Maybe you got into the world of farriery because you didn’t want to have to think about marketing, branding, soul crushing cubicle offices, or the other trappings of the business world. Your “office” might actually be the cab of your truck, and “casual Fridays” might be something you (rightly) make fun of as you pull on your jeans, but if you are a farrier you are, in fact, a business. As in any business, a new farrier needs a little hustle to get their practice off the ground. Having some marketing strategies will help build your client base and your reputation faster than, well, waiting for the business to come to you. Here are some ideas that might help you sell your skills:
It’s standard practice to take on an apprenticeship so a new farrier can learn skills and techniques from someone who’s been in the trade for a longer time. An apprenticeship can also be an important marketing tool in a couple of different ways.
The most obvious is that the person you apprentice with can recommend you (or not. But let’s assume you’re great at what you do) to clients s/he doesn’t have time for, or who are geographically closer to you. S/he can recommend you if other farriers phone looking for someone to help them out. The more people who know who you are, obviously, the better.
You can also use the person you’ve apprenticed with on your own resume and in your own write-ups about yourself. Assuming that person is well respected and people like their work, potential clients will associate you with whatever positive information they have about your mentor. Their good press is your good press. Also true of their bad press, though, so…you know…be a little choosy.
The bottom line to marketing is that you have to get your name out in the world and grab people’s attention. That’s not easy to do in an advertising-saturated culture, so sticking up a business card at the local tack shop likely won’t make you the Beatles of the farrier world.
You can, however, be creative in your efforts to make yourself visible in the area you want to work in. Sponsoring a class at the local horse shows, rodeos or events targets a specific client base by putting your name in front of the people you want to work for. It also helps out the horse community, which is a nice, positive thing to associate your business with. It also might qualify you for a tax break, depending on where you live. Worth some investigating, for sure.
It’s not just for young people anymore. Although to be fair, it is still for that. Social media is used by businesses all the time to connect to existing and potential clients. Plugging your new business into the web, making contacts and joining social media discussions from or about your local area is one way to promote yourself and the values your business stands for. Farrier forums can be a useful way to make contacts, but even connecting with the social media pages of local farms, organizations, vet clinics, riding schools and the like can greatly increase the chances of people knowing who you are and what you do.
Websites work to attract new clients (if someone is searching for a farrier in your geographical area, it’s clearly better that your name appears. It’s also better that they come across a website that’s all about you than a brief nod in the online yellow pages). Websites also get your potential clients one step closer to actually employing you by telling them a bit more about you and what you do.
This can be super helpful in terms of finding longer-term clients. Your website should tell people not just about your experience, rates and services, but also about your business identity—your convictions, your strengths and your practices. That alone will weed out a) customers looking for a farrier to shoe horses for a discipline that you’ve maybe never heard of and b) customers who want a different kind of working relationship or level of input than you’re comfortable giving.
Yes, when you’re starting out you don’t want to be too picky about who you shoe for, but a little weeding beforehand will also cut down on the number of clients who have you out once, don’t mesh with your working style and then badmouth you to all of their friends and neighbours.
While the Internet is great, the most important form of marketing is the face-to-face communication that happens in the actual world. Getting out to shoeing competitions, farrier or vet conferences, workshops, and even local shows will put you in touch with the people in your field, who will then have heard of you and might be able to throw some work your way. After that, of course, you’re on your own, so you better know what you’re doing.
Especially if you’re new at the job, it’ll be a while before you can rely on word of mouth or referrals to build your business. With any luck (the definition of luck being “self-made opportunities + hard work”), these ideas can get your business to that point. Good luck!
by Cindy McMann