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The Importance of First Impressions: Equine Marketing Strategies

We are in the second year of operating WhoaZone Equine and creating a new marketing platform for the western performance horse. I will say this, Emily Vanadore and myself Skye Mize, have been overwhelmed by the amount of support and business WhoaZone Equine has had in 2017! We are thankful for the traffic, and excited to immerse WhoaZone Equine further into the industry in 2018! Reflecting on 2017, the most common question we receive is “What do you need to sell my horse as fast as possible and for the most money?” This is an extremely OPEN ended question. There are so many factors that encompass our answer to each individual client.

At WhoaZone it is our goal to find your sale horse their new home as fast as possible and of course for the most money we can, as the market allows. Below, we will discuss the elements of selling a listed horse that will influence the amount of time it takes to get them sold!

  1. Pedigree – Tell us about the sire and dam of your horse. If the dam is unproven, that’s okay! Let us look further at the producing family behind her to use as marketing material for the verbiage of the ad. Also, know that if you are looking to sell to a show home – the “trending” pedigrees are always going to sell “faster” than a horse that isn’t currently “trending”. I use this word instead of “popular” because I don’t feel that popular is the right choice in the equine industry. There are plenty of popular sires and maternal lines that aren’t currently “trending”. The “new hot lines to ride” like junior sire’s transitioning from an extremely successful show campaign to the breeding shed, or the young stallion that just sired his first major event champion will be hot on the press. Now, please don’t be offended by my choice of saying these horses will sell “faster” – that is all relative. If your horse has all the right parts and is priced according to the market value then he/she will sell just as fast. Marketing designs for individuals are like building with Legos — you have to put all the pieces where they belong to get the finished product you see on the front of the box.
  2. Marketing Material – I don’t think I will be able to ever stress enough the importance of good photos of a horse you are going to list for sale. In the world of social media – photos are the #1 attractant to anything your potential buyer sees. Quality photos attract customers seeking quality prospects and the ones willing to pay for them rather than comment “how much” and keep scrolling. Great photos draw people in to follow ads and learn more about your individual! I almost always hear from people “I just don’t have a good camera or I only have my cell phone”. And guess what, that is totally OK!! Let me give you a few tips to create a photograph that will draw customers.
    1. Make sure your horse is in good weight and good condition for it’s age. Horses in great body condition make photography easy for anyone! If you are thinking about selling your horse put them on a GREAT feeding program 30-60 days before listing them if they aren’t currently in “sale shape”. High quality hay- Correct mineral supplementation- Amino Acids for top line etc. Winter coats are okay! We understand that geographic location doesn’t allow for slick shiney coats all year round! However, great body condition is important regardless of the length of hair coat.
    2. Groom them up! If it’s winter use your waterless shampoos or some good elbow grease and get them looking as spiffy as possible. If it’s the proper time of year and the prospect is appropriately aged, baths and grooming are essential. People will 9 times out of 10 follow posts of well groomed horse over horses that look like they haven’t been touched in weeks. I often relate this to customers as — you are walking down the street looking for a certain kind of food – you find two establishments next to each other serving the same food with similar menus. The first place is dim and dark inside, windows aren’t the cleanest, parking lot isn’t very full, and the sign has a letter or two whose lights are flickering or out. The second establishment is bright and inviting – the sign works, the windows are clean, and there is a group of people just inside the door waiting to be seated.  If both restaurants are new to you, which one would you be more willing to spend your money? The first place could be serving better food, but because the first impression isn’t as good as the place next door…. you chose to spend your money elsewhere. It is no different in horses. People are going to investigate and pursue the horse presented for sale in the most eye catching way versus the horse that doesn’t appear to be prepared. Don’t have a trending pedigree on your prospect? Groom him/her up and take great photos and you can make people stop and look at your horse before they look at another horse with a “trendier” pedigree that hasn’t been well prepared for sale. It really is no different that choosing between the two restaurants above!
    3. Trim their feet! I can’t tell you how important it is to have properly trimmed/shod horses for photographs. Is it worth waiting 3 weeks to list because that’s the next time your farrier will be out? YES, yes it is. Balanced, well trimmed feet will make the entire horse look more balanced and properly presented compared to one that is 2 weeks overdue or in the middle of a shoeing cycle. Now, if we are talking about pasture raised weanlings on their mommas in larger operations –  of course that needs to be taken into consideration. Nevertheless, I can’t stress enough the importance of a GREAT farrier. Not only does it improve the horse in photos but in movement for videos. You will be prepared for a buyer scheduling a pre-purchase exam and you won’t have to tell the vet “he/she is a little long” etc.
  3. Photography – Choose a day with SUNSHINE! Stand the horses on level ground with a background that is not distracting. You don’t want fences behind them, farm equipment, the kid’s toys etc. Stand them with a background that is pretty uniform so that the buyer can see the whole horse without being distracted. Stand them UP. Don’t stretch them out, let them graze, or have them mid chew from that tuft of grass they just pulled your shoulder out of socket for. You want the far foreleg slightly behind and directly below the elbow with the near foreleg slightly in front but not stepped way out like he/she is walking. The rear legs should also be split with the far leg in front of the near rear leg. I always suggest having 3 people to photograph an older horse – one to hold them and set them up, a second to use props like mirrors, stick horses, feed can etc to attract attention and get bright eyes and upright alert ears, and someone to click the camera. This sounds like a TON of work. I am not saying it’s not, and it takes patience, and about 500 frames to get ONE great photo of your horse. For weanlings, I am often photographing them by myself. I will bring “new” and interesting things in to the pasture that will bait them to investigate. Almost always they will creep up with a big eyed expression and that great arch to their neck.  That makes for great photos of weanlings who won’t cooperate standing still long enough in a halter. What kind of “things” am I referring to? Big exercise balls, kid’s rocking horse, feed sack etc. All of this sounds like an insane amount of work, trust me I know. But, if there is one element that is the MOST important part of marketing in the day of social media — A GREAT PHOTO. If you are in an area with a well known photographer we highly recommend hiring them to photograph your horse. It takes the stress off of you, and you’re guaranteed to have a high resolution, great photo, that represents the quality of your sale horse. We are grateful to have two great photographers we love to use in the North Texas area – Veronika Slamova and Shella Langford. A clean clear photo equates to higher traffic for your horse during his marketing campaign, which usually equates to selling the horse for the most money, and in the shortest amount of time. Photographers may seem like they are spendy up front, but the return in time on market and money a buyer is willing to pay, will return your initial investment and then some.
