The end is in sight, it seems. At the time of writing this article, riding schools in England are set to re-open from Monday 29th March. Any riding school will know that there is a stack of things to do before they re-open, from bringing horses back into work, to booking lessons in, to organising events and clinics ready for the summer.
Your marketing should also be a central consideration in your re-opening strategy. This blog article outlines three things riding schools need to do with their marketing before lockdown ends, in order to make the most of restrictions lifting.
Keep people updated
You want your re-opening to be as easy as possible, and so do your clients. Keep your regular clients updated on when you are going to reopen and how you are likely to reopen.
Will you only be open for private lessons? What types of riding (e.g. jumping / hacking) will be on offer? Will clients be allowed to bring spectators? Will there be any specific protocols or restrictions in place? Make sure this is made clear to your clients to avoid confusion.
Make sure you publicise any competitions or clinics you have planned. Remember that as keen as people are to get back out riding and competing, they aren’t mind readers so unless you tell them about your upcoming events, they won’t know! Again, make sure any restrictions and protocols are communicated clearly, but in a friendly and welcoming manner – confusing or absent rules or a standoffish attitude will put people off.
Keep your website updated for prospective clients as well – there are a lot of people out there who are looking to take up outdoor sports, including horse riding, as we come out of lockdown, so make sure that these people are aware that you are open for business and know how to book their first lesson.
Make sure that when people come back, they come back to YOU!
Many riding schools will have had little contact with their clients over the past year, and keeping them loyal and engaged via social media is really important. Get your existing clients excited about returning to your riding school – don’t take it for granted that they will definitely return to riding, or that they will definitely return to your yard.
Your clients need to feel that they are being welcomed back to your yard – whilst it’s likely that there will be certain restrictions in place for some time, be sure to communicate these in a clear and friendly manner.
Think about what your clients will have missed about riding – specifically what they will have missed about riding at your riding school. Is it the staff? The horses? Are there any client favourites that you can get on your social media to encourage people to book lessons again?
Whilst I anticipate that most riding schools will get swamped with bookings, this is also a good reason to work at maintaining your client loyalty – clients who cannot get a slot because of the demand or who perhaps aren’t able to return straightaway (e.g. if you decide to hold off on reopening for beginner clients or group lessons), could decide to not return or go elsewhere if they aren’t kept engaged.
Don’t stop advertising once you’ve re-opened
Spend some time working on a marketing plan and think about how you can continue to market your riding school after you have re-opened. Consider whether your website is up-to-date and search engine optimised, as well as how effective your social media is.
Try to strike a balance between connecting with and engaging your existing clients and reaching out to new clients – this includes people who may have never ridden before, as your marketing needs to engage and inform these people too.