Sandra King, Owner, Master Trainer and Dog Behaviour Specialist opened her Red Rover Dog Training Centre in Grimsby, Ontario in February 2016. She found success in the first four months, of starting her business. Here’s her story.
After completing an extensive and very comprehensive dog trainers’ course at the Dave McMahon Dog Training Academy, my husband and I decided to open our own school, Red Rover Dog Training Centre, in February 2016 . This was a big step, but one that has paid off immensely. In just 4 short months we are running 13-20 classes a week!
A Great Location, Marketing and Being an Expert in Behaviour
How did we grow so quickly? Marketing is a huge part of it, but so is the right location and being a good dog trainer doesn’t hurt either!
We specialize in not only in obedience training, but also in behaviour modification. As a Certified Master Trainer and Behaviour Specialist, we work with a large variety of dogs that have behaviour issues, many of which are rescues. We are currently working with 2 rescue organizations (Ontario Weimaraner Rescue and Assistance and Beamsville 4 Paw Rescue). We offer their clients a discount on group and/or private classes, depending on what the dog needs. Many come to us with behaviour issues that need to be addressed prior to them being able to join a group class. These services that we provide have brought us a lot of clients from these two rescue organizations, as well as other clients who are having trouble finding solutions for their dog’s unwanted behaviour(s).
When it comes to marketing, I have an advantage – I am skilled in writing, photography, graphic design, and marketing. However, that doesn’t mean that I always get things right the first time and I know that I can’t do it all by myself.
On Hiring Experts, Mentors and Trading Services
We use other professionals to help me as well. I hired a service to create our logo. I get feedback from other writers and graphic designers. I purchase some of the images I use rather than take the photos myself, and I have traded services with some clients to take additional photos and videos during class – some for instructional purposes for the step-by-step notes we provide and others for marketing. I have also used mentors to help me along way and I have also observed what others in the same industry are doing to see what works and what doesn’t.
I allowed myself 4 months to create our website and a month to create and order marketing materials so that we would be ready once we opened. Initially, I ran Facebook ads then added print ads once we were up and running.
Using Facebook Ads, Blogging & Paid Ads
The business Facebook ads are a great choice and have brought me the majority of our clients. You set your budget, choose your target audience, how long you’d like the ad to run, etc. and you can also pause, or cancel your ad at any time. An ad that is performing well can be extended. You can clearly see your ad’s results by location, demographic, age group, etc. It’s a great and inexpensive way to test the waters to see what your potential clients are responding to. Images are extremely important with these ads and short copy is best. I found that creating an emotional connection with an eye-catching and cute dog picture works the best.
Adding a Blog to your website is a must. You can post it to your business Facebook page as well. Again, the main image is vital as is a short and catchy title.
I have also very successfully used print ads in the local paper. I first started with small ads. I was able to negotiate a $99 price per ad (reg. $149) by committing to run 6 of these ads. I also ran a full-page ad for $499, which is an amazing rate. Papers will have ‘sell-off’ ads when they are trying to fill the space on short notice. Building a relationship with your ad rep will help get you some of these deals and being ready on short notice is essential as well!
With the quick growth came logistical issues that needed to be dealt with immediately. The biggest issue was getting another dog. Our dog, Ruby, is the one who I did my trainers’ course with, is amazing, but the large workload of being the main demo dog (my assistant) would be too hard for her to maintain in the long term. We have a second dog, Wiley, that my husband is using to do his trainers’ course with, but he is too green and can only be used occasionally for classes.
Luckily, we found Cosmo through the Beamsville 4 Paw Rescue. He is a very green dog, but a quick learner and will be able to start helping in the novice classes fairly soon. Ruby will still do the bulk of the Intermediate training for now, but as the other 2 dogs progress in their training, they will be able to assist more and more.
Cosmo is the star of many of our Facebook posts, because he has this “look” that appeals to our Facebook fans, is it is mournful expression? He will soon be on the roster for helping as our new “assistant”.
We expect more changes to our business in the future as our clients are asking for more services/products to augment everything we provide at present. We are evaluating all these opportunities for a great future at our Red Rover Dog Training Centre in Grimsby.