Three Questions Every Small Equine Business Owner Should Ask Themselves
By Joe Zeimentz
For many small business owners, navigating today’s marketing and online world is a challenging and sometimes daunting prospect. Not only is technology completely changing the game for small equine businesses, but it is also constantly changing and moving at lightning speed. Couple that with more and more websites, magazines and other marketing outlets vying for limited marketing dollars, and the idea of creating a marketing strategy becomes about as clear as mud.
Although it may be tempting to stick your head in the sand and hope things will go back to “the good ole days,” we don’t recommend that option. Instead, take a breath and ask yourself three simple questions…
1. Is My House (Website) in Order?
Somewhere along the social media trail, Facebook became “all the craze” and the be-all-end-all for small business marketing. “I don’t even need a website anymore because I have a Facebook page and everyone is on Facebook these days.” Really? Where was Facebook a few years ago, and where will it be a few years from now? Just ask your kids. Not only that, but who controls the content, the delivery of that content, and the way you’re able to communicate with your audience on your Facebook Page? Facebook, that’s who. Facebook is a large public company intent on growing its business and profits, and it is constantly changing the game and the rules of engagement when businesses use their services.
As a small business owner, you have very little control over your page and your content on Facebook, and it is a very crowded place to be. Have you ever noticed that even though you may have liked many other Facebook pages, that you don’t get updates from all of those pages in your Facebook news feed? Why not? It’s simple, there’s just too much stuff to pump out, and Facebook is making it more and more challenging to get your non-paid content out to people. They’d rather have you “boost it,” a phrase Facebook has coined which requires a payment to have your content delivered to more of your own fans. It’s a good business model for Facebook, and they’ve done an outstanding job in creating a site and service used by hundreds of millions of people. It’s truly amazing. It just isn’t where you should put all your eggs, when your business and your livelihood are on the line.
What to do? It’s simple. Have a website that you own and control and make sure it’s current, relevant, and represents your business in the best possible light. Then, use Facebook and other social media outlets to invite people from those hugely popular, but crowded, places to your warm, welcoming, and 100% focused on you…website.
A website is one of the few things online that you can own outright, which makes it something you can control and manage to your advantage. You dictate what it looks like, what and how things are shared with your audience. You decide what someone’s experience will be like when they get there. In a crowded internet, with your competitors on all the same social media sites and in all the same groups and forums, a website provides you with the opportunity to own the message you want to convey to prospective customers by giving them a safe haven from the noise so they can focus on you. Now you’ve got a chance.
Since you have complete control over your website, that means you also have the choice to make it an asset for your business instead of a liability. For those of us over 40, we remember what websites looked like in the mid-to-late ‘90s. For those under 40, all you have to do is go to one of many equine websites on the Internet today to see what we mean…because unfortunately those same designs and the same now-outdated technology are still there.
The good news is it’s easier than ever to get your website in order with a good-looking, responsive site that is clean and simple, and built on current technology. That includes a content management system that allows you to update the content, video and photos on a regular basis to keep it fresh and to make it easy for Google to find it in searches. For search engines, it’s all about a regular flow of new content. Update your images and text on a regular basis, and then share that information using links in other places, and Google will find and promote your site…if you’re using current web technology.
By “responsive,” I mean a site that will automatically adjust to look good and be readable on any device, including phones. This is critical. In fact, many experts are saying that Internet traffic from mobile devices will be higher than traffic from computers in 2014. That means, if your website isn’t mobile-friendly or “responsive,” you may be losing half of the people trying to visit your site…in many cases after you’ve invested lots of $$$ in advertising to get them there in the first place.
I recommend moving your website to a content management platform like WordPress or Drupal or Joomla, and paying an expert to install it, help you select and implement a responsive theme, and train you how to make your own content changes (no, you don’t need to be technical). For roughly $1000 – $3000, less than the cost of a few print magazine ads, you can have a great looking site, set up by a professional, which will be an asset to your business. Your site will work better with search engines, with other social media sites, and people will recognize that you’re someone they should consider doing business with. Your professionally designed and beautiful full page magazine ads will direct people to an equally impressive website. Ultimately, you will stand above those “head-in-the-sand” competitors of yours.
To read the other two, click here and flip to page 28!