1. Overly Relying on Instagram
In the last few years, equestrian companies and brands have been relying far too heavily on Instagram as the center of their marketing efforts. We’ve watched this trend explode within the equestrian brand market, and without logical reason. We’ve ran numbers from a wide variety of sources, and we’ve found that Instagram results in a monthly sales rate between 10-15% of total online sales. So, if Instagram is only providing 10% to 15% of your monthly sales, then why are companies prioritizing posting to their Instagram account over everything else? The only answer we can come up with, is that many of these equestrian companies do not follow their metrics and analytics. Instagram is a platform designed to allow users to post cool pictures of their lives, travels, art, memes, and funny videos. Instagram was never designed as a replacement for marketing, and Instagram will never be that replacement. Instagram should be used as one marketing tool in the marketing toolbox, and not the root of your marketing efforts.
Below are a few DOs and DON’Ts of Instagram:
- DO post awesome looking photos
- DON’T post photos just to have content
- DO post photos to keep your followers up to date with products and promotions
- DON’T post photos of what one of your sales staff had for breakfast
- DO get creative and experiment with your photo and caption combinations
- DON’T get into a boring posting routine
- DO use Instagram stories to document cool updates
- DON’T use Instagram stories to document your daily routine
- DO use Instagram a sales tool
- DON’T use Instagram as your only sales tool
2. Not Keeping Digital Assets Up to Standard
Keeping your digital assets up to standard may be the most important piece of the puzzle. Your digital assets are what keep your equestrian brand current and competent within the marketplace. All of the best advertising and Instagram posting in the world will not save you from old and outdated digital assets. If you’re running a website that was built 6 years ago and hasn’t been updated, then it’s time for a new one. If your logo is in the comic sans font, it’s time for a new one. You need to maintain your digital assets and ensure you are keeping up with the standards of today if you want the sales of tomorrow. You’ve got to keep in mind, that most users (especially with luxury equestrian brands), that your customers are used to shopping online at huge multi-million (or even billion) dollar websites like Nordstrom, J Crew, Hermes, and Amazon. This is what they are accustomed to. Sure, it’s not realistic to spend two hundred million dollars on a world-class website, but it is realistic to make your website smooth, clean, modern, mobile-responsive, and easy to navigate. The whole purpose of marketing is to get people to take that final plunge, and that is to go to your website and purchase. And once you’ve finally gotten them to that point, you don’t want to blow the whole thing with a 2012 website that takes 15 seconds to load. You want them to have the same pleasurable experience that they would expect from shopping anywhere else online. We can’t stress the importance of keeping your digital assets updated and modern enough.
“Digital Assets” are not only your website. Some examples of digital assets are:
- Your logo
- Your Facebook cover photo
- Your digital ad creatives
- Your digital flyers or brochures
- Your email signature
- Product images
- Lifestyle images
3. Not Advertising Digitally
If you’re selling an equestrian product or service with a decent margin, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t be at least running ads on Google or Social Media.
Wait, actually, we lied. There are only two reasons why you wouldn’t be advertising digitally:
- You monopolize a piece of the market
- You have no interest in increasing your sales dollars
If you don’t qualify for either of the two options above, then you are making a mistake by not advertising digitally. Especially, because of the low costs involved with advertising equestrian products and services. If you were selling shoes online, you’d pay anywhere between $7.50 and $15.00 every single time someone clicked your ad. However, if you’re selling “Horse Shoes”, then your costs drop down to about $0.50 per click instead. Essentially, this means that you could get 1,000 new potential customers to view your horse shoes for only $500.
Also, unlike billboards, magazine ads, and sponsorship ads, you can track digital ads from start to finish. This means that we can track every piece of everything within the ad process. At the end of any given period (hour, day, week, month, or year), you can view exactly how much you’ve spent, and how much you’ve made in sales dollars from this specific campaign. You can even track which specific ads returned the most sales. There is no guesswork involved, everything is backed up by data. You can then use this data to improve your campaign’s performance period after period until your digital advertising campaigns are well-oiled sales machines.
