How are you going to make money from your customers to afford to pay for your horses? I don't wake up every morning thinking to myself "how am I going to advertise". I wake up every day and ask myself, "How I am going to make money for X horse show, for the farrier on X date, and for the rent due on X date".
Your lesson prices are not determined by your worth. If you are starting out, please don't charge your worth, or you will have empty pockets and a stack of bills. Lesson prices are set by the rules of basic economics, which is supply and demand. You can charge your "worth" if you have special qualifications and certifications, but again, that is also modified by supply and demand. For example, if you're a Grand Prix dressage trainer in Southern Pines, your credentials may be very high but the market is flooded with trainers there so you will have to charge less than your worth to maintain business.
On the flip side. You could be a young trainer just starting out that really doesn't have a lot of experience. You could potentially charge more if there weren't any other competitors in your market, even if your qualifications aren't that high.
To baseline your lesson prices with similar trainers and qualifications isn't always an accurate projection of YOUR LOCAL ECONOMY, and unless you have clients sending you nice horses from out of state, you should be most concerned about the expendable income in your hometown.
ITS NOT ABOUT YOUR WORTH, ITS ABOUT WHAT YOUR CUSTOMER IS WILLING TO AND CAN AFFORD TO PAY!!! I cannot emphasize this enough. It's not about your worth, but it's about what the customer is willing to pay. There are some amazing and fantastic marketing gurus in my town that I would LOVE to take classes with, but I am priced out of their rates. If it was $50 or $60 a sit down I would be all over it, but instead it's over $200, which is an expense I can't justify with my current income - but they are worth every penny they are charging, I just can't afford that much!
The two biggest factors that will always determine whether YOU get the business or someone else does are price and location. Your price has to be less than your competitors, and your location has to be more convenient (less traffic!) than your competitors. If you're at the disadvantage (less convenient) then you will have to charge less even though your qualifications might be more.
The other mitigating factors are qualifications and personality. Have you ever ridden with a grand prix trainer that's an A-hole? Yeah, great qualifications and not so great bedside manner? What about the person that is lacking in credentials but pretty nice and fun to be around? Where do you think people are going to go? How do you think the grand prix trainer is going to rate herself on the self-worth scale of charging? How do you think the less qualified but nice person is going to rank herself on the "self-worth" scale? These are all the factors that you need to sit down and determine (along with overhead expenses, and also how many lessons you and your horses can realistically teach in a week) before setting your lesson prices.
Always offer your customers three options and hope they choose the middle or upper option.
If you're just starting out and need to bring in more business through lessons (cash flow) GROUPON is a great way to bring in new customers and get your name out there along with Facebook boosted posts to your target demo.
As you build your business you can raise your prices and give yourself a raise, but I would highly recommend going in low at the beginning until you have enough street credential to raise your prices.
I understand that you are hungry, cold, and tired and spent all day taking care of horses when you were supposed to be riding, training, and selling the horse. The SECRET to being successful in the horse industry is time management. Know what you are excellent at, and be gentle and accept yourself for who you are in the areas that you know you don't have the time of day to be perfect in. You can't have it all!!!
Today I am going to give you all my best tips on how to get that sale video and photo done with inexperienced help. Plan on this being your one and only shot to get sale video and photo done. It probably is, because if you're begging for mom or grandma or your twelve year old student to take video you will not, I repeat will not, have reliable help to do it again next week if you make any mistakes.
Let's talk about you first. If you are super woman (or superman) then you should probably clean all your tack and shine up your boots the night before. If you are NOT super woman, don't fret, just take a hard brush or rag to your boots, but definitely make sure they are clean. Wear a nice shirt and breeches that make you pop!
For the horse, obviously make sure it's clean. But don't make excuses if it's winter and a grey horse - just put the horse in a teeth whitening app at the end of the photo shoot and brighten it. You're welcome! Make sure the horse has a nice set of polos on. I have one set of sale polos/pads that I use. They are white, and I use the same set on every sale horse and wash them after each use. It doesn't have to be complicated or expensive! Also, sometimes a cute head shot with a colorful ear bonnet helps - especially on a cute mare. On that note, do you notice how the wraps are on backwards in this photo? Yes, they are. Yes, a working student did them. No I don't care if every negative nancy in town sends me a message because they are on backwards. Don't worry - this photo "popped" and still had a ton of hits and recognition. People don't realize how pressed you are for time to get things done. My point, get the job done and be gentle with yourself if it's not perfect.
RULES FOR TEACHING YOUR HELP!!!!!
1. NEVER EVER EVER LET THEM USE THEIR PHONE! Do you know what happens if they use their phone? Then they are going to try to email it to you and you are going to lose quality and you're hard work just went down the drain. ALWAYS use your phone.
2. Teach your helper to get down on one knee and shoot up. Make sure they don't cut off the nose or the tail. (Seriously, double check that a few times and make sure you have the shot before you stop).
