In many ways, a career as a professional equestrian feels like a solitary venture. You are responsible for your training, showing, promoting your business, planning for the future – all up to you. In truth, finding success at any level as an equestrian professional requires a tribe of people backing you, supporting you, believing in you and cheering you on. Learning to intentionally develop your tribe can be tremendous tool in your career toolbox.
If you’ve been around KLSmith Creative for a while, you know that I consider effective branding to be the key cornerstone in any pro’s business growth. The reason is simple – building a business you love requires you to work with people who have goals that line up with your business vision. Effective branding, that expresses your style, will help those perfect clients find and recognize you. From your logo to your website to your social media, everything that represents your business plays a role in letting people know they want to be a member of your tribe.
No matter where you are in your business, investing some time and effort into refining your branding is a smart choice. If you are a trainer working to build a show barn with clients competing on the circuit but you receive daily calls about from parents looking for up-down lessons for their five year old – its time to work on your branding.
Improve your branding today by:
1. Know Your Audience – Create a description of your ideal client. How old is she? Where does she shop? What are his goals? Why are they looking for a trainer/instructor/rider? In order to find your ideal client, you need to have a clear idea of who they are!
2. Take a hard look at your logo – When we first start our business, our logo often evolves out of our personal likes. Favorite colors, our personal style, how competent we are with a computer editing program… At some point in your business, consider working with a graphic designer or web designer or branding expert (like me!) to create a fully custom logo based on your ideal client profile and biggest business dreams. It can make all the difference in having a truly professional brand when working with sponsors and owners.
3. Branding Consistency – One of the most common problems with branding and small businesses is that it becomes difficult to maintain true consistency. Make a list of everywhere you have a logo. Is the logo image the same? Are the color schemes consistent? Is your business description appealing to your ideal client? As your business evolves, you wil tweak all of these elements but make sure updates are applied consistently across all of your platforms!
Inviting Your Tribe Into Your Story
Social media has become an integral and essential business tool, especially for equestrians depending on sponsors to help achieve their competition dreams. A strong social media presence (with an active and engaged tribe) makes you immensely more valuable to sponsors and advertisers.
How do I build my tribe on social media?
The short answer? By offering interested, relevant and engaging content that your audience wants to read or watch. In other words, you find ways to invite your tribe to be a part of your journey. Social media allows you to make a personal connection with your audience – sharing lessons that you’ve learned, daily fun, goals and being a resource for those who want to learn more.
It is vital to understand the relationship between your personal social media accounts and your professional online presence. If you are a professional, you should have business branded social media accounts (Facebook Fan Page, for example) to serve as an online communication avenue for your business. Everything you post should reflect positively on your business. At the same time, understand that your personal social media accounts represent your professional identity just as much. Even there, posting pictures of keg stands from your high school reunion are a no-go. There is no such thing as truly private on the internet. Inappropriate social media content is one of the number one reasons that companies tell me they can not sponsor riders.
Invite Your Tribe Today:
1. Digital Identity – If you don’t have a Facebook Fan page (like this one of mine that fans can “like”), create one right now. While it is one more thing to add to your very full plate, your ideal client is on Facebook so your business should be too. If you already have a Facebook business page, take a look at it with fresh eyes. Do the cover photo and profile photo offer a potential new client a positive impression of your business? When was the last time you posted?
2. Plug In With Your Clients – Your current clients are the core of your tribe, have you made them feel like it? Give them a reason to interact with you on Facebook (or any other social media that you like). Post pictures of current clients, share their achievements and celebrate progress. Make announcements about upcoming events and share news. Remind your clients in person to plug in on social media.
Give Them A Reason To Come Back
Today’s digital age means that our “tribe” is not limited to those we do in-person business with. One of my favorite equestrian social media profiles belongs to breeder Lauren Efford of Goldhope Farm. Lauren does a tremendous job of highlighting her broodmares, in-utero foals, young horses and sold horses in their current homes. Many of the people who follow her page have never met Lauren or one of her horses in person – but they look forward to new foals, celebrate successes and dream. For these people, Lauren and her Goldhope Farm are both a resource for information and something to aspire to. This makes her a significant niche influencer for her horse people with an active, engaged tribe that is motivated to visit her social media accounts again and again.
So, how does that apply to you? At it’s most basic – what can you do for your audience? This ties back into my first point and keeping your ideal client in mind when you brand. What are you an expert at that they would like to or need to know? For trainers, tips and exercises to solve common sticking points could be just the thing you’re reader needs. Breeders can share information about bloodlines, performance rankings, or what they look for in young horses. Figure out what you do best – then look at ways to offer that to your online “tribe”.
Give Back To Your Audience Today:
1. Answer Common Questions – Start simple. Make a list of the 10 most common questions you hear from clients/students/etc. Write out your answers or find resources that provide answers to those questions. Then use those questions + answers to create your social media content. If 1 person is asking those questions, there are more people out there looking for the same information. YOU can be the trusted resource that provides the answer.
2. Ask Your Tribe What They Want To Learn – Remember how I said your current students + clients are the core of your tribe? Here’s where they can help you. Ask them what they wish they knew more about, what they forget and try to remember. Reach out in person and on your social media channels. Get specific. Then, make a plan to share your answers to those questions.
Equestrian professionals are busy – long days, hard work and ever growing to do lists can make adding one more thing a daunting proposal. I’m not saying that building your tribe is an easy thing to do. But in today’s increasing digital world, establishing and developing your online presence is an essential component of your business. Choose something small, like posting daily updates to your business Facebook page, and get started today.