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SOLD! Selling Tips for a Challenging Market

The following are tips and suggestions from successful sellers of horses, trailers, tack, and other equine-related goods and services on the Bay Area Equestrian Network.

Even in tough times, good strategies can lead to continuing sales. BAEN wants to help everyone succeed in their horse-related ventures. If you have tips to add, please contact us with the words “selling tips” in the subject. If we use your tip here, we’ll say thanks with a free photo ad.

The traditional 4 P’s of marketing are product, place, price, and promotion. When we asked our advertisers what works, your answers lined right up with these business principles. We continue to see good sales on BAEN; here are precise strategies to help you mark your ads SOLD!

Product

Your “product” is whatever you’re advertising for sale. Whether you’re moving a horse trailer you’ve had for a while, selling a saddle that doesn’t fit, or training horses for sale, what really counts is PREPARATION of that product. Here are some things to consider:

Title/registration

Especially important with vehicles, trailers, and real estate, this is essential to take care of before advertising horses. We’ve all heard the old, tired tales of registration papers pending or lost. It’s always worth a bit of time and a few dollars to make sure a transaction (and the reputation of the seller) is not derailed by paperwork problems.

Assess condition

Tack – A thorough inspection and replacement of worn straps, girths, rigging, etc. is always wise. If corrections aren’t made, full disclosure of any needed repairs suggests honesty on the part of the seller, and avoids potential liability issues.

Trailers and vehicles – Again, a thorough going-over and attention to any problems will pay off in the long run. There is a market for “as-is” products, but the price received will be much less than for a well-maintained truck or trailer.

Horses – If a horse is in training, his or her appearance is improving along with abilities. BAEN’s successful sellers make sure their horses’ muscling, coat condition, and way of going are as good as they can be. This is absolutely essential when first standing a stallion, and valuable in presenting almost any horse for sale. Calculating the costs of some training and conditioning time into the larger picture is nearly always worthwhile. Consulting with a successful trainer for advice on costs/benefits can be a big help in making a decision whether to invest the money and time before offering a horse for sale.

Training is nearly always of value in selling horses. BAEN sees continued strong sales of horses trained and showing well in their disciplines. Whenever possible, bringing a horse up to its inherited abilities is going to pay dividends for the seller. Miles and hours under saddle are going to let more be known about the horse, and make a safer and more suitable horse for any potential buyer.

Place

This leg of the 4 P’s is sometimes called placement, ie. how and where the sale is presented. There are multiple placements in the horse world; word-of-mouth, a horse viewed at your facility, horse shows or trail rides, and various types of advertising. Online advertising offers a far wider range of exposure, and a good ad can be a solid snapshot of what you have to offer. Your ad has a brief moment to attract a viewer’s attention, so it’s worth doing the best job possible to catch eyes. Since BAEN’s “place” is online, let’s talk about online PRESENTATION.

Photos

In a word, photos, good photos, excellent photos! Our stats show that BAEN’s photo ads are viewed more than ten times more often than text-only ads. Over and over we see clients upgrade to a photo ad from a text ad, and then before long a SOLD! icon appears on the ad. A good quality photo jumps out at a viewer looking for a particular type of horse, saddle, trailer, or item.

It’s worth examining photo ads to analyze what looks best. You’ll see that high-quality action photos of trained horses draw your attention, as do correct conformation shots of well-presented horses. For their photo session, horses should be bathed, groomed, have their feet in good condition, and be stood up correctly for their breed or type. Wearing whatever gear is appropriate to their discipline makes them look “dressed for success”. A correctly fitting halter or bridle, suitable to the horse, adds to the right look. The background is preferably green, clean, and free of distractions. Good lighting, slightly indirect, works best. The camera angle should usually be straight and level. With digital cameras it’s easy to experiment. Photos taken on some cell phone cameras may be too small and low-resolution to look good online. Saddle photos look best in good light, taken fairly closely, without background distractions, and with the saddle clean and level. Watch our Horse Lover’s 2-Minute Video “How to take great pictures of your horse” for helpful advice from a professional equine photographer.

Ad Text

Now that your photos have caught viewers’ interest, your next best shot at getting them to call or email is your ad text. Clear, descriptive, and thorough text works best. If there is a great deal to say, pick the most important aspects that will fit the description parameters (800 characters for text-only ads, 1200 characters for Photo ads). If you’re not comfortable with writing, ask someone to help you, just as with photos and training. “Good for farrier and vet, stands tied”, and similar statements are overused. These basics are expected of most horses; your ad text is better used for a specific description of the horse’s unique plusses. If disclosures of soundness or training issues need to be made, this is the place to do so.

Correct measurements are important; this comes up frequently. Whether seat size on a saddle, blanket size, trailer height, or the true height of a horse, it’s important to know how to measure correctly so you don’t disappoint a potential buyer. Standard conventions in horse measurement are easy to learn; “15.5 hands” in an ad instantly pegs the advertiser as a novice. Buy a height tape or measuring stick and follow the instructions.

Understanding the way ad text is searched is essential in writing an ad that will be found by buyers searching for what you are offering. The majority of buyers use BAEN’s Advanced Search, so it pays to know how it works. When a visitor searches by price, height, sex, color, discipline, temperament, etc., BAEN’s advanced search feature looks at these specific fields on the ad’s submission form, not at the ad text. For example, if a buyer is searching a price range (very popular search option!) and your ad’s price field is blank (see red arrow in illustration at right), your ad will not come up in search results even if it matches other search criteria.

