Branding your horse business is the process of turning what you do into an easily recognized, cohesive identity. In an instant, an image or a few measures of a song brings recognition and identification of the brand. The sight of a rider with a polo mallet raised in the air on the back of a galloping horse instantly say Ralph Lauren, elegant country clothing. When a Volkswagen Beetle is cited, I hear, “Slug Bug, Red! No Slug Backs!” and I receive a “thump” on my shoulder, my granddaughter is demonstrating the effects of “branding”.
By why should you brand your riding lesson business or training program?
Branding conveys the idea to the public that your business is established, that you have plans and goals; it helps to give you credibility. Branding makes your business stand out in the crowd increasing your potential to attract new students and training horses. It shows pride in what you do and commitment to your business. Branding represents your values, your products, and your identity.
Branding your horse business is not only important for the instant recognition it gives your riding club, training barn, camp or lesson program, it gives your clientele an identity. Clients become part of your branding when they wear your logo and display the farm colors. Branding makes students, parents and other clients feel like they are part of your team and fosters a sense of pride. People like to belong and they want to show others they belong to a group, whether its as a fan or a player.
When I see a group of kids with matching shirts and a logo I think – team
When I see the moms and dads of those same kids wearing shirts matching shirts with logos I think – loyalty
When I see all of those people with their identifying shirts or colors in the stands at sporting events, I think fans. Who doesn’t want fans?
When a horse loving kid sees a fresh pile of manure on the side of a road they start looking for the horse! That’s branding in its most elementary condition!
Logo and color
Sometimes logo and colors tie together. They provide instant recognition for your brand whether it is negative or positive.Take the Kansas City Chiefs. Kansas City fans are thrilled to deck out in their red shirts on game day but let those red shirts be spotted by a Denver Bronco’s fan and you’ll get just the opposite reaction.
Your logo makes it easier to identify you among the competition and is a point of recognition for those who follow you. It’s symbolic of you.
In the past it has been costly and difficult to develop a logo, pay to have it put into a form suitable for application and then to find some one who would put it on shirts for you. It was even more difficult if you only needed a small number of shirts. Today there are a number of online businesses who will help you design your logo and get it on a small number of shirts, sweat shirts, jackets or caps. And you can choose from screen prints or embroidered logos, with prices that suit any budget.
It’s worth taking the time to develop a clean logo that represents who you are. Whether you design the logo yourself or have a professional design it, test the logo out before you commit. Your logo is a critical connection between you and your clients so ask the opinion of several who have known you for awhile. Don’t be afraid to take it back to the drawing board.
Once you have settled on a design, an online search will produce companies that can digitize your logo and send you a file to use at your local shop or to use online.This gives you the ability to have your design put on clothing and equipment. Vistaprint www.vistaprint.com/ provide services for banners, business cards and direct mail. And if you really become a logo fanatic, Zazzle http://www.zazzle.com/ and Cafe Press http://www.cafepress.com/ will help you open an online store where you can sell sweatshirts, tee shirts, mugs, stickers, bumpers stickers and countless other products with your logo on them. Your clients can go to these stores and purchase what they want providing you with a commission. Queensboro Shirts at www.Queensboro.com will digitize your logo and place it on items for as little as 4 items at a time. And they don’t charge for digitizing your first logo.
Choosing colors and coordinating your farm colored tack trunks, blankets, coolers, leg wraps and shirts with logos will make up part of your brand. Your colors might or might not be part of your logo but they will help set you apart from other instructors and stables.
Branding your horse business is not just logo, colors and the way things look.
When see the Ariat logo I remember Ariat stands for quality. The boots I have bought from Ariat are well made, nice to look at, comfortable to wear and they last. The Ariat brand produces, so should yours.
Your brand is everything within your business; your image, method, ethics and results. Having a quality brand doesn’t just happen by accident. As the old adage goes you have to “plan to work and work your plan.”
Manage your image. You’ll have an image whether you plan ahead or not, so why not be in control? Know how you want to portray yourself. Are you the kooky riding instructor with multi- colored breeches and crazy socks? Or do you prefer a more traditional look? Set standards that represent who you are or who you want to be. Use your own personality to your advantage.
Manage the image of your barn and business at home. Set the standard that you want your students and clients to attain. Exemplify work ethic, fair play, and honesty. Set the standard for horse care, training, and teaching.
Manage your image in public. Will you be the boisterous and loud trainer who dominates the schooling ring? Are you organized with horses and riders well turned out? Do your students treat their horse’s well? Are they learning good sportsmanship from you? Are you know for being a super rider who turns out well trained horses with talent? What reputation do you want to have? The most effective promotion in the horse business is by word of mouth. Word of mouth = what people say about you to other people. Bear this in mind when you plan your branding strategy. Plan your image.
Promote your brand with a web site. With all the free web pages available it’s not hard to have a website but if you don’t know how to promote it, your site will just sit around in cyber space attracting very little attention. It might be a wise choice to pay someone who understands search engines to do that particular work so that you can spend your time doing what you do best – keeping your clients satisfied.
Follow up the web page up with a strong social media presence beginning with FaceBook and Google+. Pinterest is fast becoming a very popular site among horse lovers because it’s easy to use and visually interesting. Pinterest keeps followers interested through a prolific number of short visuals called pins. Instagram might be for you if you take lots of photos with your phone. These are all good opportunities to get exposure and support your brand. But beware of the social media trap. There are many interesting people and topics in social media making it easy to spend hours when you intend to spend minutes. (Does that sound like I have experienced this problem?!) One other caution about social media. Don’t get caught up in topics that hit your “button” but have little to do with your branding. Monitor yourself and keep away from things that cause you to have a knee jerk reaction, getting involved in something that will do more damage than good.
Blogging is another good tool to use for branding your horse business. It’s easy to set up a blog through WordPress https://wordpress.com/ or Google’s https://www.blogger.com . Through blogging you can give advice and tips about your part of the industry and work your way towards becoming an expert. It’s best to stick with topics that you know about. Connect your blog to your other social media for extra mileage. Look for other interesting blogs and post comments, which will give your blog back links.
Don’t confuse branding with marketing
Some of the ideas I’ve mentioned verge on marketing but don’t get confused between the two. Brand identifies you, your product and services. Marketing is the act of promoting you, your product or services. Good marketing may cause more people to take lessons from you but your brand – who you are and what you do- is what will cause them to continue.
Thanks for reading The Riding Instructor. If you have a few minutes you might enjoy my video about Branding Your Horse Business. I posted it below.
Branding Your Horse Business is an updated version of an article, Branding the Easy Way, written 5 years ago for The Riding Instructor.