Marketing Mondays: Horse Business Website

I’ve missed posting Marketing Mondays for the last two weeks. Time gets away from me. Our incredibly patient printer was standing at the door, arms crossed, tapping his foot, waiting for me to deliver the May issue to him. You understand.

Today, we’re back and I’m going to give you three important marketing items to be sure to include on your horse farm website.

1) A Mailing List Sign-Up Form

Maintaining and using an e-mail list is a great way to communicate with your clients and friend. Send out the word when a vet or farrier is scheduled, a new boarder, or horse comes into the barn, a client or horse has a successful show, and other news you’d like to share.

2) Your Story

A little personality is never a bad thing for a site. People who are visiting your website should be able to get a feel for who you are. What your business represents, and how you like to conduct business. Be sure your website gives a bit of insight into your history, and your individual connection to the western horse world.

3) A Google Map to Your Location

This is really very easy to do. You can do it through Google Maps, or choose a free service to take you through the process. One of my favorites is Pin In The Map. Check it out and create a map pinpointing the location of your horse stable, ranch or shop in minutes. Then, embed it on your site.

Happy Easter Marketing Monday, everyone!

Marketing Mondays: Rating Your Website

We began Marketing Mondays a few weeks ago with a post on Social Media. Next followed the profile of a marketing genius, then a look at the Equestrian Social Media Awards, and last week we looked at the components of a good print ad.

This week, I'm going to share a cool online tool I learned about last week, which allows you to have your website graded against over three million others. You can find this tool online at Website Grader. To proceed with the grading, you key in your website url, several competition url's and within minutes a website grade is produced and sent to your e-mail.

We tried it with www.westernhorsereview.com.

The first stat it produced was a rating of where our site fell within the three million or more Website Grader has ranked. We fell in at just over the 74,000 mark.

The algorithm Website Grader uses is a proprietary blend of over 50 different variables, including search engine data, website structure, approximate traffic, site performance, and others. Great information if you're interested in this sort of material. Website Grader determined a grade of 97% for our website, meaning, that of the millions of websites that have previously been evaluated, the algorithm calculated that this site scores higher than 97% of them in terms of its marketing effectiveness.

That intrigued me!

Among the details of the comprehensive report it detailed for us:

A blog report: first it determined www.westernhorsereview.com has a blog, and then ranked the blog component at 94%, likely due to the fact, it is current, original and we blog often. In fact, it determined the rank of our blog section at 33,165 out of the approximately 677,811 other blogs that Website Grader has ranked. It also stated our blog section is estimated to have a rank of 2,685,333, out of approximately 4 million tracked blogs, for highest unique website visitors.

Best of all it gave suggestions for improving our blogs, like adding a “retweet” button on each post, something we currently don't have, and including more hyperlinks within our posts.

Indexed pages: This number is the approximate number of pages on www.westernhorsereview.com that are stored by search engines. Web crawlers for the major search engines will visit the website periodically and look for new content to index. Generally, the more pages found on your site by search engines, the better. The report showed we have just under 3,000 indexed pages.

Readability Level: This score measures the approximate level of education necessary to read and understand the web page content. In most cases, the content should be made to be simple so that a majority of the target audience can understand it. In our case, our level checked in at primary/elementary school, which I'm told is a good thing; it means our website is an understandable read!

I won't repeat the entire report here, but it went on with sections on optimization, promotion and conversion.

Finally, it took the competing website urls I had suggested and ranked www.westernhorsereview against them. It gave us a great view of where we fit in.

Overall, I received some insight on how to improve our site and also a great inside view into a few other sites I consider either as competitive, or “mentor” sites.

Check it out sometime and have your site ranked.

Special thanks to Kim Machado, a digital media consultant, whom we had the great opportunity to have a one-on-one with last week.

Thanks for tuning in and so hope you enjoy your week.

P.S. – if you haven't already be sure to get your name in our Cavalia ticket-giveaway contest.

Marketing Mondays – Your Print Ad

Today, some tried and true all-time basics of designing a good print advertisement.

As a horse magazine publisher, I've come to realize one truth: to our readers advertising is just as interesting as editorial. This is unlike any other genre of magazine interest which I can think of. Simply said, we love to look at horse ads. This is a huge bonus for you: right off the bat, you've got an engaged reader who is searching for what's new in their horse world, and is open and in fact, expectant, of finding that information through advertising.

First, some basic rules to live by when designing your print advertisement.

