I think websites are good advertisement, and web sites are a pretty ordinary way to advertise any small business these days. but only when they are realistic. I see a lot of them that make the farms look like something they're not. If the we site is unrealistic it can actually have a pretty BAD effect on business.
For a training facility that wants to maximize potential? Very. IMO.
These days, the first impression a barn often gives (ANY business, for that matter) is via its website. Potential clients often go there first to obtain information about the facilities, see pictures, get the qualifications of the trainers, etc. Alot of people want to do the initial fact-finding themselves without having to make a phone call. If they like what they see, people will call or visit. But if they don't like the website (misspellings, poor layout, little information), it will reflect poorly on the organizational skills/professionalism of the barn. Whether or not the impression is accurate, a number of people will make a judgement based on the website. This is especially important if you take horses in training sans riders. People want to feel like they are leaving their horse with a professional outfit.
Some people feel that businesses without a website are not as professional/serious as those with. This is not always true but in terms of perception, this is how people often think.
The website does not have to be fancy, just informative with some semblence of professionalism and it should be updated regularly. The more professional it looks the more business it can generate, IMO. BTW, I think that anyone can generate a simple and professional-looking page themselves.
We opened October 1, although most of my business started picking up in November. Almost everyone who's contacted me has seen one or both of my websites, even if they heard of me somewhere else (one of our print ads, my name in a show program, etc.) It provides more information about me, the farm and my training than any display ad could, and the photos certainly don't hurt.
I think it is very important for a barn to have a website if they are trying to portray themselves as professional and competitive. I always google potential barns/trainers that I'm interested in, and if I can't find a website for them I automatically think differently of them. I still might go there, but it does loose some of that first impression, and I assume they must not be very serious.
Also, people who are new to the area often do a google search for barns in the vicinity, and they might not even hear about your barn if it doesn't come up.
it's not the edge of the earth, but you can see it from here
Magnum, I do agree, to the point that someone PM'd me just this morning that it's hard to find my location on MY website.
Yes, it is. On purpose. I don't give a phone number either. I really don't want my 'real job' clientel being able to find me too easily. (It's why I prefer my real first name not be used casually on boards either--I'm easy *enough* to find, don't HELP them!)
But, I think larger facilities--especially those who host shows, are already a 'known' thing. You can Mapquest many of them. A map or directions seems to be par for the course.
So, I'm agreeing and disagreeing at the same time.
Certainly the choice to include address, directions and ph number depend on several variables. For the old fashioned folks who aren't going to be checking email at least once a day... I would want more contacts. For the cybersavvy, just an email and a general vicinity is probably plenty.
I like looking farms up on the internet, but if someone recommended a barn to me that wasn't online I'd still call them. Having a stallion or sale horses listed is a plus for a website. Probably is much cheaper advertisement than papers or magazines.
I don't agree with not putting your location. If I know your name or your barns name, I can find you whether you post your info or not. So to make it easy on real clients and put where you are. Ever googled your address or name? It's so easy to find people.
I agree with the other posts that a website can present a professional image very effectively. I also have a pet peeeve for those who post an e-mail address as a contact method and never answer their e-mail. Lauren (dressagediosa) has a very nice, informative site. I like the photos of the facility and the fact that she offers her credentials in a clear manner. In stark contrast, here is an example of a frightening website of a "dressage instructor" (note the "published poetry....weird!) http://www.cynthiaspaldingdressage.com/
Last edited by NJRider; Dec. 25, 2007 at 07:57 PM.
Proud owner of one Lunar acre! (Campanus Crater, The Moon)
The site didn't pull up for me, NJ.
On the issue of websites one of my pet peeves is a site that is not well laid out and not easily navigated. Another is a list of services and maybe a bunch of horses and other things that all have links on the home page. The home page should be pretty cliean and you need to group similar items on that page and break them out further in the site. The other thing is WAY to much content. Man, there are some sites that make me crazy when I look at them. They're all text with multiple font types and a ton of extra verbiage.
As for those who don't include a phone number, that has to be THE most annoying thing. If you are taking the time to look up a barn, you want to be able to contact them IMMEDIATELY about things. If people can't talk to you right away, or at least leave a voice message, they'll most often contact someone else instead.
