You might be the best trainer, instructor or tack designer in the world… but if you can’t market your business, you’re dead in the water. Allie Dunkin of Entrigue Consulting helps describe why digital marketing is a must-have for equine businesses.
With technology growing and changing daily, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the newest trends and marketing strategies to ensure success. Large brands are not the only ones who can benefit from marketing digitally. Any company can use these resources to monitor consumer brand awareness and what impacts and drives their customers.
But What Exactly is Digital Marketing?
In simple terms, digital marketing is the marketing that is done online. Having an online presence is important for businesses in a smart-phone-dominating era where everyone just wants to see cute pony pics and know which horse cookies the Nations Cup champ just devoured.
Traditional marketers or business owners assume that the word “digital” is referring to having a website or a Facebook account, but it is so much more than that. Limiting yourself to just a website or Facebook page, while important to have, would alone only scratch the surface of digital marketing opportunities.
With traditional marketing, brand images often “talk to” the consumers. This is done with print ads, flyers, and media that is “one-sided.” For print media to be effectively used today, the picture must draw us in and create a lasting impression, and even then, how do you know if your dressage saddle ad is actually seen by dressage riders? You don’t. That’s where digital marketing has the upper hand.
Digital marketing has proven to be a cost efficient and flexible way to engage potential customers. Small and mid-sized businesses can compete across all online platforms with just as much “wow” as well-known brands. Small businesses can optimize their advertising strategies to get the most “bang for their buck” using Google Ads, Facebook Ads, YouTube pre-roll, and other advertising networks. By combining advertising with a compelling story and a strong website with equine-relevant industry SEO, businesses can turn views into conversions.
But How Do I Utilize Digital Marketing?
By having a variety of digital marketing, businesses can easily target potential buyers that are interested in their products or services.
There are many ways to use digital marketing for your benefit.
1. The most common way is through digital devices. This is where consumers see advertisements within business sites and mobile apps. Imagine scrolling through a Noble online catalog for clothes and a SmartPak ad pops up about the supplements you looked up the day before. By having this ad pop up, you are reminded about the brand and the product again, which makes you more likely to buy the product.
2. The next most common is through social platforms. Companies combine what the consumers want to see with their brand, which catches their eye and associates that cute pony with a specific label. Through Facebook and Instagram, you are also able to follow any company you want to, which can greatly increase a brand’s audience.
3. Third is digital media, like advertising, email, search engines and even social networks. This usually consists of coupons sent to you or reminders that you still have 5 items in your checkout cart waiting for you to buy.
One thing to consider is where your audience will be. Not whether they’re at the barn or not, but where they’re most likely to see your ad!
The majority of younger horse lovers are going to spend most of their time on Facebook or Instagram posting pictures of their favorite four-legged creatures. You usually won’t find that same type of crowd on LinkedIn. This normally attracts businesses focused on hiring or just marketing their brand. If you’re considering advertising with an online magazine, you should ask for their readership demographics to see if it matches your potential customer market.
Is It Working?
With the proper marketing, companies are able to flourish beyond their expectations. It is important to remember to gather data as you go. Just as riders keep track of their winnings and have a point system, so does marketing. This allows companies to gather insights on their consumers interactions. The majority of social platforms provide specific information for you to use by breaking down the consumers by age, gender, times the product is viewed, demographics, etc.
You may even find that the audience responding to your digital marketing is different than what you thought your potential audience was! That’s okay – and can only help you so you know how to implement future marketing plans. You could start out by marketing to the hunter/jumper world and turn around and double sales just because a western rider liked the product.
Other Benefits of Digital Marketing: Why Advertising?
Advertising and marketing provide many benefits to your company, such as brand recognition. When shopping for clothes or products, you’re more likely to buy a Purina brand compared to a name you don’t recognize. It’s something you are familiar with and trust. You want this same type of recognition with your brand and products. This type of recognition is part of a long process, just as a horse and rider don’t become #1 overnight. It takes time, patience, and some strategic planning.
You also want potential customers to think of you when they are in need of your goods or services. If they’re not sure where to start and go to the internet for help, you want your name to appear on their Google search. If they click on your business in their search, you want your website to draw them in. If they like the look of your website, they’ll be more inclined to contact you.
Proper marketing gives your business a “visual reputation.” Do you look high end? Professional? Modern? Or, do you look out of date? Small? Amateurish? Digital marketing has a huge effect on this visual interpretation from your clients. It’s just like if you’re looking for a training facility at which to board your horse. What are your first impressions? Do you want a heated barn? Are the stalls big enough for your 17.2 hand horse? Do you want your horse to have an hour of turnout or all night?
Other digital marketing, like social media, can give potential clients the feeling of “legitimacy.” Simply put, you can make yourself look like you know what you’re doing! It’s the idea of relating to the viewers. You are a real human being and not a magical fire-breathing dragon in another world.
Regardless of size of your company, market niche, or location, digital marketing is necessary for business growth now and for the future. This allows for more of an even playing field when it comes to competition with well-known brands and products. Have a plan, make a budget, and see how that plan works for the first three to six months and then make adjustments. It’s okay if not everything goes as planned at first. This is where you learn what works for you and what doesn’t. Not everything is going to work the same for every company, either. This is also okay. Since digital marketing is a growing by the day, it’s important for every business to have a strong marketing plan, and digital marketing should be a part of your plan.
Allie Dunkin is an intern with Entrigue Consulting, a full service equestrian marketing consultancy. She is a graduate assistant at William Woods University where she is pursuing her Masters in Business Administration. She also completed her undergrad at WWU where she double majored in Equine Administration and Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing and Advertising. She’s originally from Madison, Missouri where she grew up riding western all-around in AQHA and PtHA circuits. If you have questions about Entrigue’s services, see their website at www.entrigueconsulting.com.