Client appreciation advertising

I’m curious how other facilities handle publication ads thanking the trainer. Mostly in respect to organizing clients and payment. Do you just let them do want they want, do you ask for an amount at the beginning of the year, is it factored into your budget, etc?
Thanks,
Jennifer

15 Responses to Client appreciation advertising

  1. Scottfield03 says:

    My clients have done an ad for me the last two years. I don’t know if they are doing one this year or not… I never really know! I like it that way– they put it together, do all of the work, pick the picture, organize all of the billing… I just open the magazine and hope that there might be one there for me! It is a wonderful gesture, and I have the ads professionally framed and they get hung in the barn. It is really, really neat!

  2. StacyGRS says:

    We’re the same. If our clients choose to do something, they do. I generally get an e-mail asking me for contact info for some of them as we have clients scattered throughout the country. Whatever client elected themselves (or got elected:) to do the ad asks me for e-mail addresses and they deal with it all. I think it is nice, but, I couldn’t justify making it something that I ask for or organize. One of our clients started it years back and it has just continued.

  3. GoodLookinGal says:

    It is a nice gesture, if indeed it is a gesture. I was at a barn for a long time that billed this ad to me just as they did ads for my horse after a good showing. It never really sat right with me, but the trainers said that it was required advertising, and expected. I paid my piece, and that was that. I guess I wouldn’t have minded so much if the customers had any real say in it, but the trainers did the whole thing themselves, right down to the list of things “we” were thanking them for.

    I do think it is a very nice way to show our appreciation, though, for all of the crap trainers have to put up with 24/7.

  4. nightmusicfarms says:

    Hi Jennifer:

    From a client perspective, I have had it happen two ways. The first is that the magazine contacted me asking if I wanted to participate. The second is that a client of the trainer took it upon his/herself to organize an ad and asked me to participate.

    I probably won’t win many friends with this next remark, but I can tell you that I think the approach is completely backward. I have spent my entire career in sales and in my opinion, the ad should be run by the trainer, paid for by the trainer and in total thanks to the clients. We somehow get many things backwards in the horse industry, as least when compared to normal business procedures.

    Susan

  5. StacyGRS says:

    Many trainers, us included, often run thank you ads for our clients pre-OKC or in the OKC program. While most trainers can’t afford to do alot of advertising (our horses don’t get any either…don’t feel left out:)if the ad is divided up by multiple people it is less of a burden. I think that’s why it went the way it went…not because trainers deserve thanks and clients don’t, but because, as you know, this is a tradition that was started by the magazines. They know that 20 people can come up with $40.00 per but getting trainers to come up with that $800 is less likely…especially in the winter when the mag needs the ad revenue and the trainers (at least us) have the least amount of horses in training. Your comment doesn’t offend me at all…clients do deserve thanking…thank you, Susan:):)

  6. GoodLookinGal says:

    I don’t even like the trainers ads and I think you are way off base, Nightmusic. Trainers get paid to train our horses. What they don’t get paid for is getting the horse off the trailer at all hours of the night, staying up with a sick horse, fielding phone calls from customers who just want to talk to someone nice, putting up with rotten spoiled children, fixing things that the last trainer you hired messed up, playing psychologist, playing accountant, playing vet, playing travel agent.

    We employ trainers. We are the bosses. They are our employees. I think of this as their “Christmas bonus.” I have never had an employee thank me for giving them a 60+ hour a week job that pays peanuts.

    And you can still find a thank you ad from trainer to owner in almost every magazine, year round. I am happy to redirect the thank you spotlight once a year for a dime on the dollar rate.

  7. nightmusicfarms says:

    GGG:

    It would not be the first time I have been off base and in fact, sometimes I was so far off I could not even see the ballpark. :)

    I am glad this came up, however, because I wanted to elaborate on my comment last night.

