To Thrive? Or to Merely Survive?
Living Up to the "Purpose" & Thinking Outside the Box
Breed registries won’t survive long-term if there is not consistent work to do! Without attracting new members, retaining old members and encouraging business from all members, then an association or its breed certainly can’t be described as thriving … even if a few people are doing a lot of winning or some are selling some high-dollar ponies.
How viable is a registry for the long haul if a significant percentage of registrations come from just a couple of breeders? How long will a Futurity be attractively rewarding if many breeders aren’t nominating and sustaining good numbers of prospects? Remember it is sheer numbers that help keep payouts in programs like a Futurity attractive. If winning at most shows is dominated by a few, then wouldn’t some sort of program or incentive for those who don’t do much winning be helpful? Registries, their programs and their affiliated shows ALL rely on numbers. Therefore, even the guy who doesn’t place at the top every time or who doesn’t have an expensive pony to sell ought to feel good about his pony pursuits and have a reason to be involved. Registries and breeds that are versatile, well promoted and offer some type of perceived benefit can capture a larger share of the equine business. Solid, stable business can help an organization and its breeds thrive.
The need to thrive is why breed associations have purposes that speak boldly of promotion and improvement. The very first task outlined in the ASPC’s purpose is “to improve and promote the breeding of Shetland Ponies.” ASPC’s purpose also says the association must “assist in improving and marketing [the] stock.”
Promoting and marketing can be difficult to do if you have virtually no promotions budget, and worse, no forward-looking marketing plans at all. Difficult .... but not impossible. However, when budgets are extremely limited, then it helps to have some marketing vision and a willingness to step outside the box.
In his Fall/Winter newsletter column, the AHHS president called on Hackney enthusiasts to donate, sponsor, renew memberships and conduct registration work so that the association has enough revenue simply to operate.
He also encouraged Hackney farms and folks to do their promotion on the AHHS website. However, this leader notes that he himself isn’t 21st century compatible in how he both needs and handles his information. ASPC’s president has also proven to be only minimally engaged in today’s electronic media.
Those positions aren’t wrong. However, they WILL soon be less and less common. Social media is out there. Less expensive online advertising is available. There are more media outlets than ever seeking stories and articles on equine breeds and endeavors, even if the growing number of those outlets is electronic. That’s the future… whether current leadership is online or not.
There is also a whole market of folks who love to drive and who think ponies are stylish but who have never picked up a copy of The Bluegrass Horseman, The National Horseman, the Saddle Horse Report or any other established industry publications.
If you want to get your message to new folks and draw them to your product and your association, you can’t do it going only to sources that are failing to reach those exact folks. You had better be broad thinking in assessing how to best reach your new targets in addition to your traditional audience.
Spreading the message about our great ponies and events to the media, however, takes commitment. It also takes personnel. Staffs at associations are shrinking. Volunteers are being called on to do major professional work – from rulebook reviews to promotion to websites and social media management. Associations have members who are skilled and qualified to do some of this work. However, either there is no budget to support these activities or a complete unwillingness to establish a budget if too much of the leadership does not adequately value the activity. And God forbid we even have to contemplate paying an extremely qualified member for professional-level work.
In today’s world, you don’t necessarily need to spend money with a full-service marketing agency. You might not even need a full-time staffer. Virtual agency promotion options and access to qualified freelance creatives could be managed by a promotions committee. Pursuing that type of marketing plan allows quality work but at a fraction of the cost of the old ways of jobbing marketing and creative work.
If the purpose of an organization plainly outlines the importance of promotion and marketing, then, that association is derelict in not pursuing such purposes to whatever level their current economic situation allows. If a purpose calls for promoting the breeding of ponies and assisting in their marketing and promotion, that speaks to the need for overall marketing efforts.
But, does anyone get that? Unfortunately, the answer seems to be “not so much!” It would seem that some people just don’t understand what marketing is. Hopefully some of the next blog installments can begin to offer some clues about basic marketing.