Why Did He Buy That Horse?

I recently congratulated a man who just bought a new horse. Along with his new prize, he brought home some experiences and observations on the horse-shopping process. I asked him how he made his decision and distilled from his answers some tips that sellers of horses can use to improve their marketing.

The man shopped for horses on two continents. He looked at Internet ads and asked for video of horses he was interested in. As he narrowed his choices, he went to look at the horses in person.

Choosing a horse is a personal thing and it is impossible to cut and dry all of the reasons for a purchase. But here are a few of the more concrete factors that led to his decision:

  1. The seller/breeder has a solid reputation as a knowledgeable horseman. The depth of his knowledge, his willingness and ability to answer questions with facts and examples, and his demeanor made the buyer comfortable and created confidence.

    Take-Home Tips:
    • DO work to improve your reputation in the industry.
    • DON'T under-estimate the value of good will.
    • DO know your horses backward and forward, inside and out, in every detail. Be able to support your representations with facts and valid reasoning.
    • DON'T assume that anything is obvious to the shopper, but also don't assume that your customer lacks knowledge.
    • DO listen to your customer and try to understand exactly what he is looking for.
  2. The horse was presented well in all respects. His Internet ad described him, his bloodlines, and his abilities thoroughly, factually, and with minimal puffery. His photos were appealing and the video was extensive, showing him as a good-looking horse with presence and a likeable personality. When seen "in person," he was well-groomed, in good fit, and easy to handle—exactly what the buyer was expecting to see.

    Take-Home Tips:
    • DO present your horses at their best in all of your marketing.
    • DON'T use poor quality materials to market your horses.
    • DO give as much detail as possible.
    • DON'T make representations about physical features, temperament, level of training, or condition that won't be evident when the horse is seen in the flesh.
  3. The horse was under saddle with good training appropriate for its age. He was ridden by the seller's assistant for demonstration and was available to be ridden by the buyer.

    Take-Home Tips:
    • DO recognize what customers in the horse industry reasonably expect a horse to be able to do, and strive to have your horses at an appropriate level of training.
    • DON'T rely on your customer’s imagination and ability to guess at your horse's capabilities. Be prepared to show what your horse can do.
  4. There was no "hard sell." The seller showed the buyer a variety of horses, including some of his breeding stock that were not for sale but that the buyer wanted to see. The seller's appreciation and affection for each horse was obvious in the way that he flamboyantly produced each for the buyer's inspection. The seller pointed out each horse's strong points and made it easy for the buyer to see how each horse was (or was not) what he was looking for. He did not rush the buyer or act as though his time was being wasted.

    Take-Home Tips:
    • DO persuade, don't just pitch.
    • DO point out good attributes.
    • DON'T stop at stating features—help your customer see the benefits those features deliver.
    • DO answer questions thoughtfully.
    • DON'T use pressure or try to force a sale: you'll show disrespect for your customer and disregard for his wants and needs.
    • DO understand the transaction has two sides, and remember that both sides need to benefit from the purchase for the sale to be successful.

Improving your own marketing involves testing new methods and learning from every interaction with your customers. Take the opportunity to learn from the sale of every horse, even sales made by other sellers, and you'll be that much further ahead of your competition.

Have you got a question about equine marketing that you would like answered? Submit your question by email to: Ingrid@equinnovation.com

Copyright 2005. This article first appeared in The Equine Business Edge, Equinnovation's complimentary newsletter (click to subscribe).

Contents may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

For information on republishing this article, please email Ingrid@equinnovation.com or call Ingrid at 231-275-3355.