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January 27, 2008 11:17 PM   Subscribe

Tell me some great, effective ways to market my dog training business. For example, how do I promote myself to veterinary clinics who don't know me yet? What will really help me get my name out there?

Right now, my clients are my best marketing tool. Nothing is more effective than making a client so happy, and training a dog so well that people on the street will come up to them and ask them how they wound up with such a great dog. I want to build a larger pool of people like that.

Radio ads were a disaster. I got calls, but mostly from nutjobs. For this reason, I'm wary of print ads. I'm the sole proprietor of my business, and I don't have time to talk to people who want free advice.

Most of my non-referral clients come through Google Ads, and I'm happy with my campaign.

What else can I be doing?
posted by freshwater_pr0n to Work & Money (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You could take your dog in carrying something(advertising material for you) in its mouth and get it to drop it at the feet of the person at the counter. At our vet clinic, the folk at the front desk are the ones that field most enquiries.

May be a bit naff, but it would at least get you enough attention that they might let you talk to the vets.

Alternatively take in a quick video on a small video to show them your work.

Not as cute, and people are busy..... best of luck possum.
posted by taff at 2:46 AM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do you have time to volunteer at the local shelters? We hired a trainer we met when we adopted our dog. She'd already worked with our dog, so it was an obvious choice to call her for follow-up lessons.
posted by saffry at 4:01 AM on January 28, 2008

There's not really any need to do anything fancy. At the clinic I work at, we just have local trainers bring in special coupons for us to distribute to the customers. The vets themselves could care less about referring clients to a trainer, so it's usually our receptionist who ends up giving people the hookup. Coupons with really good discounts will get handed out regardless of whether you have a reputation at the clinic, so that's all that's needed. Gimmicks will just be a waste of the staff's time.
posted by internet!Hannah at 4:02 AM on January 28, 2008

Are you ever out and about with your dogs? I was thinking that a well-behaved dog with a cute sweater on that gave information about your business (name of company, phone number, URL) would be enough to get a lot of potential customers to inquire about your services.

Have you checked out the dog parks in your area? I would second the idea about the animal shelter, since that's when people would really be hunting for a trainer. Make friends with the volunteer staff and give them a stack of business cards to hand out to the new owners.
posted by amicamentis at 5:28 AM on January 28, 2008

Post Your services on your local Craigslist. You will get the right clientele. I found my dog trainer through Craigslist. I know that my dog trainer relies on it.
posted by shr1n1 at 5:47 AM on January 28, 2008

The vet I go to has a space on the front desk (and on the bulletin board) for people like you to put business cards and fliers. A couple of people have nice little displays, with nicely-printed cards in a little stand with flier on it; others have handwritten signs on notebook paper. So that's one immediate way to stand out. And the front-desk workers at the vet clinic are very much willing to tell you which trainers/pet sitters they like, and which they don't like.

So finding ways to talk with the front-desk workers at the busier vet clinics will probably be a key step. Get nicely printed cards/fliers/postcards with your info, maybe a first-time discount, have good fliers for bulletin boards, etc.
posted by Forktine at 5:56 AM on January 28, 2008

Seconding Craigslist, if I needed to find a dog trainer that's one of the places I would look, and it's free.
posted by Melsky at 7:11 AM on January 28, 2008

Set up an appointment with the practice manager/hospital director/owner of local vet clinics. Present what makes you special (extra-good puppy classes, reactive rover classes, remedial socialization classes, modern science-based methods, whatever). The one and only dog trainer the clinic I work at specifically refers people to (down to including her business card in our new patient packages) does so because she specializes in behaviour problems (and because many of the staff have taken their own dogs to her). Very few clinics are going to specifically recommend you if you're "just" a trainer (although they may well allow you to put your business cards in their lobby), you need to find something that differentiates you from everyone else, and remember that unless the vet clinic employs or is owned by people who are really "into" dog training, it's often the case that you will also have to convince them of WHY training is important, and how supplying their clients with your contact info will benefit them in the long run (well-trained dogs are easier to manage in the clinic, are easier to live with so the owners will be happier, etc.).

Some vet clinics actually allow training classes to be held at their facility, this is something you could suggest as well, maybe have people come to a puppy party or something like that.
posted by biscotti at 7:18 AM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

I own a couple pet supply stores in Seattle and customers are constantly asking me if I know any trainers. I let trainers leave flyers and business cards there, and will refer them by name if I know them well and know first or at least second hand of their work.

If you have a couple clients who were super impressed with your work, find out where they shop for their food and supplies and then go visit that place and introduce yourself. I see you're in Texas, I don't know if you guys boast independent pet food stores like we have in Seattle (every city surrounding Seattle has multiple little shops specializing in high end food and treats and supplies). If all you have is Petco and Petsmart this might not work so well. I just know that I personally have become the de facto referrer for vets, trainers, groomers, dog walkers, etc. amongst my customers.
posted by vito90 at 9:04 AM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

In addition to independent pet stores, try leaving flyers with professional groomers.
posted by metahawk at 10:43 AM on January 28, 2008

I have mentioned this forum here in the past a good resource for dog training information, one subforum is specifically for professionals: trainers, groomers, walkers, etc. There have been a few threads about how to get your name out there with a lot of feedback from other working dog trainers. I can't find them all but the people there will be happy to give you some brainstorming ideas.
posted by hindmost at 10:44 AM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

In addition to shelters, get in touch with the rescues in your area. Rescues often engage in more hand-holding with adopters than shelters, and training always comes up.
posted by Mr Bunnsy at 2:24 PM on January 28, 2008

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