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3 positive lessons dogs can teach us all about effective communication

If, like me, you’re a dog owner, you probably can’t imagine life without your four-legged best friend. The laughter, joy and companionship provided by them is immeasurable, and provides endless memories that are often talked about decades later.

Currently, my family “pack” consists of a wayward labradoodle with more energy than sense, and a German Shepherd cross who’s more zen than Yoda in Star Wars. Well, usually.

Over the years these two have provided more comic moments than Netflix and Disney combined.  This ranges from running around the garden with various undergarments to sending me over the handlebars while bikejoring.

The latter is where dogs wear a special harness that’s attached to a bike using a bungee rope, allowing them to safely run alongside it. Safe for dogs that is, not necessarily the human, especially when a rabbit runs past in the opposite direction!

Within a heartbeat both dogs had turned tail to chase it, causing the bungee rope to lose all elasticity within a second and the bike to stop dead in a matter of inches – unlike my body, which continued over the handlebars before crashing onto the track ahead.

It’ll come as no surprise to learn that during their time with us, the pair have earned the joint nickname of “Bonnie and Clyde”. While they’re never aggressive, they do egg each other on, especially during walks as they dive into hedgerows following a scent or chasing rabbits with scant regard for anything else.

Against this backdrop, my partner and I decided we needed to reinforce their recall after they disappeared on one walk for close to 20 minutes. More than anything, they’re not young dogs and we don’t want them injuring themselves so thought it was time to get their recall back to where it once was.

So, with Covid restrictions lifted, we started to work with a dog trainer who provided several useful tips about getting your dogs to do what you ask. Most surprising though, was how many of the techniques used with our furry children dovetails into effective communication when marketing.

Read on to discover three of them.

1. Be positive

Using positive commands is seen as more effective when training your dog as it encourages good behaviour in a way that’s enjoyable for them. Punishing unwanted behaviour can result in the dog becoming fearful, which can lead to avoidance.

Similarly, using positive and motivational messages in your marketing campaign can lead to greater engagement from clients and potential clients. This is because it links into the human desire to be inspired, which is more likely to result in people taking the action you want.

An example of this is Nike’s Find Your Greatness campaign, which ran during the 2012 Summer Olympics. According to Effie, which recognises and awards the most effective advertising campaigns in America, it was the most talked about marketing initiatives during the games.

It told inspiring stories of people playing sports and running marathons, which increased Nike’s revenue by hundreds of millions of pounds at the time and boosted Nike+ membership by 55%.

If your communication leaves audiences feeling guilty or fearful, it increases the chances of them avoiding the issue you’re explaining, and not making contact. By providing uplifting examples and a positive tone, you’re much more likely to hear from them.

2. Keep it simple

A common problem when giving a dog a command is overcomplicating it. Take my old recall instruction of “come on back”, which (it turns out) was too wordy, resulting in Bonnie and Clyde not understanding (and ignoring) it.

Now I use “come” in a positive tone, which has resulted in much better recall.

When writing marketing communication try to keep your message simple and don’t overcomplicate it. It’s an understandable trap to fall into when you consider how complex the world of personal finance is.

It’s easy to wax lyrical when explaining the myriad of tax regulations, the wide range of solutions on offer and various investment strategies.

One way to keep it simple is to write in a way that your teenage children or elderly aunt would understand. Also, never exceed three main messages, and keeping it to one or two is even better.

3. Use incentives

Dogs react to incentives as it gives them something in return for following your instruction. Depending on the dog, that could be a tasty treat, or a ball being thrown for them.

Providing an incentive could also work in marketing material. Remember, most people like to feel as though they’re getting something that benefits them for a reduced price, or something worthwhile for free.

That’s why you often get initial discounts when you subscribe to a service, and most retailers offer loyalty cards, which can provide free perks.

Within your marketing, you might want to consider providing an hour’s consultation for “no charge”, or the opportunity to attend a free function, during which great food is served after your presentation.

Both of these could help increase the chances of those you want to speak with getting in touch.

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If you want to improve your messaging, we can help. Our experienced writers will write engaging, informative content designed to resonate with your target audience.

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