Daisy Honeybunn talks to us about building brands and connecting with customers

We caught up with the multi-talented, multifaceted, Daisy Honeybunn for tips on building your brand and connecting with customers – and found out why social media has been a “game changer” for the equestrian market.

You have so many strings to your bow. What is your main job? How would you describe yourself?

I juggle my time between work as a photographer, television presenter and classical singer, as well as being a Director of Hickstead. This year, I’ll be focusing on my music – and very excitingly, will be recording my first album. The different jobs complement each other nicely as long as I can keep my head on straight, although time management remains my biggest challenge!

Why is marketing so important? Can’t you just rely on recommendations and word of mouth?, 

I always say, you can be putting on the best show in the world, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t tell people you’re doing it! Social media and the internet have been game-changers for marketeers – allowing them a whole new way to communicate with their audiences across a wide range of platforms. On the flip side it has also become one of their biggest challenges.

The 24-hour-news cycle and the sheer scope of the internet means it’s harder than ever to be noticed and to separate the wheat from the chaff. Word-of-mouth and positive recommendations are enormously valuable marketing assets, but they are rarely enough on their own to drive a business forward.

What are the ways you market your brand?

Our current marketing strategy (for Daisy Honeybunn, not Hickstead Ltd) is a combination of social media content and editorial pieces, across various publications. I also take part in a variety of workshops, client-facing events, meet and greets etc, which are often affiliated to a particular job or booking.

How important is social media to your marketing?

Crucial. Never before has a small business had access to hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of PR, marketing and graphic design tools… for free! And all at their fingertips! It allows an immediate, unique level of communicating with your clients and provides access to a raft of potential new clients.

What is your favourite social media platform and why?

I like Instagram, purely because it is so quick and easy compared to others. Despite understanding the enormous benefit of social media, I have found that as my business has grown and I have become busier I have had less and less time to spend on producing social media content. People are often astonished quite how long ‘posting’ can take, and as such I have now actually employed a management team to help me administrate my social media.

Which is the most successful for you?

Ironically (as a photographer) Twitter is the most successful for me in terms of followers, but I think probably Instagram in terms of active engagement. I think it is very important to understand that the demographics will vary across different platforms. Each has pros and cons and I use them depending on who I’m trying to talk to/reach and about what.

Do you try to reach an international audience?                 

International reach has been one of the great advantages of social media. As I perform and work internationally, it has been a great advantage to me. I think it is very important that companies analyse their social media data and metrics, as without a clear breakdown the true value can be very misleading. For example, if you’re a company that only ships products domestically, a huge amount of foreign ‘likes’ will not convert to meaningful sales.

Which methods do you use? And which have been effective?

As I am selling services, not products, all social media works very well for me internationally, as do foreign performances and the resulting word-of-mouth recommendations. Exposure to build recognition is also crucial, so I have focused on particular regions or countries in the past and tried to get as much work there as possible, so that I become a familiar face on the circuit when people come to make bookings.

Which names stand out for you on social media and why?

This is the million dollar question. Within equestrianism I think Noelle Floyd harnessed social media enormously effectively to launch and grow her now huge brand. I think the Global Champions Tour were also early front runners in successfully raising the quality of content.

A number of riders are now developing very effective social media presences, and being innovative about their content. For example, Holly Smith now releases online tutorials through her social media, and many riders are getting better at communicating with their followers, running prize giveaways and offering unique experiential prizes etc.

The daily schedule of a professional equestrian is incredibly busy, however what the internet has done has allowed lots of small to medium size PR and management companies to thrive. In the past these companies would have had to pay for premises, a graphic designer, brochures etc, much of this can now be done at a lower cost online.

Ultimately this means that affordable management and marketing professionals are now accessible to a far higher number of riders – not just those at the top of their sports with the financial resources. And for those who cannot afford professional help there is an enormous amount that they can do themselves, as discussed above.

Hickstead is still such a prestigious name. How has it maintained its brand, over the years?

The short answer to this I think is an uncompromising and unstinting attitude and commitment to quality. Only the best will do. We have ensured that we have protected our brand over the years, making sure any collaborations, endorsements etc have also been with the very best. I firmly believe that customers are often more discerning than they’re given credit for, and can smell a ‘sell-out’ from a mile away.

It is quite a complex multi-faceted company and our customers range from riders to viewing members of the public, to people running catering concessions and trade stands. As such they all require different things from us and it’s been vital to ensure that no one’s needs are forgotten in any area of the business. We are very, very lucky to have an enormously loyal customer base and I’m sure it results from this.

Fingers crossed, if we maintain this commitment to excellence in everything we do, then our clients will keep seeing and appreciating this. We also think its hugely important to listen to customers’/clients’ feedback and needs. I think combining the two is the magic formula for keeping happy, loyal customers.

How has marketing evolved and how has Hickstead adapted?

The obvious thing here is the advent of the internet and social media. However, as discussed, businesses are now marketing to a much more media and marketing savvy public, in a much more saturated market and it is crucial to adapt to recognise this. While it is easier to market to people, they now have a much wider choice as consumers, and companies have to recognise this and adapt accordingly, in order to stand out.

As a sporting venue, you have the advantage of a particularly engaged customer base, as the sport is also often their passion and a large part of their lifestyle. Keeping customers engaged with a wide variety of marketing content is crucial, as well as targeting age-appropriate content to different groups etc.

If you need help with your marketing why not get in touch to find out how we can help. From social media campaigns, to taking your business overseas we have the experience, contacts and passion to take your brand to the next level.