Marketing Through the Busy Season
I am a farrier and my business is feast or famine.
Right now it seems like everyone wants to go to a horse
show and Dobbin needs a new set of shoes yesterday.
Even horses that haven't been trimmed for six months
are suddenly emergencies, and the owners expect me to
work some sort of miracle with these neglected hooves.
New customers keep calling and I hate turning them
away, but I have no time and am just plain worn out.
It is tempting to forget about marketing during busy periods
in any business. But doing so will only perpetuate the
busy/non-busy cycle. While you may not need to invest in
advertising and other paid promotion at this point, you do
need to continue to market in a broader sense.
Here is some advice on keeping your sanity and maintaining
your marketing momentum so that it can carry you into the
- Communicate with your customers. Despite your
frustration, do everything you can to explain to your
customers that you want to take care of them and will do
your best considering the current demands on your time. But
be extremely careful to not make one customer feel as though
her needs are not as important as the next, or that you
can't be bothered with your customers. How you phrase and
deliver your message will make all the difference in whether
you end up with a sympathetic loyal customer or a ticked-off
- Explain that emergency calls have to be reserved for
genuine emergencies. If you know that you will be
unavailable for emergency calls on some days let your
customers know in advance. If it is your regular routine,
let your customers know that if you are able to accommodate
emergencies an extra fee will be charged. Sometimes an
extra charge prompts customers to think--and schedule ahead.
- Focus on maintaining customer loyalty. It is much easier
to keep an existing customer than it is to get a new one, so
you need to keep your year-round "regulars" happy.
This involves communication and setting priorities. It makes
sense to be loyal in providing service to customers who in
turn reward you with loyal business throughout the year.
On the flip side, every professional gets some customers who
are not worth the pain they cause. If you have "problem"
customers that you have considered kicking to the curb in
the past, now may be the time to do just that.
- Accommodate new clients when you can. Again, communicate
and tactfully explain your current situation. If you have a
relationship with another competent farrier to whom you can
pass a referral, now is the time to make that call.
Depending on your arrangement with your colleague, you may
even get the new customer back down the road when you really
need the work.
- Even if you can't accept every new client who is
referred to you, don't forget to nurture the sources of your
referrals. Find out where each new client came from, and if
it was from a referral, make the time to thank whoever sent
you the business. Failure to show appreciation to your
referral network now will result in less referrals when you
really need new customers.
- Manage your time. More than ever you need to be efficient
with time management. If you travel to appointments, try to
schedule them to minimize driving time in between each. If
your clients come to you, try to arrange your appointments
in blocks instead of scattering appointments throughout the
day. That will leave you with more solid blocks of
ďavailable" time to attend to other business.
Do everything you can to keep your appointments. As always,
if you need to reschedule or are delayed, call the customer
and let them know. It is easy to fall down on this point
when you are busy but your demonstration of reliability and
consideration impacts your reputation as a professional over
the long haul.
There IS a hidden advantage to this frantic rush season. As
long as you continue to deliver the same standard of
service, the fact that you are hard-to-get may increase the
demand for your services in the future. Even in the slower
Have you got a question about equine marketing that you
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Copyright 2005. This article first appeared in The Equine Business Edge, Equinnovation's complimentary newsletter (click to subscribe).
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