It’s my pleasure to welcome Alisha Van Harn to The Riding Instructor.  Alisha is an accomplished horsewoman, riding instructor, a certified digital marketing specialist, a mom, and so special to me…my daughter. She has a creative mind and the ability to think outside the box. I can’t count the number of things we’ve collaborated on over the years.  Rather than doing the proud mother speech, suffice it to say, I love working with Alisha. And I think you’ll love the things she has to share. Welcome, Alisha.

Branding vs. Marketing vs. Advertising

In the whirlwind of running a riding lesson program, the last thing on your mind after a busy day with the ponies is sitting down to tackle marketing tasks. But what if I told you that branding and marketing aren’t options? They are essential. These two forge relationships with your current and potential students. And as any small business owners knows, relationships are the currency of our business.

But here’s the thing, marketing isn't just about advertising… So where do you start? Well, you start with understanding the basics and building a solid foundation! Que in every beginner you have ever taught that wanted the ability to gallop across a field by lesson two!

If you don’t understand the basics and build a solid foundation, you’ll burn out, and become resentful of any sort of time or money you put into your marketing efforts, and then probably choose sleep over getting new eyes on your business!

Hey y’all! I’m Alisha and I am a digital and social media marketer. A horsewoman first, I’m an internationally certified riding instructor and, in a past life, an equine photographer. I have partnered with my mom, Barbara, to bring my knowledge and expertise of marketing to your business.

Let’s get this started, shall we?

Branding

Relationships are everything to building a successful and profitable business. Establishing a distinctive brand for your business is one of the biggest and easiest ways to build the community you want around your business. Crafting this unique identity helps you stand out from competitors and connects with your target students. The best part… building a brand doesn’t have to cost you anything!

Branding is more than just a logo or a catchy name. Branding is rooted in the mission and vision of your business. If you don’t know these two vital things: your mission and vision, take a step back and build out a simple business plan. Your future self and business will thank you!

There are 4 key elements to branding, yes there are a lot more, but if you can master these 4… your brand will skyrocket!

1. Brand Identity:

This includes everything from your business name and logo to your chosen colors, typography, and visual elements.

2. Brand Messaging:

Your brand messaging involves the overall communication strategy used to convey your brand's values, mission, and personality.

3. Brand Experience:

This refers to the overall experience current and potential students have when they interact with your brand, both online and offline. Yes, you need to know this in order to build a successful brand!

4. Brand Positioning:

It involves identifying your unique selling proposition (USP) and communicating why your brand is the best choice for your target students. What does your program offer that no-one else does?

Every interaction you have with your customers contributes to shaping your brand, even when you are unaware. You don't need a fancy stable or a large lesson program to build a brand around your business. Your brand is essentially you and how you choose to represent yourself and your business to the world. By intentionally crafting a strong and authentic brand, building trust, and fostering meaningful connections with your customers, you can differentiate yourself from your competitors, cultivate customer loyalty, and ultimately drive business success.

Marketing

Marketing is the engine that drives awareness, engagement, and growth for your riding lesson program. It encompasses a wide range of activities aimed at promoting your services, understanding your audience, and delivering the value that resonates with them. Here are some key strategies to consider when crafting your marketing strategy:

- Know your specialty and the client you want to attract: 

Start by understanding what your area of expertise is. Are you an overall beginner riding instructor that teaches the basics or is your passion taking your lesson students to shows? Own that and be that. Based on this, you can know who your target student is and what they're looking for in riding lessons. Are they beginners looking for a fun introduction to riding? Families searching for a wholesome activity for their children? Experienced riders seeking advanced training? By owning what your specialty is and then understanding your future students’ needs and preferences, you can tailor your marketing efforts to better meet their expectations.

- Create Compelling Content:

Content is king in today's digital world. From informative blog posts and engaging social media updates to captivating videos and photos, creating valuable content that speaks to your audience's interests and needs can help attract and keep their attention. Share stories of successful riders, showcase your lesson program's unique features, and provide helpful tips and advice to establish yourself as a trusted authority in the equestrian community.

- Build Relationships:

I promise you, relationships are your business currency, and marketing isn't just about selling—it's about building relationships with your current and future students! Engage with potential and current riders through social media, email communication, and in-person interactions to foster connections, build trust, and cultivate loyalty over time. Show genuine interest in your riders' progress, celebrate their successes, and respond to their questions and concerns to create a positive and supportive learning environment.

Advertising

While marketing lays the foundation for your riding lesson program, advertising is the megaphone that amplifies your message and attracts attention to your services.

Here are some key strategies to consider when advertising your riding lesson program:

- Define Your Objectives:

Before launching any advertising campaigns, clearly define your objectives and goals. Are you looking to raise awareness, generate leads, drive website traffic, or increase bookings for your lessons? Having clear objectives will help guide your advertising efforts and measure their success.

- Know Your Audience:

 Just like in marketing, understanding your audience is key to effective advertising. Use demographic data, market research, and customer feedback to identify your target audience's preferences, interests, and behavior. This will allow you to create targeted ad campaigns that resonate with your audience and drive results.

- Create Compelling Ads:

To cut through the noise and capture your new student’s attention, you’ll need to know what platforms your future students search for you on. Next you need to need to create ads that highlight the unique benefits of your riding lesson program, by using eye-catching visuals, persuasive copy, and clear calls-to-action to encourage viewers to take the next step, whether it's visiting your website, booking a lesson, or contacting you for more information.

My advice

Master branding and marketing before you spend the money on advertising. Branding and Marketing can be done with elbow grease and at a very low cost. Advertising can get expensive really quick, and if you don’t have an established brand, you’ll be wasting your money.

Your Superpower

Marketing and branding are not just essential components of promoting your lesson program—they are superpowers. Together, they help you create community. Community is all about building relationships, and relationships are the currency in your business.

That’s it for now. I’m excited to be part of The Riding Instructor and I hope my ideas will help you grow your lesson program. Do you have questions about marketing or branding? Ask them in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to help.

Here’s to letting the world know who you are!

Alisha Van Harn



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