They say the only constant is change—and there is nowhere that is more true than online.
Horse industry aside, the Internet has changed in seismic ways over the past couple of years. At the time of writing, Apple’s is the largest company in the world—64% larger than runner up Exxonmobil. Amazon has a market cap greater than Wal-Mart and UPS combined. And Facebook is on its way to connecting another billion users to each other and the world.
With rapid and compounding change comes massive opportunities.
In online marketing that opportunity lies in the ability to adopt and execute new tactics quicker than your competitors. If change is the name of the game, then getting great at new things quickly is a super power. And not enough companies in the horse space are embracing it.
Because they don’t know how—yet.
In many ways, selling online has never been easier. Online templates like Squarespace and Wix have made it easier than ever to set up a website—if you even need one. Some folks have a go with just a Facebook page or Instagram handle. Shopify has removed all the upfront expenses and major headaches of e-commerce. Ss something that used to cost $250k to build to scale in 2010 is now available to anyone for just $20 a month.
“Step one,” in other words, is accessible to anyone willing to try. It’s steps two through infinity that get tricky.
While the tools of monetizing the Internet are more accessible than ever, there’s never been more conflicting information about what to do next—how to get new customers, how to show up in Google search, how to get new customers from Facebook or even just to read your content.
Compounding the problem is the way that media is bought and sold on the Internet. Most online ads (think Google and Facebook) are purchased in an auction environment. More buying pressure (due to an ever increasing pool of competitors) against the same amount of inventory (“inventory” simply being eyeballs on your ad) creates higher prices. That, in turn, makes it harder to compete for those eyeballs.
Take toasters, for example. There are only so many people searching “toasters” on the Internet. If there are 500 more stores selling toasters online (or saddles, or supplements, or equine services), but there are only 100 people buying a toaster (or saddle, etc.) at any point in time, the competition around marketing to those people becomes much more stringent. Especially since you can’t convert a toaster buyer to a mixer (or a close contact saddle buyer to a dressage saddle).
Now you may think, “But my product is better!” That may very well be the case but, at the end of the day, it’s not enough.
Competitors will win your potential customers with an inferior product if they execute a superior web marketing strategy. And many are. All these nuanced things that we think of as “boxes to check” in our web marketing—I did the SEO, I already have pictures on my website—somewhere else there’s someone working harder at that problem eating your lunch. That’s the risk for anyone bringing new products to market and not thinking about investing enough in digital marketing.
If you want to be a 5, 10, 100 million-dollar company, you need to think that you are competing against a 10-person marketing department—a whole department getting good at this stuff—to show up on that first page of Google. At the very least, you have to take it as seriously as these people or your better product will never see the light of day.
Don’t feel bad if you’re not doing it well. These are professional problems. Who would of thought that Instagram would be something that people are paid to do professionally? That was a joke three years ago. Now, the smartest companies online—Amazon, Apple, Wal-Mart—are paying handsomely for these skills and gobbling up talent.
Because you can’t be good at all of them, especially when there is a new skill, a new tactic, a new variant every month. You need a specialist, people who are close to those problems—you’ve got to hire it.
At Horse Network, we have an amazing editorial team—the best in the business, we think. We have an equally amazing web marketing team working behind the scenes—people whose job it is to study and quickly adopt the best practices from other industries and apply them to the horse industry. It’s how we grew our blog to over 1.5 million unique visitors per month in just four years.
That dual focus is unique in this industry.
We have a giant paucity of digital marketing and advertising talent in the horse space and an overabundance of corporate sponsorships. We need to develop our collective online marketing strategy if we want to pull our industry—and horse sport—out of the 18th Century.
Let’s start together.
Over the next few months, we’re going to share current web marketing best practices with you in this column. Because the superpower is being able to quickly adopt these practices and apply them to your horse business. But the super opportunity lies in doing it in an industry where fewer people deploying them.