The world gets more high tech every day, and we dog pros aren’t always the first in the rush to adopt new technology. Learning curves can be time consuming and tech learning curves are their own brand of pain.
But there’s a lot of software out there ready to make a powerful difference in how you run your business and what you’re able to accomplish for yourself and for dogs. And if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we dog pros can learn new tech to amazing effect. (Zoom, anyone?)
Still, there’s no point adopting new software just to do so. Here’s a rundown of four types of software and what they can do for your dog businesses, and some advice about how to choose what’s right for you…
Video Conferencing Software
We’ll start here, as it’s something most of us have become at least somewhat familiar and reasonably comfortable with. Who among us hasn’t spent time doing things on Zoom we’d never previously imagined? For many of you, that includes training dogs. And for many of you, that’s proven to be far more effective than anticipated. It’s also proven to put quite a few hours back in your day that used to be spent in your car.
Dog trainers have found that video conferencing software allows them to meet with clients (both individually and in groups) more often, providing an unprecedented level of training support. Some trainers use video conferencing to schedule more frequent consults or class sessions. Another approach has been to augment online or in-person consults and classes with package features like drop-in Q&A or office hours.
Increased touch points help to keep dog lovers motivated and on top of their homework, get your learner’s questions answered faster, and allow for quicker training adjustments and less wasted time.
There are also teaching advantages, like removing the trainer from the picture for anxious dogs or those who pick up on the “training picture” too easily, or regular use of strategies like video review sessions.
LMS—Learning Management System Software
Learning management system software is the engine behind online courses. If you’ve taken a dogbiz University course you’ve experienced an LMS as a student. It’s essentially an online classroom space.
If you’re teaching live group dog training classes online, video conferencing software like Zoom is really all you need. But if you’re thinking about creating pre-recorded, on-demand classes that can be downloaded anytime for passive income, an LMS is a necessity. This type of software houses your course—the video lesson recordings, handouts, etc.—and provides students a professional platform through which to experience it. Many options also allow you to build in quizzes and other interactive learning devices, too.
CRM—Customer Relationship Management Software
Chances are you’re already using some form of CRM. CRM software is essentially a database allowing you to store client information, schedule and track their service use (training appointments, walks, daycare days, boarding stays, etc.), and handle their billing. CRM software can be also be connected to your website to allow for direct scheduling and payment—a particularly useful feature for group class registration, for example.
Think of a CRM as basic business administration software, or a very inexpensive admin assistant. It’s really a must for efficiency’s sake—as well as avoiding mistakes that may cost you income. CRM software can also help you stay organized in other areas, like reminders to follow up with a client or check on their progress.
Marketing Automation Software
Taking automation beyond basic scheduling and billing and into marketing with marketing automation software can do wondrous things for your business.
If you’re sending out an email newsletter you’re probably already using a simple form of this powerful tool, such as Constant Contact or MailChimp. The next step is using lead magnets to collect email addresses. This could be a housetraining e-book or webinar you give away on your website, for example. To take things further you’d set up an automated marketing funnel—perhaps a series of emails and other educational shares (like articles or blog post links) sent out on a pre-determined schedule to follow the original e-book or webinar, designed ultimately to lead to registration in your puppy class or a spot in your puppy daycare & train program.
The point of marketing automation is staying in touch with potential clients in an active, useful, supportive way until they become actual clients. There’s a bit of work and a learning curve involved up front, but it’s well worth the time saved afterward when the system does it all for you—and well worth the increased conversion rates, too!
How to find the right software for your dog business
First, don’t feel compelled to collect fancy software just because it exists. Ask yourself if a particular class of software (video conferencing, CRM, marketing automation, LMS):
- Will allow you to do things you’re already doing better or more efficiently?
- Will allow you to do things you aren’t already doing but should be (like regularly scheduled client check-ins, for example)?
- Will allow you to better reach a goal (such as growing your business)?
- Will allow you to add a service (such as an online course) that serves your goals and mission and that fuels your passion?
Before you start your search:
Once you’ve decided you need a new class of software, take some time to think through what you want it to be able to do for you. For example, if you’re going to build a class on an LMS, do you want to be able to track student progress through the course? Do you want to be able to send automated tracking reminders or check ins? Do you want students to be able to chat together inside the course? Software programs in every category will vary in the features they offer—knowing what you need will help you choose the option most likely to make you happy.
If you decide to pursue a new class of software, here are 5 steps to help find the right program choice for you:
- Ask Google
Do a search like “Best LMS for small businesses” or “Best CRM for dog walking companies.” You’ll likely find both direct product links and multiple articles helping you to compare options.
- Ask fellow dog pros
Ask your dog pro friends and colleagues what they use, and what they like and don’t like about it. You can do this one-on-one as well as through any online forums or Facebook groups you belong to. (You might try searching them first—chances are this conversation has already taken place more than once!)
- Review on C-NET
cnet.com describes themselves as the “world’s leader in tech product reviews, news, prices, videos, forums, and how-tos.” In short, this website is a gold mine resource for comparing software program options. You can type any program name into the search bar and be rewarded with helpful professional reviews. (Warning: The site can be a bit overwhelming!)
- Compare features & pricing
Reduce the list of options you’ve built from the first 3 steps down to a small handful of finalists (2 to 5 at most) by comparing functionality and pricing. Cut any from your list that don’t include your most important features, and any that don’t fit your budget.
- Take a test drive
Most software programs offer a free test drive period, and some will even schedule a one-on-one to walk you through the program and answer your specific questions. It’s worth taking the time to get to know any program you’re considering, as it will save time in the long run by avoiding time lost to the wrong choice.
New tech means a learning curve, yes. But the rewards are well worth the effort. And besides, we’re dog pros; we know all about helping dogs and their people to successfully climb learning curves. Just apply that learning theory to yourself and you and your business will be reaping the benefits in no time!