People are already thinking of Christmas and the holiday season, which means they are looking for that "perfect" gift for a child, grandchild, parent, spouse, or best friend. Most people don't think about buying riding lessons as a gift simply because they don't know where to start looking, or they might not be a horse person themselves, so the thought of riding lessons (even for someone who is a horse lover) doesn't cross their minds.
That means if you have a lesson program, this is a great time to be marketing what you do. One way to do that for a lot of people at one time is to host a "holiday open house" at your farm or stable.
Sound like too much work? Not if you plan ahead!
First decide how many new students you can handle (write it down), what type of students you are looking for (youth, adult, beginner, intermediate, English, Western, hunter/jumper, reining, etc., and write it down), and what days/times you are looking to fill (write it down; are you starting to get the hint that you should write all these things down?).
Let's say that you have decide you want more beginner riders (you have the right horses, equipment, instructors and facilities). Your Saturdays are full, so you are trying to get students during the week either during the day or after school Tuesday through Friday.
We are going to assume you know that in order to have an open house you need to set a date and time, then promote it. You need to have your horses and facilities spotless and ready to show off. You should have current students give a demonstration of a lesson with one of your instructors, and allow the "newcomer" kids to have some sort of interaction with the horses; it doesn't have to be riding, it could be grooming or games to name horse parts. Have business cards available, and make sure to sign everyone up on your email list. Have a "special" holiday riding lesson package that they can purchase on the spot or that can be bought before Christmas. Make sure your insurance carrier is good with this type of event.
If you are going to have an open house to attract those beginner types of students, there are several ways you can get the information out.
- Ask your current students to take open house cards and brochures and pass them out to their friends and put them up at school.
- Ask parents of current students to share the open house information with their peers who have children of the correct age. You might stress that if several of their kids' friends would take lessons at the same time then a car pool could be created to ease the driving burden. These parents might even buy a few lessons for one of their children's friends as a present.
- Contact former students who got too busy for riding, but seemed to enjoy it, to come back to the stable to visit during this time.
- Become involved with the home school programs in your area; many are looking for individual or group activities. These students also could come earlier in the day than traditional public school students.
- Run an article or press release in the local newspaper. (You might want to read "How to Write a Press Release that Gets Noticed.")
- Send a notice to the local county extension agent and ask them to share in their newsletter and post it on their bulletin board.
- Let the local 4-H club know you are hosting the open house and invite their kids to attend.
- Invite local Boy and Girl Scout groups to attend.
- Post brochures at the local vet clinics (large and small animal clinics).
- Post notices at other spots around town (such as feed stores, tack shops, and toy stores). The feed and tack shops should be behind you because the more people who are involved with riding, the better their chances of getting new customers.
As mentioned above, you need to have gift certificates for lessons available at the open house, and let parents and grandparents know that they can contact you later and you can email them the gift certificates to put in a stocking or under the tree! (You can download a blank gift certificate from StableManagement.com's Downloads section under Resources.)