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Should You Temporarily Close Your Dog Training Business? (Because Of The Coronavirus)

 

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you are because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that.” – Rocky Balboa



We’re in uncharted territory, my fellow dog trainers.



This article will help you decide whether to continue offering your dog training services during these crazy times or temporarily shut down. It will also share some of the conclusions we’ve made in the past few days– based on running dog training Google Ads campaigns in over 60 different cities. Does it make sense to continue advertising and promoting your dog training business even if you pause operations?

I’ll also touch on some ways to continue offering your dog training services.

 

Why Listen To Me?

Google Adwords Management For Dog Trainers

Everybody’s got an opinion, especially on the internet.

As the admin of the Dog Trainer Marketing Group on Facebook, I figured I’d share mine. 

 

As many of you know, I’ve owned three dog training businesses over the past 25 years. I’ve also owned an online dog training subscription website that made me over 6 million dollars– and also survived the 2008 financial crisis.

 

These days I own a small online advertising agency that (amongst other things) specializes in running Google Ads campaigns for professional dog training business owners across North America.

 

Dog trainers just like you.

 

To coin a phrase from the Farmers Insurance ad campaign: We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two. 

 

So… Should You Temporarily Close Your Dog Training Business?

 

Nobody really knows what the heck is going on right now with the coronavirus. Some cities are mandating that all non-essential businesses temporarily close. Others aren’t.  The messaging from authorities at the national, state and local level is– at best– confusing and somewhat contradictory.

I think that for most of us who are healthy and don’t fall into a high risk category (elderly or with pre-existing health conditions) have little to worry about. It will be similar to a cold or flu virus for most of us. 

 

But who really knows?

 

The most common advice we hear is to engage in social distancing— stay at least six feet away from other people. Blah, blah, blah… you’ve heard it all before.

 

Personally, I’m more concerned about the financial fallout.

 

I think it’s safe to say that all group dog training classes should probably be temporarily halted. Perhaps if you run small group classes of 4-6 people and you have willing participants– then you might make a judgement call and continue to offer those classes– but maintain 6 feet between individuals at all times. And wear gloves! It’s a judgement call only you can make, based on your risk tolerance. If you have larger classes, especially indoor classes, I’d highly, highly recommend suspending them regardless.

 

But what about private lessons or Board & Trains? Keep reading…

 

Evaluate Your Personal Situation & Your Local Market

 

Everyone’s risk tolerance is different.

If you have elderly parents at home or you live with someone with a compromised immune system– I recommend you err on the side of caution and suspend operations. Or switch to Skype based consultations and lessons, if you think you can make that work. 

 

“If I Suspend Operations Should I Also Pause My Ad Campaigns Too?”

 

Maybe, maybe not. If I was in your shoes (and I’m not just talking about Google Ads) … I’d continue to let ‘em roll, even if we halted operations. But I’m in a position where I can afford to do that.

My reasons for why are below. Keep reading.

If I was living hand-to-mouth… I’d probably shut ‘em down.

Here are a few factors (based on data) to consider:

 

In over 60 cities that we run Google Ads campaigns for dog trainers, we’re seeing:

 

  • An overall drop in searches and clicks by only about 10-15%. (That’s not a lot, considering the level of panic!) However, most markets have been surprisingly consistent.
  • We are seeing an overall drop in actual contacts (leads) by 40%-60% on average— depending on the city. Some cities have seen no change whatsoever– which is surprising. One of our clients is getting more leads than he usually does. Other cities have been hit hard. But overall… lead volume is down. People are scared and they’re panicking… so this probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

 

Lead volume has not stopped. It has just slowed down.

 

Why Are Leads Slowing Down But Not Clicks? Have Cost-Per-Click Dropped?

 

 

Here’s the important take-away: Demand for dog training services– even in these crazy times– appears to be remarkably consistent and resilient. A 10-15% drop in searches and clicks is nothing considering the avalanche of media hype.



“But why aren’t they calling or filling out my contact form then?”



Because they are scared.

– They know they need to get their dog trained.
– They want to get their dog trained (as evidenced by the search volume)

 

… but they’re thinking to themselves: “I’m going to bookmark this page and wait for a couple of weeks until this whole coronavirus thing blows over… then I’ll call.”

 

This will pass.

 

So, they’re searching, they’re clicking and… they’re bookmarking and making a note to contact you once things settle down. [Read: once the media hype stops.]

 

If you shut your ad campaigns down you will be missing these people and your competition will be getting them. Guaranteed.

 

Now, if you’re living hand-to-mouth and can’t weather the storm… then by all means shut everything down. Hunker down and do the best you can. Focus on making your website convert better. Hint: My Youtube channel “Katz On Marketing” has several website critique videos where I teach dog trainers how to make their website convert better. And it’s free!

 

If you have a large staff it might make sense to run operations with a skeleton crew for the next few weeks until lead volume picks back up.

