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Why Dog Trainers Should Get Pickier About Their Clients

Updated: Jan 17, 2022

Cast a wide net, and you’ll catch more fish. It’s a practice that so many dog trainers adopt when structuring their businesses. They want to keep their options open, so they take every case that comes their way, even those that are outside of their wheelhouse. They keep collecting credentials, even though they’ve found their zone of genius in a very specialized niche. This analogy might work for fishing, but it falls short in business.

Maybe you really prefer a particular kind of fish. Maybe there’s an ideal fish–one that provides the exact nutrition you need and is an absolute pleasure to eat. (I personally don’t eat fish, but you get the idea.) When dog trainers are marketing themselves, they really should be looking for that perfect and very specific type of fish.

An Avatar, Not an Audience

I like to encourage my clients to go beyond a “target audience” and get more specific about whom they serve. Instead, I want them to focus on the individual personification of the dreamiest of dreamy clients. The client who soaks up all the behavior information they can dish out with curiosity and fascination. The client who looks straight into their eyes and nods during puppy orientation. The client who asks the most thoughtful questions without overthinking. The client who would never dream of using force to train their dog. An avatar of perfection.

I also want my clients to think of more specific traits, too. How old is the avatar? What do they do for a living? With which party do they vote? Do they have children? What’s their highest level of education?

Give the avatar a name. Get to know them. Write their profile.

Here’s an example:

Meet Logan. She is a single copywriter in her early thirties who owns her own business making a comfortable income. She is a bleeding-heart liberal and volunteers at the local humane society in her spare time. She adopted her two year old pit bull mix, Gracie, six months ago. She feels pressure to have a breed ambassador and she hired you to help Gracie learn polite greetings and loose-leash walking. Gracie is a social, exuberant dog with zero manners. Logan is a meticulous rule-follower and is itching to have a plan to follow.

That’s how specific I want dog trainers to get about their ideal client avatar (ICA). I want them to see them as a real person, with a real dog and with real struggles. And I want their struggles to be the exact kinds of problems that my clients are best-suited to resolve.

Give it a try. Identify your ICA using my free mini-lesson:

How to use the profile to attract more ideal clients

Okay, so you’ve got your ICA nailed down. Now what? What do you do with this information? How do you get more Logans?

From here on out, every single piece of content you write should resonate with this person. Your website copy should speak to them. Your instagram carousels should be mini-lessons in resolving the behavior problems they face. Your blog post titles should incorporate their pain points. Your keywords should speak to them.

Any time you sit down to create content, check in. Ask yourself, “Would Logan find this valuable?” If the answer is no, then you either need to rethink the content or your ICA.

But isn’t this exclusionary?

I know what you might be thinking: “Well yes, I’d love to have nothing but Logans for clients, but I have bills to pay and I can’t leave money on the table.” I get it. That’s why you wouldn’t refuse a client you’d like to help simply because they don’t fit the avatar. And you want to be sure that your messaging doesn’t exclude the Rebekahs for the sake of the Logans.

Getting clear on your ICA helps you target the clients that you can best serve. Because dreamy clients really are the best antidote for burnout. And the dogs need you to not burn out.

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