As a dog breeder, especially professional one at that, staying in touch with as many past customers as possible is valuable. Selfishly, it allows you to receive feedback and witness the growth of the puppies you produced. Eventually, you can adapt and correct what has to be altered in your dog breeding program.
With that being said, it is very hard to indeed keep the contact alive between you and somebody who saw two or three times seven years ago, for example. The strong relationship existing between a dog breeder and the new puppy owner is strong at the time of purchase, but quickly fades away. And if you let these old customers go, you are losing a lot of action!
First, old customers can easily bring new customers — “Hey Betty, where did you get your cute cockapoo? Jeff and I want to have ours!” But also, old customers tell you a story of what you did well, and what you did wrong. They may never actually tell you, but you can see on their social media photos for example. Older puppy owners are great references, too; and most prospects who are willing spend a big chunk of their hard-earned money will generally want to liaise with an old client of yours before committing.
So whether you are selfishly interested in just improving your bloodline, or you want to remove your future clients’ doubts, staying in touch with past customers is essential in this modern day and age. Thankfully, there are many options to do so, so here is a round-up of the best methods to stay in touch with customers! Some are more intimate than others, so picks the ones suiting your own style.
1. Texts & WhatsApp
My favorite—personal but not too intrusive! Sending a text takes ten seconds and often times, means more than anything else. It is very personal and it is extremely unlikely that a text does not get read. It is a medium we all use heavily for the last decade, so it’s just a direct way to reach somebody and tell them something.
Generally, dog breeders will message once or twice the following weeks after the puppy gets picked up, but then never text again. It’s a shame because you have the number, you have some free time to text them once a month or so, but you do not do it. Go through your phone and find every single number of families who own one of your dogs, and then go on to schedule reminders every three months to text them.
Do not go to lengths in each message but a simple “Hey Jess, just thought I would send you and Fido a message. How are you guys doing?”
If you do not want to be too close and too friendly, you may skip texts and go with emails. The problem with emails is that they often do not get read or even checked, especially with elder generations. Because it is less intrusive, it is inevitably less efficient.
Never, ever, send a single email with dozens of recipients in it as it is extremely impersonal an simply demonstrates a lack of effort from your part. It does not take much longer to write a personalized three-line email to each former customer.
The main advantage of emails is that sometimes, you will sell a puppy to somebody who loves giving news. With text, messages are short and rather vague. With emails, you may receive very long updates which are extremely heart-warming to read. Often, they will be accompanied by images of the dog in question so it’s a richer medium to update each other.
The most obvious and the best long-term medium for dog breeders and forever homes to stay in touch—Facebook! One day, you get an email enquiring for a puppy, and the prospect customer comes to visit your kennel facilities, and they buy the puppy few days later. At that point, add each other one Facebook, and you are good to go for years of updates.
Facebook is a passive way of staying in touch and not disappearing from somebody’s mind. Like a photo of the dog one day, like another one few months later, and so on. It does not require any word exchanged, it does not require anything further that a like. If you are feeling adventurous or want to be a little warmer and nicer, you can leave comments and your forever homes will also leave some on your updates.[pullquote-right]Always try to send personalized messages; avoid templated copy-paste messages.[/pullquote-right]
Facebook is for the older generation (who would have thought, ha?) because millennials are all over Instagram right now and it is here to last. Instagram is visual: updates are either photos or short videos. It is a heaven for pet porn and food porn, both being visually appealing to the general public. Therefore, as a dog breeder, you should absolutely start your free Instagram account and post daily updates to build a following!
Most of your customers will generally be present on Instagram and also post updates ranging from what their lunch was, to their dog’s cute face in the evening. Here as well, it is a matter of staying on top of the customer’s mind by liking their updates, and making sure they follow you as well to update them on what your kennel is currently about.
Instagram launched Instagram Stories few months ago to counter Snapchat: post short-lived updates that will disappear after 24 hours. These are cute and do not worry about the quality of each shot since it disappears few hours later!
Dog breeders do not have to always individually contact each one of their former customers. They can do some sort of broadcasting, instead. Blogging is very appropriate to update new prospects and older contacts about your current situation. In a blog post, you may do a weekly roundup of your kennel’s news, your dog show results, but also deeper kennel blog content such as detailed review of the current breeding program for example.
The main downside with a blog is that most people update it at first and then give up; and it is not because you update it weekly that people are motivated enough to come and read it. Is your content well-written, enticing and informative enough in order to generate enthusiasm and return visits? Running a blog requires skills and dedication.
Do not start a blog is you breed occasionally or if you are not very much hands-on passionate about the breed; simply because you will not have much to share and it will turn into a graveyard blog. However, if you are passionate, attend events, engage in online message boards so the likes, a blog is exactly what you need. A blog will also give you a huge credibility (if you do not write nonsense) and prospects will respect you further, resulting is accepting higher prices, too.
6. Facebook Groups
Some well-established dog breeders have managed to create little tribes around their kennel affix and each owner is part of a quality network. These owners often exchange together even if they have never met. It is a wonderful little family bonding through the only common denominator: the breeder of their dogs!
The whole dog family generally gathers on a simple Facebook Group: it takes two minutes to setup and you can make sure only the right people see it, join it, and post in it. At any given time, you can remove and ban somebody. Everybody spends time on Facebook so they will inevitably see new updates from other group members and can jump in with ease.
Only do this is you breed dogs of high quality and screen owners for them to be very passionate about your bloodline. Including casual buyers in a Facebook Group will generally result in them leaving within a year (hope you do not realize) or them being totally mute and invisible on the group because they aren’t that involved in your network. I would include them from the start and if they do leave the group, I would get the hint and never bother them again, ha!
Have you ever thought about starting a YouTube channel for your kennel and post some videos every few days? No need for special gear or fancy camera, just use your smartphone and the Youtube app to upload the videos. Sure, these videos will not be super productions but they will be authentic and actually show your dogs in action.
Push this concept a littler further and start a vlog, perhaps even daily vlog. It is basically a blog but using video (video blog.) The advantage is that you do not have to write anything and your videos can immediately be found on Youtube by random people; so you start with a potential audience that would be much harder to get with a regular blog. Youtubers love comments and these could be left by your dog owners, customers, and future prospects.
The main problem with a vlog is that you must be photogenic and interesting. If your voice is monotone and you do not know how to speak dynamically, your viewership will have the attention span of a goldfish. You will eventually give up and your channel will be a graveyard. Any medium that broadcasts content to your audience may quickly discourage you unlike texts or Facebook where the relationship is tighter.
8. Good Ol' Phone Calls
The last and my least favored but loved by so many of you: the good old phone call. Every dog breeder has his customers’ numbers so it is very easy to give them a call and most will do a few days after the pup got picked up. That first call is to check that everything is going well, and it’s the easiest (and often, last) call.
Phone calls are very intrusive, and as much as a breeder knows and bonded with his forever homes, jumping on a phone call is not comfortable. The conversation has a very obvious ice breaker: the dog. But once the new owner says everything is fine, the conversation may stall and turn into a puddle of pure awkwardness. Some people, on the other hand, have the words flowing and can speak forever without interruption so these may be the best ones to contact over the phone line.
To conclude, there is no one best method but instead a timeline of methods to use:
- Phone calls are ideal in the first month after the puppy is picked up
- Texts are great over the next few months
- Emails are perfect for longer updates
- Facebook is the #1 long-term medium to stay in touch
Depending on the type of bloodline you are working with, and the associated customer styles, you will favor a medium over another. No two dog breeders have the same ease with communication so to each their own. As long as you try your best, you will not have much regret!