One of the ways to build a business is to network with people in your area and have a social presence. Cammy Rainwater of Shadowbrook Stables had a boarder who was also a friend and “computer lady.” For Christmas 12 years ago, that client created a business website for Rainwater. “I profusely thanked her and thought it was a very nice gift, but in the back of my mind I thought I would have no use for it," Rainwater said. "I was not selling anything I could put in a box and ship to somebody in another part of the country, so at first I thought that a website was a complete waste of time.
“Within six months, I started getting e-mails off the website instead of phone calls, so I realized that this was what the world was coming to!" she said. "I continue to have a website that I have updated with photos and information about us. I don’t post prices; for my purposes it is simply an on-line brochure about our stable." She thinks of the business website as a way people might find her stable on the internet.
“A couple of years ago, I finally got a Facebook page, after everyone told me I needed to do that," she said. "I don’t do much on there, either, except have a presence. At least a couple times a month I try to put something on there. I try to post photos or something just to let people know we are around.
“I am probably not doing as much of that now as I would if I were younger," she continued. "Today I am trying to slow down. This is not the type of business where you just build a stable and make a bunch of money. I am doing it because it’s a passion.”
What You Do
It is important to let people know what you do, however. Word of mouth is great, but not always enough, according to Marketa Matthews of Quarter Line Dressage. “When you have happy clients, the word spreads and everyone in the horse community knows about it because people talk to each other—and they know what we do here," Matthews explained. "But some folks are new here—maybe relocated in their job—and don’t know anyone yet, or are just starting to get into horses. For those people you need a presence on the internet and social media so they can find you.
“We have a website, and I hire an IT person who takes care of the website," she said. "I don’t have the knowledge or time to keep it updated, so I pay someone to do it. We want to let people know what we do, what is different about us, why their horse would thrive and be happy here. We have a lot of events here, so we put those dates and schedules on the website and social media.
“I also have someone managing my Facebook," Matthews said. "I have a business page for Quarter Line Dressage and a personal page. These are also managed with updates regarding what is new, what events are coming up, which shows we are going to, etc. It relates our day-to-day life; in the summer we often have barn parties, cookouts etc. for the boarders, so it’s important to let people know about it.
“I don’t do anything with Twitter or Instagram; I want a happy medium and not overdo it because it is time-consuming," she added. "My business doesn’t need a lot of traffic; we just need to let people know what’s going on, in a balanced way.”
Matthews gets a lot of phone calls from people who want to sign up their kids for lessons, or ask about trail rides or birthday parties, but that is not what she does.
“We recently did a promotional video," she said. "This is a good way to update everything and promote yourself and your farm. After it is finished and edited, this three-minute video will be on my website and on Facebook. This will give people more chance to see what we do—almost like being on tour here without actually being here; it’s nice to actually see it rather than just read about it.”
Videos have become popular, and she recommended doing something like that for anyone who wants to grow his or her business. A good video quickly shows what you do.
Understand what you want your digital communications to do for you, whether it is to keep current clients up-to-date on happenings at the facility or to gain new business. Don't try to do too much, but whatever you choose to do, make sure it is presented professionally and updated regularly.