Tommy Doehler knows how to train dogs. In fact, there are only a handful of people in the country with the extensive training the U.S. military gave him. I spent a good amount of time talking with Tommy yesterday about him, his story and his American K9 Training Services business. You can also hear Tommy’s story in his own words and see images in this video.
FROM EXPLOSIVES TO EX-MILITARY
Tommy’s experience goes far beyond what most dog trainers receive. He has over 700+ hours of training and was the Training officer overseeing 15 dog teams at Camp LeJeune. He’s been part of secret service teams, handling protective duties for presidents and heads of state. He was an explosives canine handler in Iraq, going after individuals who posed a threat or attacked military installations and convoys, working with his dogs to attempt to locate explosives.
Returning from a tour of duty in Iraq in June 2009, Tommy was weighing his options to head back overseas when he decided to take a look online at dog trainers. What Tommy found was a complete lack of quality dog trainers in the Rochester, New York area, and that’s how Tommy found his calling. He sold his dream car, a Ford Mustang GT to start up his business. Armed with a website and a yellow pages ad, Tommy began to reach out, looking for clients.
Over the past 9 months, Tommy has built a steady business but he’s ready to take it to the next level, and the engine that’s going to drive his business is gaining new clients. To meet Tommy’s revenue projection for 2010, he’s going to have to gain 14 new clients each month. And without a marketing background, we’re going to give him a few options for how to more effectively market his business.
CREATING AN EXPERT
Tommy has an amazing story. He’s a military veteran. A home town hero. He has some of the most extensive dog training out there (and that’s occurred over 13 years). He took something that he is passionate about and created a business out of it. In essence, he has the makings to position himself as THE dog training expert and become a local sensation and media darling at the same time. But the guy is humble. So Tommy and I talked about him embracing his story and positioning himself as THE dog training expert in Rochester and beyond. Here’s how he’s going to do just that.
THE EXPERT ONLINE
Tommy currently has a Web site and uses the yellow pages to advertise his business. And that’s a start that’s generating some clients for him. And of course, word of mouth about his business is strong, and the number one way he gets new clients. But Tommy is going to focus on being more proactive to attain new clients. After all, he needs 14 every month in order to reach his revenue goal this year.
His Web site could use a few tweaks. His URL (americank9trainingservices.com) is a mouthful and most people are going to have a hard time recalling it, especially given its alphanumeric mix. Tommy should look at other URLs that may be shorter and more easily recalled. He can maintain his current URL and just point it toward the new URL he employs.
As for the Yellow Pages, Tommy is using both the printed and online version. With so many printed versions of Yellow Pages out there, it’s tough for consumers to know which is the authentic version. Additianlly, with so many people using the online version of the Yellow Pages, Tommy should consider using that format exclusively, thereby saving a significant amount of money that could be used for additional marketing initiatives.
BUILDING A COMMUNITY
Tommy’s business has a Facebook fan page but Tommy admits to not updating it often, although he has some 400+ fans. And there’s the rub: Dog lovers are part of perhaps the biggest community outside of human beings ourselves. And what better way to tap into that community than to present his expert status on his Facebook fan page?
Tommy can post a daily training tip, inspiring people to come back again and again (not to mention refer friends). Tommy can post information about a featured dog park he recommends. Or a place to take your dog off leash. Or just factoids, tidbits, or dog videos that are just amusing. Tommy tells people which butcher gives away the best dog bones. He lets his fans know about the stores or restaurants or other businesses that are the most dog friendly. In essence, American K9 Training Services Facebook Fan Page becomes THE place for dogs and dog-lovers to get training tips and local information — and just to be amused.
A BUDDING MEDIA PERSONALITY
Tommy’s story really is quite unique but he needs to tell it. Currently he’s talking about writing a column for a regional pet magazine, but there are so many more public relations opportunities. A simple press release with his story is enough to generate interest initially. A military veteran along with his trusty sidekick who has amazing stories to tell about his past career, and how he transformed that into a business is a great human interest story.
He can tell his story on TV (and then transform that into an ongoing stint as part of the local morning show, offering up training tips in its lifestyle segment). Ditto with the local newspaper and its lifestyle section or magazines. Tommy can work to forge ongoing relationships with the media as the “go-to” expert on dog training.
HITTING THE GROUND RUNNING (DOG IN TOW)
Tommy also has the opportunity to press the flesh, so to speak, meeting prospective clients one-on-one. Classic grass-roots marketing could be a huge boon for his business. Simply by printing up a postcard or even handing out business cards (make sure that Facebook fan page is listed), Tommy could attract a lot of attention at local dog parks as people marvel as he shows his training techniques. Tommy can also forge relationships with everyone from local specialty pet stores to humane societies to make them aware of his services. And that’s as simple as stopping in, introducing himself and seeing if he can place his postcards there. In grass roots marketing, the possibilities are endless.
For this humble guy, the world is truly his oyster. I think our phone conversation yesterday helped put this into perspective for Tommy. It helped him understand how valuable his experience truly is, and how he can use that training to create an “expert status” for himself and his business. This is the type of guy who truly inspires me. Someone who takes their passion and creates something out of it. I wish him the best of success in meeting his goals in 2010 and beyond.
How are you creating an “expert” status for you or your business.
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