Rule #1: Make Your Headline Count

Remember, on average five times as many people read the headline as they do the body copy. Don't waste that opportunity by not selling the product. Your headline should be geared to promise a benefit to the reader. (one, which you can of course, deliver on.) For instance, Biggest Selection of Western Saddles in the Country, works a heck of a lot better than Joe's Tack Shop, doesn't it? Also keep in mind, headlines that include some type of news (ie: 16 Smart Little Lena offspring offered at the Sale Name this year), garner more reads.

The Caveat: Remember what I said above about equine publication readers viewing advertising as interesting as editorial? So, if your headline is your ranch name, or your stallion name, your sale title, it's not so bad, you'll get read anyway, particularly if you follow Rule #2 . . .

Rule #2: Invest in Great Photography

Great photography rules effective advertising. Pick up any breed-oriented publication and browse through the stallion/ranch advertisements, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out which ads awe the reader. Particularly, in the case of stallion advertising, a fantastic photo really is worth 1,000 words.

P.S.: Photographs that suggest a story will make readers want to find out what that story is – and they will become more involved in your ad.

Rule #3: Be Consistent

We see far too many ads which are created for the specific “sell” they contain for that particular ad. Be consistent – both in your design and in your message, and the reader won't have to rediscover you each time he or she picks up a magazine which contains your ad. Pay attention to the colors, the typestyles you like and want to represent your brand, and ask your designer to stick to them.

Rule #4: Don't Be Boring

Work hard to create a distinctive appearance for your advertisement and campaign. Not an easy task, and requires some creativity and thought. Once, you achieve that distinctive look, see Rule #3 – stick with it. The most effective print ads have an overall distinctive appearance that sets them apart from the rest of the pack.

Rule #5: Keep It Simple

Many ads are too complicated. They try to accomplish way too much. The heart of any good ad is simplicity. A good ad should get to the point quickly, preferably through the headline. As an advertiser you know what your biggest benefit to the customer is, focus on that and don't let other little details get in the way.

Rule #6: Make Body Copy Readable

Make it interesting. Long body copy will be read, if it's intriguing. If it enhances the attention and interest created by the headline and illustration. If it answers questions, builds confidence and desire in the reader. And, if it gives the reader some kind of reason to act. Body copy really is the heart of advertising.

Rule #7: Know When to Renovate

If you have a winning ad, don't be afraid to re-use it several times over. It's proven readership is actually increased with repetition. But when it's worn out, old, dated and boring even you, it's time call in the designer!

Finally, here's the top 10 design errors we commonly see in equine publication advertising.

1. The over-use of background

Today's graphic technology allows for some crazy loud backgrounds. Remember the keep it simple rule.

2. Too light of copy over too dark of a background

Remember, not all presses are perfect, and might fill in your light copy, if it's thin enough, on black background.

3. Too much copy

Evaluate, and edit. Then evaluate and edit again.

4. Emphasis on the wrong copy.

Remember, you are not selling your phone number.

5. Poor choice of typestyle

First of all, never use all caps on a script font. Secondly, evaluate the appropriateness of any font you use in your ad – does it fit your brand?

6. Too many typestyles

Remember the keep it simple rule.

7. Sideways or upside down ad

We still see this once in a while. In this case, before the reader works to get the message, he has to work just to get to the ad!

8. Unnecessary graphics

It ain't pretty, it's distracting.

9. Unclear copy

Employ a friend or copy editor to read your text, including headlines and cutlines. Does it make sense?

10. No white space

Just because there's a space leftover in your ad, doesn't mean you have to fill it.

In later Marketing Mondays, I'll post about the new methodology in print advertising (no, social media and online advertising does not replace print, but, yes, it can be an amazing complement and assist you in reaching a greater and wider audience than you've ever had), and cover some good information and examples on how to integrate print with your online presence to stretch your ad budget to maximum effectiveness.

Marketing Mondays: Equestrian Social Media Awards

This morning, a look at the international winners of the inaugural Equestrian Social Media Awards.

The ESMAs were set up in December 2010, initially for United Kingdom and Irish equestrian fans to vote for the equestrian businesses they felt really “flew the [social media] flag for the equestrian community.”

During the first 10 days of voting, so many nominations were received – over 4,000 apparently, that the group decided to split each category into two groups: A. UK/Ireland and B. International. The top 10 within each category, a total of 181, got through to the finals – which closed mid-February, 2011.

