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Who’s Training Who? What My Dog Is Teaching Me About Engagement

April 12 2012

Guest Contributor Michael Becker of Mountain of Agents says:


My wife and I recently adopted an adorable, 12-week-old King Charles Cavalier. This new and exciting endeavor prompted us to conduct countless hours of research and preparation so that when we welcomed him into our lives, he would listen to everything we said and integrate seamlessly into our schedule.

You can stop laughing now.

We were immediately caught off guard by the amount of work we needed to do to cultivate our new furry audience. It was apparent that the instant gratification we so eagerly desired didn't yet exist in its purest form; it needed to be harvested through patience, engagement, loyalty and trust.

Sitting on the couch at 3am – with a chew toy in one hand and Indy resting comfortably in the other – it occurred to me the odd similarities that exist between training a new dog and training your target audience. In fact, the skills you need to hone and the elements you need to succeed are identical:

The single most difficult skill to master, especially when training a puppy (or appealing to your target audience). Getting frustrated or ultimately conceding is not an option. Instead, take a step back and consider new approaches to help give you a different perspective. There's no excuse anymore for saying you don't know how to do something. Google what you're looking for and spend some time reading tips and tricks from people who've already been in your shoes and succeeded where others floundered.

Through strategic repetition, relevant content and positive reinforcement, patience will come. – Yoda

Of course, Yoda didn't actually say that. But he probably would if he noticed Luke sending the same spam Tweet to the Rebel Alliance demanding that they check out his new blog.

Your audience doesn't immediately know why they should listen to what you have to say. Neither does your puppy. With all of the distractions around them, you have to teach them what's important. Show them why you're the alpha dog by focusing on your company's strengths and pointing out what they've been missing. Add relevant information to your blog, Facebook pages and Twitter conversations to help establish yourself as a leader in your field.

Through education comes engagement. Keep your audience's attention by providing them with unique content, relevant tools and helpful tips for them to chew – ahem – consume. They'll listen to you and stay interested as long as you have something important to contribute, or at least as long as your supply of Honey Nut Cheerios doesn't run out.

Your audience will learn this skill subconsciously as your goals and intentions continue to become clearer, and in turn look to you to set the standards and raise the bar in your industry (or living room).

Trust is earned slowly as you continuously and successfully implement the above skills. It's the holy grail of retention that applies to every aspect of our lives. Once you have your audience's trust, they'll be your own personal cheerleaders and happily leave you alone while you're sneaking in a few games of Modern Warfare 3.


There's no greater challenge than creating goals that initially seem unattainable and committing to achieving them. The return on your time investment will be much more rewarding to both you and your audience as you look back on your company (and your puppy's) journey from infancy to adulthood.

To view the original article, visit the Mountain of Agents blog.

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