By Lazhar Ichir
Groomers and dog breeders belong to the very same circles, but sadly most breeder/groomer relationships fail to thrive. A lot of experienced dog breeders prefer to buy some dog clippers on Amazon and get it done themselves. Many breeders fail to see the immense value groomers bring to their dogs, and their kennel name.
Groomers, too, often underestimate how important a breeder’s business is to the salon’s bottom–line. They own several dogs and sell even more to new, potential local prospects, so yes, dog breeders may justify a special marketing treatment.
Show Dogs & Other Dogs
As a dog groomer, the first mental shift you should instill in your dog breeder customers is that they can come to see you with any dog. The world of dog breeding is very closely intertwined with the world of conformation shows and trials. And, wrongly, many breeders see groomers as the professionals required to see only right before attending a dog show.
Make sure all your clientele with ties within show circles know that you are happy to spend time grooming all dogs, including toileting a pregnant bitch, or young puppies. No need for them to await an upcoming dog show—you are available right now, even for smaller work or touch ups.
A lot of breeders I speak to only go to their favorite groomer for long sessions. They feel like quick works are a little awkward to ask and pay for. Make sure they feel comfortable asking you even the tiniest of things.
Explain The Value You Add
A dog groomer does a lot and most of it goes unnoticed. Sure, dog breeders see how beautiful and fresh their dogs are after a session, but there is more to a groomer than clipping hair and nails. A dog’s well–being is just like ours, profound and complex.
In order to keep a breeder as a client, they need to understand why they are paying you any amount of money. This is obviously valid for any customer, but even more for one that can bring you a lot of dogs, often (not just when an event approaches.)
There is no need for a super–itemized invoice, though. Try to
keep the breeder with you once to show him or her all the work that goes into a grooming session. And even if they could do it themselves, show them how much better it is when YOU do it. Use the dog’s favorite treats, the dog’s favorite massage and the dog’s favorite clippers. The breeder must see that a groomer does it like no other.
Known by all is the fact that gaining a new customer costs a lot more than keeping one. But when you do the math, dog breeders generally own several dogs. This saying is so much more powerful with kennel owners than it is for your average client who may own a couple of dogs, at best.
This is to say, a breeder is a high–spend ticket and must be treated like one. Special discounts, loyalty cards, little gifts on special occasions, courtesy calls…there is so much a groomer can do to keep a breeder satisfied. Save special dates in your calendar such as upcoming dog shows, expected litters, and so on. These are formidable occasions to touch base again with a breeder that you have somewhat lost over time.
Home Visits Make a Breeder’s Life Easier
Have you ever discussed with a local breeder a set schedule over the year with a discounted price? Promise a monthly visit to groom all their dogs at their kennel in exchange for a prepayment, for example. It helps with the company’s cash flow and allows for a sale that would have otherwise, perhaps never occurred.
A dog breeder, just like you, sees so many dogs every day. It is impossible to bring each dog, one by one, to you as this would be awfully time consuming and impractical. Offering breeders a visit is a good idea for both of you. You can use the “I will come to you” as a leverage and require such visits “only to groom all/most of your dogs”. Discussing with breeders at large events, they often admit that a groomer visiting makes for a more frequent grooming than them having to travel to the salon.
Social Media Is Key To Effective Networking
Let’s face it, not a single person loves being called on a Sunday morning just for a casual chat. Networking has morphed over the last decade, and the changes run deep! Calling has become too intrusive, texting is too often ignored. So what should groomers do then?
Staying in touch with a breeder is very simple; show up on their social media profiles. Facebook and Instagram are the most convenient and unobtrusive platforms to stay in touch. Send some love and likes on their photos of their favorite dogs, and comment every now and then. It works. “Oh, I need to go to the salon for a quick touch up!” they should think.
Do not overdo it, but if you have not seen them for a while, it is a subtle way to remind them of how amazing you are.
Furthermore, it goes both ways. Make sure you post amazing photos of your best work on the best dogs you’ve recently groomed. Use such channels to grab your existing customers’ attention. Get some testimonials to post every few weeks—these will act as social proof!
The Ripple Effect Is Real
Most dog breeders will sell their puppies to local customers; it is just so much more convenient for everybody involved in the exchange. Keeping a breeder happy will help them make introductions and recommendations to these new prospects.
Even better, entice them by offering some paper coupons that they can add to their puppy packs. Offer a free session against a coupon, and once these new prospects visit, make sure you treat them with incredible care. Trust me, they will come back! Your freebie will get paid back within a couple of sessions.
Dog groomers should understand the immense financial value breeders bring them. They have many dogs, they attend many events each year and they sell dogs to other locals that can turn into prospects. What other type of customers can generate you as much revenue?
If not done already, all groomers should truly nurture their relationships with local dog breeders. Make dog breeders your ambassadors. There are so many marketing tools in your arsenal; commissions, discounts, special arrangements and at–the–kennel visits, networking and many more. It is just a matter of sitting down with a pen and paper (or an iPad) and picking a few strategies to roll out over the next months.
Each area is different! Some regions have their breeders very much into discounts while others may prefer the convenience of you visiting them due to the long drive. Just find what works through trial and error, and then do it over and over again.
Lazhar Ichir is the founder of Breeding Business (breedingbusiness.com), the educational platform for responsible dog breeders worldwide. They strive to make breeders more ethical and knowledgeable, one article at a time!