Horse Industry – I’m Looking At You!
(Disclaimer: If you’re a sensitive petal – you may take offence at what’s to follow. But please note, this post is intended to help you, with a little tough love.)
Many of you will know that once upon a time, I ran an eCommerce store. In fact, I ran that business for around 10 years, selling horse products. We even opened up a physical store – which flopped. Big time flopped.
(Primarily because we naively over-estimated the local area! Small country town, too many big competitors 10 minutes away, etc.)
But that flop, led to me finding this passion, and so we sold the eCommerce store too this year, so I could concentrate fully on this – Copywriting and marketing strategy. Yay!
But, those 10 years, selling horse products (think saddles, bridles, horse brushes, horse vitamins etc.) taught me a hell of a lot about marketing and eCommerce.
Because I was literally it. My husband and I grew that business from nothing. And while hubby did a lot of the daily order packing and posting – primarily the marketing and content and blog writing and social media and strategy was down to me.
And, it became quite a successful little business and brand (and hopefully will continue to grow further with the new owners). It did indeed reach six figures – which wasn’t too bad as for at least 7 of those years it was a part-time side hustle.
Something that always really frustrated me though, was the ‘marketing style’ utilised throughout the horse industry.
When we first started the business, there wasn’t a whole heap of competition in the horse industry, when it came to GOOD eCommerce websites. There were a few decent businesses who did ok online, but their websites sucked. I worked in the corporate world, managing website content, and after a stint at Officeworks, fell in love with eCommerce.
Everything I learnt there, then got transferred to our business and website, which pretty much put us at the forefront of technology (which really wasn’t common in the horse world at the time).
These days though, technology and building good eCommerce websites is far easier, with plug-n-play platforms such as Shopify or BigCommerce. You simply pick a template, throw your logo on top, upload your product details – and you’re ready to sell. These ready-made templates are already well optimised to convert and get the sales (although there is still some skill involved in optimising templates and designs properly!).
As a result, every man, woman (and horse), now seems to have their own online horse shop. And while some horse websites are still pretty terrible, many of them are quite decent as these eCommerce platforms are so accessible and easy to use.
That however, is not the problem. Good luck to anyone who has a dream and does their best to start a business, I say. Particularly if they’re following a passion.
The problem, and the thing that frustrates me the most, is the fact that the vast majority of these online horse stores (many of whom are fantastic, with great service and great products) really do suck at marketing.
Their entire strategy it seems is to plaster as many ‘buy now’ messages across each and every horse related Facebook group, that they can possibly find.
And that my friend, is the only strategy they employ.
And that, is not an effective, nor long term strategy. No sir-ee – it sure isn’t.
These days, all the horse related Facebook groups I’m a member of, the vast majority of posts are from desperate business owners flooding the pages with their latest products or their incredible sale prices, and they all literally say – ‘buy now’, ‘buy me’, ‘get it now’ etc.
And when they share something to one horse group, they commonly share the exact same sales posts in about 10 other groups at the same time too.
Aka – they spam groups – and call it ‘marketing’.
Trouble is – this is not sophisticated marketing. It’s desperate marketing. And unless you find that odd person, who either a) sees something they like and purchases on a whim or b) has a real need for that product at that precise moment – you won’t necessarily get too far like that.
Plus, then, you head on over to their actual Facebook business pages. There you’ll generally find a combination of ‘buy now’, ‘look at us aren’t we fabulous in our new designer horse riding clothes – feel free to buy them too’, ‘funny horse meme’, ‘here’s our new products – aren’t they great’. And that’s about it.
Pretty much every second post is product related or sales related trying to get their audience to buy something – with the token few, supposed-to-be-hilarious, post shares too.
But these days, that’s not how marketing works.
You can’t just flood people with you-focussed messages and expect them to fall at your feet to buy what you have.
You can’t TELL people how amazing your products are – you need to SHOW them instead.
You can’t TELL people to buy your stuff ‘cause you think it’s awesome – they get flooded with 90 billion other businesses saying the same thing. Possibly, with the exact same products.
