Less is more. Simple is better. Back to basics. All familiar refrains. But sometimes cliches carry meaning. In the case of communicating with potential clients, less is more and simple is better are useful guidelines.
Simplify Your Services
Make it as easy as possible for potential clients to choose your business. Consumer research is clear that too much choice paralyzes—and a paralyzed consumer will usually opt out of making any decision at all.
Too many services. Avoid offering an endless smorgasbord of services, or services that overlap in confusing ways. For example, dog trainers often offer both “private training” and “behavior modification” or “obedience training” and “problem behavior training.” Though meaningful to trainers, these distinctions are lost on most dog guardians, who tend to see anything they don’t like their dog to do as a behavior problem. And whether their dog fails to respond to a recall or is growling over the food bowl, clients are likely to be looking for private training, not behavior modification. In most cases you’re better off from a marketing perspective listing private dog training on your website and other marketing material, and then including text about all of the various behaviors you can help with.
Too many service options. Offering too many package options can also confuse potential clients. Trainers, rather than forcing dog guardians to face a litany of service options, let them know you’ll design a customized training package to meet their goals. This has the added advantage of setting yourself, the client, and the dog up for the best chance of success by selling the amount of training actually needed, rather than leaving that decision to the client. Dog walkers and pet sitters, don’t complicate clients’ choices by offering 15, 30, 45, and 60 minute walks or visits. Offer the size visit you feel is best for the animals and your business. This also side-steps the uncomfortable situation of a client choosing a 15 minute walk for a 2-year old Weimaraner.
Simplify Your Information
It’s tempting to share up front all the details about what you do, how you do it, what you require of clients, and how it all works. But it’s easy to overwhelm, and your marketing message is likely to get buried under all the detail. Don’t lose potential clients by barraging them with unnecessary information at the wrong time. Think about when clients and potential clients need each piece of information.
Policy overload. The majority of policy information belongs in a service contract, not on a website. Websites are for selling services. Too many policy statements (Your dog must have her vaccinations. We require a six session minimum commitment. Your dog must be screened for friendliness. No cancellations.) undermine any warm, approachable, we-can-help-you vibe you’re attempting to create. Don’t get us wrong—we’re all for strong, clear, enforced policies. But they don’t belong in the sales portion of the program—they’re for the contract and a verbal conversation at the end of the initial consultation, once rapport has been established.
Daunting details. The same goes for process details. Websites should include enough information to help potential clients understand how a service works. It’s helpful to explain that the first step to private training is an initial consult and that from there you’ll customize a training program and package to meet each client’s goals. But it’s excessive and distracting to include details about which days and hours you’ll work with a client’s dog, that you’ll need a house key, that if a client chooses to watch you train you’ll stop ten minutes before the end of the hour to answer her questions. Again, these kinds of details are best left to the initial consult when you and the client are discussing how her training program will work. These details will be meaningful then. They only risk overwhelming a potential client trying to peruse your site to determine if you’re the right trainer for her.
Technically overwhelming. Training information is another area where simple is better. Don’t bog down your print materials and the services pages of your website with technical detail about methodology, learning theory, etc. Instead, include useful information about how dogs learn, or tips for how to train particular behaviors or solve certain problems, in a dedicated area of your website, separate from your services pages. This leaves your private training and classes pages focused on how you can benefit your clients.
Even on your dedicated content pages, avoid too much detail and technical language. Tackle them with your audience and marketing in mind. Your goal is to show potential clients that you can be helpful, that you are an approachable expert. The content should be brief, understandable, and usable.
When you read a website about massage, for example, you want to know that it will help you to relax, that it will relieve your pain. You might want some understanding of how massage works, or a tip or two about stretches that might help, but a detailed technical explanation about what happens to your fascia muscle during the massage process is likely to make your eyes glaze over.
Similarly, when writing about resource guarding, avoid espousing on the execution details of desensitization and counterconditioning and specific food bowl exercises. Instead, share some insights into the behavior, offer management tips, and tell clients that you use up-to-date scientifically sound and humane methods to change how a dog feels about sharing her toys or being approached when she’s eating, and that a relaxed dog who welcomes a hand in her bowl will have no reason to bite it.
Make It Easy To Choose You
Give your marketing message center stage in your materials, including and especially on your website. Your site should be about what you will ultimately do for clients—that you can help, and what the results of that help will look like. What will they be able to do after working with you? What can you offer relief from? How will their lives with their dogs be different and better once their dog is attending daycare regularly? Don’t give in to a rush of details and service options that threaten to drown out your message and overwhelm potential clients. Making people wade through too much information or make too many choices usually means losing them. Sometimes less really is more.