Some facts from the awards competition was posted by the group, including these figures:

5,682 – number of people who've voted.
38,939 – number of times the voting page was viewed.
29,846 – number of individual viewers.
2.31 – average minutes they spent on the page.
2,490 – number of Facebook fans.
5,270 – number of times the voting page URL has been shared on Facebook.
500,0369 – number of Facebook post views.
84 – number countries who've viewed the voting page (Top 5 countries: UK, USA, Canada, Ireland, Australia)

In the international category, Team Parelli secured the “Oscar” in three categories: Best Use of YouTube, Best Use of Social Media by a Riding School; and finally, with over 42,000 fans, Best Use of Facebook.

Best Use of Social Media by a Charity went to Save A Forgotten Equine.

Best Use of Social Media by a Newcomer, was captured by Horses in the Morning, on the Horse Radio Network.

Best Use of Twitter, as well as the Most Informative Social Media, was garnered by The Horse.Com.

Best Use of Social Media by a Magazine, The Chronicle of The Horse.

Best Use of Social Media by an Event, was, not surprisingly, the World Equestrian Games. Canada's own Spruce Meadows came in third in this category.

Finally, Best Use of Social Media by a Talking Horse, was captured by one of my favorites, Henny, whose videos we've broadcast on the Western Horse Review Facebook page. Rider of Henny, Peter Atkins, often wears a helmet-cam on Henny's amazing cross country eventing competitions.

Check out all of the finalists of the inaugural Equestrian Social Media Awards right here.

Marketing Mondays: Patti Colbert

I kicked off Marketing Mondays last Monday with a post on the crazy world of social media. We'll have more on that on future Mondays, but this morning I wanted to introduce to you, someone who I completely admire as a marketing genius.

Should you ever be in the frame of mind that you could never be an equine marketing professional because:

– you grew up in a small hamlet in Saskatchewan;

– you were conveniently playing hookie and devouring french fries and gravy in a downtown cafe in same said small hamlet, during business and marketing oriented classes at high school;

– sort of skipped out of most college marketing and business classes;

– equally and conveniently missed University (entirely);

– possess a phobia of public speaking and, or, speaking your knowledge to a general public;

– are scared as dickens of pushing yourself out of your safe little corner of the world;

– really only want to hang around your place petting horses, walking the dogs, photographing migrating birds and growing tomatoes.

Wait – I think I just described me.

Well, if you're in the same wagon train, believing you'll never get anywhere in today's fast-paced marketing world, I encourage you to take a look a look at a small town ranch lady and riding coach, who grew up to capture an enormous mainstream America following through her visionary Extreme Mustang Makeover. She then took a cue from American Idol and together with Tootie Bland, creator of Road to the Horse, went forth with another phenominally successful program, Project Cowboy, a television reality show, focusing on a search for “The Great American Horseman.”

Primarily because of her work with Extreme Mustang Makeover, Patti Colbert caught the attention of the western world in a big way, and in 2009 was named one of the “Top 15 Westerners to Watch” by American Cowboy magazine.

Here's a short interview I found of her discussing the genus of the wave of support behind that project.

Canadians had a great opportunity to listen to Colbert this January when she spoke at the Horse Industry Association of Alberta's, Horse Owners & Breeders conference, and I want to share some of her excellent insight into the horse industry with you.

Patti Colbert believes the equine world as we know is on the cusp, indeed, in the centre of great changes. Change which is due to the generational, cultural and world influences of this new century. She knows these changes present a huge challenge to an industry which is steeped in tradition, but she insists, if we equine business owners of today wish to survive, we had better learn to not only understand, but embrace these monumental changes.

As she related, “My personal opinion is that the horse show industry, as we know it, is in a downward spin and if we don't pull our heads out, our numbers will continue to decline and our customer base will decrease.”

This former director of the American Quarter Horse Association, suggests we all need to learn to love, “non-horse owning people, because they will grow your events and business. Just because their horse IQ isn't as high as yours, or they don't give a darn about showing, or will never own a horse, they can still generate growth in the horse industry.”

She certainly proved that with Extreme Mustang Makeover.

She suggested it is time for all of us to put on our thinking hats, and “kick the side out of the box or arena you live in. It's time the horse industry evolves into an aggressive well-marketed outdoor life experience.”

During her presentation, she gave some excellent advice and insight on generational trends and how they apply to the industry. She suggested there are three major demographic section's in today's society.

1) Baby Boomers: according to Colbert, “these are our biggest market. Everyday 8,000 of them turn 65. We need to realize that not all of them will want to ride, but may want to be involved at another level.”

She noted that this generation “demands respect” and wants to feel welcomed in our barns and businesses. They'll want to bring their grandkids, and might even buy them a horse.

