Of all the roles that a business owner must fill, “marketing department” might be one of the toughest. How should you market your business? How to do it? It can be frustrating to feel like there is one more thing you should be doing. When you are weighing where to spend your marketing hours each month, building and then utilizing your email is one of the most cost effective investments you can make.
What is an email list?
An email list is, simply, a list of emails of people who are interested in what you have to say. My recommendation is to use an email service like Mail Chimp or Mad Mimi who will do some of the heavy work for you. You can start your email list with your current customers – if you don’t already use email to send group communications, now is an excellent time to start!
Moving forward, your email list is a way to build relationships with potential clients, sale horse buyers + sellers, other trainers, breeders and other horse owners interested in what you have to say. A strong email list will help you sell horses, promote clinics or other events, and develop your reach as an influencer (<– that’s a big deal if you’d like to be a sponsored professional).
Why do you need one?
Don’t wrestle with the algorithm – If you are a Facebook user, you know that Facebook’s algorithm controls what you do and do not see. For business owners who use social media to attract and communicate with clients that algorithm can mean that only a small percentage of the people who like your business page actually see the things that you post. Email doesn’t have that wrestling match. Instead, you build a list of people that you know are interested in the products you use/offer, the lessons you have to teach, and your recommendations and deliver that information straight into their inbox with social media deciding whether or not they see it.
Get Personal – The equestrian industry depends on relationships. For most horse owners, they are involved because it is something that they love to do. This means that even some simple decisions, from which clinic to take to who to trust when horse shopping, have distinct emotional components. Using your email list to develop a direct personal relationship with current and potential clients will benefit your business down the road.
Get Serious – With email, you can address more serious, informational topics that require intentional, clearly understood messaging – like changes in pricing. When you need your message to be crystal clear, email is the direct way to communicate. It can also deliver the information to everyone at the same time – cutting off some of the rumor mill that can easily start in barn communities.
Get More Bang For Your (Messaging) Buck – One of the most challenging aspects of marketing in today’s digital world is the incredibly fast pace of information. The “life span” of a tweet is approximately 20 minutes, Facebook posts last a bit longer but the feed moves quickly. On the other hand, emails will sit in the inbox until deleted. While you can’t guarantee that everyone on your list opens your message, at least they will have the chance to see it.
Get It Right – If your program is like most, not everyone is on exactly the same schedule. You might have some people in full training, some in just lessons, some that are headed to the rated shows and some that ride for fun. At times, you will need to communicate to specific groups within your client base. Again, email is your friend and an organized email list makes the process less time consuming. Send the right message to the right people with a segmented email list.
Get Effective – Cost effective, that is. While social media is often touted as “free advertising” there is really more to the story. You may not have to enter your credit card to post on Facebook, but it does cost you + your business. Your time is one of the most valuable resources you have and effective social media advertising takes time. You have to create all the content you put up, build an engaged and targeted following, and then send that messaging out to a limited percentage of your audience. Don’t get me wrong, social media is an essential part of your digital marketing toolkit but it doesn’t have the highest ROI (return on investment). If you’ve built a quality email list, you know that when you send out that clinic announcement it is going to people who are already interested in hearing what you have to say! Those people are far more likely to sign up and pay for a clinic than the much broader audience on social media. So for the amount of time it takes you to create that email, you’ll get more in return than you would from the same message sent on social media.
Get To Influencing – With an email list, you have a built in base or “tribe” of people who respect and value your opinions. If at any point in the future you might be interested in sponsorship opportunities, start building that tribe now. When I work with riders to develop a sponsorship program, this is one of the first topics we tackle. What value can you offer via email to make it worth opening? If your sponsorship offerings include access to an equestrian email list with a solid open rate (the average percentage of your list that opens your email newsletters), you can put a measurable value on what you offer a potential sponsor. That puts you way ahead of the banner and saddle pad crowd.
Get Trust – For your clients, you should be the go to expert when it comes to horse related decisions. While there are many factors to building and maintaining that trust, a consistently valuable email campaign can be powerful tool in cementing you as a trusted resource. Every year around September or October, horse owners start talking about blankets – weight, type, variety. You know these questions are coming. If you deliver an email to your clients two weeks before the temps start to dictate the need for blankets explaining what the weather typically does, your blanket recommendations and the facilities blanketing policy, you have eliminated some of the repetitious answering of questions and demonstrated to your clients that you are thinking of their needs and planning ahead. It is a positive contribution to your status as an expert and delivers an additional value to your clients.
Get Communicating (effectively) – Remember those barn rumors I mentioned before? They are nearly unavoidable and can do serious damage to both your business and your reputation. They also tend to stem from misunderstandings and a lack of accurate information. Just like that grade school game of Telephone, when information is passed around by people it becomes altered in meaning or tone. An open, established line of communication directly from you to your clients is a wonderful way to cut the rumor mill off at the knees. Its much harder for Molly Pony Mom-ager to foment rebellion over the new school horse assignments if everyone found out about the change (and the reasoning behind it) at the same time.
Ready to get started?
So, you’re convinced. You need an email list.
My recommendation is establish an account with MailChimp. It is easy to use, has built in templates, and offers basic starter accounts. They also have a great get started guide that walks you through the process of setting up your first email.
Have more questions? Set up a free, 30 minute Sound Board session to tell me about where your business is now and where you want it to be. I’ll give you some immediately actionable steps you can take to get you going in the right direction.