Get The Right Clients Part 1: A Crash Course In Conversion Strategies

The first goals of any marketing plan are getting hits on the website and the phone ringing. But just getting hits and inquiries isn’t enough. It’s conversions you really want—the potential clients who turn into actual ones. Increasing your conversion rate means more business, less time spent on the phone, and more dogs helped. In this three-part series we’ll look at the three factors that influence conversion rate, and how to raise yours. (Links to parts 2 and 3 appear at the end of this article.)

First, though, what is a conversion rate, and what should yours be?
Your conversion rate, simply put, is the number people who find and contact you who actually end up buying—as in, sign up for a class or hire you for an initial consult. For private training there’s a second conversion rate to consider: How many initial consults result in training packages.

There’s no magic number you’re shooting for but, clearly, the higher the better. However, it’s not just the conversion percentage that matters. The time it takes to convert a client and the money made from the conversion factor in as well. For example, compare these two dog trainers:

Trainer #1 converts 75% of her inquiries—that’s a nice number! She spends an average of 30 minutes on the phone per conversion and makes an average of $100 per client.

Trainer #2 is only converting 25% of her inquiries. Her average time on the phone is also 30 minutes. But she’s making $1,500 average per client.

Trainer #2’s percentage may not look as good, but I’d rather have her bank account. Her secret? While her initial consult conversions are lower, she’s doing a good job selling packages once she’s there.

Let’s take a look at some of the usual suspects that impact conversion rate.

Factor 1: Poorly targeted marketing
If the wrong audience is finding you, conversion will be low. It’s hard to sell something to people who don’t appreciate or can’t afford what you’re selling. We regularly see a number of errors in this category. Here’s what to do to get it right:

Define your audience. If you’re trying to market to all dog owners you’ll have a tough time of it. Narrowing your focus will allow you to more effectively cater the message to resonate with your intended clients. Decide which dog owners you most want to reach. Consider socio-economic levels, geographic location, and niches. For example, busy professionals, families, daytime audiences like seniors and stay-at-home moms, gays and lesbians, churchgoers, the green-minded, etc. When you zero in on a sub-group of dog owners, your marketing becomes instantly easier. Not only can you adjust your message, you can narrow when and how you market. Going after the green-minded? Advertise in or write an article for the local green market paper. Want the stay-at-home moms? Ask to give a presentation to the local moms’ support group and advertise or place an article in the local homeschooling newsletter.

Get your message right. Having a niche audience won’t matter if you don’t hit the right tone with them. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Talk of building better human-canine relationships and communication, of teaching people how to train their own dogs, of teaching people to better understand their dogs and what they need is poor marketing. Don’t confuse your goals for clients with your marketing message. The message needs to get you through the door so you can affect those relationships. Promising people lots of homework in return for paying you isn’t usually a good way to get that foot across the threshold.

Instead, tell them how you can help, and keep your audience’s specific needs in mind. Will you provide convenient, effective training solutions to busy families and professionals? Maybe even do the training for them via day training or board and train? Or provide the green audience with the peace of mind of knowing that your training facility is fully green in its construction and operation?

Get your message to the right audience. A beautifully laid-out newsletter hitting just the right message and tone can be a powerful marketing tool—if it gets into the right hands. Part of assessing your conversion rate is paying attention to return on investment, or ROI. Log where all of your inquiries come from—which referral sources, which marketing materials, and the combination of the two. Getting lots of calls from your newsletter placed at a particular vet clinic but finding that few of them convert? It may be that that particular clinic is not serving your intended clientele.

Factor 2: The wrong rates
When trainers hire us to help them get more clients, one of the first things we look at are their rates. Trainers are usually concerned they’re charging too much. They’ve gotten comments via email or over the phone about their rates being too high. But we’re looking at the opposite: Are the rates too low?

Raise your rates. Low rates tend to bring lots of interest but little business. In short, a low conversion rate. The bargain hunters are just that—hunters, not buyers. They’ll only hire a trainer if it’s cheap. These aren’t the clients who will sustain a professional training business. And the serious clients, the ones you want, they’ll pass over any trainer who doesn’t look professional enough. Rates are part of looking professional. Who wants to go to the cheap doctor when they’re seriously ill? Or hire the cheap lawyer when they’re in legal trouble? Serious clients want the best for their dogs. If you look cheap, they’ll pass you by.

Training isn’t a volume-based business. It’s not an industry where cheap is a good business model. You have a finite number of hours per week to train; if you’re not paid well for them you won’t make a living. So be sure that your rates indicate your worth and your professionalism.

Post your rates. Put your class and initial consult fees on your website. Don’t risk losing clients irritated at not being able to find basic information. And placing your rates on your site helps clients self-select. The bargain hunters will move right along, saving you from unproductive time on the phone. The clients looking for the best will recognize you. Your conversion rate will climb.

Keep it simple. Your rate system shouldn’t be complex. Consumer research shows that giving people too many choices leads to decision paralysis. Don’t overwhelm potential clients with every option under the sun. Just tell them you can help and that the first step is an initial consult. It’s great to have targeted programs for specific situations—like puppy programs, for example. But keep the number of these reasonable and pay attention to layout to help people easily find the program that’s meant for them.

Factor 3: Sales strategies
Getting your message and rates just right—and getting them in front of the right potential clients—is central to converting them from potential to actual clients. Then there are the actual moments of sale—the time spent on the phone selling the initial consult and the time at the consult spent selling the subsequent training package. We tackle these critical and tricky moments in Part 2: Selling The Initial Dog Training Consult and Part 3: Selling the Dog Training Package.