What do Guinea pigs and dog breeding have to do with one another? Bear with me…
In the context of preventing dogs from being bought through brokers there is nothing unethical about effective marketing.
An important part of the Local Dog Breeder strategy is connecting with potential puppy owners, inviting them to meet us and our dogs and giving them the opportunity to make choices based on real live, old-fashioned contact.
As hobby breeders we are well versed at staying under the radar lest we be accused of “puppy milling”. We have internalized the message that reputable breeders DO NOT breed pets and our websites often reflect that. I’m here to say that the more thoroughly we inhabit this “ I’m not a breeder, really I’m not” ethic, the more puppies will be born and raised in unscrupulous hands. Potential puppy owners, if they choose not to adopt, will be forced to buy from the only source available to them – brokers. We will certainly not ever produce the numbers that broker connected breeders do, but it’s my belief that as a network we will have our own strength in numbers. Maybe one day we’ll tip the balance…
So, in that spirit, I’d like to invite you to join me in a little research of our own. This has to do with our internet presence. Imagine your kids are clamoring for a pet guinea pig, or kitty or sugar glider – a pet you know not much about. Pick something. Now, fire up your laptop and begin the hunt!
Pay attention to the route you take in your search. What do you Google? Wander through websites, explore local and national clubs ( if you can find them!). Try not to get distracted by the show guinea pigs ( been there, done that – wow, beautiful!)
Notice your preferences, what you find frustrating and how long you spend on each site. You’ll get absorbed in some and click out of others in 3 seconds. Some you won’t even click on from the Google search. Why not? Take notes.
This is the experience our clients have when they begin their search for a puppy. I believe most people want to do the right thing. They want their puppy to have had a wonderful start. They don’t want to get ripped off and I’m sure would prefer more than a tail-light guarantee. They won’t, however, move towards what doesn’t feel good or what they can’t relate to.
Although I’m sure there’s much more to learn, here are three points I’ve noticed:
- Although stacked win photos, pedigrees and stats are useful for us in researching breeding decisions, pet owners often find all this a bit beside the point – even gibberish. Consider including photos and descriptions of your dogs as they are at home or out hiking. This is the context in which buyers imagine themselves with their new pups. You’d be surprised how many people think most of us “only breed show dogs” and apologize that all they are looking for is a pet. Show off more than one side of your dogs. And I don’t just mean the “off” side!
- Are you sure you really need a questionnaire? Could you get an even better sense of your client’s needs and suitability from a live conversation? Many buyers are put off by having to fill out a questionnaire before they can even have a chance to connect with the breeder. Some feel the questions are boilerplate at best and insulting at worst. The standard, formulaic feel of a PDF application does not give off a very warm and fuzzy, ”let’s all get to know each other” feeling. Screening clients for suitability is very important, but questionnaires seem to be pet peeve of many potential owners. If you stick with yours, make sure you ALWAYS acknowledge receipt with a personal email or phone call. It enrages people to put in all that effort and then get no response.
- Puppy seekers want results ( either a puppy or a plan for one) NOW. Don’t miss this opportunity to connect with them about upcoming litters ( the no over-promising rule applies here!). Set up your Available/Litters page so they don’t leave, back to Google, empty-handed. Help them continue moving forward with good referrals and links to local and nation club’s breeder directories ( click here for an example). It is our job to keep them in the responsible hands of reputable breeders.
GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE
Your search for your new Guinea Pig will teach you a lot about your own style and preferences. Consider making changes to your sites to reflect that. Those who think the way you do will be attracted to your site. This will help bring like-minded people together. Clients that are drawn to my site will be different from those attracted to Fran’s or Jane’s or Jeff’s. This is GOOD. There are more than enough clients to go around and being connected with people you speak the same “language” as can only increase the chances of success.
I’ll add more ideas in a future post. What was your experience like? What did you like/dislike about certain sites? Do you now own a show guinea pig? Sorry!