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Ideas for getting new lesson students?

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  • Ideas for getting new lesson students?

    I have a small, private h/j/dressage barn with a tiny lesson program. I'd like to expand a little bit, but I'm not sure where to advertise? Any ideas?

  • #2
    Craigslist. Bulletin board at feedstore, tack store, TSC. Let your current students know you are expanding the program. They may have friends or co-workers who have asked about good places to learn to ride. Make sure to put up enough information, such as your location (make it general "close to I275 exit whatever" if you are concerned about privacy), rates, phone # or email.
    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
    Incredible Invisible


    • #3
      Craigslist most definitely. Do you have a website? Make sure to always include the link. Newhorse.com is a good database where you might want to add your info too. Most trainers in my area do not have websites and I had a hard time locating them. With gas prices, people aren't going to always want to drive to look at all the barns in an area and a website with description/prices/pictures is extremely helpful.


      • #4
        Become a member of your state's hunter/jumper and dressage associations, if you are not already. Most associations have a website that trainers can put a link to their website. That is very helpful for people. Also make sure you put flyers up in local tack shops and feed stores.


        • #5
          Just a suggestion if you use Craigslist - the majority of riding lesson ads I've seen there are terrifying. Do a nice, professional ad with good spelling and punctuation, no bad photos, and more detail than you think is neccessary - you're reaching a more general pool with craigs, and many people will need that extra explanation about what you're offering.

          Another idea is holding an open house or small fun show, and advertise in the local community (grocery stores, libraries, etc.) for better exposure.


          • #6
            This is going to be more if you're looking for kids, but I'd be interested to see how it works.
            It might be late for this year, but advertise in the local high school's football program. It's actually not going to be high school crowd that you'll get-- it will be the parents that sit in the stands and read the program and have younger kids who want to ride.
            It might be totally off the wall, but if it's in a high school program (or you could even do the midget football program if they have one) I'd see it as reputable. Some of you may totally disagree with me. That's okay. Never tried it.
            Grocery store bulletin boards, tack shops. I agree with whoever said the local associations. That's where I found the barns I looked at when I moved.


            • #7
              If your community has a small weekly, bi-weekly or monthly newsletter it might be a good spot to place an ad. In my area we have a company called "Our Town" that issues separate monthly little newsmagazines for the suburban towns. One for each community. They profile local business people and advertise everything from dry cleaners to dog breeders and real estate.
              Maybe you can even get them to do a profile on you. Be sure your ad is very well laid out, maybe with a nice photo, any logo you have and a brief descrption of your services and location.
              Be sure that if you list a phone number and or email addy that you check your voice and email often and reply to all callers. (It's a peeve of mine when people advertise with an email and then don't respond to my query for a week, then say "gee, I don't really use email...")
              F O.B
              Resident racing historian ~~~ Re-riders Clique
              Founder of the Mighty Thoroughbred Clique


              • #8
                Make a flyer and take it to your local therapeutic riding program. The program riders often have siblings who want to ride and parents don't know where to go, and volunteers may be interested in lessons, too. Word of mouth will probably be the most effective way, though. Pick a couple families that you LIKE - involved parents, polite kids, whatever your criteria are - and ask if they have friends who are interested.


                • #9
                  Good advise so far. Please do check with your insurance agent to make certain you have adequate and correct insurance to cover your expanded lesson program.

                  Start with your current students. These are happy, satisfied customers who know people you haven't met yet. When you tell your students that you're trying to expand the lesson program, they may well refer their friends, neighbors and co-workers. This type of peer referral is golden because it's earned, not bought.

                  Reach out to other instructors/ barns in your area. Maybe you have a slightly different focus (new riders, timid riders, adults who've always wanted to ride) and could get referrals from barns who find these riders don't "fit in" with their lesson programs.

                  Also, reach out to local 4H, Boy/Girl Scout groups - they need horse experience for projects and merit badges. Additionally, private schools or home-schooled students may be able to use riding as physical ed credit.

                  If you're trying to get students from the community at large - local newspaper and "penny pincher" papers can be good. If you have an open house-type event, send a press release to your local or community paper and you'll have a shot at getting an article about your program and the services you offer. When the economy goes down, most companies back off marketing efforts, so if you market now, your lesson program has a greater chance to be seen with less effort.

                  Feel free to PM me if you'd like more detail.


                  • #10
                    I've had the same problem with getting students but I'm competing with a big lesson barn that has been in business for many years in this area. Here's the thing though, everyone I have ever talked to that knows of this other place tells me how "dangerous" it is for the kids. They have several kids riding in one ring, all going at different gaits and different speeds in those different gaits and some kids may be first or second timers. Just incredible the stories I've heard. Of course, they are stories and not that I've seen first hand as I've never been there but I do believe at least some of the people telling these stories are reliable sources. I find it odd that little programs like mine that take the time to ensure safety and try to teach many aspects of horsemanship etc. get pushed by the wayside while those that just kind of throw kids to the mercy of the horses do well.


