This week Joe is joined by Dominic Hodgson an entrepreneur who went from struggling local dog walker to author, speaker and industry leader. Dominic talks about how he became known as The Pet Biz Wiz and how his “Walk Yourself Wealthy Business in a Box” is helping struggling dog walkers, trainers and groomers to transform their fortunes using the tried and tested No B.S. marketing principles handed down by Dan Kennedy.
About Dominic Hodgson:
Dominic Hodgson was born in Sunderland, in the North East of England in January 1978. He left school at 16 and began a career as a singer and dance teacher before getting a ‘proper job’ as sales rep for a tobacco company. 10 years later he fancied a change and launched a dog adventure business called Pack Leader Dog Adventures.
From there he got into dog training which eventually led to his online and offline dog training program and the launch of his Amazon bestselling, highly acclaimed book ‘How to Be Your Dogs Superhero’. The year after Dom penned Walk Yourself Wealthy, which shows pet business owners how to turn their passion for pooches into a profitable business. In 2018 Dom wrote his third book ‘Worry Free Walks: How to transform your dangerous, difficult and devilish dog into a problem free pooch that your proud to take to the park.
The latest book ‘Worry Free Walks’ is the first in a 5 book series that aims to fill the knowledge gap for dog owners who love their dogs dearly, but have no control over them.
Dominic Hodgson - Magnetic Marketing Podcast Transcription
Joe Pardavila: This is Dan Kennedy's Magnetic Marketing podcast. You'll meet folks that are using the Magnetic Marketing principles to take control of their advertising and marketing dollars. I'm Joe Pardavila. Let's do this.
I have interviewed lots of different people, actors, singers, politicians, scientists, but I've never spoken with a Pet Biz Wiz. Joining me today from across the pond is the CEO of Pet Biz marketing. His name is Dominic Hodgson. Hey, Dominic, how are you?
Dominic Hodgson: Hey, Joe, I'm good. Thanks for having me on.
Joe Pardavila: Listen. It's my pleasure because I've heard your story and I want to share it with everybody, but tell us about this Pet Biz Wiz title.
I know it's an obvious question, but what does that mean, being a Pet Biz Wiz?
Dominic Hodgson: In the last couple of years, my business has predominantly become a pet business marketing, coaching/consulting business, where I help other dog walkers trainers, groomers, pet store owners, to fix their marketing so they can transform the business fortunes.
And that name was actually given to me by a friend of mine. She called me that in an email once talking about an event that she'd attended and I just took it. I said, oh, that's good enough for me. I don't mind being the Pet Biz Wiz.
Joe Pardavila: And it's actually pretty good that someone gives it to you because Dominic, I'm sure you've run into these people at one point in your life where they give themselves a nickname.
But it's nice that you have a story that goes with someone who gave you the name. It's not like you woke up one day, be like. Hi, I'm Dominic I'm the Pet Biz Wiz.
Dominic Hodgson: There were no Harry Potter moments.
Joe Pardavila: No, nothing like that.
So tell us about how you got into this line of work because it's a very specific marketing world where you're just dealing with either pet walkers or pet stores and stuff like that.
How did you find yourself in that?
Dominic Hodgson: So it started back in 2011. I previously worked as a sales rep for a tobacco company selling cigarettes and the like, and I didn't really want to do that for another 30 years. And the only two things that I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to work outdoors. And my other passion at the time was walking the local rescue dogs at the local shelter whilst they were awaiting rehoming.
And I thought I wonder if I can combine enhanced exercise experience with a bit of marketing knowledge that I had as well and launch a dog adventure business. I wanted to do something different, because I knew there were a lot of pedigree dog owners who owned working dogs, gundogs.
I think you call them bird dogs over there and they struggled to get these dogs to exercise that they need. So that was the start of it really. That when Pack Leader Dog Adventures was born. That was my first dog adventure and home boarding business.
Joe Pardavila: What did that mean? A dog adventure, because that sounds like a Michael Bay action movie.
What does that actually mean, the dog adventure?
