Equestrian & Country Business

Running your own business can be hard, can’t it? It can be lonely, you feel overwhelmed, confused… and a lot more besides. Here, in this area, I hope to share stories, tips and information from equestrian and rural businesses just like you to inspire and motivate.

There are lots of different kinds of equestrian and rural business, and there are lots of ideas that can help all of these thrive. Here you’ll find business podcasts, interviews from business owners of equestrian and country brands you know and love, and more besides. You might find tips and tricks connected to how to run your social media platforms better, or even an explanation as to the new developments in these areas. You might stumble upon information connected to PR and marketing that will really help you promote your business more effectively.

I’m sure you’ll find something that you can try now that will help your equestrian or country business. You’ll definitely find some inspiring stories from some great people in our industry.

Faulty product = fabulous PR opportunity?Ok, Ok, the title is a teeny bit misleading here, but when you get to the bottom of this blog, it’ll all become clear. Could a faulty product make a great PR opportunity?

Let’s start at the ideal…

In a perfect world, every product that leaves your shop would be perfect. There would be nothing wrong and you’d only have happy customers. That goes without saying. But we all know that in the real world, through no fault of anyone’s, stuff goes wrong. There are a range of reasons – the damn thing can shrink in the wash, the colour can run, the leather can crack, you name it. The customer contacts you to complain…and here’s where it gets interesting. You can turn this problem into a great PR opportunity that shows how much you care. There are options here, and if you’re a company dealing with the end user in particular, it’s important to really think about how you’re going to deal with these people in a way that conforms to your company policy. I’m not going to look at specifics as everyone has their own policy, and I’m not saying you should go against this at all (as this should be inline with the rules and regs you have to follow), but I’m looking at how you manage this person. In my opinion. And how they can become your biggest cheerleader.

How social media can kick you (hard) or really help

As social media is one of my areas of expertise, let’s look at this, but understand the example can be applied everywhere. Your peed off customer has posted on your Facebook page. They’re not happy. “I bought my x from you, it cost me y, it was for my daughter’s birthday, she’s distraught, I’m beyond livid, your company is a joke”. It happens. Now. She’s posted this publicly, and that’s fine too, if handled correctly. You need to work with this person. Yes, she may have just called you a joke and you’ve taken that badly, and you have absolutely no idea whey she didn’t follow the correct complaints procedure, but in the world of social media, people don’t always do this. They seldom do. They like to air their views and they want everyone to hear them roar. It’s annoying. Actually, it’s very annoying. But now is not your moment to kick off, because the other people who like your page won’t see you there, being insulted, and being annoyed that she hasn’t followed the correct procedure. They’ll either see you a) being helpful and caring or b) being an arse – yes, not a word I usually use in a blog, but scale it up a bit to get people’e true view. They won’t see the full picture, so as you address her and her issues, just keep in mind what other people are seeing and how this either boosts your brand or kicks it in the nuts. Now, follow up with her promptly. Address her issues, work with her. Of course, I’ve assumed that this is a genuine issue. And that her x really is broken. People who are taking the mick are different in some ways but still need careful handling. Follow her complaint through quickly, you might even want to send her a goodwill gesture (which could be a voucher off her next order, or even something small and relevant like a sample of a new products or a little treat). Before you know it, you’ve transferred your ‘nightmare’ into an advocate for your brand, because when she buys from you again, and she will (if you’ve done your best and looked after her), she knows that you will support her and look after her, even if things don’t work out.

Cracking customer service can save the day

Customer service is a dying art, and if you can really hone your skills in this area, it’s far more than just this. It’s going to boost your brand in more ways than you can imagine and it could mean that you can turn negatives into positives. Who would think that faulty products have the potential to create good PR opportunities? Obviously you shouldn’t try and create faulty products, but if one slips through the net, it’s how you deal with it that counts.

Following on from my previous post about Hiho Silver and its gorgeous product packaging (see video here), I wanted to talk to you about my second example – brought to you by Doris & Co. So, what or who is Doris & Co? Doris & Co produces British made creamware products based on traditional shapes, featuring lovely phrases and exclusive designs. The company is best known for its half pint mugs that feature phrases like ‘Hold Fast’ and ‘Made of Stern Stuff’, but a range of other products is available too. What’s more, not only do Doris’s products look great and feel great to use, but they’re also dishwasher proof, so they’re practical too.