4. Not Tracking Useful Metrics
In this glorious new digital world of business, analytics are your best friend. Analytics will determine where to invest your efforts, where your shortcomings are, where your strengths are, and how to give your potential customers exactly what they want. Understanding important metrics within your digital channels will completely remove the element of “guessing”, as every one of your business moves will be made based upon the cold hard facts that lie within your analytics data. With each and every change you make based upon your analytics, you’ll see your strengths get stronger, your weaknesses improve, and you’ll see your sales dollars start to climb. Making digital business changes without tracking metrics through analytics is “blind guessing”, and it may take you months or even years to learn and adapt to what another company can adapt to and correct in one month.
A realistic example of using analytics to your advantage would be how we optimize the shopping cart and checkout process on an equestrian ecommerce website. To the untrained eye, one would assume that their shopping cart and checkout process is just like everyone else’s. After analyzing and tracking the user flow of one of our clients, we discovered that their checkout process was destroying their conversions. We discovered that this client was losing 75% of their potential customers in the checkout process, due to the stock 3 page checkout in their Shopify store. We condensed their checkout process to a 1 page checkout, and cleaned up over 40% of lost customers the next month. Without tracking this data, this client would have potentially lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales for years without even understanding why this was happening.
If you’re unfamiliar with what analytics are, below are some examples of things you can track and analyze:
- What channels your sales come from (paid ads, Instagram, Facebook, Google, Bing, Direct, Email, or even direct links)
- What locations your sales come from (states, countries, cities, zip codes)
- What products on your website are viewed most
- How many people add items to the cart and never checkout
- How many people enter the checkout screen and never complete the checkout
- What products people search for on your website from your search form
- What time of the day people engage most with your Instagram or Facebook posts
- What style of content people interact with most on your Instagram or Facebook profile
- What ads you are running are producing the most sales dollars
- What advertising channels give your the highest ROAS (Return on Ad Spend)
- What keywords people type into Google to find your products
- What keywords you rank for in Google and what placement you rank at
5. Wasteful Social Event “Sponsorships”
For most people, this point is understood without needing to be explained. However, there are still plenty of equestrian business owners out there who are still purchasing very expensive social event sponsorships that are ultimately wasteful, and really provide nothing in return in regards to sales dollars. We see equestrian business owners who spend the upwards of $60,000 to have a private VIP table at a horse show, because it’s a “great place to meet new clients” or “it makes your brand look more official when you can bring potential clients to your VIP table”. If your business was selling F-22 Fighter Jets for $22 million each, then I would 100% agree that buying a $60,000 VIP table at a horse show is a good idea. If your company makes and sells horse blankets, then you’re probably making a very poor business decision based upon your personal need for social validation.
On the flip side of the coin, we completely understand that there are other valid reasons for purchasing social event sponsorships. Maybe your company really wants to support a cause, or your company made too much money with your new advertising campaign and would rather write off the event as an advertising expense over giving it as income tax to the federal government. Or even perhaps, you’ve got the money to spend, and it’s not a make or break situation financially.
However, if your goal of purchasing a $60,000 VIP table is for marketing purposes only, then you should have a plan as to how you’re going to make that expense profitable. If you have a way to turn that $60,000 table into a profit, then it’s not a wasteful expense at all. If your sponsorship doesn’t return a profit, then you may need to reanalyze your options moving forward. We aren’t saying that these types of sponsorships are all wasteful, but what is good for one may be wasteful to another. If the goal of the sponsorship is marketing, then there should be profit intent. Had you have not spent that $60,000 on that VIP table at the horse show, you could’ve put that money into digital advertising and turned it into $180,000 or even $240,000 in sales dollars.
Marketing is a game of trial and error with the stakes being the prosperity or downfall of your business, and should be taken very seriously. Every marketing decision should be made without personal attachment, and with cold hard data to backup your position. As a digital marketing agency specializing in the equestrian industry, we thoroughly enjoy helping this community of equestrian brands and companies better serve the customers who fill their brands with life. We love to see brands grow and thrive within the equestrian market, and we are here to help in anyway we can. If you’re looking for help with your equestrian marketing, feel free to contact us.