“You need a website!” You hear that everywhere. Everyone talks about needing a website, but very few people actually talk about what should be on the website, and even fewer seem to discuss the customer journey and how your website plays a part in it.
As the New Year is still a baby, many breeders have been looking to make their website do more legwork for them, the heavy lifting of the customer sales process. I think this is ideal, and such a wonderful way to save time and find better buyers. Your website is the hinge point for so many processes in your breeding program.
The purpose of your website as a dog breeder
What is a website for? Seems like a dumb question, but try and state the answer in two sentences. It’s a little difficult. A website should act as your virtual kennel, the Metaverse experience they’ll settle for instead of coming to see you in person. Back in the day, buyers would look at local breeders, visit a few, and determine which one was the right fit for them. Often this was across a few breeds. Now, though, with the ability to ship dogs across the world, there are limitless options for buyers and, lucky for you, limitless people to sell to; you just have to stand out.
The website helps you stand out. It helps you distinguish yourself from other breeders within your breed in ways that extend beyond location. It’s kind of like the third date: it’s where buyers will understand what you do and don’t do, and what your dogs are like and aren’t. It helps them put themselves into the right buckets, whether that bucket is to move forward and start the process with you, or whether they determine you aren’t for them.
It’s a hub. You know those cute diagrams with the wheels and the spokes, where there are all these outer items that all work with the center item?
Anyway, your website is the hub, it’s the place where all your marketing will send people, whether that’s your social media, your email list, or customer referrals. Once they’ve landed on your website, then you’ll want to send them to the right place. Think of it again as a virtual kennel. Imagine people are coming to visit your place, they’ve never been there before, and you aren’t there to greet them. Rather, you have to put up signs and organize the layout so they can navigate and explore.
What happens when your website isn’t meeting the needs of your Ideal Puppy Buyer
Remember that game Myst? I may be dating myself here, but I loved that game. I probably started playing it when I was a little young, but essentially you wake up on this island and there is no real information. You have to figure everything out. There are cryptic clues, puzzles to figure out, hidden messages. It was a riot…it also took me like a million hours to complete. It was fun because I was looking for a brain challenge.
Imagine if Target did that…all you needed was to find shampoo. You get to the store, you aren’t even sure if they carry the shampoo you’re looking for. You walk through the doors and you’re immediately in the middle of clothing racks, candy bars, games for Nintendo, and toilet paper. You see everything written in symbols and think, well hmm…if I parse out this code…I might be able to find the brooms, then maybe that’ll get me closer to finding the shampoo.
What a nightmare, no one would go to Target again! That’s, thankfully, not how Target works. They have huge signs, and their aisles are well lit. They tend to build stores the same way, meaning if you’re out of town at a different Target they’ll be very similar. It’s all designed to make things as easy as possible. In fact, you can even use the app, type in the item, and it’ll tell you exactly where it is in the store. Could you imagine how fast I could’ve finished that game Myst if they gave you the book with all the information, the maps, the truth, everything you needed to know? It wouldn’t have been a brain challenge, but ask yourself, do you want people to go on your website and get a headache? I didn’t think so.
What’s more likely to happen if your site is confusing is that people will land on it, not know what to do, not feel it will be easy to get their needs met, and leave. We need to design our websites to prevent this from happening. You’ll lose really great customers like that.
Let’s think back to people coming to your home to explore your breeding program and you’re not there (okay, I don’t actually recommend this, but it makes for a useful metaphor). What do you need? Well it would be really helpful if you had signs that told people where they could get the information they need. We would want signs for where the adult dogs are. In our metaphor, people would want to see your adult dogs to see if they’re like what they want their puppy to be. They will want to look at your puppies and see if they are what they want, how old they are, and when they’ll be ready to take home. They’ll also want to talk to you to better understand you as a breeder, what your dogs are planned to be like, if they’re healthy, and if you’ll be there to support them. Lastly, they’ll want to know how the process works. Birthday surprises, vacation surprises, and ice cream surprises are fun, but not too many other things in life are as fun as surprises. This includes getting a mystery puppy from a mystery breeder. Don’t be a mystery.
On the same token, imagine if they got there and you handed them a twenty pound book, tons of text, no table of contents, just article after article. This would be so overwhelming for customers. They wouldn’t know what to do, where to start. They would probably just leave.
What your Ideal Puppy Buyer is looking for on your website
Okay, so how do we translate this into our website? Let’s go back to our Ideal Puppy Buyer…you knew I would bring it back here…
Generally speaking, your Ideal Puppy Buyer is coming to your website for a few reasons:
- they are wondering what puppies you have available, if any
- they are wondering if you are the right breeder for them
- they are ready to apply
- and, occasionally, they are wondering if your breed is the right breed for them, although I would say this is less common. However, it’ll be more common for you if you have a rarer breed or if you breed two different doodles and they aren’t sure which is right for them
These are the key questions…which is why I have all these in a cheatsheet for you that you can download. You can get it using the form below.
