Top 10 Marketing Tips For Equine Businesses
Marketing in the equestrian arena has changed drastically over the past few years. This is an industry steeped in tradition and which has been slow to grab hold of the world wide web as a solid marketing platform. With catalogs and print campaigns still able to pull in substantial sales, much more so than many other powerful industries (automotive, technology, clothing, for example), equine businesses have backed away from investing large amounts of marketing resources on the web. But with a growing number of riders, horse related businesses, and equestrian aficionados spending time on social media and searching for equestrian products and services online, it is quickly becoming clear that the internet is a lucrative resource worthy of attention. A business that gains solid placement on Google and other valuable web portals can reach a large number of focused web users.
The majority of business owners understand that their business web presence could benefit from greater exposure and that they need to partake in social media marketing, but with thousands of sites and limited resources the question is where should businesses in the equine marketplace invest their time?
As a full service marketing firm, we suggest that you consider investing your valuable time in the Top 10 Marketing Tips described below to help better promote your business in the equine marketplace.
1. Google Plus (Google+) For Authorship and Community
If we could look into the future I would place my bet on Google+ becoming the most important marketing portal on the web. It is no secret that around 80% of all web sales somehow filter through Google search. So when our company starts creating a web marketing campaign for a client, we start with Google. Google+ was Google’s attempt at creating a social environment similar to Facebook, only what they built has ten times the marketing power of any other social media portal. With one Gmail account you can build a Google+ profile page, a local business profile (business profile that appears next to a local map in a search), a YouTube channel, a blogger blog and, importantly, all of these web properties can interact seamlessly to market your business. Google Hangouts allows Google+ users to interact live via web cam and conduct webinars and video chats creating a valuable tool for building rapport with clients and running webinars.
The most important part of Google+ is that it can help build your authority with Google through ‘Authorship’. As an author you gain several marketing benefits when your web site appears in a Google search your photo appears next to the results (see photo above). In a world of spammy marketing and get-rich-quick websites, the value of real person, with a real profile and a real phone number can result in far more clicks than a competitor’s site. Authorship gives you power. The more articles and blog posts you attach to your Google+ and ‘author’ the more your value grows.
Authorship and Google+ may be the most underutilized and powerful web marketing tool for the equestrian market.
2. Facebook For Marketing – Where Are The Horse Professionals Going?
I don’t know anyone who does not have a Facebook account and they are as commonplace as halters and lead ropes. But speaking with our clients, I have yet to meet anyone who understands how to use Facebook to market their business effectively. Facebook is a social community and it has to be treated like a social environment. Less than 2% of Facebook users will ever leave Facebook to go to a business web site. Pushing products directly will have low conversion rates.
Shares’ and ‘Likes” are very different and it is important to know the difference between them. ‘Likes’ are easy to gain because the value of them is low. A ‘share’ on the other hand means that somebody liked your post enough that they are willing to put it on their page for all of their friends, family, and coworkers to see. People are not going to share junk and if whatever they share has their name behind it, it is as though they are standing up and voting for it in a public arena. People notice shares, Google notices shares, and business owners should pay close attention to which posts are being shared. The goal of posting on Facebook is to have your post shared as many times as possible.
Understand why someone would be willing to leave a social environment filled with friends and family, interaction, and entertaining photos to go to a web site. Rarely will anyone leave a site to view a product page unless it is incredibly creative or unique. The two reasons the majority of people will click away from Facebook is if they believe that the link will take them someplace that will better their lives or offer them a more entertaining environment to hang out in. Social media leads to more social media. Traffic data tells us that Facebook users are quick to click on exciting news content or other social sites such as Evite, Twitter, Flickr, and cafemom.com. The other reason for leaving Facebook is for informative content. An article on ‘how to better care for your horse’ or ‘The latest supplement professional riders are using’ will generate far more traffic than a product because there is a personal reward for improving the knowledge about a topic in a field the user loves. There is a personal benefit to leaving Facebook to read the article.
Use this knowledge of Facebook user behavior to your advantage. Place well-written articles on your web site that offer good information. Not just information about your product or service, but interesting and valuable information that will provide useful knowledge for free. Then post a link to this article on Facebook to drive traffic off of Facebook to your web site. In your article mention your product, have navigation to your product page but make sure the article is 95% information and only %5 sales copy. Facebook is a valuable resource for gaining traffic to your web site once you understand what people will click on.
3. Twitter, 140 Characters Of Pure Marketing Power
You might be asking why mini posts of 140 characters in length could have any marketing power. It is time to pay attention to your focused elevator speech to spread your message. The truth is, Twitter will send very little, if any, traffic to your web site and very few people will actually read what you Tweet. This sounds a little depressing and may leave you asking where the real value is with Twitter.
The benefit of using Twitter effectively is that it can help raise your ranking in search engines. The higher you rank in search engines, the more traffic you acquire. Traffic turns into sales. More followers, more Tweets, and more activity (Re-Tweets) on your Twitter account can benefit your business. The formula for success on Twitter is:
– Get as many Twitter followers as possible.