Dominic Hodgson: Yeah. At the time and still now to be sure, there's a lot of dog walkers who offered things like a walk around the block and a potty break for the dog. And I wanted to do something different. I wanted to offer an enhanced exercise experience, something that was really going to get the dogs’ jets going and wear them out and leave them tired and happy.
And also remove all of the sorts of stress and frustration and worry that the owner has when they've got to go to work, or they've got to go run their business because their dog is stuck at home, so that was what we did. And we tried to take dog walking to the next level and provide this extra special experience with the dogs.
Joe Pardavila: So it was, for lack of a better word extreme dog-walking where you weren't doing a loop around the block. You were maybe doing tricks or throwing the ball around or stuff like that, right?
Dominic Hodgson: Yeah. So we've got a lot of lovely beaches here up in the Northeast. And so we would pick the dogs up, take them out to a great location, the woods or the beach, and then we would spend a good hour and a half, sometimes two hours playing, doing training with the dogs, getting them to do little sniffing challenges, where they would find things, let them dig, let them run, let them chase. So trying to tick all of the boxes, all of the things that a dog would dream about doing during the day.
Joe Pardavila: All right, cool. So you have this hardcore dog-walking business. What was the next step for you, Dominic?
Dominic Hodgson: So that business took off, it went really well. I did have to look with my dog training knowledge, I thought I could just run the business based on my enthusiasm and my will to get on.
But I was lacking some dog training skills, so I went and did a bit of a dog training journey. And that really transformed the service that I was offering. Then I had an experience where I was full and took on a staff member. We got full again, and we had the idea to try an online store. I'll be honest with you, Joe.
That was a total disaster for me.
Joe Pardavila: Dominic, there are places to do that. There are very large reputable companies that are handling that. Why did you think there was a niche for you there?
Dominic Hodgson: I thought that we could do something a bit different as to carry on the whole adventure experience. So rather than just stocking anything and everything, we would only stock high-end treats, toys, apparel.
We would try and test everything in the field. I was trying to combine a sort of real-life aspect of the business online.
Joe Pardavila: Yeah. You almost were trying to make it like an REI. I'm not sure if you have that store out there, but an outdoor adventure store for dogs online.
Dominic Hodgson: Indeed. That was the intention.
Joe Pardavila: It was the intention, but it sounds like it didn't work.
Dominic Hodgson: It didn't work out. No, it didn't work out, and for a number of reasons, really. I fell out with a business partner. I put my market and faith into guys who were supposedly e-commerce experts with SEO and pay per click, that kind of thing basically.
Wiped me out money-wise, and at the end of it, after about 18 months, I realized that it really wasn't where my passion was either. I just wasn't enjoying the whole getting deliveries, packaging them up, and sending them on again. And maybe I should've thought about that more before I did the business, but, we learn as we go don't we?
Joe Pardavila: That's the life of the entrepreneur. So tell me about at that point, did everything shut down? Did the dog adventure business, was that still going, or were you pretty much now just shut down and started from scratch?
Dominic Hodgson: The dog adventure business, that was still going right throughout this. And that was a really good thing to have because I had my brick and mortar business, which meant I had a good cash flow still. So because I was so premium and the service was so exclusive, we were so busy. I was able to bounce back a lot quicker from the disappointment of what I'd invested in the online store.
Joe Pardavila: So Dominic, you were basically running two businesses at the same time. Luckily, one is going strong, one failed. So then what was your next pivot?
Dominic Hodgson: So the next pivot was I realized similar to what I had back in the early days of my dog adventure business, where I realized that I didn't know enough about dog training.
This is where I really realized, I didn't know enough about marketing and I didn't want to be in a situation ever again, where I had completely outsourced the marketing to somebody else. I wanted to know what I was doing. And so that then led me on a journey where I learned about email marketing, follow up, lead generation, all these things, which ultimately led me to Dan Kennedy.
Joe Pardavila: So what was it about the marketing aspect that you were like, man I'm missing all this? What was the big thing? Because you had mentioned that in the online business you had brought someone in who was an "expert in SEO and digital marketing." So was that when you realized a business is not going to work if you don't have the right tools?
