By Danika Kent
You’ve got the next big thing. You know it and he knows it. But how do you convince the rest of the world of your stallion’s worth? How do you compete with the biggest names, bloodlines, and bank accounts in the industry? Feeling horse rich, but penny poor? Fortunately, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and Barrel Horse News has rounded up a panel of experts to help take your stallion to the next level and attract the attention he deserves as your launch his breeding career.
Breaking the Mold
The media-savvy driving force behind the Schiller Ranch brand, Kristi Schiller is a guiding light when it comes to stallion promotion.
Starting from Scratch. When you’re just starting out and you’re on a budget, there are ways to skirt around some of the expenses. Crystal Nichols knew nothing about promoting a stallion when she bought Shawne Bug Leo. She didn’t have a Josh Welch, a Jenna Jackson or a Billy Miller, but she dedicated herself to doing this and she did it until she felt comfortable with it. She has made this her passion.
Speak without words. You’re building dreams, so tell the story in your picture. Do something that no one else expects to see. I had Josh Welch shoot Epic Leader in a lot of unconventional ways. Hire a photographer if you want to go above and beyond, or for $500 you can buy a good Canon 7D or a Rebel with a video camera built in. Get out there and learn your camera and how to take the best photos and videos. There are also ways to enrich the photos you already have; Crystal had some old photographs of Shawne Bug Leo and she started learning Photoshop to do that.
Logo for Less. Your stud needs something that’s recognizable. You can go online to Logo Tournament or 99 Designs, and they have thousands of graphic design artists on hand. You write in your ideas for what you want and they’ll latch on and it’s a five or six day contest. You’ll have 30 to 75 people, on average, submitting their designs, and they’re often submitting more than one. You can write to the designers and make suggestions and give them feedback and when it’s done, it’s camera-ready and in the right format. We’re talking about a $300 investment; if you walked into an ad agency, you might spend $10,000.
Stand out from the crowd. Try to do something off of the beaten path, like sponsoring a race. Get somebody to write an advertorial, a story on your horse that’s not just an ad. Build a relationship with whoever is building your ad; they’re making you look good and they don’t have to.
All in the Family. Keep up with half-brothers, three-quarter sisters – anything that’s doing well. Keep up with offspring winnings and what they’re doing. I cannot drive in the importance of Equi-Stat. Make them your friend.
Mrs. Right. If you were trying to find the perfect fit for your mare, imagine going to Match.com. Is the perfect man kind? Gentle? Easy on the eyes? Is he all of these things? What are these people looking for? That’s what you want to project in your ad. You’re looking for a Mrs. Right for your Mr. Right Now. Be selective on the mares you consider. Get the offspring in the right hands. Luck is planned, as far as I’m concerned – except for when you’re shopping on Craigslist.
Rule the Web. Get a domain name – your webpage is your calling card. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook… social media is free. Use it. People want to follow and feel a connection. Your best selling tool is often other people’s comments. Advertising is important, but word of mouth will spread 100,000 times faster than an ad will. If you start a YouTube channel, people can really get a feel for your horse. Set aside 10 minutes twice a week to add a picture to Facebook or a video to your YouTube channel; that’s all it takes to keep people interested.
Swag. People want to be on the cutting edge of something that’s hot. Invest in marketing items like hats, koozies and T-shirts – that’s free advertising walking around. Set up contests for swag. Send out a free hat to anybody that sends in a video of one of your stallion’s babies. Make the people that breed to your stallion feel elite. This is a vision somebody has. Some people only breed to one horse a year – make them feel like all you’re breeding to that year is that one mare.
Stallion Stations. Where are you going to stand your horse? What do you know about embryo transfer? If somebody from South Dakota is really interested in what you’ve got and you’re in Texas, if they’re driving down to Diamonds and Dirt and want to look at a few studs and they call and you say, “I’m at my kid’s soccer game, I can’t be there,” you might lose out. You need a credible place to stand your stud. If you’re taking it seriously, you need to budget that in. Send him somewhere that has a full-time staff to take care of him and that promotes him on the other end. I cannot stress that enough.
Stay the Course
Donna Johnston calls on her 10 years of experience as Senior Advertising Executive of Barrel Horse News to simplify your marketing strategies.
Audience. Before you get into the building of the ad and the photography, you need to identify your target market so you can find the best marketing vehicle to reach that audience. Do you want to reach mare owners in your local area or a much larger national audience? Do you want to ship semen or live cover mares? Is your horse dual-purpose? How much do you need to educate the market about your horse’s lineage?
Accessibility. Make sure your business is set up for easy client access and research. The stallion owner must be accessible to mare owners. Ideally, that means a website, email, and even a Facebook page. The information on the stud needs to be readily and easily accessible to mare owners.
Budget. The investment does not stop with the purchase of the stallion; that’s where it begins. You’ve bought the best stallion you can afford, now make sure you get him the best marketing you can afford. Identify how much you can devote to marketing to meet your target audience, then spread that budget out so that it will be consistent throughout the season and build that recognition.
Consistency. Being seen consistently builds the perception that you’re serious. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a full-page ad everywhere, but that you’re seen multiple times. For instance, there are a lot of Dash Ta Fame sons out there. If your Dash Ta Fame stud is only seen once, you’re not necessarily in front of the breeder when they’re ready to make a decision. Another stud of similar breed- ing may be chosen as that stallion was seen more often by the mare owner. Your stallion needs to be recognized and consistently being in front of his target audience will build that recognition. If your stallion is seen more than the next one, it may be advantageous to the mare owner to breed to yours over one of equal pedigree but less identity. If your stallion is promoted more, it will potentially make the foal more valuable. Perception is a big thing.
