Niche Marketing for Dog Trainers

June 12, 2007

Our Late Great China Girl 

In the last blog I touched on the idea that you’ve got to decide who you’ve got to impress if you want to be a success in the dog training business.  Many dog trainers spend a lot of time trying to impress each other or worrying that other trainers don’t respect them enough when in fact for most trainers other trainers aren’t the ones who will pay you for your expertise.

To begin to position yourself as the Animal Behavior Expert in your community you have to associate your name with some distinct ideas.  Niche marketing focuses on the idea of helping you stand out in the crowd by narrowing your focus.  This gives you the ability to direct your marketing energy to specific people, but it doesn’t prevent word-of-mouth marketing from helping you out.

Depending on where you are you may already have a niche just by identifying yourself with a particular kind of training.  If your community consists mainly of people who train with prong and shock collars, you might position yourself as Terryville’s Clicker Trainer or The Clicker Trainer of Howard County.   But if people are already clicking in your town that could get you off to a bad start with your fellow clickers.  Positioning yourself is not necessarily about elbowing other trainers out.  In fact, in a later blog I’m going to talk about how to turn some of your competition into marketing partners.

In developing a niche you need to know your market, but it does you no good to know your market if it’s a market you can’t stand.  It is essential that you find a niche that makes your heart sing, Wild Thing.  In my life there have been many things that made my heart sing, but that didn’t translate to a business that would keep me singing. 

PERSONAL EXAMPLE:  I love water gardening and briefly considered starting a pond installation business.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that what I love about ponding is watching the fish and the wildlife the pond attracts, to sit with my husband and a glass of wine while dinner cooks on the grill and watch the butterflies flit from stem to bud.  I love puttering in my own pond, but the idea of being forced to dig multiple ponds for other people sounded like a big fat drag. 

So what did I do?  I love writing, so when I heard that a columnist for Water Gardening magazine had left I quickly shot off a letter and was offered the job of columnist.  I happily wrote the humor and slice-of-life column, Knee Deep, in Water Gardening Magazine for 11 years.  My niche in the water gardening market was subscribers of Water Gardening magazine.  I wrote about what I loved best about ponding- the relaxation, flora and fauna.  I was the Knee Deep Columnist. 

What is your unique catch?  Are you the Dog Trainer of Ritzy Heights?  Are you the community activist that trains dogs humanely so that they won’t lose their their homes and who also speaks out against cruelty and abuse? Are you the Singles Dog Trainer who invites single men and women to classes that combine training with flirting?  Are you the Trainer for the Gay Community?  How about focusing on your extended religious community for clients?  By figuring out who you are and who you want to reach you are miles ahead of the game in knowing how to market yourself. 

BEYOND DOGGIE DAYCARE: Pooch Patio in Dallas took the fabulous but now nearly ubiquitous doggie daycare concept to the next level by providing a beer, wine, coffee and sandwich bar and comfortable seating for humans in addition to grooming, daycare boarding and a boutique that includes gourmet dog foods.  They also offer party packages for pooches.  Pooch Patio is in a hip urban area making it a desirable way to socialize and include Fido in the outing.

So what’s YOUR handle?  What makes you different from every other trainer, and most importantly who cares about that difference? Do you offer a particular service like TTouch, or do you treat aggression?  Defining who you will be to the pet owning public will put you in a great position to fill your calendar with paying clients. 


4 Responses to “Niche Marketing for Dog Trainers”

  1. Rose O'Hara Says:

    A great start on the path to thinking this out, Kellie! Keep it coming! Now I have to sit and reflect on who I am and what I have been standing for for a couple of decades…..I would bet OTHER people already know it, I just haven’t defined it for myself………at least not consciously.

    Going out to meditate on this with the dogs in the sun …….Rose O’

  2. Hey- it might be valuable to have a few of those other people to a discussion over coffee and ask them!

  3. sara brady Says:

    I think another great niche for those who want to work with dogs is the dog-walking market. In cities like NYC and SF where people are superbusy and there are no yards, it’s an excellent opportunity to provide services to their beloved canines.

  4. Jinger Guinn Says:

    Kellie is there more to this?

    I think I’ve found my niche so to speak but have no idea where to go from there. I don’t think this is something I can make a living off of but can certainly benifit my community with some positive training and a little aggression work. Then I’m not formally educated either so is this something I should even consider trying? I’d love to also be a Healing Touch practitioner but I can’t take the time off my current job to get the training done.

    Guess there’s always volunteering ey?


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