– When you post a Tweet include your full URL to one of your web pagesUse a keyword hashtag that is relevant
– Let’s do an example to make this as simple as possible. Your business sells tack and you have a sale on SMB Horse Boots.
A good tweet would look something like this:
“30% off all SMB Boots this month only. Check out our offer at http:www.yourstore.com/SMB-Boots.html #SMBBoots”
Notice the full URL which search engines like (Do Not use shortened URLs), the hashtag that is a major keyword people may use to search for your product, and an enticing offer that no rider could ignore. J
4. Content Designed To Drive Horse Professionals
The experts say that “content is king” and this has never been more true than with the current state of online marketing. Original content is rewarded by search engines and duplicate content is penalized. What? A penalty? Yes, Google penalizes web sites that do not follow their guidelines. There are actually many reasons why Google would penalize a site, but to prevent your site from getting bull whipped and keep it in front of equestrian consumers, it is essential to have original and unique content on your web site.
What does original actually mean? The simple rule of thumb is that if content already appears on another site, you should not put it on your site. This includes press releases, large blocks of quoted content, and product descriptions pulled from a manufacturer’s site. If your web site contains a shopping cart full of products, each product has a description accompanying it, and that same product description appears on 10 other sites that sell the same product, then you have duplicate content. Write original descriptions for each of your products and, if this is not possible, then each product needs to have an original review of that product which is 2 or 3 times the word count of the duplicate product description. The majority of content on your web page must be unique.
Informative content is what sells. Gone are the days of pushing products and expecting products to be the driving force for web users to visit your site. There is an expectation from consumers, especially in niche markets, that a web site will contain insightful information as well as products. Good informative content is rewarded by Google, but the reward filters into higher conversions through building rapport with site visitors.
As an example, let’s say that your web site sells horse blankets. Your shopping cart contains twenty different products from various brands. Create an accompanying page with content describing personal use of these blankets, how they reacted in different climates and weather conditions, a price vs. quality analysis of each, and how horses reacted to each blanket. This kind of content builds rapport with buyers, establishes the sellers credibility in the market, and provides information that educates the consumer so that they can make a better buying decision.
Content is king and good content will sell products as well as help your site rank higher on search engines.
5. Press Releases To Build Equine Readership
This may sound like a traditional form of marketing and most of our clients shy away from press releases because, well… they don’t have anything happening in their business that is really press worthy. Let’s start by throwing out all of your preconceived ideas about press releases and think about them in an entirely new light.
Online press releases work to both drive traffic to your web site and to raise your rankings in search engines. I am not interested in getting your press release to appear in a local newspaper because the amount of traffic that it generates will be incredibly small and the shelf-life of a newspaper release is very short. An online press release continues to generate web traffic for months and helps to establish your business as an authority in the equestrian marketplace.
The Big Question: What do I write a press release about?
The goal of a press release is to have content so enticing that other people in the equine market will post it on their blogs or web sites spreading your release across the web. If a link to your site is in your press release, then it could potentially drive traffic to your web site and help your rankings in search engines. A new product, a company sale, or hiring a new employee may be exciting for your company, but quite frankly nobody else will care. The truth is, unless the top rider in the country endorses your business, a press release about your company is not going to be picked-up by anyone. But, I can find exciting horse related content when I go to Google News and search for equestrian news. Piggy-Back off of this exciting news and use it to help promote your company.
Here is an example. Assume for a moment that you own a tack shop and you want to send out a press release to generate more traffic to your web site. Let’s say that last week was the Kentucky Derby, which would make for a hot topic. Look at all of the riders, what tack was employed in the race (which brands?), and if your store sells this same brand, you can write an article about the race, about the training, about quality equipment, about attention to detail, and include a quote from your company about that specific brand. The press release is not about your company, but is about a newsworthy event… and you are establishing yourself as an industry authority by using a quote from yourself. After the quote include a citation. (John Smith, owner of www.yourwebsitename.com, a leading provider of quality riding products, was quoted in a post-race interview on Oct 12, 2013).
The press release will get picked-up because the topic is timely and important to the equestrian market, it has your link in it, and it established your business as an industry authority. As one can see, topics for press releases become easy to generate.
6. Blogging Your Way Into The Hearts Of Equestrian Readers
This falls back into the earlier discussion about quality content designed specifically for the equestrian market. Thousands of blogs are started each day but the majority of these lose steam and are left for dead. Recent studies show that over 90% of blogs on the web have not been updated in over 6 months. Google rewards quality content and people like to read valuable articles about horses. Writing good content about a topic, relating it to your business service or product, providing links to your products, and then syndicating that content to generate traffic is a marketing model that increases sales, builds rapport with readers, and grows Google authorship. (see Google+ content above).