Strength in Numbers
Statistician Tysha Franklin explains the benefits of tapping into the ever-growing statistical database of barrel racing reports that is Equi-Stat.
Build Him Up. Equi-Stat is a vital tool for stallion owners. The average barrel racer can’t afford a $5,000 stud fee, so they’re going to look for something that’s affordable and comparable to a higher-priced stallion. When race results are reported to Equi-Stat with registered horse names, it’s all credited back to the stallion, which can make your horse comparable to the one that has a $5,000 stud fee. Reports of stallion or offspring earnings can also be used in advertising. Kenny Nichols does a great job of that. He always keeps track and he’ll put congratulatory messages in his ads for people that are winning on his stallion’s off- spring.
Magic Crosses. Stallion owners can use Equi-Stat when they’re considering which mares to book. Most people purchase a Magic Cross report on their mare, but it’s a fabulous tool for a stallion owner, as well. If it’s a young stallion that doesn’t have any offspring that are performing yet, you could pull a paternal grandsire Magic Cross report. For example, if I have a 5-year-old son of Frenchmans Guy, he doesn’t have any offspring earnings yet so I can’t pull a Magic Cross report on him. So how would we know which mares would complement him the best? You have to find comparable lineage, that is, the paternal grandsire, which in this case would be Frenchmans Guy. It’s a similar family line, and it will show you which mares are producing the most money with that cross.
Thinking Ahead. Equi-Stat is the tool used for exportation. If you were ever approached by a Brazilian who was interested in your horse or its offspring, a stallion must have $10,000 in performance earnings or $100,000 in offspring earnings to be exported to Brazil. If you have a yearling, obviously it has no offspring earnings and no performance earnings, but you can still export it based on stallion get earnings and mare produce money.
What’s it to You?
Dee Braman of JB Quarter Horses explains the true benefits of incentive programs and believing in your bloodlines.
Embracing Incentives. Incentives are the key to our program. We started our incentives because we wanted to make sure we could give back. If you’re going to give me your hard-earned money to breed to my stud, I have to make sure that I stand beside you and make sure that that baby is always going to be worth something. We’ve had great luck with the nationally- branded incentives, like Future Fortunes, Triple Crown and Valley Girls. Anybody that wants to participate can donate a breeding or pay their stallion in.
As a stallion owner, you have to set yourself apart from everyone else. You’ve got to find a way for people to take a chance on your stallion. Frenchmans Guy is a well-respected stallion in our industry; he doesn’t need an incentive for anybody to beg to breed to him. But when you’re standing young stallions, nobody wants to give you a chance. It’s a risk and you have to wait four years before you know. Figure out something that is economically feasible but you feel good about. When we started, each of our stallions held 10 spots in his book for free for mares that have $10,000 in Equi-Stat earnings or on the track, and 10 spots for daughters of Dash Ta Fame. DTF Way Ta Fire was a free breeding. Chasin Firewater was a nobody; it took the word “free” for Vauna Walker to take that chance and breed her mare to him, but she’s bred every year since.
If you’re passionate about it, you will be successful. People think “incentive” and they think dollar sign, but it’s so much more than that. I want my incentive to be that we’re going to believe in you, we’re going to be in the stands cheering for you, we’re going to be patting you on the back. That’s the most amazing incentive you can give anybody, that you’ve got their back.
Little Black Book. Every stallion owner has their own method to determine how many mares their stallion is going to book. The method behind our madness is value first. I don’t want to flood the market, that’s why we limit the number of mares. Chasin could cover 120-plus mares, but what is it going to do for you if you have one of 120? If you have one of 60, your colt is worth a lot more. Secondly, we consider what the stallion is physically able to do. Spend the money to have your stallion checked out. Really know what your stallion is and what he’s capable of. Finally, what is the individual mare worth to you? Does she Equi-Stat well? Has she produced anything? Did she do anything herself? When it comes to free or discounted breedings, that’s strictly every stallion owner’s economical decision.
Know Your Man. Stallion owners need to look at a multitude of babies trained by different hands and how they work. What makes those colts successful? Do they all have the same little quirk? How can you prepare future breeders with ideas on what you think would make a magic cross? As a stallion owner, you need to really know your horse and be able to say whether you are really confident in a cross or you know that you may be creating something else. That way, everybody goes into it with an open mind. If everybody would really look into that, they would be pleasantly surprised at how predictable these stallions and colts can be.
Full Circle. It’s very rewarding when things go right and it’s always disappointing when things go wrong. Freak things happen and it seems like it all hits you at once. We had an amazing year last year and were broken hearted this year because we have nothing to show. It hurts your program when you lose a colt as a baby, but when you lose them as 3- and 4-year-olds, that’s devastating. When you can lean on the people who believed in you, people like Vauna who raised Fireball and then he goes to Talmadge, or you have Pete Oen, they’ve saved the day. That’s the key to having a stallion – their off- spring have to be out there running. People have to see them and know that their money is safe. I’m forever grateful to Kassie Mowry for what she’s done for us. She helped get Chasin out there and turned the tables for him and made some of his first babies. That was a huge gamble for her. To reach across that line and fill your barn with the chance – with a question mark – that’s brave. It takes a lot of money to make a baby. You’re asking people for a lot and they’re believing in you. As an owner, you have to be real gracious when anybody gives you a chance. That’s all it takes, it just takes a couple to get out there and turn people’s heads.