Growing Your Horse Business — Free Ebook Preview

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Growing Your Horse Business – Ebook Preview Chapter

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How to Utilize Twitter’s List Feature for Business Success

A friend of mine recently mentioned to me that they had never before used the lists feature on Twitter. I was surprised, to say the least. I had always been under the impression that this feature was well-used, but after speaking to several fellow Twitter-using business owners, I learned this was not the case. That being said, I wanted to write up a quick post regarding the benefits of utilizing Twitter’s list feature for businesses.

List

What are Twitter Lists?

Twitter’s list feature is a method by which users can organize their followers, or users that they are following. When you click on a list you have created, only the tweets from those users on that list will be displayed. In this way, your feeds are more organized and less daunting to pick through.

How Can Your Business Benefit?

Aside from saving your media manager time sorting through the mass of tweets sent out on a daily basis, using the lists feature allows you to separate users into different categories. For instance, one list could be reserved for local businesses, another for out of state businesses, and a third for businesses located in other countries. A printing company might opt to sort the Twitter accounts of potential clients into their associated service sectors. The upcoming graphic designer could keep track of upcoming deals from various print shops by putting these shops into lists. As an added benefit, users have the option to make their lists public or private, meaning that the accounts you include won’t even know they are included unless you allow it. Keeping tabs on the competition without letting them know you’re doing so? Now that’s a sweet deal!

List Subscriptions

Moving beyond the obvious benefits, creating public lists is another way to drive traffic to your account and your business in general. Your business can subscribe to other lists, and users can subscribe to the lists you create. Perhaps your competition has a list of potential clients of their own, viewable to the public–subscribe to this list, and their list is now yours, saving you some time and effort searching for your own.

Do you use the lists feature? How have they helped your business?

How Pinterest Can Help Grow Your Horse Business

Pinterest is a bit of a newcomer in today’s social media craze, but since its launch in 2010, Pinterest has garnered an impressive following and has already proven itself a valuable business asset.  With well over 70 million users worldwide, Pinterest is definitely worth investigating if you are a business owner interested in expanding.  While much of what I am going to be writing about in this article can be applied to any small business, the focus here will be on equine businesses in particular.

What is Pinterest?

Wikipedia defines Pinterest as a photo-sharing website that allows users to organize theme-based galleries, or “boards.”  Therefore one of the first things to note about this website is that it is primarily, if not completely, focused on attractive visual displays.  Users can like or “pin” images posted by other users or businesses to certain boards, and follow boards that reflect their interests.

How Can Pinterest Help?

Rubix at Liberty
© 2014 Cinderhawk Creative
Thoroughbred gelding Rubix enjoying the snow.

When it comes to advertising, the horse industry is predominantly sight-based, meaning that a farm cannot advertise using text alone.  Images, particularly photographs, are a must, and as Pinterest focuses entirely on photos and graphics, this makes it an ideal match for equine businesses.  Below are a few specific industry areas that might benefit from a Pinterest account.

Breeding Farms

Have a photographer capture some truly outstanding images of your farm’s newest stallion.  In addition to the basic conformation shots, include some liberty shots as  well.  Once you have your photos, upload a few and pin them to an appropriately labeled board on your Pinterest account, i.e., “Stallions of ABC Farm.”  Attach some info to the photo including the stallion’s name, location, stud fee, and of course, your farm’s own contact information.  This will help search engines find your page and help bring in new clients.

Lesson Farms

If students in your lesson program are attending a high-rated show, ensure you have someone with you that can photograph them in the show ring when they look their best.  At the end of the day, collect all the ribbons, trophies, and any other winnings and capture a nice, well-lit photograph of them all together.  Pin these to your account and make sure everyone knows where your students were and how they did.  Include a link to your stable’s website to make sure potential customers know who trained those winners!

Non-Profits or Rescues

A cute or beautiful photo of a horse that needs a new home can go a long way on Pinterest, provided you let users know the horse is available and how to contact you in the image description.  Pinterest also makes it easy for non-profits to bring attention to fundraisers due to the ease with which they can pin photos of the products they are selling to raise money.  Users browsing Pinterest also spend an average of $100 more than Facebook users and $140 more than Twitter users.