3. Tell them to click click click when it's photo time, that more photos is better.
4. Teach your help to focus on the center of the horse and keep the camera angle straight to the angle of the horse. Do you see in this photo above how the angle is a little off? That is the most difficult thing to teach and yet it is also the most important, and that will determine whether your photos sink or swim.
5. Put your horse on a green backdrop if possible. Green fields and blue skies always sell. Make your horse "pop" out from their surroundings.
What are your goals for sale photos? You're going to want a really cute conformation shot with ears up and forward on a green backdrop, and you're going to want to get a cute head shot. You're also going to want one trot picture and one canter picture under saddle - but you get those two pictures by taking sale video and pulling screenshots out of the sale video.
Additional photos that you need that you don't put on Facebook (only as needed through text and messenger) are a few more conformation shots of the front legs, hind legs, and pictures of the hooves. DO THIS NOW WHILE YOU HAVE HELP!! Then keep it on your phone and send it by request. There's no need to clutter up Facebook with extra photos, choose just four pictures that will make your horse stand out (confo, headshot, trot, canter).
Now for the sale video....
If you're uploading to Facebook it needs to be under one minute. Also, people don't have attention spends. Your video needs to be 2 to 3 minutes max. Here's what you are going to do to make it clean and uncluttered.
1. Put your assistant in the center of a twenty meter circle. Tell them to get down low on one knee and follow you around the circle.
RULES FOR VIDEO INCLUDE: Do not chop off head, tail, or rider, or ZOOM in or out (it makes it really fuzzy when you upload).
2. You have a plan for your horse. Your plan is three to four walk steps, then one circle at the trot, one circle at the canter, beautiful downward transition to trot, a change of direction outside the circle (so you're assistant doesn't have to zoom) where you come back onto the circle and do one more lap of trot and one canter circle in the new direction.
3. Your video must happen within 60 seconds. You're transitions must be brilliant or people will call your horse green. If you are skilled, as for a big lengthening to show off your horse's big pretty gaits when you return to the circle. Keep it really simple and trot and canter right away.
Additional video add ons - you're going to string together these clips in the movie editor on your phone after you take them as separate clips and add them after your initial walk trot canter video.
1. Jumping. If you're selling the horse to kids, trot down and over a cross rail to a halt. It should take 11-15 seconds
2. Trail - If you're selling to adult amateurs or a kid, show a student ride the horse over a log and down a hill to a halt. Short clip.
3. Sport horse - trot and canter that horse BIG across a hayfield to demonstrate big gaits. Put bright colored polos on so they can see the legs.
4. Kid/amateur friendly - show a student or amateur rider trotting and cantering the horse in an open field to demonstrate control.
Remember after you string this together it should be three to four minutes max.
These are the techniques that I have used to help sell horses over the years. I do not have reliable help, and on many occasions I have to train people how to take good photo and video. Remember, the best advice I ever received for marketing was to Keep It SIMPLE - and that's what I do in order to keep my ducks in a row.
You know what really sucks? When you want to be prepping for show season but you're stuck inside a barn aisle with no indoor on a rainy day. These are my tips on how to keep yourself motivated and work on the little details when you can't get outside to school the hardcore stuff.
1. Strength. Whether it's lunging or long walks through the woods - actually I hope you are doing both. If you want to come out in the spring and pretend that you and your horse didn't lose any dressage skillz, then I would focus on strength on those rainy days. I'm sure your horse is smart, and competent, and knows what you want him or her to do. If I have learned anything in the last year it's that most techniques boil down to strength. Your horse KNOWS how to go sideways, but are they strong enough to do it? Your horse KNOWS you're asking them to slow that canter down, but are they strong enough to do it? LIKEWISE, if you're not practicing your sitting trot every day and planning to debut at second level, I hope your hitting the gym with weight training a few times per week to keep your core strong.
2. Turn on the haunches/walk pirouette - This is one of my favorite exercises to practice in the winter in the barn aisle because it's pretty much my only option for turning a big horse.
3. Square halts with clicker training. I confess, my horse knows when I have candy in my pocket and she is magically square when she knows that I am carrying treats. I think it helps to positively reinforce a square halt because it's really kind of an arcane concept that most horses need a jackpot to understand why you are nitpicking their feet. I like to practice my trot-halt square-trot on rainy days so that I am not fretting about it during show season.
4. Turn on the forehand. How do you make a stinky mare listen to your leg without being mean? You remind them very gently with a turn on the forehand. Works like magic!
5. Quarter turns - think about it...you're asking your horse to load that inside hind leg on each turn. What a great way to ask them to bear weight and get stronger!
6. Half-steps. I bust out the clicker for half-steps and it motivates my horse. Sometimes I tap certain legs to ask my horse to lift it, other times I work in hand reinback to trot- but I can't think of a more fun rainy day activity.
7. Reinback - Thinking again of strength and working that hind leg - asking your horse to reinback is a great exercise. Also you can combine it with fun variables like reinback to canter (and you pick which lead) or reinback to half-steps.
8. walk-canter-walk - How many canter strides can you fit down your barn aisle? I like to work on my walk-canter departs out of a quarter turn to help set my horse up for success to pick up the correct lead.