As for whether or not a site is a good idea, I'd always say even a simple page is a great idea. It's advertising, and it's inexpensive advertising compared to the yellow pages, print media, etc. And it's very effective if you do it correctly.
For those of you not listing yoru address on the site, do you have your farm listed anywhere else? Like the Yellow or White Pages? Do you have it with any local associations? If so, you might be surprised to find out that people can just as easily look you up somewhere else as on your own site. It really isn't going stop anyone from coming to your barn or getting directions. Besides, if you are trying to advertise your services, I would think the risk out weighs the benefits. From past experiences with the theft issue I would guess it's more likely a local ring that already knows where the local stables are due to word of mouth, more than looking for potential targets on the internet. I mean, before there was an internet their were a lot of thieves and they seemed to have no problem finding their targets.
I have a few clients and they all say that a simple, nice website has made a big difference to the calls they get and how well they seem to be "self-screened."
Especially the gal with the stallion ... she doesn't deal with many nuisance calls since she puts contact info as well as basics of the contract online. I've had to do some not-very-nice-to-html stuff at her request to to minimize "borrowing" of images, and she doesn't do a very good job of sending me updates to her stallion's show schedule or new babies, so I'd say that a nicely organized site is valuable even if it doesn't have updates.
But responding to mail is CRUCIAL!
I loff Idocus but am not a big fan of his site ... in fact, it makes me cringe. And I didn't get very good turnaround to an email question.
Courtney King on the other hand, has a gorgeous site AND responds quickly, even to inane messages like "I love you and what you're doing with your horses".
... and then we have Hilda Gurney who wants nothing to do with a website for her business
We decided not to list in the Yellow Pages - we're a training facility, not a boarding facility, and I think most people who are looking for training go to the 'net, not the phone book.
Magnum, we happen to have a pretty super security system, but I think the directions on our website are one of its best features - the roads are a little complicated 'round here, and I've had several clients/visitors tell me how glad they were for the directions.
How important do you think a website is for a dressage (or other discipline for that matter) training facility? Just curious...
Nowadays I think a website is quite important. If you look at your farm as being a business then of course you want to take advantage of every media. But you'll also need to put together a polished and professional website, with most frequently asked questions answered on the site. And depending on the market you wish to attract you emphasize features - schoolmasters, YR, access to trails, XC courses, shows on site, arenas, footing, costs, Pony Club, facilities, layout, dutch doors to outside runs, anything! I viewed part of a very nice previous poster's site and found little bits of very nice information - the driveway is curved so no need to back the trailer - definitely a plus in my book!
I do understand the desire for privacy as many live on the farm as well; but I googled a contemporary of mine with a unique name, and the first hits were her farm website, bare and spare with no address, phone, or even mention of locale - then her discipline association with her phone and address, and then a local equestrian "network" with a link to her farm website, address, phone, and email addy. So what was the point of leaving her address and phone out of her farm website?
You will certainly get business through word of mouth - I started at my H/J barn after heading down to the tack store and asking for references. But I sort of wanted to do more correct flatwork as I began riding again after 30 years, and the young ladies behind the counter could only steer me to the largest beginner programs, all H/J. I like to think I am learning organically, because it sure is slow.
I suppose what you have to do is balance out the potential losses in clientele vs the potential harassment value of having your home/farm out on the web. And that gets us into the question of operating as a business vs a hobby - separate phone # for business, specific hours of business, business license, business checking etc. etc.
I fixed the link to the frightening one http://www.cynthiaspaldingdressage.com/
Make sure you have a stiff drink on standby!
Seriously, another note about websites- I had one done for my horsey china and home decor business by a professional, since it has a shopping cart and I thought it would be complicated. Especially for an informational type site, make it yourself so you can edit it your self! I am out so much $$ because I should have taken the time to learn how to create and edit my own site. I then hired a company to edit it and then had to constantly get them to fix the mis-spelled words. I now subscribe to a service where I can easily edit my site. But I think it was just overall a costly mistake to have to depend on other people. Like I said, a site that is for information only is easy- there are a lot of options, godaddy has an easy build your own site service. In the long run, a better way to go