Coronavirus is causing disruption nationwide, what do we do now?
Lock down – ‘Do we close, or not close?’ Is your business going to survive?
Since March some very simple guidelines were issued by the government, but one size didn’t fit all in this case. Is care for a horse considered essential? Is riding allowed for exercise? Can I go and see my horse but not ride? If the yard carries out social distancing and hygiene measures can I attend the yard? The simple answer – Stay at Home, Save Lives.
So many questions, but answers have evolved.
Most yards are looking to lockdown, not only due to guidelines, but also for safe keeping of their staff, and the owners.
These actions will be alien to any horse rider because of
the emotional attachment involved. What we don’t want are customers being upset
and ultimately leaving. Be very aware of this because your future business
depends on it.
Make sure you keep in touch with customers about their horses. Try starting a chat service and use existing social media and online channels to communicate with pictures, videos, welfare and progress of customers horses on the yard. If owners know their horse is being cared for, in the way they have (reasonably) requested they will relax a bit more and realise their horse is in safe hands.
Best not to profiteer from the situation but do ask for
reasonable costs to cover the service uplifts. By doing your bit now, these
measures will keep edgy and tricky customers on side, and they will be pleased
to continue with you after the lock down.
At least livery yards have a mainly fixed income . . . .
This is can be more of a challenge. The decision to close is easy due to government orders. But how do you survive financially when the timescales are unknown? Firstly, apply for every bit of government funding, grants, payment holidays and so on. You will need them, because horses still need keeping. I won’t go into detail about these initiatives here but do contact us if you are unsure what is available for yards.
The challenge here is keeping customers engaged until you can open your doors again. As with livery yards maintaining contact is vital. Use the email capability in your booking system or CRM system. Plus use social media in every conceivable way.
A few examples of what can be done:
Dressage competitions at home – using a broom as a hobby
horse, or even a hobby horse itself if you have one. Get customers to send in
videos of themselves prancing around their garden or yard and judge them (not
too strictly) and issue rosettes. Some customers have even dressed up in full
riding gear. Its really funny and will keep customers talking about you.
Issue challenges to children such as projects, Q&A’s about horses, painting/drawing competitions, quizzes and so on. Keep customers amused and excited about being back riding.
Adults can do the back garden competition as well, have a family showing competition, and join in the quizzes and drawing. Keep adults fully engaged because they pay for the lessons.
Sponsoring a pony for £10 per week to help with its keep, in return for pictures, updates and videos of the sponsored pony.
Raffle tickets can be sold for upcoming lessons. Note that cash now, means cost later so take account of this in your cash forecasts.
These are only a few examples but continued marketing to customers now, will mean a better chance on the other side.
Any pre-booked lessons are important to hang on to. Issuing mass refunds when you have no money coming in will make like even more difficult. But stay in touch with these customers and treat them well when they come back – they will have been your saviours!
The three C’s of customer service still apply –
consistency, consistency, consistency
- the service is consistent
- the quality of advice is consistent
- the customer channels (phone, email, text, social media, website etc) are also consistent
As ever the theory sounds sensible and simple but behind it is hard work, permanent attention to detail, team building, being proficient at marketing, be willing to talk to all your customers (not just the preferred friends) whilst retaining the flair, creativity and positive attitude of a business leader.
I will continue to publish these blogs and articles outlining key strategies for building a really successful livery and riding centre. Over the last seven years, my wife Jo and I have built up what we think is a very successful enterprise that we are proud of www.reinandshine.co.uk We made our own mistakes and learnt a lot on the way.
But when we started there was no help anywhere, from anyone in the riding centre market. A few marketing people but no real insider business knowledge specifically for riding establishments. Well now there is. Stay tuned or visit our website www.jamesg62.sg-host.com
Equine Business Consultancy
1 Buryhill Farm, Braydon, Wiltshire, SN5 0AD – 01666 860068 – firstname.lastname@example.org