There’s no need to repeat information in your description text that you’ve already entered in your ad’s searchable fields. The more searchable fields you use, the greater the probability of your ad coming up in searches.

Keywords are valuable in ensuring your ad is found by those searching with this feature. The individual key words or phrases are “seen” by the system as units separated by a space and a comma. Putting everything you can think of that a potential buyer might use in a search function is smart. For instance, rather than enter “very nice TW trail horse” in the keyword field, use “trail, trail horse, TWH, gaited, gaited horse, Tennessee Walker, Tennessee Walking Horse,” etc. Any time you need help generating key words, please email us at [email protected], we’re happy to help.

Price

Pricing your horse or item within an appropriate range makes a big difference in getting sales. Over-pricing will be seen through in a flash by experienced buyers, and under-pricing may raise concerns about why the horse or item is priced so cheaply. Under-pricing may also result in more ‘looky-loos’ wasting your time with low-ball offers. The best approach is to search for ads that are similar to yours, see how they’re priced, then price your own offering somewhere in the middle of that range. If you want to move something quickly, stating a reduced price and explaining why the price is lower will be more apt to generate calls and emails.

It’s a good idea to look at your competition when determining price. If there are many similar horses or items available at the same time or in the same region where you’re selling, a price reduction may make your ad stand out from the rest. Having said that, whether or not to draw attention to a reduced price seems to be a matter of debate. We’d love to hear your opinions – email us at [email protected]. Some see it as an indication that the ad had an inflated price to begin with, and others see it as a way to draw attention to a bargain, especially in a difficult market. “Price negotiable” seems to generate a similar diversity of opinion. On the one hand, being open to negotiation may maximize contacts coming from the ad, on the other hand it may invite less-than-serious inquiries.

Barter/Trade

BAEN gives you the option of a Barter check box on your ad submission form. Checking this box puts the words “Will barter” into your ad text, showing buyers you’re willing to barter, or trade, for horses, items, and/or services. Buyers can search for “Will barter” ads on our advanced search form. In a tight economy, barter gives you flexibility to structure a successful sale for full barter or part barter/part cash. Either way, both parties get something they want. For best results, briefly list what you will accept for barter in your ad’s description. Example: “Will barter for AQHA gelding, western tack, horse trailer, hay, lessons.”

Promotion

Promotion = Communication. A communication model widely used in business marketing is AIDA; attention, interest, desire, and action. Your great photos have brought the viewer’s attention to your ad, your text has further increased interest and started the potential buyer thinking, “That’s a nice horse!” We’ve all found ourselves daydreaming of a particular saddle, horse, or whatever we have been wanting to acquire. If your ad has perked up that interest, and gotten the viewer specifically interested in what you are selling, you’re very close to SOLD!

BUT!…How to remove any roadblocks to the potential buyer taking action to become the new owner of your offering? Can they contact you easily? Will they get clear answers to their questions and concerns? Will they enjoy doing business with you? Will they tell their friends how well things went during the process, and be back when you have other horses or items for sale?

First, can they reach you? A downside to doing business on the internet that we’ve all encountered is the spam, and all the email providers’ spam-blocking efforts. They generally do block spam, but may block legitimate correspondence as well. BAENmail is sent from our server so that the advertiser’s email is never shown. Some email services will see the message from an inquiry, via BAEN, as spam and block it. Your best bet is to use one of the free, web-based email providers such as Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail for your internet business use. Your current email service may be fine; please check via a test email from your ad if you have concerns. To do away with email problems completely, check the “don’t show email” box next to the email field on your ad’s submission form. This removes the “send email to advertiser” link from your ad’s text; if you choose this option you must include at least one phone number or a web site address so buyers can contact you. Using a telephone number or two is always smart; there are many buyers who are more comfortable using the telephone than using email, so multiple options increase the chance they’ll make the effort to get in touch. Plus it’s a good idea to have more than one contact method as a backup. We’re always willing to help solve contact problems.

Good information and developing trust get things off to a good start with a potential buyer, but there may need to be a bit of persuasion as well, especially in a very competitive market. Almost no-one likes to “sell”, but what can you offer? Indoor arena to try the horse if it’s rainy or hot? Meet the buyer part way if you’re at a distance from each other? Throw in another goodie if they’re looking at tack? Price reduction? Include delivery in the price? It helps to think of what has worked to get you to buy something. It can feel a little gimmicky, but is worth figuring out how you might sweeten the deal to get the sale done.

Once you’ve done your best at sharing information, helping the potential buyer to feel comfortable, baiting the hook a bit better, then don’t forget to persevere. Especially with smaller items, a potential buyer may get busy and finalizing the purchase may slip down their list of priorities. A follow-up call or email never hurts, and most people will appreciate the reminder.

With good product preparation, grabby photos, text that builds interest, sensible pricing, going the extra mile to communicate well with potential buyers, and persisting in your efforts, you’ll succeed in making your sales.

Last but not least…. CONGRATULATIONS On Your Sale! Use the View/Modify link on your user control panel to mark your ads SOLD when your transactions are complete. You can also modify your ad title or text to include a short Congratulations message to your buyer. This is a nice courtesy to our visitors and excellent exposure for YOU, especially if you’re advertising other horses or items on BAEN.

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SOLD! Selling Tips for a Challenging Market