2) Generation X: Colbert calls this your businesse's “sweet spot.” The mid-30's woman – and a target market for many equine businesses. She suggests you remember this segment of society is busy, so flexibility in your program and schedule will go a long way to accommodating them.

3) Generation Y: And, finally, those we may have the most difficulty understanding – the generation of cell phone texters, and video gamers. Colbert notes this demographic requires a quick connection and “your program had better be exciting.” Really great points: Generation Y has empathy for the rescued horse and they are typically into “green” practices.

Read more of Patti Colbert's marketing and equine industry advice in the April issue of Western Horse Review. We're in production now and it's shaping up to be a great issue. Subscribe this week and you'll still catch the mailing list for it.

Hope you enjoyed this week's Marketing Monday. See you next week!

Facebook Connection

The Spring issue of the Paint Horse Connection, the American Paint Horse Association’s member magazine, pays tribute to the more than 35,000 fans that have “friended” the organization’s Facebook page since it was created in May 2009. The magazine utilized innovative technology that allowed the award-winning graphics department at APHA to build the entire cover using photos submitted by APHA’s Facebook fans.

The cover depicts the portrait of the stallion’s head used in the widely recognized APHA logo and was built using MacOSAIX software. Over 1,700 photos were utilized to assemble the cover collage producing a colorful mosaic. Facebook fans that submitted photos will likely be able to spot their photo on the cover if they look closely.

Spring 2011 Cover of the Paint Horse Connection

“As far as we know, no equine publication has ever utilized this technique for a cover,” said APHA Executive Director Lex Smurthwaite. “Our Facebook family has grown so quickly in the last year, we wanted to pay tribute to our fans’ love of the Paint Horses in their lives.”

Planning began in December and the APHA Facebook community was asked to submit their personal photos of their American Paint Horses for use in the cover collage. Facebookers could submit as many photos of registered Paints as they liked and the response was overwhelming—it took only one week to accumulate enough photos for the special cover. APHA members can look forward to seeing the intriguing cover when the Spring Paint Horse Connection arrives in their mailboxes around the middle of February.

The American Paint Horse Association has two Facebook pages—one for APHA and one for the APHA Youth program (AjPHA) along with seven Twitter accounts and eight complete websites. The popularity and size of the APHA Facebook community makes it one of the most effective ways the Association now uses to communicate with its members.

Marketing Mondays: Social Media

For some time, I’ve wanted to begin a marketing column. Western Horse Review stats prove many of our readers, e-subscribers, Facebook fans and Twitter followers are in the horse biz in one genre or another, so it makes sense to pool our resources and share what we have learned and know.

This Monday we’re going to kick off by jumping right into the frying pan.

SOCIAL MEDIA!

Why beat around the bush, right? Social media is the buzzword of the decade. Bar none. So, let’s have a look at it.

Not.

I lead this off with the caveat that I am by no means an expert. However, I have taken a number of workshops, courses and studied the subject of social media with some intensity over the past few years. So, I’m sharing what I have come to know. Feel free to jump in with your questions, viewpoints and knowledge.

The growth of social media is unprecedented. The recent hit movie, The Social Network showcased the incredible birth and spiralling popularity of one aspect of this phenomena. But, social media is about so much more than just Facebook. Officially, it encompasses sites like Linkedin, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, flicker and all the rest. Virtually any platform, where there is dialogue happening.

If you don’t think the horse industry is on the social media bandwagon, I encourage you to spend an evening browsing through the various breed organization social sites. You’ll find, in most cases, a massive, vibrant community of like minded folks in conversation. The American Paint Horse Association is paying tribute to their 35,000+ Facebook fans with this mosaic cover of their spring edition, encompassing some 17,000 Facebook photos. I bet every FB fan will be scanning it for their picture.

As an editor, I love social media. Why? Because for the first time in 18+ years, I have a venue for an immediate dialogue with Western Horse Review readers.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not down on print media. I happen to be in the camp who believes magazines are not going to be extinct anytime soon. They have a shelf life about as long as any coffee table, and most of my horse friends still have those in their cozy living spaces, and barn coffee rooms. And often, there’s a stack of horse publications on that table. Sometimes, right next to the laptop.

Print media is “know” media, it’s a friend to settle down with, an environment where understanding is attained and knowledge is expanded. It’s entertaining and insightful. It’s a keeper.

Online media is “flow” media. It’s what’s happening in real time, this minute, this hour, this day.

I throw this in, because it is a good piece of information to keep in mind as you plan your marketing and advertising.