Why did I make a video about a mug and its packaging?

What packaging says about youSo, why did a mug and its packaging get a video made about it? Because it’s different and it’s special. Doris pieces are British made. The designs are exclusive and thoughtful but not cloying. The pieces are great quality. And the packaging shows this. I made a video about Doris & Co’s ‘Old Friends Are Best’ Mug as I bought this mug for my friend at Christmas time and wanted to show just how gorgeous it and its packaging were before she received it. So, here’s the video. And, if you liked this one, check out the ones below too.

Packaging is so much more than wrapping

Packaging is so much more than just the wrapping a product comes in – it’s a great way to project your brand, your story and your values to your customer. This can have many benefits. Making you customers feel special and like you really care is where the journey starts, but there’s a lot more to it than that. See the video here.

And a few more packaging videos featuring…

Hiho Silver

Bloom & Wild

Annabel Brocks and Hawkins Organic

Have you ever told someone that you’re not good at something? Was it based on the fact you’re genuinely poor in that area (as in, you’re tone deaf, so singing isn’t for you!), or is it based on the story you’ve been telling yourself for a while? These stories we tell ourselves can be just as important as the stories we craft for our businesses, yet they seem to get a lot less time and energy spent of them. Let me explain why the story you tell yourself matters.

Why it matters – let’s look at it from a business point of view

When you think about your business and its PR, marketing and social media – and its video content – you’re adding to its story. Or, at least, you should be. If you make a truly superb product that’s unique and innovative, you’ll want your story to show this. You’ll blog about its features, film people talking about it, post pics of it looking gorgeous. You wouldn’t focus on the weaker points and have these at the core of your product. Would you? I hope not. To really illustrate the point, I’m going to come up with the example of a flying car. The car is amazing. You can drive it, you can fly it, it’s affordable, it doesn’t drink fuel. Get the idea. So, if you were marketing this product, would you say ‘it’s a great car, but its cup holders are a bit rubbish’ and then post a pic of its rubbish cup holders on Instagram? If you would, you need a slap. But do you see what I mean? Maybe the cup holders need a bit of improvement, I don’t know, I haven’t really explored every aspect of the flying car as yet, but if you focus on a weaker area, you know what’s going to happen? You’ll think the flying car is naff because of its small cup holders. Which, actually, only really impact you if you have supersize drinks from a drive thru. And you have a flying car- WHY ARE YOU GOING TO A DRIVE THRU? This will become the story you tell yourself and your customers about the amazing FLYING car. Sometimes our weaknesses, or our perceived weaknesses, becoming a big part of our story. And where do these come from? Are you comparing yourself to someone else? Maybe who’s on stage five of their journey when you’re at the start? Maybe the cup holders are fine – they’re just not as big as in a different car?

My ‘story’ was about the phone

So, let’s move this on. I had a belief that I wasn’t good on the phone. It impacted the way I thought about myself, my business, and how I spoke to people. I mean, a PR and marketing consultant and business coach who is rubbish on the phone? Seriously? Someone who wants to help people but hates the phone. I told myself I was rubbish on the phone. And I believed it. Then someone pulled me up on it. They asked a) why I thought I was rubbish on the phone b) what evidence I had to back this up and c) whether I was missing the big picture a little. And I’m going to tell you what I discovered. I’m not bad on the phone. Actually, I’m pretty good on the phone, and I’m even better on Skype/Facetime. There was no evidence to back up my thoughts and I was missing the big picture on every level. Do you know why I thought I was bad on the phone? Because I hated dealing with most of the calls I had, because I felt that they wasted my time, I had to say the same thing, and it interrupted whatever I was doing. I don’t like being put on the spot and being pressured and a lot of the calls I dealt with had both of these traits. So, was I bad on the phone, or didn’t I like dealing with the people who communicated with me through the phone? Yep. It was the latter. And was justified. But the phone (and my abilities on the phone) took the force of my thoughts. And this reflected on how I viewed some of the things I do. It gave me the chance to beat myself up for something that, actually, I had no need to. I told myself I was rubbish on the phone and each time is rang and I didn’t want to answer it, it reinforced it. See what I mean? I put together a video about this here. 

