Going Digital

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If you are like many equine professionals, you have discovered the value in putting out your own newsletter. After all, what better way is there to keep your clients informed and invested in your business than with a monthly or quarterly missive?

However, if you are sending your newsletter out in the mail, along with an invoice or just on its own, you are behind the times. More and more equine professionals have turned their paper newsletters into electronic newsletters, or have leapt right into publishing their newsletter online.

Why Go Digital?

For equine professionals, putting out a bulletin on a regular basis has many benefits. A newsletter helps build a sense of community for a stable or trainer and creates client loyalty. It’s also an effective way to keep clients updated on current goings-on with a facility or training business, such as shows, clinics and even horses for sale.

Combine these benefits with the advantages of making the newsletter digital, and you have a powerful communications tool that can have a profound effect on your business.

The reasons for going digital are many, starting with a big reduction in cost. If your newsletter is sent via e-mail and/or posted on your website, you won’t be spending any money on paper, printing and postage.

Online newsletters also have a longer shelf life than paper newsletters. Most clients will toss out a paper newsletter after reading it, but a digital version will stay on their computers or on your website for a long time.

In Practice

Matt Rayl, owner of Serrano Creek Equestrian Center, a boarding and training facility in Lake Forest, Calif., produced a paper newsletter for boarders for several years before deciding to take the publication online. He has discovered the readership for his newsletter has increased significantly ever since.

“We originally published a paper newsletter that we mailed out with the monthly board statement, but some people would say they didn’t see it,” he says. “We decided to produce it online, and now boarders can access it on our website whenever they want to. We get a lot of comments on it now.”

Rayl notes there are also legal benefits to having the newsletter available on the website.

“If we post a rate increase or a rule change, clients can’t use the excuse that they didn’t know about it,” he says. “The newsletter is always available on our website.”

Another benefit to having a digital newsletter is increased traffic to the business website, which translates into more clients.

“When we produced the newsletter on paper, only our boarders saw it,” says Rayl. “Now that it’s posted online, we get a lot more hits on our website. People doing searches for different horse-related topics are taken to our website, where they discover us as a place where they can board and train their horses.”

Caren Ruthven, co-owner of C&C Colt Company, a training and boarding facility in Whitesboro, Tex., has also seen an increase in traffic to her facility’s website since she began producing an online newsletter.

“Newsletters bring more people to our website,” she says. “They find us because of our content.”

Ruthven’s newsletter includes an events calendar, tips on training, horses for sale and information on a new apprenticeship being offered at the facility.

Increased visibility for a business is a definite bonus of producing an online newsletter, according to Rhonda Porter, owner of Double R Stables, a full-service boarding stable in Waxhaw, N.C. Porter is planning to start publishing a newsletter online and is anticipating good results.

“Our digital newsletter will make it easier to reach potential customers,” she says. “In our field, word-of-mouth is the best advertisement. A digital newsletter will provide information on our business that our current clients can send to friends, co-workers and family members.”

How It’s Done

Equine professionals who produce their own newsletters have a variety of ways of getting the job done. Many do the work themselves, creating the publication from scratch on their computers, and either posting it to the stable website or attaching it to e-mails sent to clients. Others have a computer-savvy staffer do the work. Some even have a client put the newsletter together in exchange for reduced rates on boarding or training services. Others hire a professional marketing service to do the newsletter for them, or have it done by the same designer who maintains the facility website.

To save money, Rayl produces his stable newsletter himself, with a little help from his facility manager.

“I design and write the whole thing by myself,” he says of his monthly publication. “Our barn manager proofreads it.”

Rayl creates the newsletter in Microsoft Publisher because it is easy to move text and photos around with this software. He then turns the finished product over to a third party who is adept at computers and turns the Microsoft Publisher file into a PDF file. This type of file is easily opened by both Windows and Macintosh PCs. Newsletters converted to PDF can also be easily printed out and distributed.

However a newsletter is produced, it’s important to plan content at least two issues ahead, and use a variety of different types of content to keep readers interested. A mixture of personal interest stories about clients and/or their horses, barn news,health and training information, fun quizzes, and humor pieces make for a good newsletter.

Visuals are also important since too much text can be daunting to readers. A nice-looking, well-designed newsletter with good photos is more likely to be read than one that isn’t pleasing to the eye and is mostly just text. And going digital makes it easy and inexpensive to add visuals.

“Now that we are doing the newsletter in a digital format instead of printing and mailing it, we have the opportunity to make it look a lot nicer,” says Rayl, who points out that color and images are virtually unlimited with an online newsletter.

“We used to make copies of the newsletter in black and white when we mailed them with our invoices,” he says. “Now, with the digital version, we have access to color and more opportunities to make it appealing.”

In order to make the most of the opportunities for good visual presentation that are available with a digital newsletter, it’s important to make sure the publication features an eye-appealing design. If you don’t know how to design a newsletter yourself or don’t know anyone who has this ability, consider paying a professional to create a design for you. This will be a one-time cost that will pay off for years to come. To save money, look for a client with design experience who can barter the work for you. You can also consider contacting a local college that offers design courses and hire a student to provide you with a well-designed template at a minimal cost.

Overall, producing and distributing an electronic newsletter is a great way to promote your equine business, whether you are a boarding stable owner, trainer, farrier or veterinarian. Once you get into the routine of producing a monthly or quarterly missive for your clients, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.