Want more time training dogs and less time pushing ‘paper’? Check out these business software solutions – updated for 2024 to include the latest additions to the market: BookWhen, Bookeo, Clicks with DigiWoof, and PetExec.
What is ‘business software’?
Let’s face it. You didn’t become a dog trainer because you love doing admin, sending emails, and chasing payments. You became a dog trainer to help people and their dogs. But the reality is that to be a successful (that is, profitable!) dog trainer you have to do the ‘paperwork’ of the business too.
But if you want to know how to streamline your business processes, be more efficient and lose a few of those admin nightmares? Business software might be just what you need.
What can it do for you?
Most of the packages available offer multiple benefits. They propose to do just about everything except make your coffee! The main features that most of them have are:
- A customer management system
- Booking/scheduling of classes and services
- Ability to take payments
- Email reminders and basic automation
Some also offer extras such as:
- The ability to sell goods, gift vouchers, memberships or online courses
- Email marketing
- Digital agreements, waivers and forms
- Client app
- Check-in for daycare or boarding
- Employee management
Why is business software a good investment?
In business, it’s a fact that time is money. For every hour you spend doing a routine task that could be done more efficiently and quickly, you’re not working with clients or growing your business.
So, by investing in the right software to automate and simplify your admin, you free up time that could be better spent – either doing billable hours, growing your client base, or taking time off to spend as you please (now there’s a novel idea!!).
What’s on offer for dog trainers?
There is a huge range of business software solutions available. Some are more ‘dog trainer’ friendly than others; some are specifically for pet businesses including boarding and daycare, whereas others are more general but can be easily adapted.
Pet business specific software:
General business software options:
- Pocketsuite (can be set up specifically for dog trainers)
- https://www.skedda.com *
To keep this post manageable, I’m only looking at the big players and most popular software options used by dog trainers. There are plenty more available if you don’t mind spending the time researching them.
How the software options compare
Most dog training businesses face the same admin challenges so the following questions were sent to each of the software packages listed above.
Can your business software package do the following…
For ‘in person’ group classes:
- Be set up for classes in different locations on different days?
- Can I set a class limit for enrollment?
- Can I set up an intake questionnaire to filter out unsuitable enrollments?
- Can I have rolling enrolment vs standard block of classes?
For private in-home clients:
- Can I add a travel time buffer per appointment?
- Can the client self-schedule sessions once they’ve signed up for a package?
- Can I set specific locations/service areas per day?
Can I add client notes to keep track of:
- Client details?
- How many sessions are booked/paid for/used?
- Last date seen?
- Vaccination records?
Can it take payments through the booking system?
Can I send invoices?
Does the system have email automation for email reminders, final session wrap-ups etc.?
How much is it going to cost me for the system?
The quick ‘n’ dirty business software comparison table
Let’s take a look at Dog Biz Pro vs. Busy Paws vs. Gingr vs. Clicks with DigiWoof vs PetExec vs. Pocket Suite vs. Acuity vs. BookWhen vs. Bookeo (Phew you can take a breath now!)
Not every company answered all the questions so the question marks are for missing answers that also couldn’t be found on their marketing website. Also, it’s worth noting that for some of the platforms, functionality depends on the pricing tier you choose.
The table reflects the answers provided from the platforms and doesn’t account for how a non-specific platform employee might interpret a question! For example, most said that dog details could be added; the caveat often being they were included in the client’s details, not as separate searchable records – the way training/pet business specific platforms might include that information.
Things to consider before jumping in
It’s easy to get overwhelmed looking at sales pages and websites for software packages. There’s just So. Much. Information. It’s enough to make your brain melt; and who’s got time for that?
It can also be difficult to work out exactly what a package can do, and how easy it is to set it up to do it. So, before exploring options, here are some things to consider to make your decisions easier.
Is it available in your country?
Not every software package is available outside of the USA. If you live in a different country, this might be the very first question you need to ask.
Do you need ‘all the things’?
What are the core functions you need the software to do? Make a list. Be honest, if you’re not currently running online courses, making retail sales or dealing with employees, do you need your software to do those things
While we’re on the topic of ‘all the things’, it’s worth noting that newcomer, Clicks with DigiWoof, is about as close to an all-in-one package for dog trainers as you’re likely to get.
Not only does it have all the functionality of the other main players (customer relationship management, scheduling, payments, and basic automations etc.) but it also has an email marketing system, a phone system for automating text and SMS replies, a website builder and an online course builder.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it does all those things well… but if your goal is to ‘go big or go home’ with your business marketing and growth it could be worth a look.
The other ‘purpose made’ platform is Petexec. This one is aimed at a range of dog businesses: daycares, boarding facilities, groomers, trainers with group classes, and ‘scheduled services’ – which are pretty much whatever you want them to be – walking or private consults come to mind.
For PetExec, a lot of the more useful functionality comes as optional add-ons… that you pay more to access. It pays to look closely at what’s included in the base package and what’s not.
Will it integrate with your current systems?
Not all software packages play nicely with all other software. If you have some favorite packages, maybe your accounting package or a form builder, that’s a non-negotiable for you, then check it will integrate with your new ‘all singing, all dancing’ package.
As an example, Dog Biz Pro is available in Australia but it doesn’t integrate with a very popular cloud-based accounting package used there. This means the invoicing/payment function of Dog Biz Pro can’t be used unless payment data is manually imported to the accounting software.
How much support do they give for setup?
For most of these big packages the initial setup can be ‘challenging’ (as one dog trainer colleague of mine put it). If you’re not particularly tech savvy it’s worth checking just how much set up help the package includes.
Is it cost effective?
And the bottom line: ‘Will it save me money?’ In most cases an all in one package will be cheaper than multiple individual software options that cover the same functions. Add up how much you’re currently paying in monthly subscriptions for services that will be included in the bigger package.
Just be aware that the ‘all in one’ software package may not give the same range and depth of options that would be available from a dedicated provider.
For example, the email automation might not be as powerful as something like Convertkit or MailChimp. However, unless you’re doing some fancy email marketing, the ‘all in one’ solution might be perfectly adequate for your needs.
Do you need a payment processor?
Some of these software packages need to be integrated with a payment processor to accept payments. The main three payment processors are:
Although these all do basically the same thing (allow you to take credit card payments), there are some differences to bear in mind. The biggest ones are how they charge fees for payments and how long it takes for the money to reach your account.
They all charge a percentage of the transaction plus a usage fee in your local currency, but Square’s fees vary by transaction type whereas Stripe fees are the same no matter how the transaction is processed.
I strongly suggest you check the documentation for fees and payout times before choosing your payment processor if you need one.
Comparison of payment processor features
Payment processors don’t just vary by cost, they also have different features available. Make sure you know what you’re getting – and that it will do the job you want it to do – before spending time setting up an account.
Other options if you don’t want an ‘All-in-one’ software solution
So maybe you’ve got this far and you’re saying to yourself “but I don’t need a fancy ‘all-singing, all dancing’ business solution! All I want to do is let clients book training slots with me”.
If all you want is a quick, simple scheduling app, then look no further than this Best Scheduling App blog to check out a range of free options.
* Need something completely different? If you rent out facilities such as rooms, training areas or off leash paddocks, rather than sell training classes or services, you might want to check out Skedda. It’s designed for businesses that hire space, not expertise.
So there you have it. A very quick overview of business software to help you streamline your processes, manage your routine tasks and reduce your desk bound hours. Let us know in the comments what your experiences of these software packages have been. Have a package you love? Tell us about it!