My challenge for you

So, here’s a challenge- if you choose to accept it – have a think about the story you tell yourself. Next time you think that you’re not good at something, just have a think why. We should all be looking to improve ourselves and be better, of course we should, but telling ourselves we are rubbish to start with isn’t the way to do this.

This is a theme that appears in quite a few of the coaching sessions I do with my clients (find out more here), and it’s amazing that when we have a look at these beliefs and the ‘supporting evidence’ how we can rationalise and then push on with a whole lot of other things.

I know, the term coach fills so many people with dread. And I get it. A lot. But if you ignore your ideas of what a coach could be, and think about the ‘proper’ definition, things get a load clearer. Add the word business in front (as in, business coach) and you’re halfway there. So here’s five ways a business coach can help you and your business. There are more than five, of course, but to get you started…

Five ways a business coach can help you and your businessWhat does ‘coach’ mean?

So, let’s think about sports coaches. These people have experience in what they’re doing, they help bring the best out of you, they guide you, they help you, they have your back. Sound good? Now, when I use the term coach here, or anywhere else on this site, THAT’S the kind of attitude and service I’m talking about. I won’t get you doing star jumps or running around a football pitch in all weathers, but channel that idea. So, with that in mind, here are five ways a business coach can help you.

Five ways a business coach can help you

  1. They’ll work with you to set goals. These might be for a year’s time, or for next month, or what you want to achieve in a certain timescale, but they should help you set goals.
  2. They’ll help you achieve these goals. Thinking of a goal is one thing, achieving is another. A business coach should be able to help you create a plan that will allow you to achieve your goals.
  3. They’ll help you look at other options. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and not see the full range of what’s available, whether this is in terms of how to promote a product, people to work with, new ideas to promote your business. Having someone on the outside looking in can be really helpful.
  4. They’ll listen to your concerns and your current position and help you overcome your issues. And, if they can’t, they should be able to point you in the right direction, so you move forward.
  5. They’ll keep you accountable. Not in a way that makes you feel scared or worried, in a way that motivates, inspires and keeps you moving forward. They should be able to review your progress, with you, see what worked and what didn’t and address why and ways around it.

How could business coaching help you and your business?

Business coaching can be really useful for you and your business. It should inspire and motive, help you improve you business in whatever way you want, achieve things you didn’t think possible and work with you to achieve your goals. It’s an exciting process for the person being coached, but it’s also a process that should be exciting for the coach if they have a real interest in their business and their clients. I know I get a real ‘kick’ out of when my clients achieve, and they achieve often.

And is it expensive?

Have a look at the article I put together all about this very subject – is business coaching expensive?

If you’d like to find out more about the business coaching services I offer, have a look at the website, or why not get in touch?

Why a great product is essential for your marketingSounds obvious, doesn’t it? You’d be amazed at how many people don’t appreciate that this is so important in their marketing plan – actually – it’s the foundation….let me explain…

Let’s set the scene

You have developed, I don’t know, let’s say a jacket. It’s a great jacket. It’s clever because it’s made from a technical fabric that’s super lightweight and really breathable. It has a stunning design that really shows off the wearer’s shape (in a good way) and disguises all the less desirable bits. It’s brilliant. It’s going to revolutionise the jacket world. You find a PR and marketing agency to promote your product. They’re good. They have lots of happy clients, lots of testimonials, they have form in the area. Your product is going to be a huge success, isn’t it?

Imagine that all the above is correct, but actually the jacket is made badly. You’re aware that the quality isn’t there. Some of the stitches are loose. It’s just not right. It’s still made of the quality, technical fabric, and it’s still got a really good cut to flatter, but if people wear it and wash it ,you know that it will disintegrate and you’ll have unhappy customers.

Does it matter?