Social media is a fantastic form of engagement. And, I can visualize it at work for nearly any equine business genre you can throw at me.

I recently attended a quick workshop with a social media and online marketing blogger, Liz Hover. On her blog, you’ll find a great list of resources. I’m going to share the slideshow below with you, because I think it really hits the ball out of the park on both the the power of social media, but most importantly, it’s purpose.

Folks who think social media is the next evolutionary move up from a website have it all wrong. Social media is simply a means of engaging with your customers, both present and potential. It leads to your website, which leads to your business.

Prior to investing your time and effort into social media, be sure your business, your home-base, is in order. For to jump on the social media bandwagon before having your ducks in a row back at the ranch, is counter-productive.

Then really think about what social media can do for your business. How it can help you understand  your customer’s needs and trends. That’s key. Not talking, not broadcasting, but listening.

Well, this slideshow articulates it much better than I can, so I’ll sign off now. We’ll come back to social media in the future. Likely, lots. I’ll show you what’s “sticky” (hot right now) in social media, turn you on some very cool resources and also, some businesses who do it all, and do it well. (By the way, you don’t have to be a giant corporate with a large staff, to get it all right.)

Let me know what you think so far, and see you next Monday!

Enjoy!


Stallion Promotional Ideas

Back in December we spent the weekend at the National Cutting Horse Association Futurity in Fort Worth, Texas. Hitting the list of go-see's and nearly as critical as a trip to Uncle Julio's was the Stallion Avenue, held Saturday morning at the show.

As you might imagine owners haul in their stallions, set up booths and parlay their goods. It's a great time, usually accompanied with good food and coffee, an opportunity to run into friends and a chance meet key players in the industry, as well as see in the flesh a number of high profile stallions. Interesting viewpoints abound, and if you are a mare owner, or aspiring mare owner, it's a great chance to see “what's coming down the pipe,” as they say.

It's also an eminent opportunity to gather up a whole lot of swag.

Stallion swag that is.

Black gold.

Texas tea.

Something like that.

I have to be honest. The thrill of collecting stallion promotional items does run it's course after logging in a number of trips to the Avenue, however, this year, I gathered it all up, just one more time, for nostalgia's sake, and; to run it through this blog, and see whatcha' all think of it.

The things I do for you.

Just to be clear, I do not, and westernhorsereview.com does not in any way, shape or form remotely promote any of the stallions (or stallion stations), you're about to view in these photos. I'm here to showcase these promotional items, only as a variety of ideas for promoting your stallion.

Thanks to Teenager for organizing and setting up her own mini photography studio in the spare bedroom to properly choreograph two bags of scrunched up and suitcase-crammed items. I was so impressed with the result. She snapped some pretty innovative shots.

Like this one.

And this one. The kid has talent. If you need her to choreograph your next photo shoot, let me know. I'm hiring her out.

New this year were some really neat ideas.

This equine reproduction center went all out – water bottles, pens, cup holders, a four color promotional folder, and. . .

a fabulously sweet shortbread cookie, with their logo unforgettably emblazoned on the icing.

Well, until you ate it, that is.

A typical promotional package might include something like this:

Rather shouts out at you, doesn't it? It's bright, the message stands out and it's functional. Useable. In fact that seemed to be the theme of the stallion swag this year. Functionality.

Take this guy's package for instance: great cup holder, keychain flashlight and handy pen.

Not only that, but an embossed folder, stats sheet and fold-out CD piece.

Like, who's your daddy?

With the possibilities available on the internet and the proven shelf life of tried-and-true magazine advertising, I'm not sure how much of a slice of my promotional budget, full color brochures, folders and posters would hold. I'm in the business and I know how expensive this stuff is to produce. I'd have to question, who keeps it for longer than the drive home?

Other than hoarders.

And me. At least until spring cleaning day at the home office.

If I were breeding my mare to this stallion though, in that case, I'd hang on to it, and maybe pick up a few extra copies to give away later, when promoting the sale of the offspring.

One of my favourite pieces was this toque from Buffalo Ranch. What a great idea! These will get worn, not only because they are warm and cozy, but it's a cool and simple design, wearable by anyone. Not only out to the barn, but shows, the post office, grocery store. I see a lot of use in these toques, and a promotional reach far beyond a filing cabinet or desk.

Neat idea!

I hope you enjoyed a look at some of the promotional ideas abound in the stallion breeding world this year.

Speaking of stallion promotion, watch for Western Horse Review's first stallion edition, coming 'atcha in about two weeks!