    I am deeply appreciative of a good trainer and think that their’s is a labor of love, as well as a means of earning a living. As I have mentioned, I currently have a horse with GRS and when I say I am delighted with them, that is nearly an understatement. In two trainer barns, I think a lot of times clients tend to pair up with one trainer or the other. I have known and respected Gerry for years but had not had the wonderful experience of getting to know Stacy before I sent Heartbreaker there. I can say pretty easily that I never been more satisfied with a trainer’s intelligence, professional courtesy, talent and communication that I am with her’s. I could not be happier to be their client and would recommend them to anyone remotely interested in finding a great home for their horse.

    I don’t disagree at all that clients should thank trainers publicly for an exceptional job well done. I once ran a full page color ad for Bonnie Sogoloff, simply to thank her for being a wonderful person and caring so deeply for a much loved horse I had in training with her. Why? Because I felt Bonnie had gone far beyond the call of duty in providing exceptional service and she certainly merited that type of recognition. It was all the more special because it was not done during any special “appreciate your trainer” ad blitz and in fact, it had been several months since my horse had been in training.

    The whole deal with the appreciation ads is a little annoying to me and probably to a lot of people, including trainers. This was started solely by the magazines as a way to generate revenue and smart marketing on their part. At this point, the barns are all somewhat pressured because it becomes a question of who DIDN’T get an ad, rather than noting those who did. I think a nice ad celebrating a great win or a particularly wonderful trainer is terrific and it would be nice to see it become more spontaneous again, rather than every April, May, whatever having everyone do it. It is even more obvious when you think about the timing. The very start of spring/end of winter is kind of an odd time to run an appreciation ad for a season not yet begun, particularly for new clients. It is, however, the very optimum time for a show oriented magazine to pull in some revenue when they most need it.

    At any rate, I digress.

    My original point on the business model for trainers/clients being different from most standard models is, I think, very accurate in many cases. In the majority of business situations, clients are actively pursued, strongly “wooed” once they are won and the outflow of appreciation or recognition typically runs vendor to client versus client to vendor. In many training barns, that model appears to have become rather substantially skewed and I am not sure why this would be the case.

    You wrote a very interesting paragraph regarding what trainers are paid to do or not do, as the case may be. We have a difference of opinion in several of your points and it will be interesting to hear any trainer input. In my opinion, training a horse or for that matter, simply accepting payment for boarding a horse, absolutely sets the expectation that the individual will care for the horse in an emergency or illness, will load/unload as needed and will provide essential services for the animal’s well being.

    I certainly think that a trainer expects to correct any existing problems when they get a horse and indeed, I think most are proud of their ability to fix an issue. Unless they are a private trainer, they obviously expect to do the necessary support functions of running a successful business. Those functions include accounting, show arrangements, medical intervention as necessary and communicating with their clients. Those functions are all part and parcel of what they are paid to do.

    I agree with you that babysitting children and for that matter, babysitting spoiled adults is not any part of their job description and should not be. Neither is having to put up with a client(s) pulling a diva routine and sucking up enough atmospheric oxygen to launch the space shuttle. Playing psychologist, however, is just part of running a good business, as long as it is not carried to excess and the good ones provide an invaluable service in bolstering client confidence, encouraging folks in tough times and giving them a good kick in the pants when needed.

    I understand full and well that many training clients are walking, talking windbags, completely spoiled, often painfully ignorant and lacking nearly every social grace known to man. Let’s just assume for a second, however, that we are dealing with a good and reasonable client and take a look at what I, at least, want to see in a professional training relationship.

    Here is what I expect from a good trainer:

    Accurate timely billing and my huge personal preference is not to be nickel and dimed to death. I don’t want to see a bill for washing a blanket or giving my horse a fan when it is 100 in the shade and dripping humidity. Fold those charges into my basic bill and call it a day.