Want to Get the “Optimize Your Website Homepage” Cheatsheet?
Creating an easy to navigate website
When buyers land on your website you should immediately hand them a sign or a map that sends them to these answers. It doesn’t need to meet their need immediately, but should tell them how to get there. For example, I don’t want you to explain what puppies you have available first thing on your homepage, because not everyone landing there will have that question. They might want to know more about you, the breeder. They’ll get frustrated that they don’t know where to go, and they’ll click the back button.
This is why I’m a huge fan of having simple navigation on the first page of your site. Let us know who you are, what you breed, who for, and then give us the map!
This might look like your homepage saying, “Bear Paw Ranch German Shorthaired Pointers, Perfect Family Hunting Dogs.” Then below we are giving them the map to these questions. I have three buttons that say, “Why Bear Paw Ranch?” “Available Puppies,” and “Apply Now.”
This simple setup works for nearly every breeder. It gives them clear navigation. People can immediately take themselves to the right pages on the website to get the information they need.
One question to ask yourself—or maybe your friends, as ego sometimes likes to get involved after we finish our website—is does this feel easy? Oddly enough, a website should feel like relief. Your ideal puppy buyer should land there and think, “Oh! Finally someone gets me! They know exactly what I need!” And they’ll feel this way because they can find everything they need to find. It’s organized. I mean, even your FAQs should be organized into groups of questions. Don’t be answering a shipping question and then the next FAQ answers a question about color genetics. Take the time to organize it.
The benefits of having an easy to navigate website
Here are some benefits to applying these tips:
- People will be able to find the answers they need without talking to you; or worse, abandoning working with you all together. This means less work for you, as it’s annoying answering the same questions over and over.
- People will be able figure out if they want a dog from you without talking to you. This is wonderful when done right, with organization, branding, and copy that all speak to, and educate, your Ideal Puppy Buyer. The majority of people who contact you will not only be your Ideal Puppy Buyer, but they’ll be ready to take the next step with you.
- It’s professional. As dog breeders, people sometimes wonder if we are a serious part of society or if we are crazy dog hoarders, somehow surviving in an alternate reality. When your website is professional and organized, people will treat you with more respect and get themselves sorted and organized before talking with you. This makes the process as a dog breeder much nicer, as our buyers are easier to work with.
The value of a fresh set of eyes
Lastly, sometimes it’s hard to know if what you’re making is working. It’s often hard to see where we are lacking. You ever leave your house for a week and when you come home you notice how cluttered your kitchen table is? You didn’t notice it day in and day out, but when you step away and come back, now you notice. The fresh eyes you saw your kitchen table with after you were gone are the same eyes that your buyers are looking at your website with. They’ll make an assessment (maybe …without even realizing they’re doing it). Therefore, it helps to have someone else look over your website for overall feel and navigation.
If you prefer to put a lot of text on one page, that’s fine, but put navigation on the page to help people find things. You can use “anchors,” as they’re called in the website world, those hyperlinks that you click and it scrolls you down the page to the right section. Alternatively, you can use accordion style design where people click and open up a block of text to answer a question, then can close it after. I find this particularly helpful with FAQs. My personal preference is separate pages.
Quick mindset shift…
I noticed that website building was really frustrating for me for a long time. It was stressful. Other times I would log in, eager to build my website. Then when I logged in, I would just stare at a blank screen, not sure what to do.
I’ve found that building a website is much easier and effective when you have a plan. In fact I recommend that you make a plan by writing out the pages you want to build, how the menu will be organized, and then make notes on the pictures you would like to use on each page. I even recommend writing out the copy for the pages before you make the pages. This way, when you’re building, you know exactly what you want and have the copy and images ready. It makes the whole thing easier and less stressful.
Lastly, there might also be a mindset shift. I used to write out a to-do list for the day, things like fold laundry, clear off the kitchen table, call that buyer back; and then I would just write “build website” as if that could be done in the same amount of time as folding the laundry …no wonder it was always lingering on my to-do list at the end of the day!
A simple way to change this is to make the outline for your website. Make that the task for one day. The next day, pick one page, then build the outline for that one page, and make notes on what pictures might be useful for that page. Then another day, write out the text for that page. This way, your to-do list will be manageable. It’ll be something you can knock out in 15-30 minutes, much like folding the laundry or calling a buyer. By breaking it down, you’ll be able to make progress.
If you’re struggling to make it all work, schedule a business strategy call with me at honestdogbreeder.com/strategy, I can help you craft a plan and get you moving towards your goals.
Thanks for listening to another episode of the Honest Dog Breeder Podcast, with me, your host, Julie Swan. I appreciate you spending time with me and I’m grateful I can be at least a small part of your breeding journey. Thanks again, and I’ll see you in the next episode!!