Equestrian Professional: 7 Steps to Writing a Killer Horse Business Marketing Plan

Elisabeth McMillan, Equestrian Professional

August 30, 2012



Over the years, I've learned many marketing philosophies, gained a lot of experience and created my own blended approach to horse business marketing. However, I find that at my core is a thought process that I learned about 10 years ago from Jay Conrad Levinson, during a Guerrilla Marketing Coach Certification Course.

It is called "The 7 Sentence Marketing Plan."

It is also known as "The 7 Step Marketing Plan” because of the simple step-by-step approach that creates it. The way it works is you write one or two sentences about seven key areas of your business and your marketing, put them all together, and KAPOW! - Instant marketing plan.

Since becoming a consultant, I have used this process over and over again in my own business and to help other horse professionals create and improve their marketing plans. It is simple, but it works so consistently well that it has become one of my favorite tools. So today, I thought you might like to see it in action.

The seven steps/sentences are as follows:

1. The purpose of your marketing
2. How you will achieve this purpose
3. Your Target Market
4. Your Business Identity/Branding
5. Your Niche - Unique value proposition
6. The Marketing Tools you will use
7. Your Budget

Today, we will use a hunter/jumper barn called Ocean Blue Stables (not the real name) as our case study.

Step 1 - Define the purpose of your marketing - Briefly describe the result you want your marketing to deliver. What are your specific goals? Make sure that they are measurable.

Example: The purpose of Ocean Blue Stable's marketing is to grow our existing business 20%, by attracting more students from the local college to participate in our lesson and leasing programs.

Step 2 - How will you achieve this purpose? Include your Competitive Advantage and the Features and Benefits of your offering. This is where you describe what is special about your business. What sets you apart from your competitors? What do you offer and how do your offerings benefit the client? This part of your seven-step marketing plan tends to include more than one sentence. Sometimes a short bulleted list or an outline can work well.

Example: In order to achieve this purpose, we will position our barn as the best barn for college students to ride at. None of the colleges in our area have equestrian programs, and we offer more benefits to college students than any of the other local barns. We can provide them with show quality horses to lease and a supportive barn community so that they can make new friends and successfully compete in horse shows throughout their college years.

Note: This sentence is more complex than it may appear at first glance. It incorporates both the features and the benefits of the offering. Understanding features and benefits is an essential marketing concept to understand .

Step 3 - Who is your Target Market? We are already demonstrating how to zero in on a target market by having this example address college students. However, in this case, the target market can be narrowed even more.

Example: The target market our campaign will focus on is college students who are interested in riding.


Step 4 - What does your business stand for? Convey the identity of your business - your Branding Again we've discussed the importance of branding on multiple occasions - however in this case what we are looking for is a sentence that helps you to infuse a strong dose of your brand's promise into your marketing plan.

Example: Our brands promise is to provide a supportive and professional environment for both equine and equestrian.

Step 5 - Describe your Niche and Unique Value Proposition - Now we narrow it down even further by identifying your niche within the target market and by attaching your unique value proposition.

Example: The niche we are best able to serve is the intermediate rider who wants to learn more about or excel in the hunter/jumper discipline by gaining access to quality horses and instruction at an A Circuit show barn.

Step 6 - What marketing tools will you use? Jay Levinson calls these "marketing weapons," but I've always felt that this word added an unnecessary adversarial approach to marketing, so I prefer to use "tools." Note: For best results, it is important to choose a variety of tools and to use them in combination.

Example: In order to reach our customers, we will use the following marketing tools:

1. Our website will have a specific section that announces and explains our college program
2. We will run an ad in the college paper
3. We will write an article about our program and submit it to both the local paper and the college paper. We will also identify several online sources who might publish our article and provide links back to our website.
4. We will post flyers (at and near) the college

Step 7 - What is your budget? And how will you maximize it? Here again, is a place where the Guerrilla Marketing approach is well suited to horse business owners. Guerrilla Marketers typically work with very small budgets and view marketing as an investment that must deliver a measurable return. A portion of this return is then re-invested in more marketing. Over time, this strategy, when applied successfully can help a small undercapitalized horse business owner create a very healthy marketing budget and successfully grow their business.

Example: We will begin with a budget of $300 and re-invest both 20% of the immediate sales and 10% of the ongoing profits we receive from this campaign into more marketing for Ocean Blue Stables.

Putting It All Together

OK, so now let's put all these sentences together and see what our Seven Step Marketing Plan looks like. I've colored the text so that you can see how each step fits together to make a complete marketing plan.

The purpose of Ocean Blue Stable's marketing is to grow our existing business 20% by attracting more students from the local college to participate in our lesson and leasing programs. In order to achieve this purpose, we will position our barn as the best barn for college students to ride at. None of the colleges in our area have equestrian programs and we offer more benefits to college students than any of the other local barns. We can provide them with show quality horses to lease and a supportive barn community so that they can make new friends and successfully compete in horse shows throughout their college years.

The target market our marketing campaign will focus on is college students who are interested in riding. Our brand's promise is to provide a supportive and professional environment for both equine and equestrian. The niche we are best able to serve is the intermediate rider who wants to learn more about or excel in the hunter/jumper discipline by gaining access to quality horses and instruction at an A Circuit show barn.

In order to reach these potential customers, we will use the following marketing tools:

1. Our website will have a specific section that announces and explains our college program
2. We will run an ad in the college paper
3. We will write an article about our program and submit it to both the local paper and the college paper. We will also identify several online sources who might publish our article.
4. We will post flyers at and near the college

We will begin with a budget of $300 and re-invest both 20% of the immediate sales and 10% of the ongoing profits we receive from this campaign into more marketing for Ocean Blue Stables.

Closing Thoughts

The example I've given here demonstrates how to use this system for developing a medium-sized marketing plan for a specific area of your business. With a little tweaking, this same system can be used for creating a large marketing plan for your entire business and for individual marketing materials like print ads, websites and business cards. (Big companies use the Seven Step Marketing Plan, too. Rumor has it that Proctor & Gamble use Conrad's system for all of their marketing plans, not just because it’s simple, but because it works.)

A word of caution

Don't let the simplicity of this exercise fool you. Each plan is only as good as the sum total of its parts. It takes some work (and sometimes research) to develop the individual pieces that are necessary for optimal results.

It helps if you have already worked on a few of these areas in advance. For example, if you have already developed (and written down) your unique value proposition for your horse business and have a proven collection of horse business marketing tools and strategies to choose from - you will find the Seven-Step Plan much easier to write and implement.

Plus, it is good to use a marketing calendar to help you track the results of your marketing. We have covered many of these topics in past newsletters, and of course the specific tools and resources necessary for creating a marketing plan are available in the members area of the Equestrian Professional site.

Still, whether you use our tools or create your own, the thing that is really great about using this strategy is that it helps you to think about your marketing in the right way. If you get your thinking right - your marketing will be right.

About the author

Elisabeth McMillan is an equine business consultant and the founder of Equestrian Professional.com, a website that provides business education and career support to horse professionals. She is also a sought after public speaker for equestrian organizations and speaks at equestrian events through out the U.S.

This article is a courtesy of Equestrian Professional, an USHJA educational partner. All USHJA trainers receive a 10% discount on any Equestrian Professional membership plans. Additionally, USHJA Certified Trainers receive a 25% discount. Plus, as a member you'll receive a huge discount on the Equestrian Social Media Boot Camp!

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