 


Here’s What I Think Is Going To Happen…

 

After 2-3 weeks of self-quarantine most North Americans will be ready to lose our minds.

And once the authorities start telling businesses and restaurants and bars that they can reopen– look out! You’re going to see a huge surge in economic activity.

 

… And everybody who did a search for you in the past 2-3 weeks? They’ll begin calling and booking consultations. Plus you’ll also have the normal volume of leads to contend with. So, I think that ultimately you’re going to be inundated later for the ads that are showing now. 

 

How To Continue To Offer Private Lessons & Board & Trains

 

Like I mentioned before: The decision to stay open or not is a decision you’ll have to make for yourself based on your risk tolerance, recommendations from your local municipality, weighing the benefits versus consequences of staying open and also your personal financial obligations. Some of you simply can’t afford to close and need to find a work-around. (More on that below)

It’s not a decision I can make for you. But it’s a decision that should not be made based on panic or fear but rather by carefully weighing the pro’s vs. cons.

 

If I Owned A Dog Training Business Right Now, Here’s What I Would Do

 

  • I turn 50 this year. I’m also the type of guy who can buy a seat in the outfield of Dodger Stadium and if the catcher sneezes, I’ll catch his cold.

  • I’m also smart enough to realize that most dog trainers will panic and stop their ad campaigns as soon as the volume of phone calls falls off.

    This presents me with an enormous opportunity.

    Under normal circumstance, getting clicks without leads would be a major cause for concern. But if I have a winning campaign that I’ve been running for months (or years)– I’ll continue running my ads and promoting my business because I know that my message isn’t falling on deaf ears.

    It’s a future-play.

    And I have the financial resources and can afford to weather the storm. At least for a month or two. If I’m wrong about this and it drags on for many months– I might re-evaluate. But I’m betting that in three weeks or so the recommendations to quarantine will be lifted and the hysteria will have died down.

  • Get out in front of it! I’d announce a “Safe From the Coronavirus” dog training protocol— and I’d try to reach out to all of my clients before they call me to cancel existing contracts. This might include giving them the following options:

    A. Skype-based training for the elderly or those at high risk. I’d also include the option to review the training results in-person for X sessions once the virus has passed. I’d also attach a dollar value to that offer, so they feel that they’re coming out ahead. IE, “Our misfortune with the coronavirus is your gain!!”

    B. “Safe From The Virus” Private Lessons: You make it clear that you will be meeting outside and staying a minimum of 6 feet apart at all times– while also wearing gloves. I would spin it that there’s actually an advantage to them working the dog rather than me taking the leash. And also that this is something they can do SAFELY and GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!! (Carla and I have been self-quarantining since Sunday and we’re already bouncing off the walls! Give me an excuse to get out of the house and I’ll take it!!)

    C. Push Board & Trains like never before:  “Been at home, quarantined? Is your dog driving you absolutely nuts? Let’s do a phone consultation (or Skype-based consultation?) When we pick up your dog, we’ll meet outside and use a tie-out to stay six feet apart at all times– just to quell your fears about the virus. Etc…

 

** You Must Be The First To Address The Issue **

 

I can’t stress this enough: You need to be the first to bring it up. If the client  has already scheduled then you need to reach out to them and approach the subject before they do. If they’re already calling you and have already made the decision to cancel… it’s too late.

 

I’d also recommend putting something on your voicemail message and website that allays their fears, too. Again– you must be the first to squash their “coronavirus objection” BEFORE THEY BRING IT UP!!

 

Note: Don’t do it like all the other boring emails from businesses are doing it. You must be novel. You must stand out. You must make it sound LIKE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THEM AND THEIR DOG!!

 

Remember: They want what you have to offer. And after a week or two of quarantine… they’re going to want it even more. Your job is to make them feel safe about working with you. You must let them know that you have a protocol in place that will keep them safe!!

I feel so strongly about this that I’d even include it as part of our phone answering script: “Thank you for calling Katz Trains Dogs– home of the Coronavirus-Safe Dog Training protocol.”

Or something like that.

 

A Huge Opportunity For Board & Trains

 

 

Boarding kennels are hurting right now. People are cancelling trips and staying home. This presents the perfect opportunity for those of you who have traditionally not offered board and trains because you either don’t want to bring the dogs into your home or you don’t have a facility.

You can charge 3X what you charge for private lessons by offering a board and train.

 

So… reach out to boarding kennel owners and work something out. You might be able to negotiate $10 or even $5 a night. This means you can still make excellent profit, not have to hassle with bringing the dog into your own home and also be helping out a fellow pet industry business owner.

 

Do you feel like throwing in the hat? Calling it quits? Remember: Most of your competition feels the same way.

I can’t tell you whether to keep the lights on or to temporarily close up shop. That’s a decision you need to make for yourself.

Things will get better.

 

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you are because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that.” – Rocky Balboa

Stay safe and healthy, folks.

Much love,
Adam G. Katz
DogTrainerToolbox.com