If the equestrian world were a library, it would be a multi-faceted beast with a ridiculous number of genres and subgenres. Understanding what shelf your business sits on is crucial for your equine marketing strategy.
Walking through the library, you’d find two main wings: English and Western. But, of course, there would be the small alcove tucked in the corner for mounted archery, jousting, re-enactment riding and the like. Wandering through the English wing, signs would point to Dressage, Eventing, Hunter/jumper, and Show jumping. But then you’d discover that there are classical and nontraditional dressage riders, eventers who follow natural horsemanship methods of training, and those who jump, but don’t consider themselves hunter or showjumper. The equestrian world continues to expand with a growing number of books filling the shelves.
Each genre and subgenre seems to have its own cult dynamic. For example, say the name “George Morris” and the ears of every competitive hunter/jumper rider will perk to attention. But say “Buck Brannaman,” and an entirely different group of riders will be jumping out of their seats.
Everyone has an opinion about which genre is best. The readers of Classical Dressage and Natural Horsemanship could go at it for days about the use of draw reins, whips, spurs, and the overuse of treats. Unfortunately, unlike your local public library, there isn’t a Dewey Decimal system waiting calmly to help find the perfect book for you.
As a business owner, it can be easy to become lost in the mix. Where does your business fit into the larger scheme of things? Who can you communicate with most easily and confidently? Can you talk shop with a hardcore eventer or are you more comfortable with the whooping and hollering of a barrel racer?
These questions are important to ask yourself when identifying the target audience for your equine marketing. Start by looking back at your own history. What have you done? Where have you been? I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of different equestrian “genres” many times. Learning new groundwork skills from natural horsemanship and working with eventing barns in Aiken, but growing up solidly in the hunter/jumper ring. All of my experiences have helped me figure out who I mesh with and what my equine marketing goals are.
While the equestrian world is wildly confusing at times, it’s important to find your spot on the shelf. As a business owner, understanding your niche can help you grow. Finding your niche should be based on three factors: who your clients are currently, who you enjoy working with, and where you see yourself in the future.
Take a look at a few scenarios below to see what I mean.
Who Are Your Current Clients?
You own a small tack shop in Middleburg, Virginia. You’re wondering what new items to bring in for 2021. Current clients are mostly foxhunters who ride through the local countryside, as well as some dressage riders. When developing your 2021 product list, are you asking local dressage barns and hunt masters what they want to see on your shelves? Or are you just looking through a catalog and choosing what’s pretty?
The clientele you attract are often (not always!) the ones you’re best suited to work with.
Who Do You Enjoy Working With?
As a saddle fitter in Southern Maryland, you’ve set up hundreds of hunter/jumper kids with the latest trendy tack for the show season. Unfortunately, you’re sick and tired of staring at the logos for Antares and CWD. The last time you thoroughly enjoyed saddle fitting was when you worked with a local therapeutic riding center. For 2021, you decide to start offering a discount to local therapy centers and grow that side of your client base.
You started this business to do what you love. You get to pick and choose your clients.
What Do You See in Your Future?
As the owner of a boarding barn, you ride as often as you can. The barn also houses your string of up-and-coming event horses. In the next five years, you want to compete in your first one-star and get a few sponsorships. Your boarders ride in a wide variety of English disciplines, with even a few western riders thrown in. For 2021, you decide to become more active in the eventing community. You post in eventing-specific social media groups and audit clinics with top eventers.
Build your business to support the future that you see for yourself.
What do you think? Finding and marketing within your niche is pretty much common sense. It’s easy to say “yeah, yeah, yeah. I got it.” But too few business owners actually sit down and think about these guiding questions to plan their equine marketing goals.
Ideally, your business will sit at the perfect intersection of your current clients, doing what you love, and supporting your dreams. However, you may find yourself catering to not-really-your-dream clients, taking on tough jobs, and hitting pause on the future to handle the now. Developing an excellent understanding of what equestrian genre your book is in can help you get back on track with your equine marketing strategy and talking to the right audience.