July 2020 - Entrigue Consulting
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Wednesday, 01 July 2020 06:10
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Innovative marketing, business guidance, and a range of options help equestrian sport and its stake holders achieve a return on their investment.

by Kim F. Miller

Kelly Artz is a lifelong horsewoman who sees a lot of untapped potential in equestrian sports. With Entrigue Consulting, she has made it her business to help stake holders build their brand and find personal and financial successes like that found in mainstream sports.

Entrigue is a full-service marketing and brand strategy consulting agency. It represents brands of all types and sizes, primarily equestrian. Clientele ranges from individual riders and training businesses to product manufacturers and retail businesses, big and small. She and her team welcome all comers from start-ups with a good idea to established efforts that need a reboot.

 


“If you have a business, you have a brand,” Kelly asserts. She likens owning a business to having a horse or a child in the sense that it needs to have its growth nurtured and guided every step of the way.

 

Entrigue Consulting CEO, Kelly Artz, with her mare, California-bred Kailaani. Photo: Kristin Lee Photography

Experts in all facets of digital marketing comprise the core of the Entrigue team. Websites, graphic design, visual story-telling, small business strategy, search engine optimization, and staying one step ahead of the ever-evolving social media landscape are among her team members’ areas of expertise.  “You’re only as good as your team,” Kelly says.

 Her lifetime involvement with horses and the equine industry allow her to guide a team that is all about “connecting the dots” for clients. “Moving riders and businesses toward their goals helps move the whole sport forward,” she notes.

Kelly and her dressage partner, Winston. Photo: Kristin Lee Photography


Speaking From Experience

Kelly speaks equestrian clients’ language. She is an HB United States Pony Club graduate who spent her early 20s as a working student for multiple trainers, including Canadian Olympic eventer Hawley Bennett. Since then, she has imported and sold jumpers from Europe in the U.S., founded three companies including Entrigue, and continues to compete in the show ring.

After switching from eventing to dressage, Kelly quickly earned her USDF Bronze and Silver medals. She rode on the U.S. team for the 2019 Maccabi Games in Budapest, Hungary, winning individual silver and team bronze medals. Kelly currently competes her 17-year-old KWPN gelding, Winston, and her 8-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare, Kailaani, bred by Californian Leslie Morse.  

Beyond the arena, Kelly has an MFA in digital media from UCLA and a BA in Psychology. She served as an analyst for production consultants prior to founding Entrigue, working on big name accounts such as Hersheys and Gatorade. She spent two years producing a feature documentary about female jockeys, working with Chantal Sutherland, Kayla Stra, Julie Krone, Mike Smith, Victor Espinoza and more. She also founded and operates the successful equestrian apparel company, Anique.

The unique combination of horsemanship, education, business experience, and a forward-thinking approach enables Kelly to lead Entrigue’s clients to success on many levels: financially and in taking pride in their brand.

Entrigue is walking Kelly’s talk. Entrigue’s roster of clients has grown to include many of industry’s biggest names and brands over the past few years. Olympic medalists Will Simpson and Laura Graves are on that list, as are collaborations for the Kentucky Derby and the Longines Global Champions Tour. Equipe, County Saddlery and Grand Prix Riding Apparel have also been among Entrigue’s corporate clients.
    

Kelly Artz with announcer Noah Rattner at Del Mar Fairgrounds

Nothing Happens Overnight

Kelly compares building an effective marketing strategy to building a Grand Prix dressage horse -- It doesn’t happen overnight. She debunks a pervasive misconception that marketing and sales are the same thing. “Marketing is positioning,” she told interviewers on the Freelance Remuda Podcast last year. “It’s getting in front of the right customers and with content that appeals to them.”

Ensuring that all the brand’s marketing channels work together is a priority. As is making each of today’s necessary marketing channels earn their keep. “A website without good SEO (search engine optimization) is useless,” she explains. “Nobody will find you.” The same goes for social media profiles that are not posting regular content that reaches and appeals to real potential customers.  

Too often, brands expect a specific marketing effort to convert directly into sales. “It just doesn’t work that way,” Kelly notes. When a celebrity athlete like Beezie Madden endorses a product, it creates a positive association in the right customers’ mind. But knowing when that translates to an actual sale is nearly impossible to determine. Putting a promotional code on such an endorsement enables tracking its direct impact on sales, but that benefit is “only a tiny part of what marketing is,” she explains.

“Immediate results are hard to produce. With marketing for brands, it’s all about gaining momentum. Everything from name recognition to increasing web traffic and social media growth takes time and effort to get it to a place where it’s leverageable and useful for positioning for more sales.  With time and continued work, it all starts to fall into place and work together.”