    Outstanding care for my animal and always, always with their well being the top priority. If that means telling me that a two year old is too gawky to move forward in harness, that’s fine. If it means that my horse will require six months before putting a hoof in the ring versus someone else’s who needs two, so be it. If it means that the two steps we took forward resulted in one back and the drawing board looms again, that’s ok, let’s just get it done right. More than anything else, if I think my steed is the next Wing Commander and said steed wants to be Trigger, tell me. A horse should never suffer the burden of an owner’s vanity and it is, in my opinion, the strong responsibility of the trainer to set his or her client down and make that clear. If the client is too ignorant or too arrogant to accept the message for the well being of the horse, open the door wide and bid them a fond farewell and good luck.

    I want to be kept completely informed of medical or soundness issues as they arise and in good detail. I want to know and understand the course of treatment and if it is controversial or risky, want to discuss it in advance.

    I want to be made welcome and treated graciously when I come to visit. I want to be warmly greeted at a show and have the trainer make a real effort to ensure that all clients feel included and a proud part of the barn. I don’t want to be in a situation where a clique rules the roost or one or two privileged clients demand an inordinate amount of a trainer’s courtesy, time and interaction.

    I want my trainers to be on top of all rules and regulations and to play by them fairly, period.

    Finally, my personal top requirement is that a trainer communicate with me. It is fine if it is by email or by phone, just as long as they do it. I have used a number of trainers over the years and the single most glaring behavior I have noted is how abysmally poor some of them are at communication, which is the fundamental building block of any business. I rarely take up face to face time with trainers and try not to bother them more than a few times a month to check on my horse(s). I could not tell you the times I have left message after message without ever getting a return note or call until I finally sounded sufficiently annoyed to prompt them to action. By contrast, the trainers I have enjoyed the most and certainly had the most respect for have been those who answered a call or note within a day or so and taken the time to update me with reasonable detail and courtesy.

    This is a good time to be able to call out a few trainers for having really exceptional skill in some particular area of client engagement. I already mentioned Bonnie Sogoloff and I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of working with her. Tim and Jean Arcuri are, hands down, the most gracious hosts I have ever seen. They simply bend over backwards to provide a really wonderful experience for clients who fly in to visit their horses. Luman Wadhams is not only an excellent trainer, but a highly intelligent guy who made good use of email to write well and often. In fact, I never once saw Luman in person as we were a country apart, but always felt updated on my colt.

    I think it would be a total treat to have a horse with Harry Sebring, who must be one of the coolest and most charming people in the business. I have never dropped Harry a note without hearing back and the same thing is true for Daryl Hopson.

    One of my horsie dreams is to eventually be a part of the “family” that makes up Broadmoor. I don’t think you could blast a client away from Mike and Dwayne. They are not only masters of their craft, but charismatic, engaging, superbly gracious hosts and DK is a world class communicator. (Mike may be as well, my experience has been more with Dwayne.) I have already mentioned GRS any number of times and as I said, I have never been more comfortable with feeling up to speed and in support of the work than I have with them.

    The common thread running through all of these comments is the professional and personal effort these people exert to make clients feel appreciated, acknowledged and valued. This is business as it should be and every trainer in the business would do well to emulate each of these folks in that regard.

    Hope others chime in with their thoughts. This is an interesting thread.

  8. Thornwood says:

    Susan, you’re right. The day I don’t have a horse with Mike and Dwayne is the day I’m six feet under. And it really is a family, no quotation marks needed. The first person I called after my little incident last spring was Mike.

    I think what makes the difference between them and just about every other trainer I’ve used in the past is that I have *no doubt* whatsoever that they are looking out for the best interest of my horses, because they realize that is also in my best interest. They are fair, treat everyone equally and quite well, give you a break when you need it and kick your butt when you need it. And can they train horses! Last year was the first I showed a horse that Mike started…it was unbeleivable to ride a 3 yo that was so responsive and light. And then there’s Stilts, a total Mike horse. Dwayne’s no slouch either, he did a fabulous job with Boogie Nights while I still owned him, and Get Busy is kinda nice too :) Another of the many things I love about Broadmoor is the lack of drama…it’s a wonderful thing. Not too many trainers can pull off having multiple amateur clients in the same class – and we all still really like each other :)

    There’s a reason I’ve had my horses with Broadmoor since ’92, and I’m one of the short-timers.

