Advertising is the way to build an image of your stallion, your farm and his progeny, so it should be approached with great thought and planning. Many horse owners don’t realize horse breeding, like advertising is a long-term investment with long-term results.
Whether you want your stallion to make money for your farm or ranch or if you just want him to earn his keep, you need to have a plan on how much to pay for advertising for the year and where you will get the best value for the money you spend. One smart investment for your breeding program is the book, “The Stallion, a Breeding Guide for Owners and Handlers” by James P. McCall, PhD. Dr. McCall suggests spending two times the breeding fee for your advertising budget. If your stud fee is $500, he suggests spending $1,000 per year – also taking into consideration the number of mares you plan to breed per year, collection and shipping costs.
Your goal is to have your stallion and ranch’s name become familiar to potential customers because people trust names they recognize. This means having your stallion’s name out in the public eye all the time, even in the off-season. Make sure your ads are consistent, attractive with a recognizable farm logo or the stallion’s name always in a certain font, color scheme or style so people will associate it with your stallion and ranch.
With digital cameras and photo correction programs, more and more horse owners are taking their own pictures. Good pictures of your stallion and his foals are essential to your marketing. If you want to take your own pictures versus hiring a professional equine photographer here are a few tips.
Make sure your stallion is groomed and looking his best.
Study conformation pictures for your breed or the breed of mares you are trying to attract for breeding. When taking a side conformation shot, make sure you can see all 4 legs. Make sure the stallion is standing so the sun is behind you, but make sure you don’t get your shadow across the horse!
The stallion handler should stand far enough away to not get his/her shadow, hand, arm, etc., in the picture.
The stallion’s head show be turned slightly towards you, enough to get in his opposite nostril and brow, but not the whole eye. If you want nice ears in the shot, then you might want to have a 3rd person trying to attract his attention by waving a plastic bag, shaking some pebbles in a can, or shaking a bucket of grain.
Study your background! You don’t want a tree coming out of your stallion’s back, his ears lost in shrubbery or the trees. Make sure all buckets, or anything that will draw the eye away from your stallion is out of the picture.
The camera should be level with the center of your stallion’s barrel so the picture will be taken looking straight or slightly up at the horse. You don’t want to shoot a conformation picture looking down on the horse as it will make his legs look short and broaden his back.
Hold the camera level so the background is level and not going up or down hill.
Sometimes it helps to take pictures with a flash, even though it might be a sunny day. The flash will add highlights to his eye, bring out details and lesson the shadows. Over cast days are best when working with black and very dark horses, but you will have to use a flash. Overcast days will also tone down the glare on white or light colored horses.
Graphics programs are wonderful to erase any stray wisp of mane, erase some dirt, take out red-eye, but never change the conformation of your horse.
No time? Hire a professional to take the pictures and create your advertising layouts.
If you live on a busy road, consider a sign with the name of your ranch and phone number and also include the name of your stallion with breed – make sure the sign can be read from both directions and not just facing the road, which is difficult to read from either direction.
Frequency in advertising pays off – not just print advertising, but also with flyers, stallion auctions, your website, horse websites, Facebook, and out to shows and events. Look for value in each type of advertising.
Check out the distribution and content of the print media, as some publications will be held onto much longer than others. If you are hiring a graphic artist to make up your ad, check out the ads in the publication and call to find out who created the ads that catch your attention.
It’s great to have your own website, but doesn’t help much if people can’t find it. If you can’t get your website in the top 20 search results with the top search engines (Google, Yahoo, and MSN) then you need to get your website out there in other ways. Trade links with other farms/ranches, list your ranch in breeder’s directories for your breed, and make sure your website is listed on all printed materials.
Stallion auctions can generate interest in your stallion and a link to your website…depending on how the organization promotes the auction. Some will have a printed directory or website.
Name recognition of your stallion can also be achieved by attending shows, events or clinics with your stallion or his foals. Always take a flyer of your stallion to tack up at any type of horse event.
Some actively campaign their stallion at shows or some type of competition. If your stallion cannot be shown due to an injury and has a quiet disposition, take him to clinics (massage therapy, ground work, etc.) so people can see him. If you are showing one of his foals, make sure to have his pictures and breeding information handy in case someone asks about your foal’s breeding.
When you sell one of your stallion’s foals, make sure the new owner has printed information and pictures of your stallion to pass along if people show an interest in their foal. Help promote his foals by picturing them on your website or in your print advertising, it will make the new owners happy and also promote your stallion.
A well laid out advertising plan can make your stallion and his name recognized. Your breeding program has taken time to build, it’s the same with advertising, it takes time, but it does work.