For many clients, Entrigue facilitates all aspects of their marketing efforts: from daily social media content to managing their digital ads on multiple platforms, creating quality print materials, website maintenance and more. Optimizing e-commerce sites for the buyer and shopper’s benefit is another specialty. Google Ads, Amazon store support and blog writing are recent additions to Entrigue’s extensive menu of services.

The Entrigue Consulting live stream team during the Adequan West Coast Dressage Festival

“The Olympics and Then What?”

Connecting riders and brands in mutually beneficial partnerships is a core of Entrigue’s business. The idea for this arose when Kelly worked with Angie Stevens, a talent agent for jockeys in the racing industry. “I learned a lot about how endorsement deals are structured and saw that jockeys were treated like professional athletes because they are valuable marketing vehicles. They are what everybody is watching during a race.” Having big TV audiences for racing helps make jockeys “like billboards.”

She saw the need for something similar in the Olympic equestrian sports. “I looked at some top riders who had potential for big audiences, but they had no management, no brand, and no way to actually talk to their fans in one place--so they had nothing to offer sponsors in the way of return on investment.”

Even if a sponsorship deal was struck, the lack of professional help with website, social media and appearance management often led partnering companies to feel short-changed.

“With riders, I’ve found that most are not worth the sponsorships they want,” Kelly observes. “They don’t like hearing that, but the things they want usually take years to get.” Along with being a talented rider, “You have to have the marketing and branding to be able to move yourself forward in the sport.” Rising in the rankings must go along with building an engaged fan base that has value to a sponsor.

“Olympics and then what?” is a question Kelly encourages professional equestrians to ask themselves. “I think some riders think that the Olympics is the end-all be-all and that it comes with a million-dollar check after. It doesn’t.” Whether they get to the Olympics or not, the rider needs to have a business model and a brand they can be proud of and leverage for a future by being of value to others.

2019 Pan Am Games dressage gold medalist Sarah Lockman was one of Entrigue’s first clients. At the time she had very few Instagram followers and a handful of small sponsors,” Kelly recalls. Long term development was the goal from the beginning and it took time to reach the level of backing that has put Sarah on a realistic track to fulfill Olympic dreams.

Talent and success in the saddle are two factors required in riders who can generate the needed ROI for a sponsor. Hard work is equally important.

“They have to be willing to put in the time, to do the photo shoots or hire a ghost writer,” Kelly says. In Sarah’s case, a strong work ethic and an openness to clients of all kinds helped the stars align. When the late Gerry Ibanez called Sarah several years ago, after finding her online, for help with a Friesian he’d bought sight-unseen, Sarah welcomed the inexperienced horse person. It was the beginning of a partnership with Ibanez’ Summit Farms that has since made Sarah’s international dreams a reality.

“It should be important to all riders, but especially top riders, to continue to grow the sport and bring new people into our world,” Kelly asserts. “It’s very possible to introduce new people to horse sports and facilitate a joyful experience that they want to be a part of -- whether it’s supporting a trainer and their business or helping a rider obtain an Olympic mount. Current equestrians are responsible for showing others there is value in our sport in order to bring in new owners, riders and sponsors.”

Similar dedication is needed to attract top horses. Rather than counting on a wealthy individual to buy them horses, Kelly coaches clients to form ownership syndicates and focus on their own networking and relationships. She recommends they be built around the opportunity to sell the horse at a profit if it doesn’t wind up well-suited for international success. Without that opportunity for a return on their investment, counting on owners who may lose interest over time is a poor plan for staying well mounted, especially in sports like dressage with very little prize money.



All Budgets Welcome

Entrigue’s ability to capitalize on evolving marketing trends and realities is available to businesses of all budgets. The brand looking only for logo design is as important as the big company looking for the full suite of services.  “We encourage clients to work with what they have,” Kelly explains. “Everyone starts somewhere.” Budget restrictions can be a blessing. “It can fuel a lot of creativity.”

“I believe a well-run business and marketing strategy will sustain itself in the long run,” she continues. “If you can’t take $10 and make it $100, you can’t take $100,000 and turn it into a million. You have to have the brand in place and the structure there internally. Every business is different and we help clients with all that to create an effective strategy for the long run.”  

“There’s no substitute for strategic, consistent work”, Kelly concludes. “That means reaching out for clients, fans, followers, sponsors, etc. Then having a firm sense of what value you can bring to any partnership and being poised to deliver it when the opportunity arises.”  Entrigue Consulting is all about getting equestrian athletes and businesses ready to make the most of those opportunities.

For more information, visit www.entrigueconsulting.com.