Tack shop or feed store owner, allow us to ask you a question – do you have any semblance of a plan for your marketing? Or, like almost 50% of SMEs, do you have no plan at all?
If you’re firmly in the latter group, we want to be blunt: you’re undoubtedly wasting time, resources and money on marketing that’s ineffective (and you may also be overlooking other channels that could drive a better ROI). In this article, we’re going to walk you through the making of a marketing plan – from the foundation of basic market analysis, onto deciding upon your marketing goals.
Step one: Understand your customers and the wider market
The three cornerstones of market analysis
Before we dig into the three types of market analysis, it’s worth noting that this really needn’t be an in-depth, month long task. Even the simplest and most cursory of analysis can help you better understand your customers and competitors, and in turn – your target market.
1. Review past sales and business activity
Let’s start with your internal sales data. Take a look at the past 24 months – can you tell how your customers found out about you? What did they buy and which were the most popular products? What proved to be your most profitable products? What is the typical customer – business or consumer? Either way, try to add more to the picture of the typical customer – for businesses, this could be by region or business size, and for consumers, this might be by age, gender or occupation.
Task time: up to an hour.
2. Research your competition
Now it’s time to weigh up the competition. Begin by looking at the websites of your competitors, then explore their social profiles and follow them (continually staying up to date with your competitors’ marketing is mission critical). After 30 minutes research, grab a pen and paper and answer this: what similarities do you have? What differences are there? Aim to gain an idea of strengths and weaknesses with your business, and with your competitors.
Task time: Up to an hour.
3. Poll your customers
Customers can be a rich source of guidance when it comes not just to marketing, but also to the way you do business. They could tell you about the types of feed they want, provide ideas for brands you don’t stock in your tack shop, and shed light on how customers wind up at your door or shopping on your ecommerce store.
Gaining their input needn’t be complex. Simply send out a poll via email to ask them about their experiences. Make it easy to engage, with a five minute online form to be filled out. You could also post a link on your social profiles and encourage responses by offering entry to a prize draw.
Task time: Up to an hour.
Step two: Clarifying (or creating) your USP
What’s your USP?
With a good grasp as to what other feed stores and tack shops are up to and how they’re communicating their offering, it’s time to pin down a value proposition. A well formed USP should differentiate you from the competition, and make the benefit of buying from you, rather than the next store, clear.
Some questions that may help you gain a clearer idea of your USP are:
What problem(s) do you resolve?
Tack shops – you provide the clothes and the equipment that allow people to indulge in their hobby or continue running their own equestrian business. You keep people, horses and perhaps even pets clothed and safe.
Feed stores – you don’t just ‘feed’ horses, your products provide them with a balanced diet, with the right nutrients, to keep them healthy.
How can you make your shop unique?
Your products may not be unique, but your service can be. As a retailer, this will lie somewhere within your delivery, aftercare and advice. You can highlight your business as a source of expert guidance – able to provide advice on the right products, for different problems.
What’s your tagline?
This should summarise your value proposition within 10 words or less.
Step three: Set out your marketing goals
With your market explored and your USP defined, it’s now time to focus on what you want to achieve. First and foremost, one of your marketing goals will almost certainly be driving potential shoppers to your website, where they can purchase online or at least find details as to your products. But is your offering easy to find and use? Can you be found on Google search – especially Google businesses, if you have a bricks and mortar store? If not, you should invest in SEO and PPC.
You’ll also need to ensure that you have a good online reputation before you begin marketing, as 81% of shoppers conduct online research before buying. If there’s a trail of unhappy past customers to be found over on Trustpilot, all your marketing efforts go to waste for 8 out of 10 buyers.
Whatever the goals you create, you should plan for the long term, creating short, medium and long-term goals (1 month, 6 months and 12 months are good suggested timescales).
Here are the nine marketing goal categories around which you may want to build your plan:
- Web traffic
- Social media page likes and post interactions
- New customers
- Email marketing campaign opens/clicks
- Collaborative partnerships
- Media coverage
- Blog comments
Step four: Choosing your tools wisely
Here’s a question we’ve been asked time and time again: which marketing channel is most effective for equine SMEs? While the exact answer will differ from business to business, we want to present a super short summary as to what your options are, and what each channel’s main benefit is. This list isn’t exhaustive however, there are plenty more marketing mediums out there to explore.
Search Engine Optimisation
Search Engine Optimisation should be thought of as a long game – an ongoing strategy that, month by month, improves your ranking in search engines such as Google and Yahoo!
SEO should involve blogging – which can be great for educating your customers about the various products you stock that resolve their issues (such as a certain type of feed for old mares, or the best rain sheets for spring).
Get started with SEO, by reading: link building masterclass: getting started (and getting it right).
Pay Per Click
In direct contrast to SEO, PPC drives traffic to your website instantly. However you have to pay for these leads, and not all of them will convert into a sale. That said, when your PPC strategy is on-point, your targeting is right and your website converts well, it is possible to achieve £2 in return for every £1 invested.
There is SO much to cover for social that we can’t possible even touch on it here. But we DO have a library of blogs that will help you on your way…
Instagram and Pinterest mastery: from zero to hero | Snapchat your way to business growth – The beginner’s guide | Facebook ads for equestrian feed stores and tack shops
Despite mail having a rather terrible reputation as rather useless, email is in fact incredibly effective for ecommerce owners. As the perfect example, sending a series of three abandoned cart email reminders brings in 69% more orders than a single email. And, since GDPR came in, businesses and consumers are even more selective about who they receive news from, so when you DO get an opt in, your recipient should be even more ready to read your message.
PressPoint Pro Tip: we know that for many, the impact of GDPR hit hard. If you’re struggling to rebuild your email list, read this: email marketing in the age of GDPR).
Rather than being dead in the water, print marketing can feel personal, tactile and provide the recipient with something to keep around (which can be encourage by including a coupon within it). It’s also particularly effective with prospects, with research showing that 39% of customers say they try a business for the first time because of direct mail advertising.
An effective, carefully crafted marketing plan can work wonders for the bottom line of your business. But it does take time and effort. If you’d prefer to leave the marketing to the experts, PressPoint Countryside & Equestrian can help; from developing your USP, to overhauling your branding, onto creating and executing a cast-iron marketing strategy. Call our team on: +44 (0)1953 851513 or email us: [email protected] and we’ll be back in touch.