Dominic Hodgson: Yeah, absolutely. And it was one of these things where I didn't know what I was missing at the time, but I just hated the feeling that I wasn't in control in any way. Didn't feel like I was able to influence the outcome of all of this investment that I was making in the pay per click and the SEO.
And there were lots going out, but nothing coming back and I wasn't even getting any leads back. That was the thing. Again, I'm holding my hands up here, can't blame the other guys too much. I'm the business owner, but that was the start of my journey. Really learning about direct response marketing.
Joe Pardavila: In a way, it's just the way you've evolved, Dominic.
The fact that you were running this successful dog adventure, a dog-walking business that you used your own expertise, but then when you want to level up and change the game, you weren't really prepared for that. So you partnered up with someone who thought, okay, this is how I'll work through this.
Then you realized nope, that guy's not the guy. I got to do this myself. So you go deep diving into digital marketing, trying to learn as much as possible. How did you eventually discover Dan Kennedy?
Dominic Hodgson: I stumbled across a number of different mentors. I've been very lucky, Joe. You might know this from your career.
I've been very lucky to have some fantastic dog training mentors and some fantastic business mentors too. And I had a number of different mentors who helped me with email marketing, lead generation, all this kind of things. And Dan Kennedy's name kept cropping up all the time. And actually, one of my mentors had been personally mentored by Dan in the past as well.
John McCulloch. And he was one who got me on to Dan. And that was when I knew what arrived then, I knew I had something that, yes, this is the skill I need to master. That changed everything for me, marketing-wise.
Joe Pardavila: Now, obviously Dan Kennedy has a lot of facets that make him fascinating to a lot of people.
But was it the fact that you weren't aware of direct response marketing or was it just his style that really hooked you in first?
Dominic Hodgson: I think it was both. I wasn't aware of direct response marketing and I fell in love with it. I'm not a particularly patient person, but I got the whole idea of, okay, we need to build a list.
We need to create a herd. We need to nurture the relationship. We need to find out what these people want. At the same time as that, as I discovered Dan and direct response, that was where I also got into the information marketing side of things as well. So I thought instead of selling toys and treats and doggy courts, why don't I sell all of this information and skill that I've built up over the last three or four years too.
Joe Pardavila: Now, when you started to read up on Dan Kennedy, his books, maybe his newsletters were a lot of this stuff the moment where you hit your palm against your forehead and you're like, why wasn't I doing this? Was it all incredibly eye-opening? Were you like, this is what I've been missing out on all these years?
Dominic Hodgson: Yeah, absolutely. I'm smiling now. Just your reference there, because that was exactly it. So when I was about a year, 18 months, into my proper market and education, and I was building an email list and I was creating information products and I was having, starting to have success. It was then that I really realized, oh man, this was what was missing from the whole store experience.
We weren't building a list, all of the money that we were investing in pay-per-click and SEO, it was just going on one-time sales, there was no follow up involved. There was no continuation of sales, no recurring revenue, nothing like that built into the business at all. Hence the reason that it failed.
Joe Pardavila: It sounds like you've memorized a lot of Dan's books, Dominic, just with the way you're speaking, you're basically the English version of a Midwestern Dan Kennedy.
Dominic Hodgson: Yeah. He's been a huge influence. And you'll know, from speaking to the various entrepreneurs that you've had on here, Dan gets into your head, and you get into lots of people's heads and you can spot a Dan Kennedy acolyte from a mile away, from the way that they talk a bit.
Like in this country, I don't know what the equivalent is over there, but when you own a Land Rover over here, Land Rover owners, tend to flash their lights and give it a little wave to other Land Rover owners, so I guess it would be the same in the Dan Kennedy world.
Joe Pardavila: Part of the club. All right. So you've got the dog expertise and now you've got this marketing expertise. What do you do then with all that?
Dominic Hodgson: So then I really leaped forward with it.
I wrote my first book about a year after the store had finished and I was into all this and I'd created an information product. An online dog training information product. And I wrote my first book and I started to do some speaking and that really elevated me, those two things.