Your marketing agency could play a blinder and get you in all the relevant magazines, blogs, websites, etc. etc. You could make a lot of sales, but when the jackets start to fall apart, not only do you have a lot of, well, peed off customers, you have people who are actively badmouthing your brand to their friends because, in their experience, their jacket that you made is a joke. They will never buy from you again. Ever. And if you’ve sent your jackets away for tried and testeds or magazines, and they have featured the products, and they hear how monumentally rubbish your product is, do you think they’ll be as keen to feature you again? No. You can bet that they won’t, and if they are, you really have to think about the integrity of that publication and what they are happy to tell their readers…see what I mean?

Does everything has to be perfect?

Now. Don’t confuse what I’m saying here. The odd faulty product is expected and, actually, how you deal with this can endear to your customers (honestly), but if you know your product has a flaw, or actually you know that the design could be improved, perfect your products FIRST. Don’t waste your time and money marketing a product that you know is substandard. The damage it selling well could do to your reputation could be very costly to fix.

Are you small & supercharged?The irony of starting a Facebook group with the word ‘small’ in the title has not been lost on me. At 6ft 1, I’m far from small! However the name, Small & Supercharged (which took a lot of thought to get to) reflects the lovely small business owners that we have the pleasure of dealing with each day. Their businesses maybe small in size, but their ambition, their focus and their dreams aren’t – hence the supercharged bit. It makes sense, now, doesn’t it?

Here, we’re (and I say we because although it’s mostly ‘me’, I work with a number of talented people who have expertise in certain areas, like video production, SEO, etc) all about helping small businesses promote themselves well, without having to sell any limbs or organs to do it. Advertising in printed media can be seriously expensive and, whilst is can work, the investment needed to place even a small ad in some of the more popular titles will wipe out an ad budget.  In one hit. Honestly. HOWEVER, don’t worry. Before you put your first born on eBay (do not do this…it’s an amusing comment and not a suggestion!), you need to be aware of everything else that’s available to you – the numerous opportunities that are at your fingertips for little or not cost that can generate as good, if not better, results. Honest. Definitely have a look at the ‘what we do’ section on the site for more about that…anyway…

So, we love small businesses. We’re all about helping them get out there. And that’s why the Small & Supercharged Facebook group came to be. This little corner of the internet, well, of Facebook, is there to help inspire, motivate and educate. The plan for the group is to provide a ‘safe’ space (as it’s a closed group!) to learn, to form real connections, to push comfort zones (we’re putting out challenges – oh yes, this isn’t your average group!) to enjoy. In the first few hours of starting a group, one small business owner ventured onto Facebook Live for the first time (actually, it was video for the first time) despite being terrified, and someone connected in a way that led to a sale. In a few hours.

As any school teacher will tell you, there have to be rules. But they’re simple. We don’t like SPAM and ads (who needs more of those clogging up their timeline, right?), but if you have news and exciting stuff to share, you for it! We don’t like unpleasantness and it just won’t be tolerated. There’s no need. And content posted inside the group shouldn’t be shared out of it as it’s a closed group and, therefore, it was not posted with the thought that it would be shared. It sounds like a dictatorship and it really isn’t, but ‘rules make games fun’ and all that.

So, if you’re a small business going places, if you want to improve what you do and take your business to the next level, why not join the group? Taking part in the random challenges set and just being part of our Small & Supercharged adventure could be really, really good for you and your business, just click here and request to join!

Equestrian PR and marketingYou may have noticed that we’ve updated our website to include a whole raft of other services, but don’t worry, equestrian PR and marketing is still an important part of what we do! Here’s a bit more info.

In the beginning…

Originally, when Rhea Freeman PR burst into life, the focus was entirely on equestrian PR and marketing. As time moved on, the client list grew, and many equestrian clients also had interests in country, shooting and agriculture, so the contacts lists expanded to accommodate other areas of business that were connection to equestrian,

Equestrian PR and marketing was changing

Now, alongside this, the way equestrian PR and marketing ‘worked’ was changing. While the magazines were still very much part of the mix, social media exploded and started to play a hugely important role in a brand’s overall promotion and marketing. In fact, nowadays, social media is some people’s only method of promotion…and they have very good businesses from it! However, with the different platforms and the nuances of each of these, it became important to expand and develop our learning and understanding, to be able to offer a more comprehensive service our equestrian PR and marketing clients. And we did this. And then some. And we continue to learn all the time – as platforms evolve and develop and technology improves.

