So you’re an equestrian. You spend most of your time at the barn and/or traveling with your horses. You meet new people on a daily basis and you have a great selection of clients, connections, and friends. You have a gmail account slammed full of spam emails with important contacts and messages mixed in between, and you have a cell phone packed full of saved numbers and text messages. Everyone you know has your contact information, so you don’t need a website right? WRONG. I have formulated a list of reasons why your decision to have a “QUALITY” website is vital to your riding career, your business, and your social status in this new technology-driven world.
1) First Impressions Mean Everything – As crazy as this sounds…not EVERYONE knows you. There are upon hundreds and hundreds of thousands of key players in the equestrian world that have absolutely no clue who you are, no matter how big you think your name is. If you are content with only affiliating with your immediate circle, feel free to disregard any of this information, as it does not hold any relevance or use to those who are not looking to grow. Now that’s out of the way, let’s start. Picture the scenario: you are going on a date for the first time with someone you recently met. You show up to the elegant restaurant dressed to the nines and are awaiting to court your date. Your date shows up 15 minutes late dressed in sandals, a tank top, ripped shorts, and with chocolate smeared all over their face. What do you think now? For starters, you probably think this person does not care about their date with you, and you also may believe that this person may need some type of mental evaluation. This same idea applies to your website…it is a representation of who you are. Since I work for Parlanti…let’s say hypothetically, that I am online searching for the “next big rider” to sponsor, and I have heard your name thrown around as “the next big thing” at social events, but personally I don’t know anything about you. What do I do? I GOOGLE you. I am going to probably look for your achievements through reputable websites, and then I am going to browse your website to read more about you. Upon arriving at your website (which I had to search on google for 10 minutes to find), I notice your pictures are blurry and small, you have a logo you drew in Microsoft paint, your website background is an image of a horse stable you stole from google, there is no good contact information, there’s nothing “catchy” to keep my attention, and I almost completely took a nap waiting for the page to load because it was built with a free template you found online. Now what am I supposed to think? Unless your achievements are just ABOVE AND BEYOND anything I’ve seen or heard of before, I’m probably just going to assume that you don’t really care about how people you don’t know view you, and I’m going to start searching the next name. You just lost an opportunity and you didn’t even know it. Back to the “date” scenario… chances are you were probably wearing an expensive outfit, expensive shoes, and a nice watch to your date, weren’t you? See how this works? You wouldn’t try to knit your own tuxedo to go on a date with someone you are trying to impress would you? So why would you do the same thing with your website? (YIKES!)
2) You Aren’t Tiger Woods – Every time Tiger Woods wins an event, it is documented world-wide instantly on thousands of networks… but you’re not Tiger Woods. NBC, Sportscenter, Nike, and The Golf Channel haven’t heard, or they don’t care that you came in first at a huge event. They only care about their sponsors, or the people that they sponsor. This is also true in the EQUESTRIAN WORLD. I’m sure many of the big time equestrian bloggers, media companies, and journalist are nice people…but they don’t care about you. They care about their website traffic. If an article they write isn’t going to get them thousands of clicks to their page, they aren’t going to write it. End of story (no pun intended). So what am I saying here? Someone like me is not going to be searching the internet for hours to find the June 2009 article, located on page 400 of google, where you won 2nd place in some competition that was written by Joe-Shmoe. You need to keep your own records and documentation of your feats that anyone can view on your website. Look at your website like your resume. It needs to contain your winnings, your achievements, your most prestigious moments, and in a manner that is exciting and makes people think “wow, this person really has something going on”. If you step out of your $450,000 sports car, with a $200,000 suit on people will think: “wow, this person really has something going on”. Which may appear to be true…but you still aren’t Tiger Woods.
3) Business is Business – Let’s say you’re selling horses. From this point, you’ve been just selling horses on a hear-say basis through clients you’ve met in the past, you haven’t put any of your horses online for sale. At this moment in time, your client-reach extends to only the combinations of clients, friends, and their affiliated clients or friends. You break down the numbers and that’s 2,000 people… awesome! No it’s not. The second you post an ad for your horse online your market will go from 2,000 prospective clients to hundreds of thousands in a matter of minutes. I’m not saying if you post a horse for sale on your website that half of the world is going to come chomping at the bit for your horse, but with the right set of marketing tools, you can turn your ad into a possible sale over 500x faster. Now let’s say you’re selling high-end horses ($100,000 – $5,000,000). You don’t want to put your horses online because it devalues your status and the value of the horse, because any person with that kind of money can buy your horse, and you don’t want to be the “EBAY” of horse sales. I understand. So what do you do? You advertise that you are selling high-end horses on your website, you set up a form for them to fill out, and you review the form they submit to determine whether or not they sound serious. If they are, you charge them to view the ad that you have protected with a password, and they can then see the ad for the horse. This eliminates unrealistic buyers, spammers, and scammers from wasting your time. Having your ad available online (with or without a viewing cost) WILL increase the ability for a sale exponentially. It may cost you up to $20,000 to setup a nice, fast, and modern website with password protected pages that are viewable upon payment…but ONE sale at that price point is well worth the cost. This is simple self-investment. You can’t make money without spending money.
4) Invest in Yourself – There is only one person who will invest in you as a human being, and that is you. Your shirt colors will fade, your tack may break, your significant other may leave you, your horse may go lame…but your website will be there forever. This is such a crucial business point that so many people fail to see; the significance of a solid investment. I’ve met people who will easily invest $400,000 into a horse that could go lame tomorrow, but they won’t invest $20,000 into a website that could drive hundreds of thousands of prospective clients, sponsors, and connections directly to them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year without lifting a finger? Does this make sense? From a business perspective, this is just bad executive decision making, planning, and investment. An investor could easily take his $400,000, put it into the stock market, and possibly make $80,000 off of his investment. But why would he do that when could just take the $400,000, go to the casino, put it all on one hand of black jack, and double his money? I don’t understand either. (Sarcastic Laugh)
5) Quality Separates Gucci from Walmart – Gucci sells T-shirts, Walmart sells T-shirts…same thing, right? Yeah, but no. (more on the “no” side). Realistically its just a T-shirt, but do the same thing with an engagement ring and you will understand the true meaning behind why its not the same thing. This rule applies to websites as well. If you try to pay your friend to do your website, chances are it is going to work against you in terms of quality. You DO NOT want to have a website that is slow, old, filled with blurry un-edited pictures, and gives off the “I spent 8 minutes on this” vibe. I scroll through equestrian websites daily, and some of these websites are just SO bad that I can’t even handle looking at it for two seconds without the thought of running in front of oncoming traffic as one of my next moves. If you aren’t going to do the research, spend the money, and do it the right way…then don’t do it. Its better to remain silent than to come off like an child. If you’re serious, you need to find a web-designer who has credibility and has the education to back up your requests. I do not recommend using your wife, your kids, the guy next door, the guy from the computer section at Circuit City, or your best friends brother who has “dabbled” in web design as any of your choices. You will end up regretting it, and wasting your “investment”. Remember, a website is not just a website…the same way an engagement ring is not just an engagement ring, or a t-shirt is just a t-shirt. If you shop at Gucci you get the look, if you shop at Walmart you get the discount. Don’t confuse the two.