Writing the book and then doing some speaking, that kind of took me from being seen as just a small local dog walker to being an industry expert almost, not quite overnight, almost overnight.
Joe Pardavila: Yeah. I'm sure for most people on the outside, we're like where did this guy come from? And then meanwhile, you've been doing online sales, you've been walking dogs, and now all of a sudden you're like this instant success.
It must have been pretty unreal at the time.
Dominic Hodgson: Yeah, absolutely. And I think what also really helped me stand out from the crowd was the whole No B.S. attitude. So everything I was doing, everything I was talking about, whether it was dog-walking, dog training, or pet business marketing, I was zagging where everybody else was zigging.
It was all quite polarizing, it really stood out from everything else that was available.
Joe Pardavila: And it's funny Dominic. So you're the first Brit I've talked to on this series, but speaking to Brits over the years during my career, this is actually good for Australians too, but it's the tall poppy syndrome where you're really not allowed to say how good you are there.
I know you're probably smiling about that right now because here in America, we are raised to say, we're all amazing. We're all great. But they're in the UK and again, in Australia as well. It's this attitude of yeah, I feel like I'm good, but I can't tell anyone. How did the Dan Kennedy model of you've got to be the best you can be and tell everyone you are working with being a Brit?
Dominic Hodgson: It worked quite well for me. For a lot of my clients, this is something that they struggle with a lot initially. So we have to do a lot of work to build their mindset up and they take small steps and get some momentum going, and then they see that it works and that the more polarizing you are, the more you do shout about your service, the more success ultimately has. Even though that does come with having a certain amount of knockers and haters and stuff as well.
It's just par for the course. The more you put your head above the parapet. The more slings and you're going to encounter. But I think also with Dan, and my other mentors too, it was really simplifying things. So it's certainly the case in dog trainers.
Dog trainers seem to go on a quest to find ever more complicated ways of training dogs. And that's totally fine when you're in your dog training circle with your dog training friends, but that is not what resonates with dog owners in your town. So the other thing that I had, I was turning up with a really simple, but easy to understand the message that dog owners latched onto, Talking about the No B.S. thing.
When you look at my reviews for my Amazon books and stuff, a lot of the common words used are, common sense, No B.S., tells it like it is, real-life stuff. And that's what I wanted because these are the people that I wanted to help.
Joe Pardavila: And so you've written several books.
You've become an expert in the field and now you're offering something called the Walk Yourself Wealthy Business in a Box. Tell us about that.
Dominic Hodgson: Yeah. So this is a culmination, really of everything that I've done since I started my business. And it's something that I've been meaning to do for a number of years, but I just never really got round to it.
So I have an inner circle, similar to Dan's. I have coaching clients. This year, I thought, what am I really good at? What have I done really well over the last four or five years? I thought I've got loads of dog walking and handling experience. And I've also got loads of experience of growing a dog adventure business and helping other people to grow their businesses too.
And take the leap. There's a lot of dog lovers out there. They'd love to leave their jobs and start a dog walking business. And other people do that. But they get locked into a low price working long hours model. And so they're working with dogs, but they're not making much money. So that's why I've developed this business in a box.
Now, we call it Walk Yourself Wealthy because that's the name of my book as well. And yeah, I just want to help more people to take the leap and to do what I've done, to follow that passion and create a really sustainable, fun, profitable business around that passion for dogs.
Joe Pardavila: What's the market like? This is something I'm not really familiar with. Obviously, I know that the dog, cat, and pet market is a billion-dollar business. Are there a lot of walkers out there that you're able to fill this need? Tell me about that.
Dominic Hodgson: Absolutely. Yeah, there are a lot of dog owners, all over.
Like 40% of people own a dog or some kind of pet. So there are a lot of dogs out there. There are a lot of people who want to make this switch. They want to follow their passion and become a dog walker or start a daycare or become a trainer or something like that.
The big mistake that they make is, and this is Dan Kennedy 101, they look around and see what everybody else is doing and the copy of that. So they copy the prices. They copy the service. They copy the branding sometimes and then complain that they can't stand out from the competition and make any money.
