6 Things My Dog Taught Me About Marketing

Prior to rescuing our Border Collie Springer Spaniel mix Arnold Bax, I had never owned a pet before.

Sticky the Stick Insect was the closest thing but I’ve since been told that jarred Phasmids don’t count as pets.

I’ve always loved animals but never really wanted one myself. In fact, it took a few tears from my wife Tess before I relented and went to the dog shelter that she had already scouted out.

Within the hour, we had a dog.

And it took even less time before I became a dog-person. Training them is a particularly rewarding experience because it requires a deep understanding of what influences their behavior; the ability to read subtle cues and react to these in an instant; and a resolve to keep working with them to achieve a desired state.

It struck me the other day that owning and training a dog shares a great deal with classical music marketing.

Here are the top six similarities that I’ve discovered along the way. These might just help you rethink your approach to marketing (and dog training!).

bax and me.jpeg


1. Not Everyone Will Love Your Dog

This one comes top of the list because it is a crucial mindset to success and happiness.

I think Bax is the cutest dog in the whole world. I think he’s better than every other dog out there. I know this to be a fact.

So why doesn’t everyone else agree? Why doesn’t everyone love him like I do?

Classical music is no different. We spend our lives immersed in the art form, practicing and rehearsing in painstaking detail. And yet, we might still struggle to sell concert tickets, attract committed students, or generally feel under-appreciated.

You can’t force people to like something just because you do.

Many people will love what you have to offer. Focus your energy and attention there instead of trying to convert the unconvertible. Make it a goal to focus on sharing your passion far and wide without expectation rather than forcing it down someone’s throat and then complaining when they decline or worse, spit it back up on your lap.

How could you not love him though, right...? 

How could you not love him though, right...? 

2. Tricks Are (Mostly) For Show

Teaching Bax new tricks is fun and rewarding because he’s highly trainable, its impressive to watch and I take great pride in our teamwork.

But one can argue that while tricks might be good for his mental stimulation and contribute to overall obedience, they are actually far less beneficial than teaching him more worthwhile things such as not stealing and destroying socks or barking at every single sound outside the front door.

The world of marketing is full of such tricks. Everyone is looking for the next flashy tactic that will make you look like a professional at the top of their game.

Sometimes these tricks might work but more often they only offer short-term benefits.

If you waste your time focusing solely on tricks, you will lose sight of what is most important: listening, caring and reacting to your audience, enhancing the experience for them, bringing true value to your fans and even more logistical aspects like balancing the budget.

All of these are far more beneficial to the longevity of your marketing efforts and business than your new, fancy website that has all the current bells and whistles but is just sitting there gaining little to no traction without the less attractive hard work, effort and grind.

3. Disciplined Patience

On the theme of hard work and effort, training Bax requires a Herculean amount of patience. As a stray rescue, his less desirable quirks range from the occasional on-leash reactivity toward other dogs, jumping up excitedly at house visitors, barking at men with beards and eating garbage off the floor. Training him out of these habits is a daily necessity.

His improvement is vast and one day, he’ll likely be free of these issues. And while I don’t know when, I do know that if I lack discipline and patience through consistent training, he will definitely regress.

Patience is one of the most underrated skill sets in today’s modern world. Everyone wants instant success. With the rise of convenience-based technology, apps and services, almost everything appears right at our fingertips.

It’s an illusion. Success has always come from constant hard work and patience. This is true in every facet of our lives, especially with marketing.

If you want to use marketing and public relations to enhance your career, you need to accept that it takes time and snowballs through consistent, disciplined application. If you accept this and make it a part of your essence as a classical musician, you absolutely will see great success.


4. Consistency Over Short Bursts             

It’s very common to go radio silent until you have an upcoming concert, a fundraising campaign or CD release and now want people to listen.

But why should they listen?

Your friends, family and closest network will naturally respond positively regardless. But the people on the outside of your sphere are unlikely to pay attention unless you’ve taken the time to invest in them. The goal of posting online, through email or even physical mailings should be no different than if you were talking to someone in person. It’s all about building trust and growing relationships, which is done over the long term. Not when it suits you.

Bax responds to me in exactly the same way. If I decide to stop bringing him value in the form of a delicious treat when he pays me attention over an exciting nearby dog, he’ll eventually lose interest in me and focus entirely on the dog that he longs to bark at. My subsequent efforts to attract his attention will be lessened because I’ve neglected our relationship and bond. 

5. Treat Hierarchy

Returning for a moment to “attention”, if Bax is distracted by something that he sees as high value, such as this aforementioned dog, I have almost zero chance of getting his attention unless I have a nice piece of ham with me.

Your followers and fans are all dogs (yes, I did just say that). If what you’re offering is less valuable to them than something else they see, then you will struggle to get and hold their attention.

Knowing what exactly grabs their attention takes time and persistence, as well as constant adjustment. I went through tons of treats before I realized that ham was his number one favorite. Now I know, I can deploy it effectively when the time is right.

However, remember that ham might not work every time. He might get bored of this treat, forcing me to switch up the bait. Or if a squirrel appears, I have to accept that I have no hope in the world. You can’t win the attention of your audience every single time.

6. It’s Your Fault, Not Your Dog’s

When I’m walking Bax, I can sometimes lose my patience when he doesn’t respond to a command and behaves badly. It pains me to admit this, but I get mad at him.

Then I feel ashamed because it’s not his fault. He is just a dog acting on instinct. There is no malicious intent behind his actions. As his owner and guardian, it is my duty to help him and my responsibility to teach him more effectively.

When I realize this and actively avoid responding to his behavior emotionally, I can better serve him and pursue the desired result because I’m more calm, focused and receptive to the lesson learned.

We often wrap our emotions up in what we’re doing. In marketing, emotional responses to how people are reacting to your concert promotion or your overall social media content will likely blind you from making the necessary adjustments required to succeed. Or you’ll constantly be bitter and jaded about what you’re trying to accomplish and this will only delay you from succeeding. 

Try to approach your marketing efforts as a black and white process. Certainly enthuse your message and outreach with passion and love, but don’t let the results affect you emotionally. If it doesn’t work out as you had hoped, put emotion aside and calmly assess what you can do for the next time to improve the outcome.