See that picture? that’s me, about 10 years ago.
I had just started dipping my toes into the freelance world, and decided I need a few headshots. In fact, that very shot was a trade deal with a photographer — I traded writing services in exchange for him taking professional headshots for me.
At that point in my career I was focused entirely on writing. I was working as a magazine editor at Pet Business Magazine and was just beginning to learn about copywriting and marketing so I could apply them to my own fledging business. And I was working hard to figure out where my future clients would come from.
I had a vague idea that I needed to let people know, somehow, that I was available for hire.
So I began attending networking events, and checking Craigslist for ads looking for freelance writers. I sent out a few tentative cold email pitches. Those initial efforts bore some fruit, and I met my first client — a psychologist who needed help writing content for her website. Then I found a self publishing company that would subcontract out some of the editing for authors who were interested in help.
But my efforts were piecemeal with no overall strategy to guide them. I did a little here, a little there, but my freelancing never seemed to take off. I found I was struggling for every client…
After 3 years, I ended up closing up shop and going back to work for someone else.
Why My First Business Failed… But My Current Business is Thriving
My business then bears little resemblance to the one I run now. The work I do is different, the clients I work with are different, and the way I run things is different. I no longer struggle to find clients. I’m often booking clients out weeks (or even months) at a time. So, what changed? When I went back to working for someone else I began a career in marketing. I was no longer just a writer — my job became finding leads for the businesses I worked for. Bringing in clients. Tying my efforts back to revenue.
Somewhere along the way I stumbled upon HubSpot and what they were preaching about Inbound Marketing. I began attending marketing conferences. I dove deep into how to successfully market and sell products and services. And that’s the biggest difference between my first business and the one I run now — in my current business I applied what I’d learned, creating a marketing strategy and following through.
How You Can Learn From My Mistakes: Creating A Marketing Strategy
The dog trainers I know today often struggle with the same things I was struggling with 10 years ago. They focus in on learning their craft and become damn good dog trainers… but, unfortunately, being a successful dog trainer takes more than knowing how to train dogs. You also need to be a good business owner. And being a good business owner means understanding the basics when it comes to marketing — how to take someone who has no idea you exist and get them to a place where they’re ready and willing to buy what you have to sell. To pay you for your help. Like any other behavior you want to create, the best place to start is with a plan.
How to Get Started
We’ve already talked plenty about marketing funnels, and how having a plan for each part of the funnel will help get customers from point A (knowing you exist) to point B (making a purchase). And that’s great for individual tactics like promoting a class, or getting email newsletter sign ups.
But how do you create an overall marketing strategy?
Have a Plan; Observe What’s Happening; Change as Needed
This kind of cycle goes by many names depending on what industry you’re in or whose methodology you follow: OODA (observe–orient–decide–act), PDCA (plan–do–check–adjust), PDSA (plan–do–study–act)…
…But ultimately they all amount to the same thing: using continuous improvement to test something out and continually make it better until it works how you want it to! Here’s what that looks like in terms of your marketing strategy:
- Keep it simple — these should be small tests of change; break down a big goal into smaller steps that will help you get there
- Choose 3-5 tactics to try each month — for each tactic, outline what you’re testing, what your goal is, and how you’ll measure your results
- Review the results each month — at the end of the month, go over the measures you’re tracking, and the results you’ve accomplished
- Adjust as needed — keep the things that work best, get rid of whatever worked least well, and try something new!
Using this method will help you refine your strategies over time. Any time something isn’t working exactly how you want it to, run it through the cycle! Setting tangible measures and goals will ultimately help you see where you can improve your tactics — and what tactics need to be dumped.
And that’s a whole lot better than just throwing things at the wall to see what sticks! I learned this lesson the hard way, but you shouldn’t have to.
Want to Learn More?
It’s almost that time!
Time for my Business End of the Dog: Marketing for Pet Professionals class over at FDSA! Want to learn more about creating a marketing strategy that actually works? I’ll be covering the topics covered here — and much more — in my class next month.
This class only happens once a year, and registration opens May 22nd, so don’t miss out! Sign up on the FDSA website, here.