  9. nightmusicfarms says:

    Hi Tara:

    Could not agree more. I am just really in awe of what they have created at Broadmoor. Every single aspect of the experience is world class and they have much to be proud of, as do their clients. They are also one of the few places I would go to say “please find me a horse” rather than bringing one in. Total gentlemen and total professionals.

  10. GoodLookinGal says:

    Out of curiosity, what is the average monthly training bill of all of the above named barns?

  11. StacyGRS says:

    :) I’ll be a sport. We are currently $930/month board and training. If your horse gets supplements, they are added on top of that and will be explained on the bill. All regular vet and farrier bills get billed thru us on the monthly bills…that way we can keep our vet and farrier up to date and know they are taken care of.
    Stacy

  12. Merlcann08 says:

    Thank you all for your insightful responses. I spoke with another client and think we will be coordinating a mailing list. We did publish an appreciation ad in the local newsletter last Fall. The person who coordinated that still hasn’t been paid the $15 by everyone, only two people mailed their payment and she has to remind people as she sees them. I just can’t do that with $800.
    I do agree with Susan that the business model is skewed for advertising. However, I now they were disappointed last year when we missed the appreciation issue.
    My horse did really well early last year before having some difficulties (he’s green). They have put ALOT of work into him since last July and I truly appreciate their hard work. I am having an ad placed in the local newsletter to thank them and list his accomplishments. He’s not quiet of the caliber for a national publication, once he flies right he will be.
    He is at Morgan Valley with Lori Beasley and Becky Basch. It is $825 b & t. Supplements and wormers are extra. Farrier and Vet bill seperately.

  13. nightmusicfarms says:

    Merlcanno8:

    What a nice message and what a lovely gesture on your part. I am sure Lori and Becky will be touched by a local ad and it may even be of more benefit to them that local people see it and may come in. I am sorry they were hurt last year and that is kind of what I was trying to say earlier. At this point, any trainer that doesn’t have a client ad could feel left out and that is just unfortunate for everyone.

    It would be interesting if the clients just banded together and told the mags they would run any ads they wanted either at the end of the season or if they had a special occasion to celebrate.

    Anyway, your trainers sound wonderful and I am glad your horse is coming along so well. Good luck this year.

    Susan

  14. EdanaLL says:

    I’m a little late to the party, but here goes:
    My trainer does not expect client appreciation advertising. There’s no request, no pressure and especially no requirement to place an ad in any magazine. He does not have a large barn.
    However, I feel my trainer deserves some recognition for all he does for us, so for the past few years I have organized and placed an ad in TMH. The magazine was nice enough to bill us all separately so I didn’t have to chase everyone down. I secured the photos and wrote the copy. I think it was a really nice thing to do at the end of the season, and I know he appreciated it.
    I’d also like to say that I feel that trainers should not expect their clients to pay for their advertising as a matter of course. Not everyone has deep enough pockets to pay for a big, splashy ad several times throughout the season. It should always be voluntary, not like the experience that GoodLookinGal noted above.
    And, I agree wholeheartedly with Nightmusicfarm. I sacrifice a lot to have my horse with my trainer. It’s totally worth it. But, I expect – and receive – quality care for my horse, clear communication of my goals and abilities as well as my horse’s potential to help me fulfill them, good instruction, and respectful treatment.
    In return, I pay my bills on time, try my best to learn what I’m being taught, treat my trainer and his wife with courtesy and respect, and help out at shows as much as I can. I think that’s really the best thanks a client can give: work hard, be positive, and always try to be part of the solution, rather than the problem. Just my humble opinion.

  15. nightmusicfarms says:

    EdanaLL:

    Your “humble” opinion is a very good one.

    susan

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