Boarding Facilities

In keeping with the high-quality photo ideal that dominates Pinterest today, boarding facilities can also benefit from this website.  Farm owners can photograph their property and pin these images, along with location information, prices, contact info, and a link to their website in order to direct potential clients to their stables.

Additional Benefits for Horse Businesses

Not convinced?  Check out these last few bits of information to understand how having an account at Pinterest can truly prove beneficial to your equine business.

  • Almost 80% of horse owners in the United States are women, and roughly 70% of Pinterest users are also women (although as it grows, it is finally gaining popularity with men as well).  This means that Pinterest makes it relatively easy for horse-related businesses to reach their target market.
  • Pinterest is extremely friendly to mobile devices.  This means that you can upload and pin from anywhere–even at that A-circuit show between classes.
  • Since its creation in 2010, Pinterest’s web traffic has grown more than 66%.  It also drives more traffic to websites than Twitter, Google+, Youtube, and Linkedin combined.  Because the horse industry thrives in areas that may lack high-speed internet, choosing the network that drives the most internet traffic in the least amount of time is a wise decision.
  • You can pin videos as well as photos.
  • Businesses can set up boards to allow “guest pinners,” meaning that family who bought the star show horse you trained can keep you updated and spread the word about your horse training services!

Have you used Pinterest to promote your business?  How did it work out?  Tell us about it!  Leave a comment or follow this blog, like us on Facebook, or tweet @Cinderhawk.  Happy Pinning!

The Introverted Business Owner

Let’s face it:  being a business owner is difficult.  Anyone who has ever tried to own a business, or even help someone else run a business, is bound to agree with those 6 simple words.  If you’re lucky, you’ll have a clear plan and a decent head on your shoulders with which to follow that plan and bring your dreams to fruition.  If you’re even luckier, you’ll do all that without having to think twice about whether or not you actually can do that.  Enter the rest of us, the introverts, who want to own and run a business but whose fear of speaking up and putting ourselves “out there” regularly tries to hinder our success.

With one of the biggest horse-related trade shows in the nation already under way for 2013, I felt it necessary to write this post.  As a business owner, I know that Equine Affaire is my “big chance,” so to speak, to gather customers from my target market and raise awareness of my company.  My problem is, like so many others, that I am an introvert.

An introvert is defined by the dictionary as, “a shy, reticent, person.”  This definition often goes hand-in-hand with those of us who fear judgment and rejection.  The combination of these personality traits can cause some serious issues when they are placed in the mind of a business-owner-to-be.  These qualities make selling difficult, and without the ability to sell, a business does not have much hope of surviving.  You know what you have to do in order to market your company.  Act like an extrovert!  Be outgoing, bold, and push aside those unwelcome fears of rejection!  People only buy products or services from bold, confident salespeople, right?

In fact, I am here to argue why that is, in fact, quite untrue.

I am not a pushy person.  I fear negotiation.  I have a tendency to get quite depressed after losing a sale.  I’m terrible at small talk, and I am constantly, unflinchingly aware of what other people are doing and what they think of me.  I know that what I have to say is correct, or important, or necessary, but that unrelenting fear of rejection and judgment makes me bite my tongue. I need that extra reassurance that I am doing the right thing.  I can communicate quite confidently in writing because I have no one in front of me to observe.  In person, my statements will fluctuate based upon a client’s every minuscule reaction, but in writing, my knowledge is firm and I have no one to adjust anything for.  I simply write what I know and experience.  Starting this blog was perhaps the best decision I made for myself, because it has allowed me to get my thoughts out into the public forum and the public has, in return, reassured me through their comments, likes, and follows that what I am doing is helpful.  Call it an ego-booster, if you will, but it has helped me immensely in my business interactions.

Building confidence in yourself and your business is the first step in helping that business to succeed.  For me, I find that confidence through the reactions of others.  It may not be the best way to go about things, but if you can make it work for you, why not?  There is nothing wrong with building your business around customer satisfaction.  Other individuals may stomp and whine and argue that your method is completely wrong and you will never succeed using that model, and no doubt that ugly judgment monster will immediately show up and demand you follow the stomper’s lead.  Resist the urge.  No one knows your business better than you.

