"Good Horsemanship is Built on Solid
Basics...So is Good Business!"
BUILDING A MARKETING PLAN
By Lisa Derby Oden, Blue Ribbon Consulting
Marketing plans, business plans - Understanding the difference between these
two "animals" sets the stage for the effective use of both. As a
horse business owner or manager, you are the most important resource your
business has. Your focus is broad-range. This means that you have long-range
goals, and short term objectives to reach those goals. You have so many irons
in the fire, you often aren't sure which one you should be tending. Preparing a
business plan helps you to structure and prioritize your business. It provides
you with general guidelines for operation. A marketing plan thenbecomes your
Many businesses have no formal business or marketing plan. Reasons frequently
given for not having these plans are that the owner/manager is too busy coping
with daily survival, that the market changes too quickly, and that they are
only paper and are too hard to implement. It is smart to avoid a plan that is
just paperwork. It is also true that in a very small organization, the business
purpose (mission) may be so narrow that a detailed plan is excessive. For
example, a freelance riding instructor could put together a plan that only
requires eight hours of thought, research and writing. An entrepreneur opening
a boarding stable may spend an entire week or more doing research and
constructing a plan that is 20-30 pages in length. Many new organizations,
however, find a plan valuable because they lack history and their options are
so wide. A plan aids in choosing wisely between alternatives. Do you want to
offer boarding and instruction, or just one or the other? Will you be the only
instructor/trainer on the premises,or will boarders bring in their own?
Often an owner/manager believes they have an internalized plan in their
head, but usually are just kidding themselves. Many owner/managers don't know
what their cash position is, find themselves undercapitalized, and having cash
shortages. It turns out that it is much cheaper to sit at a desk and do some
concrete planning than it is to lose business. A plan provides the basis for
resource allocation and marketing performance evaluation. How much money will
you spend promoting your new adult summer riding program; what avenues will you
use to publicize it; how will you tell the degree ofsuccess your plan had?
A plan also helps your business anticipate change and generate questions
requiring research. Does it look like there is a move towards requiring stables
or instructors to be licensed? The planning process can also identify major
uncertainties so contingency scenarios can be considered. What if someone buys
the farm next door and also opens a riding stable? Grow to your business
potential by following these steps that provide you with the key ingredients of
a marketing plan.
1) Do a SWOT analysis. This is a detailed
description: internally of your product/services strengths and weaknesses;
externally of opportunities andthreats.
2) Know what your competitive advantage is. This means you will have a thorough
understanding of who your competitors are, what they offer and at what prices,
their strengths and weaknesses, and where you fall in the
3) Research your marketing options. This means yellow pages, trade
publications, direct mail, internet, show sponsorships, directories, local
newspapers, television, radio, video tape, t-shirts, brochures, business cards,
trade fairs, telemarketing, etc. Find out how many people you willreach with
any given method.
4) Know your market intimately. Who wants your product/service and why? How old
are they? What income bracket are they in? What is their lifestyle like? How
can they be reached?
5) Be consistent with your marketing message, image, and logo. You mightget
bored with it, but your prospects and clients will recognize you quickly and
easily. They don't get bored with it.
6) Put together an annual calendar. This lists each service, product, or
program and how it will be promoted that week. It also shows how much will be
spent for that promotion that week. Track your results. How many responses did
you get the first week? The second? Throughout the promotion?What kind of
response did you expect?
7) Continue to track your marketing effectiveness throughout the year. Always
ask how people have heard of you. Code your brochures and coupons. Get counts
on visitors to your Web site.
(Lisa Derby Oden has been providing business development, marketing, and
association consulting services to the horse industry since 1995. She is the
1999 AHC Van Ness Award recipient for outstanding service to the horse
She can be reached at: (603)878-1694; email at
visit her website at www.horseconsulting.com)