Digital Marketing

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Horses provide us with a link to the past, to a time when life was simpler and technology was virtually non-exist. Given that reality, it’s ironic that something as high-tech as the Internet has become such a vital aspect of the horse industry.

For the horse world, the Internet has turned what once was a local culture into a national and even worldwide one. Horse people were once limited to horses and horse professionals within driving distance. Now, thanks to the Internet, they can easily discover and interact with equestrians on the other side of the globe.

Equine professionals who take advantage of what the Internet has to offer are finding that their businesses are benefitting.

Getting Online

It’s 2010, and most people—including horse people—own a computer. This fact alone makes an Internet presence for every equine-related business a must.

“Whether using new technology or old—the Internet or the feed store bulletin board—the key to marketing anything is in the matchmaking of buyer and seller,” says Warren Wilson, publisher of the California Horsetrader, a magazine that has both a strong print and online presence.

“The Internet helps marry buyers and sellers because the pools of buyers and sellers are large,” he continues. “The inventory of ads as well as the viewers looking at them may not be as exclusive as other sources, but the volume makes up for it. Is it the entire marketplace? No. But it’s large and convenient to use.”

Janis Anderson, co-owner of Anderson Training Stables in Wilsall, Mont., has witnessed the truth to this statement. When she noticed a trend in marketing on the Internet several years ago, she moved to get her business online.

“Everyone was getting websites up and selling horses,” she says. “We didn’t want to be left behind. It was the smart thing to do.”

Anderson’s website (www.andersontrainingstables.com) shows details about Anderson’s facility and reining horse training services. Pages highlight stallion services, horses for sale and client success stories.

Anderson got help creating her website from ReinersWorld.com, an online service that advertises reining horses and training services. “They helped us get our website put together and they still maintain it,” says Anderson. “They had the most input in the beginning, but then as we saw other websites, we got new ideas.”

Anderson says she has arranged to have her website linked with a number of organizations to increase visibility. “We are linked to the National Reining Horse Association, the Montana Reining Horse Association, the Youth Reining Horse Association, and the National Reining Horse Association Professionals’ websites, and other trainers’ websites as well,” she says.

Anderson’s site has had great success, bringing plenty of potential clients to the business. “Everyone who calls says they have seen our website,” she says.

Ruthanna Bridges, owner of Bridges Equestrian (www.bridgestrainingstable.com), a training facility specializing in hunters, jumpers and western pleasure horses, maintains a website that promotes her training services as well as horses for sale and other services. “Other than word of mouth, the Internet is the only way people find me,” she says. “I ask each and every caller, and they all say they pulled me up on the Internet.”

Doug Stewart, owner of Doug Stewart Training Stables in Junction City, Ore., (www.dougstewartstables.com) uses the Internet to advertise in large part because of its ease of use. “People can view your website and/or sale ads at their convenience,” he says. “You would be amazed at how much time people spend on the Internet, shopping or just browsing horses. You can’t beat the price to advertise.”

Stewart says he started with a website for his business about 10 years ago when the Internet was just starting to get popular with horse people. He now uses the Internet for 98 percent of his advertising, and noticed an increase in his sales of horses and services almost immediately.

Social Media

The Internet offers a number of options for those wishing to promote a horse business online. In addition to a website devoted specifically to your sale barn or services, it’s a good idea to use other places on the Internet, such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social networking sites, to call attention to your business.

“All these sites are important,” says Wilson, who notes that the best route depends on the particular horse or service you are marketing, and the audience of your website or social media.

Stewart uses a variety of Internet tools to promote his Arabian and half-Arabian training and sales services. “I use YouTube to post videos of sale horses and it has been great for that,” he says. “I just download my sale videos to YouTube and people can access them instantly. It’s a great tool for selling horses.” Facebook and Twitter have also become popular places for promoting a horse business, and for driving traffic to an equine professional’s website.

Print/Internet combinations are effective, too. “Most publications, including the California Horsetrader, will take a $5 print classified ad and also place it on the publication’s website,” says Wilson. “This, in turn, allows for the ad to be linked to social media like Twitter or Facebook.”

According to Wilson, it’s a good idea to combine a print ad that goes online with links to social media as well as your own website. “This touches all bases,” he says.

Wilson also notes that you should list your sale horses and items on your website or in social media, but use traditional types of advertising as well. “If you don’t cast your net well outside your universe, chances are the buyer-seller matchmaking will fall short,” he says.

Wilson points out that building a compelling, informative site or social networking page that truly reflects your core business or purpose comes first. “Once you have done this, consistently remind people—through social networking as well as through publications and other websites—about new reasons to look at you,” he advises.

Mastering Technology

Many equine professionals are great with horses but not so good with computers. It’s important to get help with using Internet technology if you aren’t savvy with it.

“You need the technology to be reliable and the content to be accurate and current. It’s a lot of work, and it takes time,” says Wilson. The best way to do this is to have a professional website designer create your site, with your input.

“Then, once you think the table is set, you’ve got to take a step back and look at your masterpiece from the perspective of your clients and prospects,” Wilson says.

Once your website is up and running, it’s usually not difficult to maintain it. In fact, it’s vital that you do so, so make sure that your designer makes it easy for you.

“Update your website as much as possible,” says Stewart. “You need to be current with your information, or customers will become frustrated when trying to find fees for services, or sale horses if the information is incorrect or outdated.”

If you aren’t already taking advantage of what online technology has to offer equine professionals, consider doing it now. There is no doubt that the Internet is one of the most effective ways to promote an equine business.