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"Good Horsemanship is Built on Solid Basics...So is Good Business!"

Three Pronged Promotion Strategy
By Lisa Derby Oden

Let's take a look at some common horse business marketing perceptions:
1) I tried advertising once, but it didn't work.
2) I don't need to advertise - I rely on word of mouth.
3) Marketing and advertising are the same thing.
4) I can't afford a marketing plan and don't have a marketing budget.

It's true that marketing is a broad topic. It can make any horse
business owner dizzy to try to figure out how to get started. By building a
fundamental understanding of marketing, you will take the first step to
winding your way through this multi-faceted maze of options and
opportunities. Formulating a three pronged promotion strategy is a good
first step, and will form the backbone for any marketing you do.
1) Image
Image deals with how you will portray your business to your market and
the general public. You'll want to come up with a tag line or slogan that
gets the essence of your business across to the public. Examples can be
found by flipping through any trade magazine publication:
Equine Affaire - The Great American Horse Exposition
Stetson - The Pride of a Lifetime
Absorbine - The Horse World's Most Trusted Name
Agway - The Winning Tradition in Equine Nutrition

Coming up with a tag line takes a little time and thought. Start by writing
your business vision. Your vision is how you see your business in the
future, usually 10 to 15 years from now. After you've written a few
sentences about your vision, determine what your mission is. Your mission
is how you will achieve your vision.
We'll use my consulting practice as an example.
Blue Ribbon Consulting - Vision: To be a leading equine industry consultant
that promotes industry growth and quality through education, excellence and
professionalism. Mission: To offer services that provide business and
economic development, marketing and professional workshops. Tag line: Good
horsemanship is built on solid basics. So is good business.
It is well worth your time to figure this out. Whenever you are in
conversation with someone about your business you will answer their
questions about your horse business succinctly, efficiently, confidently and
in a manner that demonstrates you've given much consideration to what you're
doing. This in itself presents a professional image. One caution here - be
sure that your image and marketing are consistent with each other. If you
build an image that you are the Wizard of Oz, be sure that the public finds
a Wizard, and not someone throwing smoke screens and pulling levers and
switches just to convince them that they are a wizard. You can put yourself
out of business by marketing an image that doesn't match reality.
2) Services/Products
The next step is to make a list of all the services and/or products
that you offer. Set up a chart that shows the features of each
service/product. Features are descriptive. Then take it one step further and
chart the benefits. Benefits are what or how the buyer/client is affected by
using this service or benefit. Most people buy a service or product because
of what it does for them. The benefits are the primary reason for making the
purchase. The features are secondary. A basic example for a lesson/boarding
facility follows.

Service/Product: Riding lessons
Feature: Balance seat
Benefit: Build strength, confidence
Feature: Beginner through Advanced
Benefit: Solid foundation now for future success; continuing education;
recreation; exercise

Service/Product: Boarding
Feature: Box stalls, pasture
Benefit: Safe, individual care

3) Special Events/Products
Finally, list any special events you offer. List any seasonal, limited
edition or custom products. As a horse farm, perhaps you offer a show,
clinic, ride, workshop, or open house each year. As an instructor or
trainer, perhaps you're available for demonstrations and talks. As a tack
shop, perhaps you feature equine art and jewelry and offer an annual sale
that brings in the artists and crafts people.

It is these three basic components that will form the backbone of your
marketing efforts. Let's go back to the beginning to see how these elements
address the perceptions we started out with.
1) "I tried advertising once, but it didn't work."
There are many reasons that the advertising you tried may not have worked
for you. You may not have had a clear image to get across to your market, so
they may not have known what you offered. You may have advertised your
features only, and not the benefits. Again, it's the benefits that really
get your prospect to seek you out. Your advertising may not have let your
prospect know how you are different than your competition. Any advertising
you do must be consistent. A one shot attempt doesn't really give your
market a chance to respond. Advertising statistics show that it takes an
advertising message 8-12 times to impact a customer.
2) "I don't need to advertise - I rely on word of mouth."
Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool. If you have a clear business
vision, mission, and slogan, you will be assured that a more consistent
message is being passed along. A study conducted by GE found that
word-of -mouth influences consumer decisions TWO TIMES more than
advertising. You can see the impact this has if the information is
inaccurate, or negative.
3) "Marketing and advertising are the same thing."
Advertising is one tool that you have in your marketing tool kit. Marketing
is defined by Webster's as "all business activity involved in the moving of
goods from the producer to the consumer, including selling, advertising,
packaging, etc." Examples of additional marketing tools include business
cards and letter head, press releases, direct mail, websites, and trade
shows. There are many more than this. Make a list of all the ways you can
think of that other businesses, horse and non-horse, promote themselves.
Then consider how you can apply it to your business. Of curse, you will
make decisions about which ones will reach your market and be the most
4) "I can't afford a marketing plan and don't have a marketing budget."
You have taken the first step of putting together a marketing plan by going
through the exercises outlined in this article. Additional steps include:
research about your competitors; knowledge about the tools available, their
cost , and demographics of their audience; and research about your customer
base. As far as a budget is concerned - you are spending money on marketing
whether you realize it or not. It's good to know how much you spend, where
it goes, and what effect your marketing money is having. If it's not
bringing in more business, you'll want to determine why and resolve the
issue, or spend your money in other places. For example, do you spend money
on a yellow pages ad? This is marketing, not phone cost. Do you sponsor a
class at a horse show? Do you have t-shirts, jackets, pens, mugs or any
other take-along with your business name on them? Again, consider the cost,
and consider the response.

(Lisa Derby Oden has been providing business development, marketing, and association consulting services to the horse industry since 1995. She is the 1999 AHC Van Ness Award recipient for outstanding service to the horse industry.
She can be reached at: (603)878-1694; email at; or visit her website at

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