The next step is to get out there and practice selling.  I am currently in this stage.  I don’t talk to strangers.  I don’t open up to people easily.  The fact that you’re even reading this article is a miracle in itself (but if you’re following this blog, you can consider yourself a great help since you’re one of the “reactions of others” people I was talking about needing earlier!).  I don’t want to seem annoying.  I don’t want to be pushy.  I want to sell people the services they need at a price they can afford, but still make enough to live comfortably.  Extroverts will seek clients out through cold-calls and bluffs, and ultimately may wind up gaining their business a less-than-favorable reputation.  You, however, as an introvert, have the opportunity to build a real rapport with a client.  I, for one, tend to trust the quiet person who smiles and hands me a business card over the one who throws his arm around my shoulder and leads me off to the car I don’t want to buy.  Honesty is always the best policy, in my eyes.

The last step is slightly easier than the first two, and that is to maintain relationships with the clients you’ve managed to take in.  If you communicate better through writing, consider a weekly or monthly newsletter or regular social media updates where your customers can see them.  If you are a firm believer in face-to-face interaction, but are still uncomfortable making small talk, consider a video blog.  There are numerous ways to maintain a relationship with a client, but the most important fact is that you do so with a strategy consistent to the one you cultivated in the first two steps.  That is, if you are built around customer satisfaction, be sure to regularly check up on your customers to find out what you can do to increase their satisfaction even more.  If you are built around quality products or services, find ways to improve that quality further.

I will be the first to admit that not only did I actually take these steps in a completely different order, but I am not finished yet.  I had an idea of what I wanted to do several years in the future, but my business came into existence with 3 days’ notice and no real intention for it to ever continue beyond that first weekend photographing up in Plattsburgh.  In short, I was thrown into the “selling” portion right off the bat, which then helped me to build confidence through customer reaction, and now I am working on building and maintaining relationships–in addition to practicing selling for different service areas of my company.

My point is, you never know how things are going to work out.  BUT, just because you are an introverted person does NOT mean you cannot help your business to succeed.  It has been very difficult for me, and still is, to really get CHC out of the water.  But, thanks to a combination of factors and experiences which I have described to you above, I am now confident in my company and myself, and expect things to only get better from here on out.  Don’t fight what you were born with.  Embrace it!  The longer you work towards something, the harder it is to give up.  Sometimes, this is just what a business needs.

Interested in learning more?  Find me on Twitter @Cinderhawk or leave a comment!

4 Quick Tips to Maximize the Benefit of Client Testimonials

Client testimonials are a powerful tool in obtaining additional projects.  I’ve often heard from individuals that are uncomfortable asking their customers for testimonials, and so, they tend to have more difficulty getting their business to grow.  I cannot stress enough how big of a loss it is for a business to lack visible client testimonials on their website or on any marketing materials.  In this post I will briefly cover some tips on how to not only gather endorsements, but how to maximize the benefits of having such testimonials displayed where potential customers can see them.

1.  Create a customer experience survey

If you are bothered by the prospect of asking a client to write a testimonial for your business, consider writing up a customer experience or customer satisfaction survey and emailing it to your client following the completion of a project.  Include a question that lets the customer choose whether or not their responses can be used as a testimonial for marketing purposes.  Try not to wait too long after a project to send the survey to them, as they may forget key details of their experience that might just mean the difference between a good testimonial a great one.

2.  Pay attention to their emails

If you have a really happy customer and they have told you so through email, make use of them!  Arrange the words into something from which your business can benefit if they are not already in such a form, and then send them to the client for proofing and permission before using them.

3.  Get their endorsement on camera

Video testimonials are a growing trend, and with good reason.  They are less likely to be perceived as something the business itself staged, and adding a face to any recommendation is beneficial.  Well-presented videos may also strike customers as more professional and give the impression that you are willing to spend the time necessary to achieve quality results.  Asking your client a few short questions (perhaps the same ones you used in your email survey) will help keep things on track–just make sure they are tying the question into their answer so your viewers understand what was being asked.

4.  Make sure they are visible

Video testimonial or written testimonial alike, neither will do your business any good if they cannot be easily seen!  Ensure you are placing them in strategic locations that are not too overwhelming for potential customers, but that they are able to easily see.  In short, websites that place a testimonial in 70pt font on their homepage may be seen as more annoying or desperate than the company that places their endorsement in the sidebar.

What sort of methods does your business utilize when trying to attract customers with testimonials?  Do you agree with or can you expand on the tips listed above?  Leave us a comment!