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Equine Marketing 101

How to get the most from your marketing

by Brenda Mueller/ChicagoEquestrian.coom

The communication world today is very different from the world most media buyers grew up in.  The electronic age has made it possible to hear who won the grand prix before the horse even gets out of the ring and to see the photo or live feed of the awards and sponsors. The days of print for news are gone since it's old news by the time it gets to your door.  With all the various forms of media today, how do you get the most out of your marketing?
 
First you should know the difference between marketing and advertising.  Advertising is just one of the many parts of marketing. Marketing is the selling or promoting of products or services, which may include advertising as well as clinics, seminars, sponsorships, contests, giveaways and more.
 
Just as you have a system to care for and train your horses, you need a system for your marketing. The goal is getting the right message to the right people at the right time in the right way.  If you can answer the basic questions; who, what, where, when, why and how; you can probably map a plan.
 

WHO
Who is your target market? It might seem like a very simple question but how much thought have you put into who will get your message? Usually it’s people similar to your current customers.  Do you have a herd of Short Stirrup riders or do you have a great group of Amateur Adults? Your potential market doesn’t know they need you, yet, and they probably don’t know you.
 
Questions to answer to help define your market include:
  • What age group are they?
  • What is their income level?
  • Do they have local or national competition desires?
  • Do they want to own a horse or just take lessons?
  • How much do they currently know about horses?
  • Where do they live?
  • What are their likes and dislikes?
  • What are their habits and expectations? 
Clarifying these questions will help you target your market and answer the remaining questions to define your marketing strategy.
 

WHAT
What is the message and what do you want to get from your target market?
  • Do you want more customers?
  • Do you want your current customers to buy more?
  • Do you want customers to buy more often? 
You need to answer the question for them and tell them what you want them to do.
  • Do you want them to join your show team and travel every week?
  • Do you want them to start with lessons and work their way up to competing?
  • Your message to a beginner rider is probably different from your message to an already showing amateur rider.
  • Do you want them to know you are qualified and competent? 
  • Do you want them to know you offer something special or different?
Do you want to educate them or show that you care for a particular cause? Information or content marketing is a good way to get the consumer to believe you. Your message isn’t about you but they see you as a knowledgeable person on the topic and they begin to get to know you. Maybe you host an educational event like a lecture or a clinic or write on article on a topic you know well. These are good ways to keep your business name out there without directly telling them you are knowledgabe, you show them you are knowledgable.
 
Are you throwing a charity fundraiser? This is another way to get a message out about your business without it really being about you.  The message is about what you are doing for others, which people are more likely to remember than a sales pitch.
 
Use caution when putting out news about competition and show results. Don’t assume your audience is naive.  If you win a big event like a grand prix, derby or medal final, you probably have bragging rights, but tell a story with it and not just report results. Readers usually already know the results so unless you have a story or something interesting to add, readers will probably read the first sentence and click the mouse or turn the page.
 
Focus in on the message and image of your business that you want to deliver to your target market.
 

WHERE
Where to deliver your message is probably one of the hardest parts. There are many options to choose from in today’s media age but getting a comfortable mix is best. Some of your options are:
  • Email
  • Print publications
  • Prize lists
  • Brochures
  • Blogs
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • On-line media websites
  • Your website 
More places to market your business might be through:
  • Trade shows
  • Horse Show sponsorships
  • Vendor booths
  • Clinics
  • Seminars
  • Charity events
  • School newsletters and events
  • Contests and giveaways
 
In this electronic era, a website for your business is really a must. Many consumers want to educate themselves and tend to Google information before calling.  How will customers find you? How will they know you exist? A good website is important for your marketing strategy and with many do-it-yourself products, it can be very cost effective. If it’s something you don’t have the time for or have no idea how to create a website, hire a professional.
 
Choosing the rest of your marketing mix takes a bit of research.  If your target market is your local business area, you won’t want to waste your marketing dollars on national advertising. If your market is high school students, you might want to be sure to hit Instagram. Spend time researching to be sure that where you advertise is going to hit your target market. 
 

WHEN
Timing of your marketing is also an important factor. Repetition and consistency are key. You’ve probably heard about the factor of seven, which refers to the number of times a person needs to see an ad to remember it. On the other hand, there is media overload. When too much information goes out, your advertising dollars are met  with the delete key or the circular file.  
 
Consider the time of year and enough advance notice if you are holding an event. Most horse lovers know that Super Bowl time means another great Budweiser Clydesdale commercial. Does your message need to be out for breeding season, show season or off-season?

Space your message out enough to stay in the minds of your target market but not so much that your message is unwelcome. 
 

WHY
The why is for why advertising doesn’t work. If you think spending X amount of money should get Y in results, you don’t have the entire formula.
  • Advertising only gets the customer in the door once – the rest is up to you.
  • You have to actually deliver what you promise to keep people coming to your door.
  • Remember negative news travels twice as fast as good news. 
You can spend thousands of dollars on advertising, but if you never return the emails or phone calls that respond to your advertising, you’ve thrown your money out the window. If you say you can make anyone a champion but your show record proves otherwise, you have not delivered on your promise and have not gained the confidence of your target market.
 
If any of the factors of who, what, where, when and how are miscalculated, you will not get results. Don’t be in a hurry to blame your media outlets for you not getting new customers. Take a look at your whole business to assess all the reasons. Are you overpriced? Are you unavailable or inaccessible? Sometimes a small adjustment in your business, packaged with an accurate marketing strategy, will make all the difference in your results. 
 

HOW
So how do you accomplish all of this?
  • Have a clear plan and
  • simplify or automate the process as much as possible.
  • Articles can be created in your slow time so they are ready to go out during your busy time. Too many businesses market sporadically because they are “too busy” to spend time on marketing. Then they wonder why they don’t have enough clients.
  • Set aside regular times to engage in marketing activities, even when you’re busy. You never know when that new customer is going to need you.
  • Know when to hire an expert. 
You hire a farrier to shoe your horses, an accountant to do your taxes, and a vet to do your horse health care, so hire an expert in marketing. You can ask them to come up with a marketing plan for you and a budget you can work with. Spending a few wise dollars up front could save you from wasted dollars later and accomplish your marketing goals.
 
For more information or to get your personalized marketing plan, contact Brenda@ChicagoEquestrian.com.