I hope this gives you a few ideas for the next time it rains!
How to make a killer Facebook post to advertise your horse business (or any other service, event, etc).
I used to work in advertising. More specifically, I worked in radio, and I was the girl that sold you the ad, wrote the copy for your ad, and convinced you that buying a certain radio spot at a certain time and writing killer copy would make you a sale, which is also known as a return on your investment or "ROI". I also always had a hard time with that because honestly, I knew from my horse business that I could make an awesome sale through digital (Facebook) without ever spending a dollar on the radio. I also used to sell digital and print, so i've had experience using all three forms of media for advertising. (Not gonna lie, I have a sweet spot for print - and maybe I'll blog about that in the future).
So today I am going to tell you how to make a killer Facebook post that will put dollars in your pocket so you can go spend it on hay and grain. We often talk about using different forms of social media to create and audience and following however, posting on Facebook isn't worth it if you're not using the right kind of ad copy and call to action. This post isn't about generating a long term audience, it's about converting a sale NOW so that you can stop scraping the quarters off the floor of your car to eat off the dollar menu. The most important KEY KEY point in writing a good Facebook ad is that you want your customer to ACT. Now, you as the seller need to figure out what you are going to do to get your customer to ACT and convert that sale.
1. First you need a killer photo. The photo I have listed above always nets a direct sale. ALWAYS. It's cute right? Two pretty horses sniffing a horse kid. It summarizes my horse business in a nutshell because my students all know how to CONNECT with a horse. My personal business isn't about just horse showing, it's about relating to horses and so much more. My students always show love and affection for my lesson horses. This photo holds that essence. How do you know if you have a good photo? Share it on Facebook. If it gets a lot of likes, then you know it's something people like. If it doesn't, get a different picture because yours isn't motivating people to act, and in this case the "act" is liking your photo. Also, if you want adult clients, then you should have pictures of adults riding horses. If you want kid clients, you need pictures of kids. Think about what type of client you want and project that. Like attracts like.
2. You need a call to action. If that sounds Greek to you, then please please please google how to write a good call to action. Do you ever hear those annoying commercials on the radio where they repeat the phone number THREE times (that's frequency by the way), and you are so annoyed they keep repeating it? Well, the call to action in that ad is to make a phone call! On digital platforms like Facebook your call to action is going to be to send a message or send a text. What's really really important is that you tell your customer what you want them to do in the text of that ad. It might be something simple as "send a message to schedule your lesson." Other business platforms might be more like "drop in on Tuesdays for 2.99 Margaritas and Taco Tuesday" (call to action there is DROP IN). You need to tell those customers to STOP IN DROP IN and DRINK UP at least 3 times for it to sink in.
3. You need a GREAT DEAL and a TIME LINE!!! I can't emphasize this enough. So last week I offered a deal on kid lessons - purchase 3 lessons for $120 between now and February 18th. Offer expires on February 18th - no exceptions. You have to motivate your customer to take action now if you need to get paid now! And that deal EXPIRES on a certain deadline - no exceptions. PLEASE TAKE NOTE. If you're broke, find a number that makes you feel like you are not worth it. Just a little below what you feel comfortable. Make a killer deal out of that. It's okay to undercut if you need to put money on the table. When I first started my horse business I would often do a 4 lessons for $100 deal. If I ran that deal I would have money on the table to pay rent the next few days. Sometimes dealing with those clients was STRESSFUL, but I was grateful for the money. Eventually I moved up to selling 3 for $120 on a deal day because I knew I was okay financially, that $25 an hour made me grouchy, but $40 per hour was okay. My point? You can't sell your worth if you're not established, and if you're not established you can't be asking $75-$100 per lesson....but if you want money and you're willing to set aside your ego ...go for the $$ that will make you cringe and that's probably what people can afford. Do it so you can make rent and realize it's just a step in growth.
4. Tell your customer how you want to get paid! If they want to book those lessons, SURPRISE, you just might open your paypal or venmo and see unexpected money because you told your customer how they could reserve those lessons! You know in 3rd grade when you have to write that essay on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and then the teacher reads each student's essay in front of the class as she makes the PBJ and you can see who messed up??? Well, be explicit and make a really delicious PBJ with Nutella and bananas. Don't be that kid that puts the bread together backwards.
5. TIMING is everything. Please do NOT run your ad on the 8th or the 18th of the month. That would be really dumb. I mean seriously, do you know anyone that gets paid then? Run your ad around the 1st and the 15th of the month, when the majority of people get paid. Horses are a luxury for most families and the first thing to go if there are extra expenses in life, so you need to be very judicious about timing. Run you ads a few days before the first and a little after so people have time to sit down and look over their finances and see how much is left after the pay bills. And remember that thing about a time line? Well, if they are giving you money that you NEED then by all means be a little flexible on that through messaging, but if you don't need it you can be fixed.
Next time I sit down and blog I will write more about target demos. Please SUBSCRIBE to my blog and Youtube channel (see my call to action!!!) if you'd like future horse marketing tips!