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Blue Ribbon Consulting

"Good Horsemanship is Built on Solid Basics...So is Good Business!"

Business & Association Development, Marketing, Professional Workshops forthe Horse Industry



Marketing Strategies And The Internet
By Lisa Derby Oden

Question: As a new retail business serving the equine industry, I am in a
strong growth phase and am spending 10% of gross receipts for marketing.
Thus far I have advertised in both regional and national equine
publications, local newspapers, radio, television, and also offer a
newsletter and catalog (mail order). While these have helped to create an
industry awareness of my business, I am wondering if a web site on the
Internet would serve me well. I am not completely technologically
challenged, however I have not ventured into that arena and am left
wondering what, if anything, I am missing.

Response: Congratulations for having made a solid commitment to your
marketing by allocating 10% of your gross receipts. By establishing a base
amount, you will look at your marketing efforts seriously as you experiment
and try to decide where your money is best spent. It is a wise business
person who tries to track results as a means of strategizing where to do
more and where to cut back.
The key here is in understanding who your market is. By understanding
their characteristics, you can formulate a plan of how best to reach them. A
general rule of thumb is to segment your market into its various components.
No one description will fit your whole market. You may a have primary
market, and then several secondary markets. For example, you may serve hunt
seat riders as your primary market, with secondary markets in dressage and
eventing.
If you have been in business for a year or two, you are developing a
deeper understanding of your market. Undoubtedly, like most businesses, you
are looking to build customer loyalty, and thus repeat business. You have
some baseline information to go from. This information includes what items
are selling best for you, who buys most frequently, items you don't stock
that you should, how far are they traveling to buy from you, and how did
they hear about you.
How do you convert this information into a marketing strategy? J.
Conrad Levinson, author of Guerilla Marketing book series, suggests a
sensible approach. He recommends breaking your marketing focus into three
groups: your clients, your prospects, and the unknown market/world at large.
Spend 60% of your budget on your clients, 30% on your prospects, and 10% on
the unknown market. If people have bought from you once and are happy they
will come back again. They are your biggest asset, so it makes sense to
dedicate the bulk of your budget here. And it costs much less to bring a
happy customer back than to start from scratch trying to attract someone
that has never heard of you.
You will also work to increase your market share. This is accomplished
by spending the next biggest percentage of your marketing budget in this
area. You are inducing people to come give you a try, rather than buying at
their usual place. So you are trying to lure business away from the
competition. If the competition has not been vigilant in its customer
service, prospects will be glad to have new shopping horizons.
Finally, you don't want to neglect the unknown market. Although this
group is the largest, your opportunity to turn your marketing efforts into
buying customers is greatly reduced. Attracting a customer here is akin to
someone finding you in the yellow pages and then immediately coming to shop.
Generally speaking, it takes many repeated exposures to your business name
for someone to come look. And looking doesn't always mean buying, though it
might on the next trip. The point to all of this is that you must
strategize your marketing, and you must realize that you can direct your
marketing to moving people from the 10% group to the 30% group to the 60%
group.
The horse community is made up of 80% recreational riders, the
remaining 20% professionals. The professionals work very long days out in
the barn, out in the ring, and in the saddle. It is difficult at best for
this group to spend alot of time in front of a computer surfing the
internet. The recreational riders, however, have more time to conduct such
explorations. Technology is part of our culture and is here to stay. It
continues to advance in many amazing ways. The generation being raised now
is technologically literate. Since part of the services you offer include a
newsletter and catalog, this removes locational market barriers. These
services would make a great web site.
Build technology into your long-term development plans. You can get
started by surfing around the internet yourself. Do your homework and
investigate the wide variety of options and costs for you to have a presence
on the internet. Investigate costs for having a web site and see how you
will fit this into your budget. Will you eliminate some apparently
non-producing modes you have now, or will you expand your marketing budget?
By getting on the internet you are opening another channel of communication.
You will probably reach some of the same people you reach now, but you have
expanded your range to include the whole world. (Have you worked up a
shipping policy for international markets?) Again, you will want to try to
track your results. Try to determine how much of your marketing budget will
go to this media. Is this going to dwarf your other media choices? How many
people (prospects) contact you because they saw it on the web? How many
people (clients) buy? And remember the power television marketing has had
on kids, who then influence their parents. The same is true for the
internet.

(Lisa Derby Oden has been providing business development, marketing, and association consulting services to the horse industry since 1995. Oden is author of "Growing Your Horse Business" and "Bang For Your Buck: Making $ense of Marketing For Your Horse Business."  She is the 1999 AHC Van Ness Award recipient for outstanding service to the horse industry. She can be reached at: (603)878-1694; email at Lisa@horseconsulting.com; or visit her
website at www.horseconsulting.com)



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