Your site is your most valuable marketing tool—and one of your most valuable business assets. Created properly, your site should do most of your selling for you. If you’re like the majority of dog pros we know, that’s welcome news.
So let’s dive in to what makes a great site! In this article we focus on what makes great website copy:
Create your copy first
Most people prioritize the design of their website, the look and feel of it. This is a mistake. Design is important, but without great copy design is irrelevant. It’s your copy, ultimately, that sells your services. And the best site designs are driven by good copy; your copy will do more for you if your designer builds around it instead of treating it as an afterthought.
It’s all about your marketing message
Your marketing message(s) should be front-and-center on every page of your site, and returned to throughout your copy. To do this, you have to understand what a marketing message is: Think why, not what or how.
Too often dog pro sites focus on the what—what services they offer (dog daycare, group dog training classes)—or the how—how those services are provided. The how includes service details (like how many training sessions or the activities included in your daycare) as well as your training methods or care philosophy.
But what service you offer and how you provide it only matters if you offer a compelling why—that’s where your marketing message comes in. Telling people what you do isn’t enough. You must explain what will happen as a result. How will their lives with their dogs be improved? How will they feel better? You aren’t selling dog training or dog walking or pet sitting. You’re selling change, relief from guilt/stress/frustration/fear, peace of mind, a calmer household, more enjoyable walks or evenings with their dogs, etc.
What you actually do for people—how you make their lives better, easier, less stressful, more productive, etc.—it’s this picture you must paint with your copy. Think of your copy as a story, as a narrative that takes potential clients from where they are now to where they want to be as a result of working with you.
Show them your empathy, show them that you understand why they might be looking for a dog trainer or a dog walker. It’s not to solve leash reactivity or make their dog’s day better. It’s because they’re walking their dog at 3am out of fear or embarrassment. It’s because they’re sitting at work worrying about their dog home alone all day, or what kind of destruction of energy they might come home to.
Then paint the picture of what could be instead, of the results of using your service. Tell them about walking a dog who looks at you for direction when she sees another dog, and invite them to imagine the relief and enjoyment of bark-and-lunge-free walks. Describe the peace of mind of being able to focus on their job, knowing the dog is having a great afternoon with you.
Trainers, you’ll stop well short of any specific behavior guarantees. But you must tell people in some way or another that you’re going to make things better. If you don’t feel sure you can do that (provided of course that the client follows your instructions), you shouldn’t be offering your services.
Writing good copy
Website copy should be created for easy scanning. Some visitors will read every word on your site, but many will only scan through. Website usability stats say you have only 2-3 seconds to convince someone to stay on your site, and the average visit by those who do only lasts 2-3 minutes. While you want plenty of copy for readers who want a more in-depth experience, your copy should be accessible to people in a hurry, too.
This means largely avoiding long, bulky paragraphs that look like too much work. It means chunking your information into headers, sub-headers, bulleted lists, numbered lists, and pullout boxes or strips of color to break things up for the eye. It means writing in short, jaunty sentences that read smoothly, using active verbs and avoiding unnecessary extra verbiage. For example, consider these two sentences:
- We will help teach your dog to respond to your requests so that you can enjoy a well-behaved companion.
- Enjoy a well-behaved dog who responds quickly to your requests.
Page structure tips
Your home page. In addition to your marketing message, your home page should include short, easy-to-scan summary overviews of your services, with easy ways to click deeper into your site to learn more. You might also include a short introduction to yourself or your staff, with a link to learn more on your about page.
Your about page. Speaking of which, your about page should be primarily about your clients and what you’ll do for them, not about you. Yes, it should focus on your qualifications—that’s part of making this page about them: What qualifications do you have to do this work to make their lives better? It’s okay to tell your story or talk about your own dogs, as some potential clients will want a sense of who you are personally. But do that further down the page and keep it short. Your bio should never begin with any form of “I’ve loved dogs since I was five.” Do not confuse your life story with your professional bio!
Your service page(s). If you offer more than one service, give each service its own page. This allows you room to share your marketing message, explain the details of your service, and even provide a bit of education about the topic to your site visitors if you’re so inclined. (For example, sharing information about puppy socialization on your puppy training page, or tips for how to choose a dog walker on your dog walking page.) Be sure to include all details potential clients need to make a decision about your service—including your pricing. To leave your rates off your site is to lose clients. That said, too much detail can be a deal killer, too. In most cases you’ll want to leave most of your policies to your service contract rather than your website.
Getting it done
Just as we recommend serious dog guardians hire a qualified, professional dog trainer, we recommend serious dog professionals hire a qualified professional to write their websites. A well-written site means calls and emails from potential clients ready to become actual clients, saving you time and discomfort during sales calls. As we said above, your site is your most critical marketing and sales tool. If you don’t have a background in marketing and writing (specifically the unique niche of website writing), the money you spend on a writer will come back to you many times over.
Once you have your writing ready, it’s time to think about design. Read Building a Great Dog Pro Website Part 2: Great Design.