The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Dog Trainers

by | May 20, 2021

Are you feeling a tad bit overwhelmed by social media? Lately all the buzz in the business world has been about social networking—Tiktok, Clubhouse, Instagram, etc. But what if I was to tell you there’s a proven marketing tool that works better for marketing your business (and requires a lot less of your time)?

Email marketing, unlike social media, allows you to regularly connect with the same clients in a controlled and customizable way. And unlike most social media, most businesses don’t need to send out a newsletter everyday to see results. There’s no constant video-creating, tweeting, updating or pinning involved.

According to the most up-to-date info available (from 2018 — but I honestly believe it’s still accurate) email marketing is one of the top performing marketing channel in terms of return on investment (ROI), with a projected return of $42 returned for every dollar spent. That’s because email marketing makes it easy to keep past and potential customers alike updated on your product or service offering.

Further, it’s fairly simple to measure ROI when it comes to a newsletter. Email marketing programs will tell you how many people clicked on the link you included in your email, and who they were — then you can compare that list to those who sign up. Plus, the programs themselves are usually fairly low cost and many have a “free” option if you’re below a certain number of subscribers.

Email Marketing for New Clients & Repeat Clients

In most businesses one of the most expensive—and time consuming—aspects of acquiring a new customer is teaching them what they need to know about your business before they’ll make a purchase.

An educated client takes up less staff time and is more likely to be satisfied with your product or service; but creating an educated client often requires a lot of staff time spent upfront, a luxury few dog trainers can afford. Most dog trainers feel like they already spend too much time responding to email or on the phone and not enough time working on the key aspects of their business (producing the products or performing the services they’ve been hired to do). An email newsletter with a smart email opt in incentive (more on this in a minute) can really help eliminate some of that back and forth.

But email newsletters aren’t just (or even primarily!) about acquiring new customers. Perhaps one of their most beneficial roles is in keeping previous clients coming back. The primary reason a client only buys once from a business, assuming they had a good experience, is that they forget the business exists!

Instead of being forgotten, dog trainers can leverage email marketing to help them reach new customers AND keep in touch with existing clientele.

Benefits of Email

Once a business has an email newsletter, educating clients and keeping existing clients informed about what you’re up to becomes a breeze. Need to remind them of an upcoming promotion? Include it in the monthly email. Want to introduce a new product or service? Write about it in an email.

Having a Newsletter allows you to:

  • Communicate digitally with your clients and establish an online relationship with potential future clients
  • Increase the number of repeat sales per customer by teaching clients which products and services the business offers, why they are important, and which options might complement things they’ve already purchased.
  • Avoid the “maybe they saw it, maybe they didn’t” problem caused by social media algorithms
  • Make your clients feel like VIPs (at least when done right!)

There are many reasons why a business should have an email list—but once you’ve decided to create one, you’re left with the question of how. The process is actually much easier than it seems.

There are three aspects to consider:

  1. The tool you want to use to send your email newsletter
  2. The creation and management of an email list and distribution of email to that list.
  3. What to put in your emails the maximum possible return.

Let’s work through them…

Email Marketing Tools: My Favorites

There are literally hundreds of options out there to choose from when considering email marketing tools — however, there are really only a few key features that you need to consider when choosing the right one for you.

First, look at their price points for various list sizes. Do they offer a free option? If so, at what point do you need to upgrade and pay for their service? How much will it cost when you hit that point?

Think about how many people you’d like to be sending your emails out to and how often you plan to do so, then review each of the service providers you’re considering. Check out the design options they offer and do a quick Google search with that service’s name and the word “review.” Just about every web app in existence has been reviewed at least once and those re- views can provide a good deal of insight into any issues that might arise.

Second, if you think you’ll use it (you may or may not at first!) what kind of segmentation and automation features do they offer? Can you set up an automated welcome sequence? Easily deliver a freebie if someone signs up for your list? Can you tag your subscribers based on what training they’ve done with you in the past?

Finally, third, you’ll want to play around with the platform itself. How easy/intuitive do you find it? This is, believe it or not, the biggest differentiator between platforms, in my opinion. Each platform has tried to design itself to be as easy to use as possible but somehow arrived at solutions vastly different from those of the competition. Try 2-3 options and see which feels best and makes the most sense for your brain.

Logos for popular email marketing platforms, ConvertKit, Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and Active Campaign on a slide divided in half, half blue and half dark gray

Slide from my recent Email Marketing 101 Facebook Live in the DTU Facebook Group

There are two email marketing platforms in particular I usually recommend: Mailchimp and Convertkit (affiliate link).

Both offer a free plan to get you started. Mailchimp includes up to 2,000 contacts on that plan; Convertkit limits you to 1,000. In my opinion, Convert Kit has the better, more intuitive automation and segmentation features, though Mailchimp’s have come a long way in the recent past. Mailchimp makes it easy to set up your blog posts to go out automatically; Convertkit also has this feature, but it’s a bit less customizable without a bit more hands on work.

Overall, these are the two products I tend to recommend to my clients most often. However, other popular options include MailerMailer, iContact, Constant Contact, Active Campaign and Aweber.

