I’m a competitor, married to an equine veterinarian, but mostly just an avid fan of the equine athlete. It doesn’t matter if it is a cow horse, a race horse or a show horse – I love watching the strength and athleticism as these animals compete. I love the fact they give so much of themselves simply because they are asked. But, actually all my professional and educational background is in sales and marketing. However, I am observing how quickly these two worlds are merging.
This past week I went to watch the Barrel Futurities of America World Championship in Oklahoma City. Essentially, the event is a showcase of the up-and-coming talent in the barrel horse world…a world that has grown exponentially in the last few years. Payouts and entries have increased along with the competition. Records are being broken and the caliber of horses gets better year after year. Much of this is due to the commitment and perseverance of those in the breeding industry and the quality of training programs. Like any livestock industry, progress can be credited to improved genetics and the quality of professionals involved. Those that have sacrificed and studied to make stronger, faster, and better minded animals.
However, the horse industry is not for the faint of heart. It’s a capital and work intensive industry to raise and train horses. There is a lot of unknowns and risks. It takes an incredible amount of commitment and patience. It is essentially 3-4 years from the time you pick out a stallion and mare to breed, before you even know the quality of the cross you chose. And then of course there is an exponential amount of variables. However, despite all the challenges and hardships, it is an industry that is growing and becoming even more competitive. So what makes some programs succeed while others struggle?
One thing I have observed, especially in recent years, is how well the more successful operations market themselves. In the past, you could almost let the results and offspring speak for themselves. With the heightened competitive environment however, there are too many options in the same league to not appropriately market your stock and your operation. Here are 4 reasons why it has become important to have a sophisticated marketing strategy for your equine program:
1. Managed correctly, marketing yields a greater return on investment. It is expensive to stand a stallion, raise or train horses. So how do you intend to advertise to get the greatest return for your investment? Do you want the best mares? The best clients? Endorsements? Or do you want to sell your horses for the highest value? Regardless of your emphasis, you need a plan to reach and attract a target audience.
Social media is a great outlet and commonly used. But did you know 95% of potential clients will Google your website before doing business with you. Do you have a website? Is it updated? Or does it have foals listed that are now 4 years old?
2. Marketing clarifies your operational goals to the public. Marketing involves sharing your specific goals so you can do business with people that are likeminded. When you are intentional and make it very clear and public on what you are aiming to accomplish, you will attract people with the same goals thus improving your likelihood of achieving it.
For example, if you are raising prospects, what specific attributes have you selectively bred for in your program? Are you actively advertising these specific attributes? Do you do something that differentiates you from other operations? Maybe it is the extent to which you handle and halter break your yearlings so they will be more trainable. You want clients to know and value what you value, because then they will be more willing to pay for what it is you are working to achieve.
3. Marketing articulates your story. This might be the most crucial element to having a marketing strategy for an equine business. So much commitment, energy, and dedication goes into building a program. Most people put a tremendous amount of thought into what they do and why they do it, and there is a wide range of opinions and thoughts. Whatever you are doing, you do it because you believe in it. If you want to be successful, you need other people to believe in it as well. So how are you sharing that message? If you want other people to invest in what you are doing, they have to understand and buy into it.
This is why clinics have helped build businesses for trainers such as Clinton Anderson and Fallon Taylor. They have done a great job of gaining a following and audience by putting themselves, their knowledge and their story in front of people. For those not comfortable or have not had the opportunity for something such as a clinic, consider making a professional video of your operation or stallion to personalize what your program is about.
4. Marketing showcases success. How do you let people know when your program is getting the results you have worked so hard for? This can be tricky waters to tread, as you never want to appear arrogant, however, you want to people to know what you endorse and have done is working. Never be ashamed or shy when dedication leads to success, but do it in a manner that you want reflective of your individual values and program.
If you are a trainer, you are selling your talent. If you are a breeder, you are selling your genetics. However, this past weekend I noticed that there is a lot of great trainers and genetics. How will you separate your program? Everyone is working hard, and there comes a point where hard work alone will not produce a profitable business. You have to do business smart, and part of smart business is a strong marketing strategy. Consider hiring a well-established professional such as Ranch House Designs to develop or update your website, make a video, or spruce up a print ad. Do business as competitively as you want your horses to perform.