Most pet care business software is built for kennels or groomers, leaving dog trainers to mix and match several software solutions to meet their needs. Let's take a look at the most common solutions we see and identify a potential solution to getting tangled in software.
I've spent the past 15+ years writing software for companies of all sizes, and in many different industries. I'm familiar with creating software that delivers value to its users and have seen what software that's fit-for-purpose can do for the businesses that use it. Watching my wife try to find software like this for her dog training business was sad and frustrating. Sad because her experience and knowledge is primarily with dogs, not software, and yet she spent about half of her time fighting with software, not caring for dogs. It was frustrating because as a software developer, I knew I could solve the issue, but it wouldn't be something I could solve quickly.
Since then we've seen trainers from all over the world struggle with the same issues. I'd like to cover the key areas of a dog training business which are most common to implement a software solution, the most common picks that we see, and an unbiased-as-possible look at the pros and cons of each.
Let's start with the most basic and common business problem:
All businesses need some sort of process to manage and account for incoming and outgoing funds, dog training business is no different. While there are many accounting systems to choose from, we really only see two processes/systems among our clients:
We see the most variety in scheduling software. For a service based business, like dog training, this functionality is a critical component to your overall client experience and can either help make your business process smooth, or introduce more issues that need to be solved. These are a few of the systems we see frequently:
No business can survive without collecting monies from their customers! Dog training businesses tend to live in a space stuck between online and offline retailers. While online payment processing has advanced significantly over the last decade, seamlessly integrating them with your business can have its own challenges. The choice in processor tends to depend on the way the business handles payments, online only, online and in-person, or in-person only. The majority of smaller trainers tend to stick to one of the first two, some larger businesses with brick-and-mortar locations may choose the latter.
Dog Training and other pet care businesses are unique among service based businesses in how much information they need to collect from their clients before the service can be performed. It's much more similar to a medical practice with their intake forms. Therefore collecting and processing intake forms and client agreements is one of the most critical tasks within the client onboarding process. In this area we see some of the least advanced solutions - our belief is this is because the better solutions are expensive relative to the other software on this list, but also because most scheduling systems do not handle this very well. As a result, these are the most common processes we see:
We don't often see full CRM systems used by our clients. Most of the time they're using a client database that's within an existing system and not a standalone CRM. This tends to cause issues when trying to quickly find client information, history, send them a message, find out what dogs they have, or just go back through their past appointments. Like intake forms and agreements, the client information is a critical part of the pet care process, but tends to see less attention compared to things like scheduling and invoicing. Also like forms and agreements, we believe this is because there aren't many options that integrate well with the rest of a pet care process. Also that CRMs are typically used to manage sales processes, not client process. More often than not, we see our clients previously using no formal system at all.
Trainers tend to be moving online to deliver their messages and programs - this had only been accelerated by the pandemic. The choices in systems are often a result of online content's focus within their business. If it's a significant part, they tend to seek the focused video/content hosting platforms. If it's not, they'll use some less expensive alternatives.
Most of the trainers that we see do not actually use a marketing campaign platform to do marketing campaigns. Those who do, however, tend to stick to one of the following:
On their own, each of the solutions above are very logical and good decisions, but they each tackle one specific issue well and don't solve the others at all, or very well. For the average dog training business this leaves you with workarounds to integrate them together and leads to death by a thousand paper cuts. Selecting a solution for each of these problems can quickly add up to an unsustainable number for many dog trainers, a few hundred to $1k/m in software fees is not uncommon. The strength of a separate system for each lay in their ability to focus on that one function (No system focusing on things other than document signing will be able to compete with DocuSign), but it's also the weakness, as small business owners it's not feasible to integrate these systems well enough that it doesn't add to your administrative burden.
To solve this, we're building BusyPaws to handle most of the above (Scheduling, Payment Processing, Forms/Agreements, CRM/Client/Pet Management, and Video Content Hosting). One solution to solve the software problem for dog trainers and other pet care providers. We won't be stopping there, though, we're looking to improve the process beyond handling the above.
Whatever solutions you choose for your business, we hope that everyone can spend more time doing what they love with those they love.
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