In some ways, there’s never been a better time to run a lesson-based business. The pandemic created an increased interest in outdoor activities, and the rising cost of land and board makes riding lesson horses a more affordable option for many horse enthusiasts.
But how can you make YOUR business stand out, and attract your ideal customer?
Sometimes you need a fresh perspective to Level Up your marketing, including advice from a pro.
This month, we’re extending a warm welcome to guest blogger, Denise Alvarez of Stormlily Marketing!
About Denise: Denise Alvarez is a horse girl who loves marketing. So, she married her two passions! Through her business, Stormlily Marketing, Denise helps horse business owners turn their website visitors into their customers through website design and content and email marketing strategy.
She gets they would rather be out in the barn than at the computer. That’s why, through her one-on-one services, monthly coaching program, and her How to Market Your Horse Business Podcast, she is simplifying marketing for equine entrepreneurs so they can build a business they love.
As a riding instructor, you wear many hats, right? Today we’re going to put on your marketing hat and dive into some practical ways that you can use social media to attract new students to your program.
The great thing about social media is that it’s a totally free marketing tool that’s available to anyone and everyone who wants to put in the work.
But, just like with horses, you get out of it what you put into it.
So, how do you know where to go or what to do to make the most of your time?
I know your time is limited, and you want to be sure that what you’re doing is really worth the investment.
That’s why I’m going to show you 5 effective, efficient ways that you can use social media to help you attract new students to your program.
Before we dive into that, there is one important decision you have to make. Where will you go? Meaning, which social media platform will you choose—Instagram, Facebook, Tiktok, etc.?
As you make your choice, there are two key questions to ask yourself.
Question #1: Where are your ideal students (or their parents) hanging out online?
How do you know where they are? Ask! Ask your current customers AND your dream customers. Anytime you’re in a conversation, whether it’s at the feed store or at a show, ask where they spend their time online so you know where to connect with them.
Question #2: What works well for you?
There’s no need for you to pick out a social media platform and build or create a profile, then post regularly for a week and then disappear. That’s not going to help you attract new students.
Instead, decide upfront what you are willing to commit to and where you’ll show up regularly. If you’re not willing to commit to doing something on social media then it won’t work for you.
That means if it’s a platform you don’t enjoy and never get on, and you’re not willing to get in there and do it, then it’s probably not going to work well for you and your business.
Of course, you could opt to find someone on your team that does enjoy it and can help you out if that’s where your people are and you want to give it a try.
Now that you’ve chosen your platform, let’s look at 5 specific ways you can attract new students using social media
#1 - Create engaging content
To get more eyes on your posts, you want engagement. That means you want people to like, favorite, share, save, comment, or watch what you’re putting out there.
So, how do you create engaging content? Use these three R’s to guide you:
Yes, content that is regular, relevant and rich will take a little more brainpower. However, remember that two or three engaging posts will be better than five posts that are dead in the water.
#2 - Be social
So often, we hear “social media marketing” and go straight to “marketing.” It’s important to remember that it was social first. So, schedule time in your day or week to get outside of your own bubble and be social on your platform of choice.
Go to the pages or accounts where your dream customers are likely hanging out and engage as well by commenting on their posts. Or, do a search for a hashtag your dream customers follow and engage with other pages and profiles that way.
As you do this, post meaningful and genuine comments as much as possible. Put a bit of brainpower into it and be genuine.Then, your dream customers can see your comments, visit your page and profile, see your content and begin to engage with you on your own page!
#3 - Use the tools available to you on the platform
I’m not saying you need to become an expert to get a return on your time. But, the more that you use the tools inside the platform such as stories or reels in Instagram and Facebook, the more likely you’ll connect with more people.
Why? Because the platform is going to reward you for using their tools by putting it in front of more eyes. So, jump into your stories, use stickers, create a few reels—have fun with it!
Hint: Don’t be afraid to ask your students to teach you a few of their own tips and tricks. I’m sure they’d be happy to help you out!
#4 - Look at Facebook groups as an opportunity to serve
There is no shortage of Facebook groups for horse people, or for people looking to become horse people. So, don’t be afraid to jump in and make some new friends and let people know about your program.
My advice here, though, is to avoid going in the group only to promote yourself. Instead, take time to look for questions you can answer. You can even do a search within the group for a specific topic or breed that may be your specialty.
As you do this, it’s going to build trust and authority with the members of the group. Then, when they decide they’re ready to make the leap and take lessons (or maybe their kids are asking for lessons and now they need a place to go), your program will be the one that comes to mind.
#5 - Invite people to keep the conversation going off social
Social media is a great avenue for reaching new people. Yet you should think of it as a front porch conversation. If you really want to keep that conversation going, you want to invite them in by getting them to join your email list.
It’s the classic rent versus own scenario. You’re renting space on social media—that means you have no control over what it’ll look like tomorrow or even your access to the people who follow your page or profile.
I’m sure you’ve heard of businesses that had their page blocked or hacked and lost access and had to start from scratch. Maybe you’ve even experienced that yourself.
With emails, on the other hand, you own your email list. And, the people on your list have given you permission to email them. That means they want to hear from you when you have openings, host events, or even share helpful riding or horse care tips.
Your email list becomes your “first to know” list that might even fill up your clinics and refer new friends for your openings before you can even post them on social media!
Social media is a wonderful marketing tool for reaching new students for your program. At the same time, I know your plate feels very full with running a riding program, caring for horses, and everything in between.
So make a choice to do what works for YOU while also keeping this in mind: If you’re going to see fruit from your labor, there’s going to be some labor
Dreams take work. Decide what you want to commit to when it comes to social media, do it well, and have fun connecting with new potential students and families!
By the way, if you’re ready to post on social media regularly but you need a system to help you make it happen, this podcast episode can help! Listen to How to Plan 14 Days of Social Media Content in 30 Minutes.