July 19, 2023
Think outside the box: Marketing ideas for dog trainers

Group of people sitting having drinks with a dog laying on the ground; blog post on marketing ideas for dog trainers

Coming up with good marketing ideas can have you feeling like you’re in a rut.

Especially if you’ve followed all the usual marketing advice and you’re doing everything right, but, somehow, not getting the results you’re looking for. Now what?

You need to think outside the digital box. These days we’re inclined to focus on digital marketing and forget the fact that our clients don’t just exist online. They live in a physical world — and we can market to them there!

Beyond the veterinarian’s office

Most dog trainers will have fliers, cards, or brochures in the local vet’s office, and maybe the local pet stores. But your customers have lives outside of dogs and by focusing on some of the opportunities there, we can gain a distinct competitive advantage.

Let me explain. Seth Godin wrote a book called Purple Cow. In it he says that to get ahead of the competition you need to be remarkable. And to be remarkable you need to either be distinct from your competitors or be where your competitors are not. He puts it like this:

To stand out you either need to be unusual in a sea of “sameness” or, be the usual in an unusual place. (You can find Seth’s TED talk on marketing and being remarkable here.)

It’s challenging to be totally unique if your dog training business offers similar services to every other dog trainer in your area. Sure, you have unique differences — who you are and how you work are a huge part of that. But if you’re only marketing in the same places as every other dog trainer, you’re gonna struggle to stand out.

So, what do you do? Market yourself where your competitors don’t. Be the “usual” in an unusual place. Here are some ideas on how you can achieve that.

Strategy 1: Build connections

Network with non-obvious dog-related businesses. Networking with animal-related businesses like vets, groomers, and pet stores is so obvious that every dog trainer does it. But not every dog trainer builds relationships with periphery businesses like…

  • Fencing companies
  • Carpet cleaners
  • Realtors

Dog owners often need these types of services — probably more often than non-dog owners! What you’re aiming to do is build a reciprocal arrangement: you recommend their business to your clients when fencing, carpet cleaning, or a pet-friendly housing is needed — and they recommend your services to their clients when a dog trainer is required. Win-win!

Strategy 2: Go where your people go

Network and build relationships with businesses and organizations where your audience hang out.  

Before you can put yourself in front of your audience you need to work out who those people are. For dog trainers there are usually three (sometimes four) potential markets:

  • Families with kids
  • Young professionals
  • Empty nesters
  • (College students)

Have a quick look at your usual client and the types of service you offer. Do you have a clear type of client who’s attracted to your business? Or a type of client you prefer to work with? If so, you can aim your efforts in their direction. Once you have your target audience down you can start thinking about what these people do and where you might find them.

Let’s look at a few examples:

If your audience is families with kids…

Why not see if you could sponsor a kid’s sports team? Or put fliers around the sports facilities? If activities are held outside, you could watch your sponsored team with your well-behaved dog alongside you.

Could you do demos about dog/child safety for an organization or school? By providing children at the demo with an information flier (with your details on it) you can get your information directly into their parents’ hands. 

If you’re targeting empty nesters…

You might need to do a little more research but there are still plenty of opportunities. One activity that’s popular with retirees — and dog owners — is holidaying in RVs and campers. Think about how you could network with RV clubs. 

Alternately, seniors also frequent golf courses, tennis clubs and community centers. Why not see if you can leave advertising or information in club houses? Check to see if you have an Adult Lifestyle Community in your area as this could be another good place to make your business visible.

Maybe your audience is college students?

The obvious place to start your marketing efforts is on the college campus. If dogs are allowed on campus grounds, why not do some demos and training there? Or take your dog to places where students hang out: campus coffee shops, local cafes, and popular breweries. 

Most places with outdoor seating are pet friendly — some might even allow you to hold classes on their premises — especially if everyone purchases refreshments after class. Good business for them, great exposure for you.  

Don’t forget you can often leave fliers in places, even if you can’t take your dog there. Locations like gymnasiums, libraries, and laundromats often have places for businesses to leave information brochures or fliers.

The marketing big picture 

I’ve tried to give you a few ideas to get you started but really, the opportunities are only limited by your imagination and resourcefulness. If you can put yourself in your ideal client’s shoes and imagine what their life looks like for a week, you’ll be able to come up with a range of ideas. Ask yourself:

  • Which businesses and organizations do my clients use regularly?
  • Where do my clients spend their time? 

If you can answer those, you’ll have a big head start over your competition who are still stuck advertising in the pet store.

Other novel approaches

Here are some more ideas for getting yourself positive exposure, especially if you’re new.

Rather than just dropping off fliers at vets’ offices, how about doing a Lunch and Learn on cooperative care? Show vets and techs how to use a licky mat to distract a puppy during an exam. Leave a box of donated licky mats to seal the deal.

Contact local media personalities or bloggers. If they have a dog, you could offer them a free spot in one of your classes. If they don’t have a pet themselves, maybe they accept advertising? Or you could ask to run a competition with a free spot in a training class as the prize? The idea is to get your business in front of their audience and expand your own at the same time.

Going back to realtors, why not provide them with a little bag of goodies (with your info included) to give to new homeowners or renters with dogs? Just drop off a big basket of cute pre-prepared bags of treats and poop bags, with your card stapled to the top.

As you can see, there are many ways you can get your business name in front of your target customer. All it takes is a little bit of thought and ingenuity. And maybe a bit of bravery to get the ball rolling. But once you get started, you’ll be wondering why you stayed stuck doing the same marketing as everyone else for so long. 


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *