Advertising With Extras

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What marketing opportunities can your horse business grab that:

  • Project a professional image
  • Let your customers and prospects know who you are
  • Build team spirit among your clients, employees and volunteers
  • Provide you with instant recognition at home and away
  • Function as a gift, an incentive or an award
  • Last potentially for up to five years and longer
  • Generate additional revenue
  • Offer you a fun and creative way to market

The answer is T-shirts, jackets, ball caps, tote bags and other items emblazoned with your horse business logo. Lesson stables, trainers and breeders have long understood the many benefits of having promotional items available for staff and clients.

Chris Dyson, owner of Senator Bell Farm in New Hampshire, says her promotional program is great advertising. “It’s nice to see all the kids at a show wearing our barn colors,” she says. It’s common with most barns that show as a group, according to Dyson, so it’s important to make a similar statement. Every winter she orders different jackets, from wool with leather sleeves to windbreaker styles. She also orders sweatshirts, hats and T-shirts that she sells at a small mark-up both within the barn and at the shows and horse trials she runs. “For our horse trials, all our volunteers wear the hats and T-shirts—I look at it as advertisement,” she says. “For trophies, I’ve bought tote bags and filled them with leg wraps and golf towels embroidered with the logo. And, one year I gave every boarder a towel for Christmas.”

Beverly Barney, a John Lyons Certified Trainer and clinician, has included clothing in her marketing program from the beginning. Riding participants in her clinics get an autographed T-shirt as part of the program. Auditors and spectators can purchase hats, T-shirts and fleece jackets. They are also given away as raffle items during the clinics. Bev says the raffles spark extra sales to friends of those who’ve won the clothing items.

Diane Chilton, owner of Western Pleasure World Champion AQHA stallion Radical Rodder, has lots of fun with her promotional items program. “We try to do something new for the Congress in October every year and love picking it out.” She says the items are a great way to say ‘thank you’ to mare owners for their business and make friends among potential clients. She stresses the importance of using quality material, though. “We started with brand X stuff that didn’t last more than four washes, and moved up to quality products that last for years and years,” she says. “We change the monogram every year so that I can see if the old stuff is still around. I’ve seen some of our six-year-old T-shirts!” Chilton also does hats, pens, squeeze toys and her all-time favorite, the cutter, which is a 75-cent item with a retractable blade that can be used for opening sawdust bags. It’s one of the few items Chilton repeats each year.

Chilton also stresses the importance of creativity. “The fun part for us is doing the stuff with cars for the play on words with Radical Rodder’s name,” she says. “We did little flashlights last year in the shape of little cars. It was a scream after dark to see them all over. We also have gummy candy in the shape of cars—people love the little snack.”

When developing your promotional-item program, take several aspects into consideration. First, with clothing, do you want to embroider or screen print? Screen printing is a lot less expensive, but generally does not last as long or look as good as embroidery.

Second, find a product that offers decent quality and good usability. A few extra dollars can mean the difference between a cheap knickknack that will be thrown out and something that will be kept. And not only should the promotional item be of good quality, it should also be useful to the end user. As an example, giving away coffee mugs to five-year-olds might not be the right way to go. However, by filling it with candies, the child is happy and the parents, who pay the bills, get a nice mug.

“Giving away coffee mugs to five-year-olds might not be the right way to go.”

Next consider whether you want to make inventory available throughout the year or at specified times. Perhaps you want to change your message from a generic barn-name item in the winter to a special summer camp or show T-shirt in the summer. One obvious point to keep in mind is that items become less expensive when ordered in larger quantities.

Which leads to the next consideration; quantity. Take a good look at the number of clients you have, the average of new clients that come in throughout the year and family members who may also want something with your barn’s name on it. When you figure out the numbers, then it’s time to figure out the breakdown of sizes, if it’s a wearable item. Are your clients mostly kids or adults? Can you get a variety of sizes, including extra larges and smalls?

Last, and most important, consider whether the item will be a give-away, break-even or revenue-generating item. Perhaps offer it to your clients at no cost or at cost, but charge people at horse shows for the souvenir. Whatever route you take, remember that promotional items are a great marketing tool and one that every barn should use.

Where to Find It

Where to find ideas for promotional clothing and other items:

  1. Look under “Screen Printing” in the yellow pages. These businesses can supply clothing and other items.
  2. Many tack stores and catalogues provide jackets, shirts, hats, director’s chairs and more that can be monogrammed, but usually typefaces and artwork are limited.
  3. Many companies specialize in selling clothing for customizing, such as Nu-Art, Inc. (1-800-932-4890, custom@nuart-inc.com); Blair Custom Wear (1-800-821-5655, www.blair.com) and Wear Guard (1-800-272-0308, www.wearguard.com).
  4. Or, for a multitude of promotional items, try Best Impressions (1-800-635-2378, www.bestimpressions.com) and 4imprint (1-877-446-7746, www.4imprint.com).