Newsletters can be powerful marketing tools. Done well, they provide ongoing connection to and brand loyalty from current clients. They let past clients know about new services to come back for, and remind them you’re there if friends or family need a dog pro. They introduce and keep you in front of potential clients until they’re ready to pull the trigger and hire you. And they do all this while educating your community about dogs and humane training. If your marketing time and money are limited, this is the project to prioritize.
Print or Email?
In most cases, both. Email newsletters are terrific for retention marketing—that is, keeping the clients you already have. And if you’ve already got plenty of brand recognition in your area, an e-newsletter can be a great way to stay in touch with potential clients who have found you but haven’t yet signed on for services.
But if your business is either new or you’re actively looking for growth, a print newsletter can’t be beat. An email version means someone has to find your site and choose to sign up, whereas a print newsletter allows people to happen upon your business while going about their daily errands.
Why use a newsletter?
Cross-sell to existing clients. Clients are a built-in audience for new services. Already loyal to you, they’re the most likely to try the latest thing you’ve added. Assuming they’ll find out through other channels is risky, and people are more likely to respond to a direct message from someone they know. Checking in also creates a sense of connection and increases brand loyalty, which means you’re the one they come to when they need more training—and the one they send friends to as well.
Get new clients. Selling dog training is hard. It’s not as easy as convincing people they need or want some cool new thing. People don’t need you until they do, which means you have to stay in front of them until that moment. A newsletter is a perfect way to do that. Unlike a static brochure, the content changes every quarter, so there’s always a reason to pick up a fresh copy. And because a good newsletter is full of fun, useful information, readers engage in a way that’s nearly impossible to achieve with a traditional marketing piece. If you engage, educate, and entertain your readers they’ll undoubtedly come to you when the need for training arises.
Build brand recognition. Print newsletters transcend the dog world. Because they don’t feel like marketing material, you can expand beyond vet offices and pet supply stores to place your newsletter anywhere people might appreciate some good reading material: in cafés and dentists offices and hair salons, etc. This allows potential clients to encounter your brand repeatedly across town. Your newsletter doesn’t have to compete with colleagues’ materials in these places, and it stands out powerfully among others’ business cards and brochures on the vet counter.
Gain referral sources. While email newsletters are primarily retention marketing tools and print versions are best for gaining new clients, you can also use both to build your referral sources. Have a vet you wish would send you clients? Eyeing that perfect spot for your newsletter on the pet supply store’s counter or in the corner café? Ask the owner for a 10-minute interview to feature their business in your next newsletter and you’ll be well on your way to building a referral relationship.
Tips for a successful newsletter:
Follow these guidelines to make sure you get the most from your email newsletter:
Write a newsletter, not a brochure. Your newsletter shouldn’t be all about you. If you focus too much on your business, readers are much less likely to open or pick up the next edition. Keep business info to a minimum by using a sidebar for listing your class schedule or to highlight an event or service. But don’t forget to call your readers to action. What do you hope they’ll do as a result of reading your newsletter? If you’re trying to fill a class, include a Register Now button or let print readers know to go to your site for more information. Have space in your puppy day training program, dog walking schedule, or dog daycare? Invite readers to let friends and family know you’re currently enrolling, and offer a referral incentive.
Be useful and interesting. Think of your newsletter as a tool for education and entertainment. Trainers, use your main article to educate and be helpful. Share a training or behavior tip or explain a little learning theory or the importance of puppy socialization. Dog walkers, you might share your favorite trails or walking routes. Then fill the rest with interesting or entertaining dog-related reading. Let people know when tick season has arrived and how to best remove the nasty little buggers. Tell your readers about a local dog-friendly business or activity, share an excerpt from an interesting dog-related article or book you’ve been reading, or write about a fun historical fact about dogs. (Extra tip: Email newsletters should be very short—spread the content of your quarterly print newsletter across all three months of that quarter’s email newsletters.)
Give your readers a reason to pass it on. Dog parents can be just as enthusiastic as parents of two-legged children when it comes to sharing pictures of their canine darling doing something cute or clever. Share a client success story (with the client’s permission), or class graduation photos, or pictures of dogs in action—dogs playing on the trail or daycare floor, or performing a successful down-stay amidst distraction. Always caption your photos and include the dogs’ names.
Be consistent. Send your e-newsletter out each month, on time, and distribute your print version quarterly. A scattershot approach makes you seem disorganized, and missed newsletters are missed marketing opportunities.
Be professional. A homemade look or poor layout will undermine your brand and make it less likely your newsletter will be read. It’s worth paying a designer to create a professionally branded template for you to put your writing and photos into.
A final word of inspiration
Marketing is no dog pro’s favorite activity. If it helps, don’t think of your newsletter as marketing—think of it as community service. Because a well-created newsletter provides much-needed community education about dogs, dog behavior, and humane training methods while promoting your business. Focus on that, and you’ll likely find this marketing project a little easier than most.