    1. While you are photographing the horse, and they are clean and pretty – get all angles of the horse a potential buyer may ask for – front legs, rear legs, sides of the legs to show angles of feet and pasterns, photo of mouth and bite if a potential breeding horse, and yes if you are marketing a stallion prospect, especially a young one – a photo of descended testicles. There is nothing worse than having to go back and re-photograph a horse you already spent an hour or more prepping and photographing last week, because a potential buyer wants a different view. Knock it all out at once and be done.
  4. Videos – The days of social media and smart phones have made buying horses from thousands of miles away or even across oceans easy. Buyers are comfortable purchasing a horse unseen in person because it is so “easy” to see a horse moving in real time these days via video.
    1. For weanlings we suggest leading momma around and videoing baby traveling next to her across the camera and then to the camera and away. Then you can turn them out and let them move freely. This will show the buyer natural head carriage and ability.
    2. Yearlings – These days everyone wants to see a potential athlete move before they invest. We highly suggest hauling to a round pen if you don’t have one or getting your trainer to create a round pen video of your yearling at the walk, trot, and lope, both ways, and changing direction. A 360 walk around video of all four legs and the yearling walk toward and away from the camera is also recommended.  This eliminates any questions the potential buyer may have about your horse, and they can share the video with their veterinarian, trainer etc as well. We can’t tell you how many potential buyers we have lost due to not having video available of the horse when they inquired originally. It’s just “too easy” these days to not have it available for buyers at the time the horse is being listed for sale.
    3. Riding horses – we encourage creating videos that are not edited with a bunch of different flashes or clips. A full 4 minute video even with a little schooling is often more attractive to a buyer than one that is cut up of different clips to create one video. Many buyers question why the clips had to be run together instead of one continuous ride. Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t go from indoor, to outdoor, or to pasture riding in different clips. But folks want to see what the horse is like everyday, not only at his/her best. Show the horse at all gaits like the round pen walk, jog, and lope. If they are experienced riding outside it always helps to show this. The market for ranch horse versatility and horses that can be dual purposed as family riding horses is huge these days! Show off what your horse is good at! If you have a show video make it available to the buyers so they can see what this horse is like away from home.
  5. Paperwork and Testing – If you are selling a weanling – have your registration applications or paperwork in line for your buyer. If you have a horse that is nominated to any programs have those available and ready to go with your horse. Panel Testing is becoming almost mandatory in the sale of horses these days. We haven’t sold many that haven’t been tested either by the seller or the buyer. If you spend the $105 to 5 Panel them and have it available it will reduce the reasons a buyer would potentially keep shopping as they await for the results on your horse. Simplify the process, speed up sale time.
  6. Radiographs – Along with the days of social media and smart phones is the perks of digital radiographs. Emily and I have spent the last half of a decade taking thousands of radiographs of horses for sale and for surgical opinions. A well known surgeon we worked for often told clients “Horses are like Valentine’s Chocolates – you like them all on the outside but you may not like what you bite into on the inside”. It was the best analogy I have ever heard. Let’s face it – radiographs are expensive. Averaging about $45/view. However, as a seller investing in radiographs – you now know what you are selling. Whether that be CLEAN or with notable findings. Sometimes it’s better to bite the bullet and go through the process of selling your horse with radiographs available –  than to find out that your horse has a lesion on radiographs you weren’t expecting, and then the sale price has been influenced, and the buyer may walk away all together. Now, let’s keep in mind what you are willing to invest in your sale horse in order to get him/her sold. Investing $500 in a $2500 sale horse may not make sense for your business model. But, investing $500 in a $7500+ sale horse may. That is up to the seller, but if a basic set of radiographs is in the budget we recommend the expense. We have even made it easier for you as the seller to have them available for a serious potential buyer via WhoaZone with password protected private links we can change and share as needed for the client. A one of a kind service in the industry.
  7. Pricing – This will be the ultimate determining factor of how long your horse will be on the market. We highly encourage sellers to do their homework on what similarly bred horses are selling for both privately and at the major sales. This doesn’t mean “well so and so sold one by X for $50,000 so mine must be worth the same”…. look at both sides of the pedigree. Look at the dam. Consider the horse’s show record or training if any, and level of talent he or she posses. An Open prospect is going to be worth considerably more than a non pro prospect. A proven Open horse is going to sell for more than a green Reiner etc. Also look at genetic testing, nominations, radiographs if available etc. One horse selling for a large ear tag price at a publicized sale does not mean your horse is automatically worth the same amount of money. Though we do suggest using those sale highlights for marketing material in highlighting your horse! Ultimately, sale price is up to you as the seller. Just know there is a fair market value and there is an emotional value on horses.  Price depends on on how fast you need or want to sell you horse.

As always we love to visit with potential WhoaZone customers about marketing strategies for your horse! Feel free to contact us anytime – WhoaZoneEquine@gmail.com and check out our website at www.WhoaZone.com or our Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/WhoaZone

 

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