Rules and Regulations: Email Marketing Best Practices

Once you’ve chosen a tool, there are a number of rules and regulations around managing an email marketing list—for example, you’re required to allow subscribers to unsubscribe at any time. These regulations are aimed at protecting consumers and keeping spammers at bay. Fortunately, most of the popular platforms have built in features to help enforce the rules and keep you from crossing the line and acting like a spammer.

Most of the services also offer an embed code or plug-in (a code that can easily be added to most websites) that allows clients and website visitors to sign up for your email list when they visit your website. In addition to this online signup form, if you have a physical location you should consider having a sign-up sheet available where people will see it.

Ask every client who comes in if they’d be interested in receiving an occasional email, mentioning how it is beneficial for them. Explain how often you tend to send emails and give them some idea of what kind of content you plan to include.

The Two Biggest Mistakes You Can Make with Your Email List

One of the most common mistakes companies make with email newsletters is to sign up clients without their consent. Just because you have a client’s e-mail address does not give you permission to sign them up for your list. Instead, if your business has e-mail addresses on hand but has never done anything with them, start by sending out an email to those individuals inviting them to sign up for the newsletter with a link to your online sign up form — then add a question to your intake questionnaire asking if it’s okay to send them marketing emails.

The other major mistake businesses make is sending out spam. No one wants pure advertising in his or her inbox. The secret is to provide email recipients with something they really want—or something that captures their interest—and sneak in just a little marketing on the side.

Each email should aim to be about 80% information, 20% advertising. In order to avoid being seen as spam you need to include information your clients want to know (aka you want opening your emails to be a small bit of R+ each time they do it!).

What to Include in Your Emails

You want to provide real, useful information—and you want to do so in a way that encourages your readers to sign up for future classes, events, and packages with you. The trick is to tell them something they want to learn—teach them something for free—and then mention how your product or service can help them reach those goals even more efficiently (or with better results).

In general you want at least a piece of your content to offer Value, Amusement, Solutions and/or Education.

  • Value might mean a discount or a “value add” when they sign up for a future class (for example, during one of our Trainer’s Growth Group coaching calls we chatted about offering clients who signed up for a brewery class a free beer).
  • Amusement means including something funny — it’s fine to be cheesy, but be careful to keep it clean and safe, unless your brand is known for being edgy.
  • Solutions are solutions to problems they’re currently facing. For example, if you are sending an email newsletter to new puppy parents you might include the recommendation that they put a hot water bottle or a Snuggle Puppy toy in with their new pup at night to help them settle and fall asleep.
  • Education is what it sounds like — content that is meant to teach your client something they may not know about dogs, dog training, and/or behavior. A perfect example would be a few lines on what subtle dog body language may actually indicate their dog is feeling stressed, or something on “Does your dog really want to be hugged?”

If you’re stuck for ideas, begin by thinking about common questions customers have—addressing them in an email will reduce the time you and/or your team has to spend talking about them in person. For the most part you should focus on issues that most of the clients who will receive that email will have to deal with sooner or later, but occasionally you may want to provide in depth information on a particular subject as a way of showcasing your expertise.

If you have a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page on your website, consider expanding on your responses to one of those questions more in depth in an email. This might include a piece on what methods of payment you accept or which complementary companies you work with most often and why.

Teach your readers about what you do and/or demonstrate your expertise in the industry. Talk about multiple ways they might use one of the behaviors you teach in class (including something that’s maybe unexpected, like teaching your dog to settle on a mat while you’re taking your in the shower so they don’t eat the toilet paper), or signs that a dog may need a trip to the vet that they’re likely to otherwise overlook.

If there is a piece of advice you give out constantly that you find tends to catch people by surprise, that can make for an interesting email—for example most people don’t know that grapes and raisins can cause renal failure in dogs. A reminder around Halloween that dog’s can’t have chocolate might also be a good choice.

That said, these tips don’t have to be long. A few sentences or paragraphs is fine, then tie the email back into what you have to offer (they should be on-subject). You don’t necessarily have to “sell” your customers in your pieces, however. A line at the end of your article that reads, “for more information, give us a call” or “We offer a free informational session for new and returning customers” is all it will take to make you that person’s go-to source.

Bonus Email Marketing Tips:

  • Generally, you want your newsletter to be short and you should always include contact information such as your address, phone number and website and a call to action (ie a specific action you want people to take based on that email).
  • Make sure to write a snazzy subject line, and don’t ever use the same subject line twice; you want your subject line to create interest and reusing the same line again and again will get boring fast. The subject line can also cause the email to be targeted as spam, so be sure to avoid words like “free,” “opportunity,” or “amazing.”
  • Pay attention to when you send your newsletter out. Studies have proven that the best times to send out an email are between 10-12 or between 2-5. Emails sent out on Wednesdays have also been shown to have higher open rates. This makes sense when you think about how you read email—on Mondays everyone has a case of the …well… the Mondays and on Fridays everyone wants to sneak out early. However, these best practices may be different for certain industries, so it’s always a good idea to try one day/time for a few months then test another. Figure out what works best for your business and your customers.

Have your own email marketing tips or stories? Share them in the comments!

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