The real key to a successful blog is a focused following of targeted equine readers. Syndicating the content, multiplying traffic through social media channels, and generating a flow of visitors through search engines will establish your blog as a valuable resource. One of the most overlooked and powerful marketing tools that can be employed within blog posting is multi-media. Understand that not everyone likes to acquire information in the same format. Some prefer to read content, others would rather watch a video, and some would prefer a podcast or photographs. With a WordPress or Joomla blog designed for optimal search engine recognition, your business can reach a wide range of targeted equestrian web users.
7. A Quality Web Site Equals Quality Customers
This may be one of most important factors in your online marketing. It may seem obvious, yet I am always surprised at the number of errors and how out-dated the web sites are that I see online. There are two major topics of discussion pertaining to the quality of your web site.
Outdated: Technology is increasing at an alarming rate and most larger businesses update their web site once a year. This may seem as though it is a little much, but the truth is that an outdated web site hurts your marketing power both with conversion rates and with the search engines. As technology changes so do the expectations of consumers. The latest bells and whistles are expected and if your company cannot provide the best sales environment, your competitor surely will. A key component of successful web sites is that it is mobile friendly allowing easy accessibility through many hand-held devices. This is important for businesses with a store front doing local marketing.
Accountability: Google has a quality score it uses to help determine how your site ranks. If your business web site does not include the specific attributes that Google is looking for your web site will drop. There are some very simple things which you can add to a web site and if a company wants to gain higher placement in a Google search within the equine market, these items are a must.
- About Us page with the date the business was started, location, and number of employees.
- A phone number in the footer and on the contact page
- A mailing address in the footer and on the contact page
- Social media share buttons that show the number of people who have shared the site on social media. Not just links to your Social media profiles but share buttons that show how many people shared that specific page.
- If you sell products, a return policy is required.
8. YouTube Video For Top Ranking
As technology increases and home internet speeds get faster, video is becoming a powerful sales tool on the web. The most popular video sharing portal is YouTube. Its popularity has grown because of its ease-of-use and the fact that it is owned by Google. For businesses marketing products and services, there is a limited number of space available on a Google search results page. Most businesses are pretty happy with a top five listing in Google, but YouTube videos are very easy to rank. This provides an opportunity for a business to own more than one spot with their content. Imagine owning two of the top five results for a major search term? Your web site can rank high and your YouTube video can also rank high. Occupying an extra spot in the top five search results simply means that you have grabbed a traffic generating spot that your competitor cannot occupy. More Google real estate equals more traffic and ultimately more sales.
As a marketing company we understand that Google can make or break a company. Therefore, if Google likes something, then we like it to. Since YouTube is owned by Google, it is natural that Google would like YouTube videos. Take advantage of this power to position your business in front of a large audience of equestrian web users.
9. Don’t Forget About Local Marketing
Whether your business functions in a local or national market there are benefits to building a local presence. You may not have a storefront or even want walk-in visitors to your business location, but setting up Local Business Profiles can establish you as a solid business. In an internet world filled with fly-by-night companies, unscrupulous vendors and shady businesses, Google rewards companies that make their contact information readily available. Not only is transparency and trust valued by Google, but consumers purchase far more products from companies willing to make their contact details easily accessible. Local Business Profiles allow consumers to post reviews about your service and positive reviews help build your search engine placement and creates confidence with consumers.
If your business is a brick and mortar store with walk-in visitors, then the value of Local Business Profiles is even greater. These local listings show up in a Google search next to a local map allowing consumers to easily find your store. As the use of mobile devices continues to rise, so does the number of searches for local businesses.
A lot of our equestrian clients approach us already having several local business profiles appearing on the web for their business. Often the phone numbers are wrong or other business information is incorrect and outdated. Oftentimes business profiles are created automatically using information from sources such as the Yellow pages or local directories. If the information is not 100% correct on all of the public business profiles, it can result in search engines losing trust in both your business and your web site. It is crucial to own each Local Business profile, have the login information for each account and keep track of what is posted.
10. Targeted Print Advertising For Client Acquisition
As much as we love the web for marketing we understand that print marketing is still a viable source for generating sales and interest for a business. With a media barrage at every news stand or even at your local tack shop, creativity is becoming more important. Graphic design that jumps off of a page and screams a message is necessary to stand apart from the crowd. One of the most important aspects of print marketing is understanding exactly what your ideal customer is reading. Just because ‘Horse & Rider’ is one of the most popular equestrian magazines does not make it the ideal magazine for your business to market in. This is where your marketing company can help. They should know what the demographics are for each publication and be able to reduce your advertising costs while positioning your ad for optimal viewing.
Never underestimate the importance of a good logo design and business collateral to brand your business. For many people a business card, flyer, or mailing will be the first interaction with your company. This media will either end up in the trash or spur on a website visit or phone call.
Contact Equine Marketing Success today to learn how we can help generate traffic and revenue for you business.