I've posted several lengthy opinions of late. Now it's time to lighten up and have a little fun! In just a few weeks my Lab, Neon, and his litter mates will celebrate their first birthday. This litter of joy was both a surprise and a blessing as their presence wasn't known until a week before their arrival, which coincided with a very dark event in my life. These puppies gave me a sense of purpose, hope and love for which I am forever grateful.
I'd like to open a friendly discussion. A few days ago I posted an opinion about the importance of maintaining a professional appearance when conducting any sort of marketing. Today I happened across a discussion thread on Facebook about rather or not a handler's appearance in a horse sales photo or video affects one's decision in buying said horse.
My opinion is emphatically YES! My response to the thread was, "Personally speaking, yes. [An unkempt appearance] is a turn-off to me. Especially when the advertised price is well out of range of what the photo depicts. I think people forget they are marketing themselves just as much as they are marketing the horse."
The latter part of my opinion, about marketing oneself, seems to be a point of particular contention among some of the other participants in the discussion thread.
Here are my thoughts on this:
Very few people care enough or want to take the time to look beneath the surface. There are many, many reasons for this, some which are valid, but not the point of the discussion. The point is that, in the
U.S., attractiveness sells. We often have less than 1 second to make a favorable impression with any advertising.
So give yourself every advantage!
If I were looking to buy a horse, I would think twice if the horse were presented to me by someone in torn jeans, sneakers, or worse, flip-flops and any old t-shirt. To me, the handler's appearance is a HUGE clue as to how well the horse has been cared for. If you tell me, through your wardrobe choice, that you don't care about yourself, then I'll make the leap that you didn't really care about the horse. The horse can be sparkling clean and the most conformationally correct animal in existence with three stunning gaits and fabulous jump, or spin or tolt or whatever, and I'll be waiting for a shoe to drop. I'll be thinking that he's too good to be true, that short cuts in care and training have been used. I'll be waiting for a negative veterinary find. Most importantly I will NOT offer full price!
(I emphasize torn jeans as presenting in jeans may be perfectly fine and even expected. Just please be sure they are neat, as clean as possible given that we're discussing horses, and well fitted.)
From another angle:
Due to the present economy I have been forced to lease my own horses. I have made sure that in my advertising, the photos and videos I used depicted myself or my friends in riding appropriate clothes. As we are Hunter/Jumper and Eventing riders, that meant we had on breeches and either tall boots or paddock boots and half chaps. T-shirts were either tucked in or fitted enough to be neat. Whenever possible, I used horse show photos to be safe. When my gelding went up on trial a few months ago, I showed him to potential buyers and lessors dressed in riding clothes. I did this for two reasons:
First, I expected to ride first, for the client to see how he went under saddle.
Second, he is a horse that I trained. I want potential buyers to know that I have the capability and expertise to ride and train horses. It opens up the potential for future opportunities for me.
Now, I realize I'm discussing the horse industry, which is tremendously varied in the number of disciplines and therefore what constitutes appropriate dress. My intention is NOT to put anyone down. Rather, I'd like to motivate you to think of yourself and what you are saying to a potential buyer, even if you are heartbroken at having to sell. If you think well of yourself and dress well in presenting your horse, maybe, just maybe good things will happen. In my case, my gelding was leased within a week of his ad posting and I had request for retrial by an interested buyer.
In a previous post titled, "The Importance of a Professional Appearance", I promised to share some of my favorite tips for good turnout. Here are a few of the things I've learned along the way:
A friend and I started an artistic sideline last year as a way to raise funds towards helping an injured former racehorse and an abandoned Warmblood mare, both of whom have made full recoveries and are thriving.
Off The Track Designs are hand-painted bridle racks and portraits painted on model horse forms. We've had a Facebook page open for about a year and now we've opened a storefront on Etsy.
I invite you to visit both sites and enjoy!
Appropriate turnout for a schooling show.
I had an interesting experience this week. I was called to an interview with a local marketing firm in regards to open positions that the firm needed to fill. I arrived a few minutes early, appropriately dressed in a business suit and prepared with my resume, business cards and questions.
What I found was an empty reception area in which the only piece of furniture was a plaid loveseat and the only occupant another interviewee. The hiring manager, while dressed appropriately, was disorganized and rushed through interview.
The truly shocking thing about this experience is that the company in question was interviewing to fill account support roles for a nationally known client looking to expand its market share.
A marketer is expected to make his or her clients look good. To do that, the marketer must instill confidence in the client by presenting a professional appearance and demeanor. This extends to the physical surroundings, which should be welcoming and conducive to the work at hand.
In marketing horses and horse businesses a professional appearance is often specific to the task at hand. In regards to the physical environment, farms are working facilities so there is no need to worry about vacant office space. As long as there are no obvious safety hazards and the aisles, pathways and arenas are neat, all is well suited to business.
My appearance will reflect the task at hand as well. When I'm at a farm or show grounds, either for a consultation or photo shoot, it is unlikely that I would wear a business suit. Instead I'll wear clean, well fitted jeans or khakis, paddock boots, a fitted shirt and, when necessary, an appropriately fitted jacket or sweater. If I am presenting a horse, I'm dressed appropriately for the class.
When I turn a horse out for show or sale, it will have been bathed and/or thoroughly groomed and presented as is appropriate for the breed and discipline being represented.
Next time: my favorite turnout tips.
The past few weekends have seen me semi-permanently attached to my trusty camera. In addition to the action photography of the horse events at the Kentucky Horse Park and Keeneland, I took the time to retake some product photos.
A few friends and I have been trying to sell off unused horse equipment and rider apparel over the last several months. In early summer I took photos of everything, using as clear a background as possible so that the viewer's eye immediately caught the item. I then created a public online album using one of the free sources and promptly advertised the album on social media sites, including equestrian forums.
There are a few items remaining and I felt they might benefit from an updated photo. I recruited one of my horses and borrowed a pony to show these products in use. My goal was to convey the items with a proper fit through proper adjustment of straps and buckles, and also to stand the horse and pony against as clear a background as possible. In the case of smaller items, such as protective boots, I focused on the legs and boots themselves.
Check out the before and after shots and let me know what you think.
This morning I had the opportunity to attend Breakfast with the Works hosted by Keeneland Race Course. It is always a great opportunity to watch the Thoroughbred race horses during their morning workouts and to practice my photographic focusing capabilities given the speed of motion and the early morning light. I began photographing about 7:45 this morning, just as the sun was rising. Enjoy the photos!
I placed my first ad promoting K. Cornelius Images and Marketing. It's a simple, free ad, but it counts! I am focused on creating the best, most cost effective marketing program possible and there are many free and nearly-free media solutions available.
As an example: My rounds today included stops at local tack shops to pin horse sales flyers to the stores' bulletin boards. Something like this doesn't take much time and only costs a few dollars for paper and ink to print the flyers.
Sales flyers do need to look good, and this is where color is important. If using a professionally produced logo, its colors must be consistent throughout the advertising campaign. If advertising a horse, the photographic reproductions need to accurately reflect what color the horse is. It wouldn't do for a sparkling grey to be sporting a green tint or a blood bay looking like Merlot. If I can't get a good color reproduction on my own printer, I will head to an office services location to utilize the professional machines. These machines do a great job and provide an effective solution for many types of jobs.
Day 3 of equine photography came with the realization that quite a bit of equine related competition involves navigating over, around and through obstacles. Take a look at today's photo selection and you'll see what I mean. Enjoy!
I enjoy the daily inspiration provided by nature, people and pets.