                    • #11

                      To expand on the referral as someone mentioned, could you offer a free spot in a group lesson to every client who recommends a new client that signs up for a lesson program. (Free spot in a group lesson..you're not out any referral money or bonus and if you're running a group lesson, what's one more kid.) Also make this referral thing, I just want to help you with this economy as well. Refer a client and you get this free as a thank you!

                      I told one of my customers, something had reduced in price and I was honest about the shipping. While it was all via e-mail, I could almost hear the audible pause via the internet. No one is expecting anything these days rather we're getting stabbed with new rates, fees, etc. that we have to suck up. If you are working together...
                      Sorry! But that barn smell is my aromatherapy!
                      One of our horsey bumper stickers! www.horsehollowpress.com
                      Add Very Funny Horse Bumper Stickers on facebook


                      • #12
                        I'd definitely vote for the good website. I found my barn that way. A website with pictures and a thorough description of your services, facilities, and, if possible, pricing.


                        • #13
                          Ad in the Yellow Pages! We got the most of our business from word of mouth and the phone book! I found the local papers and football , etc, programs useless for getting riders; we do it still sometimes to support the group. We no longer offer lessons on school horses but we get calls all the time and I send them on to two places that do lessons, one of which advertises weekly yet no one has notciced their ad!


                          • #14
                            Flying Hearts, where are you?


                            Many of the Cincy neighboorhoods have a monthly publication like a magazine geared towrds items of local interst supported by ads from local businesses, like yours. NOT expensive. Areas like Mason, Landen, Lebanon and so forth. PM me and I will give you the publishers contact. But give me a few days to get back, going to be busy and off line here shortly.

                            Another idea is working thru your local school. Sponser something, set up a booth at some activity or other. Ask day care centers if you can post a notice-the tots have siblings.

                            Also, don't discount the good old Yellow Pages-barns listed in there get calls every day. Usually looking for rent horses or party ponies but also some looking for lessons, well worth it.

                            You do need to have a plan once you get a contact, suggest a private introductory evaluation leson and then a package of 4 lessons at the price of 3. Something like that.

                            Alot of the bigger barns are getting out of the school horse business so there may be an opportunity for you here.
                            When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                            The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                            • #15
                              We have had great success participating in the county parks and rec program. We are a vendor and get a stready stream of riders.

                              I would reiterate a couple of comments made in this thread. Expanding a lesson program is not just about advertising more -- it's about targeting your audience and offering them the programs that they want. Some of that decision is going to be based on what type of facility and horses you have to offer. For example, I breed Norwegian Fjords, and they work very well for beginner riders because of their size and temperament. So do I lots of leadline, up-down beginner, and timid adult re-rider business.

                              Over the years, I have added a student show because it gave everyone a chance to be in a horse show without having to buy all the gear or have to haul a horse. The parents of the riders have been thrilled and for many kids, this may be the ONLY horse show that they ever ride in. It's also a good moneymaker for us.

                              I can't say enough about knowing your customers and your market.
                              Where Fjeral Norwegian Fjords Rule


                              • #16
                                The farm where I take lessons gives out prize packages at several of the local schools whenever they have a raffle, fun night, etc. for a package of 3 free lessons.
                                Click here before you buy.


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by EatinHay View Post
                                  I've had the same problem with getting students but I'm competing with a big lesson barn that has been in business for many years in this area. Here's the thing though, everyone I have ever talked to that knows of this other place tells me how "dangerous" it is for the kids. They have several kids riding in one ring, all going at different gaits and different speeds in those different gaits and some kids may be first or second timers. Just incredible the stories I've heard. Of course, they are stories and not that I've seen first hand as I've never been there but I do believe at least some of the people telling these stories are reliable sources. I find it odd that little programs like mine that take the time to ensure safety and try to teach many aspects of horsemanship etc. get pushed by the wayside while those that just kind of throw kids to the mercy of the horses do well.
                                  This post made me think - are there ways the OP's lesson program is different than others in the area. If she were competing with other barns like the one described, there are ways to spin that:

                                  "Our lesson program features one on one instruction. You won't be lost in the crowd!" or "Specializing in private lessons on well-trained and kind horses." or "Gentle, encouraging lessons for the timid rider are our specialty."

                                  Maybe ask some of your favorite current students (or their parents) to give you a "testimonial" quote you can use? "So-and-so has helped Brianna become so confident! Her teaching technique is kind and patient, and her horses receive the best care." That sort of thing.