise.
Second, it’s good for helping people find your site — the more articles you have, the more pages Google can crawl; this helps them better understand what your site is about AND gives them more potential pages they can show someone searching for a topic relevant to your business.
And finally, if you write something and people like what they read, they might share it, exposing you to a whole new group of potential customers.
Guest posting is what bloggers call it when you write an article for another blogger’s site — usually in exchange for a link back to your own site in your bio. Guest posting for another local pet related business that has a blog can be a great way to get some new visibility and a link back to your own site (good for SEO!), but don’t be afraid to think outside of the box a bit on this one.Maybe there’s a local parenting blog — you could write an article about pets and small children or preparing a dog before a baby is born. Maybe a local cafe offers doggie treats at the counter, and would like a post on teaching pets good manners for public places.
Once you find a likely site, send them an email with your idea — just be sure to personalize it, based on what you learned looking at their site, so that they know you’re not a spammer.
Once you get someone to your website, how do you convince them to come to a class? How to do keep prior students engaged and informed about new classes you have coming up?An email newsletter is a great way to increase registrations. Used correctly (more on that soon!) an email newsletter can be your secret weapon. There are a ton of free or low-cost options out there — for beginners, Mailchimp is often a good choice, or if you’re looking for more functionality, ConvertKit, Drip, or GetResponse (what I use here) are also all great options that also come with a bit of marketing automation.
If you’re just getting started, try picking 3 ideas to try in the next month — then, at the end of the month, eliminate the one that had the least success and double your investment in whichever one worked best! Then pick one new thing to try.The key with marketing is NOT to do ALL the things, but to do the *right* things — work smarter, not harder. After all, your marketing should work for you — you shouldn’t have to work all the time on your marketing.
Have a question or want to share some marketing tactics that have worked for you? Leave a comment below!