The Internet has become the fastest way to move stock in the history of the horse business. Never before have you been able to place an ad that can be seen by thousands in an instant. The Internet has opened an international door to horse owners around the globe. It is not unusual for horse owners to call within a few days of placing their ad online asking us to remove their ad because their phone will not stop ringing. But, despite the world wide exposure the Internet can be a wild wide web of confusion for horse owners wanting to cash in on the technology. Whether racing or selling your race horses, it is important to have a plan of attack.
When marketing your horses online you need to know who and where your potential buyers live on the Web. There are two distinct phases of a race horse’s life. Racing and life after racing. It is critical that you identify potential avenues for both phases of marketing your horses. If you are in the racing business then focus on the areas that you can accurately serve. For example, it will be a tremendous waste of money to advertise your race horse on a Web site where the majority of horses are trail horses. Search Google.com for web sites that offer classified advertising categories for “race horses for sale” or “APHA race horses for sale”. Once you have identified that as your primary market, you then need to identify your secondary market. Walmart®, for example, has over 125 secondary markets, but they know each one and how to serve the needs of each. Many race horses can find their second career in barrel racing. Others may be great for showing jumping or reining. You know your horses best, so do a little research and choose your secondary market. Once you decide on your secondary market, you then need to search Google.com for web sites that sell horses in your secondary market. If it happens to be barrel racing, you will find Web sites like BarrelHorses.com to focus your selling efforts. Keep in mind, this is just an example. You may not choose racing as your primary market. That is fine, but you need to know your market. Planning is essential to your success because the real question is, how can you sell to a market that you have not identified? This type of planning helps you create a focus for your business and helps keep you on a path toward success.
Once you have found a good site for selling your primary market then look at the site closely. You want to determine three things: what are the features, advantages and benefits of using a Web site to sell your horse. Classified sites fall into two categories free sites and paid sites. Pay close attention here because there are benefits and disadvantages to both. Free ads are not always the best bet. Free classified Web sites are often littered with ads thus ensuring your ad will not stand out or may never be seen. Early in the development of HorseCity.com, my partners and I determined that sellers who are not willing to pay for the best are probably not the people you want to be next too online. That philosophy has been tested over time. What we have learned at HorseCity.com is that while free classified sites have more ads, paid sites often offer better results. People that are willing to pay to place their horse online are usually considered a much more serious seller. Also, when searching sites, paid sites are not filled with free ads that are often outdated and irrelevant. There are arguments on both sides of the street about this issue. Look and see how many horses are online for sale on the site you are visiting. Most quality web sites will have a hundred or more horses in their data-base. Look at a few ads, maybe even e-mail some of the sellers listing online and ask them about their experiences with the Web site. When selecting web sites to use to market your horses bigger sites are not always better. Be sure that your ad will not get lost in the mix. Does the site offer ways for your ad to stand out? Does the site allow you to place pictures and videos of your horse online? What is the cost of placing the ad? Does the site allow users to search by sire or dam? You need to find a site that works with you and for you. Do some searching, ask lots of questions. The good news is this, most online classifieds are either free or cost no more than $35. So, in the end you are probably not out much money to test the site out for 30 days.
Now, you have determined your primary and secondary markets. You have found some Web sites you like and it’s time to list your horses online. There are some secrets to success in placing ads online.
Writing an effective ad is a great place to start. As my father once said, “Assume nothing.” Never assume that a potential buyer knows anything.
Your ad needs to be specific and tell a small story. Do not assume that potential buyers know what a Speed Index is or that they will even care. Here are two example classified ads. The first ad is severely flawed, the second will have a much higher success rate.
Example #1: Three year old Dash Ta Fame by an own daughter of Shawnee Bug. Broke, rides good. Call 314-555-1212.
Example #2: Excellent three year old barrel prospect by leading barrel racing sire Dash Ta Fame out of a Shawnee bug mare. Rides in and out of the arena, loads perfect, clips without issue and is a true joy to be around. Asking $15,000 call for more details. Call 314-555-1212 and ask for Bobby.
The first ad contains almost no information, looks to be written by a person that does not know much about horses, tells noting about the horses temperament, does not list the price and gives a potential buyer no reasons to buy.
The second ad is warm and inviting. It even gives you the name of a person to ask for when you call. It may seem small , but it works. Remember people are shy and having the name of someone to ask for when you call a blind phone number is very helpful. Telling the price helps avoid people with $100 calling to ask and the second ad, in most cases costs the same online as the first ad.
You have written a solid ad, now lets increase your chances of online selling success by adding a picture. The age old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is very true online. But, I like to say “a picture is worth a thousand words and several thousand more dollars”. It is a proven fact that a picture, no matter the quality, raises your success rate for selling a horse online 34%. Most sites offer you the ability to place more than one picture online. This is critical to your success. Most people are shy by nature, especially when it comes to buying a horse. So, pictures can really put that added sparkle in your ad. Do not put “pictures can be e-mailed upon request” in your ad so you can avoid paying the fee to place your picture with your ad. This does not work. In the long run, it creates more work for you too. If you want to jump that 34% sales rate to 65%, take the time to bath your horse, clip your horse, have your spouse put on a hat and nice clothes, and find some nice trees. Take a picture like you see in many win photos of halter horses. Make your horse look like a statue of beauty. Lance Graves, AQHA World Champion said, “The extra hour you take to make your horse look good in a picture helps solidify your asking price and adds tremendous value to your horse. It’s just like taking a dirty car to a car dealer for a trade in.” Donald Trump on the hit NBC TV show “The Apprentice” said, “I am amazed that people know they can get more for a trade if they wash the car and most people do not. In most cases you can get an extra $350 bucks for presenting a clean car. Seems dumb to me.” Photographs have always been an age old way to enhance an ad. Online research has shown that you are 57% more likely to sell your horse in less than 45 days if the ad is accompanied by a photograph. Digital cameras are cost effective and an easy way to enhance your ad, your web site and your marketing plan. The photos need to be well taken, but do not need to be the quality you see in stallion ads in a magazine. Make sure your horses ears are forward, legs are correct and that there is no manure in the background. Other than that, most pictures are better than no picture.
Besides a well written ad, nothing speaks louder than a picture expect a video. Videos sell horses very fast. Online videos are the fastest way to sell a horse. In the performance industry, it is a proven fact that a user is 89% more likely to sell there horse in 30 days or less if the ad is accompanied by a video. Getting your video online is very easy. Using a simple camcorder you can video your horse in action. Be sure the video is in focus and that you zoom in on the horse. Show the horse’s conformation, show the horse being saddled and show the horse in action. Most solid web sites like HorseCity.com, will offer video services for your ad for no more than $1 per day.
Once your ad is online be sure that you are ready at home. Be quick to reply to e-mails and phone calls. Be sure to ask as many questions of the buyer as they ask of you. Be kind and entertain dumb questions. Some buyers are just needing a bit of education and most are scared to death to call you on the phone. Make buyers comfortable on the phone. I always tell people looking to make it big in the online selling business to under promise and over deliver. Under sell your horse, but be firm about the horses accomplishments and training. If you promise the moon, you better be prepared to deliver!
Online advertising is cost effective and draws a large crowd. For more information on placing your horse online call the HorseCity.com toll free help line at 877-505-4344.