Your chances of winning that random game of luck, is slim. Horribly slim!
People now switch off to ‘buy now’ messages and Facebook group spam.
They get too much of that, so it’s no longer effective.
Chances are, they’ll scroll right on past.
Consumers expect more from the businesses they buy from.
Consumers expect you to GIVE them something, before you ASK them for something.
They want to KNOW who they are buying from. And why they should buy from you.
They want to form a genuine connection to the people behind a business, the ethos or principals behind a business – and to know that you actually understand them and their needs.
Yes, they also want good products at reasonable prices. However, and as much as I might cop it for saying this, most horse people are really quite cheap. They will happily go elsewhere if they get to save a whole 50 cents on something. Harsh I know, but believe me, I have enough experience to know.
Because there is so much choice out there in each and every marketplace and industry – you need to do something different, that makes you stand out.
So that they’re willing to spend the extra 50 cents buying from you. Or simply choosing you out of the hundreds of other similar businesses out there.
How do you do that?
By helping your customers first. Offering plenty of value in the form of expert education and tips. Blog posts that inspire, engage and help your customer to solve a pressing problem they have. Social media posts that also inspire, engage, help and entertain your audience.
And then there is another layer to that.
There is no point in writing content or marketing messages that are plain and boring. Larger companies can get away with boring scientific facts – but your advantage as a small business owner is that you can get personal.
You can in fact get massive amounts of attention, simply by being clever with your marketing, and injecting your unique personality and opinions into your content.
In doing that – you attract people who resonate with your message.
And when you have those people really engaged and totally connected with who you are, and what your business represents – they’ll buy from you again and again, without you even having to shout a single ‘buy now’.
They’ll automatically come to you, the moment they need something for themselves or their horses – or whatever it is that you sell.
Sure, back up those product descriptions with the science stuff or the factual information – but lead with the emotion and show that you truly get your customers wants, needs and desires.
HELP THEM! BE RELATEABLE! If you’re a horse business – help them to look after their horses better, help them to become better riders.
And don’t be afraid to be you. Don’t be afraid to do something different.
And please, just stop spamming the Facebook groups in the desperate hope that you might get a few sales. Sure, you might get the odd couple of sales from those posts – but then you have nothing else, until the next time you repeat the process.
And if you try to promote the same products, to the same people, over and over again – they’ll switch off, get annoyed and you’ll never get another sale again.
Don’t burn your audience out. Engage with them first.
That’s not to say you can’t drop the occasional product link or special offer in Facebook groups – sometimes it really does help lure in a few new customers – but don’t rely on it as your one and only strategy.
How To Create A Marketing Strategy That Works Long-Term.
To summarise this incredibly valuable and informative article…spamming Facebook groups is NOT a sophisticated marketing strategy. It’s desperate, and it’s totes annoying.
You need to play a smarter game, if you want to be in business for the long haul. And particularly, if you want consistent and regular sales through your online business – so it actually helps to feed your family on a regular basis (not just on the odd occasion when you shout 20% off in Facebook groups).
Here’s a few tips for you:
On social media – 80% of your content should be helpful, educational, engaging or entertaining. Just 20% of your content should be directly sales related.
Write amazing blog posts. About your horses (or any topic related to your business). About you. About things that matter to you. Etc.
Communicate like a real person – and like you. Any marketing or nurture content you produce, needs to be friendly, down-to-earth, relatable and as quirky as you feel the need to be. Pretend your customers are your friends – and speaketh to your friends, dude!
Make sure you have an email database. And email them regularly. Forget any notions of fancy graphics with these – just chat to your peeps like you would email a mate.
If you need help designing, planning or implementing my brilliant advice, feel free to get in touch. Always happy to offer my expert eyes, on your business, so you too, can have a long-term, sophisticated business that pays the bills. I currently have a special on where I help you by coming up with 8 blog post topics, to guide your content marketing efforts. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.