So this is where I step in and say, hey, if you want to really stand out, you need to be different. We can't call them walks. We need to call them hikes or adventures, or treks or something like that, we can't offer the same kind of services, that other people are offering. We need to offer more of an experience and we need to offer more, especially now with COVID-19. Because a lot of people are working from home, so they don't have that need for the dog to have a potty break at lunchtime because they're at home.
So you have to think outside the box and think what else can I give? What else can I offer these owners to make sure that they still want my service? They still want the dog to come out with me, even though they don't actually need me from a time point of view.
Joe Pardavila: Yeah. So you mentioned COVID-19, so let's get into it.
How have you and your compatriots handled this situation where you guys in the UK, you guys went full lockdown for quite a while. How was everyone surviving in that pet business world?
Dominic Hodgson: Yeah. So it's really interesting because the dog walkers, they're shut down, straight away. The groomers did too. Trainers were able to pivot and go online.
But then the daycare struggled. What I did with my guys was, I said, this is the time, but we need to show up. Again, something I got from Dan when people are stressed and worried, that is a time, when you need to reach out to them and say, hey, I'm still here. I'm still there for you.
I know you might not need my service right now, but these are all of the things that I can do to help you. And what I did was I got my whole community to create face group support groups for dog owners in their town. And there were running challenges and workshops and offering hints and tips online.
And that was all just to keep them top of mind with all of the local dog owners in their community. And it paid off in spades, we did some paper and ink marketing as well. Sending out postcards and newsletters. And I have to say a lot of the guys who had done this, they've bounced back incredibly well.
A lot of my clients are reporting that September was like their best month, and October is looking really good too, like their best month ever. They bounce back incredibly well.
Joe Pardavila: That's great to hear. So before I let you go let's get into a little bit of your Dan Kennedy fandom.
What are a couple of books that you really enjoyed that you lean on when you need them?
Joe Pardavila: And now let's talk about with the Marketing to the Affluent one, because this is one of the things that Dan harps on is the fact that you don't need to have a lot of clients, as long as you have clients that are going to spend a lot of money.
Was that something that was a big eye-opener to you? Listen, I don't have to keep these price points so low because most entrepreneurs want to sell as much as they can of this one thing, but sometimes it's not always selling the most of something it's selling it more than anything else.
Dominic Hodgson: It really was.
Yeah. And for me, that was actually one of the things that I had almost accidentally done very well when I started my business. I used to talk to my friend about this. He used to say, if ever we start a business, I want to be selling Rolls Royces. I don't want to be selling Ford Focuses.
And I knew I wanted to be premium. So that was what I did with the adventure business. What I didn't realize was I had all of these extra benefits, which I then learned from Dan later on from being premium, like what you said, you work fewer hours, you have better clients. They use you more often. You can give them a better service.
So this is a huge part of what I teach my guys. We always want to be striving to be the most expensive, not just $1 or $2 more than everybody else, but we should be wanting to be seen as being far and aware of the best, the affluent dog walker.
Joe Pardavila: Do you have any favorite Danism or anything that you do that sort of like sticks in your head from time to time when you end up using it with other people?
Dominic Hodgson: So many. I mean follow-up is a big one. I recently invested in the Weekend of Wealth Attraction, and Adam and Dan and the others were on that.
And one of the things that Dan talks about straight away was the follow-up, having follow-up in your business and you can't have enough offline and online follow-up. And I just recently this week, Joe, I have a client, who's got a daycare. Her numbers were a little down since lockdown.
We got her to send a postcard, and then she said she hadn't had much feedback from the clients, much uptake. So we got a follow-up with just a telephone call and an email and the text. And like within 10 days she had another 10 clients that had come back on board, so it's the basic stuff all the time.
I have to remind myself and I have to remind my guys to do it.
Joe Pardavila: That's awesome. He is the Pet Biz Wiz. His name is Dominic Hodgson. Dominic, thank you very much for the chat and I wish you the best and please stay safe over there across the pond.
Dominic Hodgson: You too, Joe. Thanks so much for your time. Appreciate it.
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