And then there was the overwhelm

Many businesses of all sizes can feel overwhelmed by this – by the rate that things are changing and how the old way doesn’t cut it anymore. They feel they should be ‘doing more’, but they’re not really sure what they should be doing or how to do it. They know what they want to achieve, but getting there seems like a mammoth task and they don’t know where to start. And that’s before you even think about how to plan content, be innovative and post natively in the spaces you want to be known and visible on. Sound familiar?

And then there was coaching

Demand grew for a ‘helping hand’ kind of service. Something that after a lot of thought (way too much thought!), we’ve called coaching. So now, in addition to offering equestrian PR and marketing, we also offer marketing and business coaching services. A lot of clients come from the equestrian sector, but we also work with people in food, retail, country, fashion and lifestyle. To date, most companies have some link to equestrian and rural, but as the way social media works is not all that niche, again, it made sense to open up the area we operate it. As we work WITH businesses and individuals through the coaching and consultancy services we offer, we’re able to combine our knowledge of marketing and social media with the client’s knowledge of their industry…with great results.

So, there you have it – a little explanation about the new website, the new look and the new services available. Find out more about our coaching services and equestrian PR and marketing services on the main website, and don’t forget to contact us here if you’re interested in finding out more!

How to build a website

How to build a websiteIf you’ve ever wondered how to build a website for your business, I’ve put together a quick guide of points to consider. It’s not a complete list, but it’s one that’s been created from my own experiences, from building my own website and working on websites for clients. Websites are important to any business, and that includes any equestrian or country business. If you’re looking for something, whether it’s an equestrian PR and marketing professional, a riding instructor, fencing, machinery, the best supplement for your horse, or a bespoke bridle, the chances are that you’ll pop your question into Google. Google’s great, we love Google, but Google can only pull up websites and pages that exist on the web. If you business doesn’t have a website, how does Google and, by extension, the person looking for you, know that a) you exist or b) where to find you!

Top tips on how to build a website

Here are my top tips on how to build your own website…or, at least, how to find the right person to help you…

1. Do a little research, but don’t let the numbers scare you. Websites can cost a fortune…but they don’t have to. I don’t think you need to sell a limb to get a really impressive website. There are lots of options- you can use a platform like WordPress and buy a template for pounds and do all the work yourself, or you can speak to a friendly website designer and ask if they’ll customise a template for you. Or you can give the whole job to them and sit back and admire the view. There are lots of options.

2. Make sure you’re in control. Gone are the days when a web wizard would need to update your website! Not only was this expensive as each time you wanted a tweak, you needed to pay, but you’d also need to form an orderly queue along with all your web designer’s other customers. Let’s be honest. No one likes to queue.

3. Take inspiration from others. I’m not saying copy. That’s not what I mean at all. What I’m saying is observe what other people do…what do you like? What do you hate? Make notes and pass these onto your designer or keep them in mind when you start yourself. Listing things you hate can be as helpful as things you love!

4. Make a list. If you are approaching a designer, you’ll need a brief. The designer will base their price on your brief. Each time you change your mind and deviate from the brief, you could get an extra bill. Take your time putting your website brief together…and speak to people whose opinion you value too…it’s always good to have a sounding board!

5. Pictures. Pictures can really add an extra ‘je ne sais quoi’ to a website…but don’t worry if you don’t have your own extensive library! There are some great sites out there like iStock and Shutterstock that allow you to buy really good quality images for a few pounds, depending on what you want to use them for. Or why not create your own using a technique like flat lay?

6. Get writing! Providing clear, concise and informative copy is essential for any website. If this isn’t your area of expertise, you can either get in touch with a copywriter, or you can draft what you want and get someone to proof it for you.

7. Don’t be afraid! When you think your website is pretty close to perfection, don’t be afraid to press go and get it online. There will be bits you want to amend. There will be niggles that need straightening out…but you’re not going to know about these until you kick on and get people testing the site. You don’t have to announce your new site to the world to start with, but get some friends on it so they can have a look and iron out any problems.

 

I hope this list has really helped you if you’re thinking of embarking on a new website design. It might be seen as food for thought when it comes to considerations connected to how to build your website. It can be scary, but having a shiny website you’re really proud of is really worth the effort.