Breeder’s Corner: Catherine Marcks on Marketing for Success

Stallion Marketing Success by Catherine Marcks

Welcome back for our next installment of the Breeder’s Corner, where we provide a platform for today’s breeders to share their experiences and give you insight into their successes. We’re excited to bring this piece to you from Catherine Marcks, who has expertly crafted her stallion’s online presence and found creative ways to drive interest and engagement from mare owners in her target markets. These tips can be applied broadly amongst all breeders. Enjoy!

Catherine Marcks

Desidera Farm
Palmyra, VA, USA

Catherine Marcks and her stallion, Amazing

Catherine Marcks is the owner/manager of Desidera Farm located just outside of Charlottesville Virginia. She is passionate about the future of sport horse breeding and is actively engaged in the warmblood breeding community. Catherine owns and stands Amazing (Balou du Rouet x Voltaire) who was ranked the #1 US-based hunter producing sire in 2022. She also has two stallion prospects being raised in Europe, breeds a small number of personal mares per year and manages a boutique boarding operation. Her foals and broodmares have won numerous accolades, including recognition at major competitions throughout the country, USEF hunter breeding year end awards, and top placings at Dressage at Devon breed show. Catherine is committed to supporting other professionals and peers in the industry and wants to encourage and facilitate collaboration.

Catherine recently accepted a job offer to manage Cooper’s Run Farm in Kirkwood, PA (owned by the Weaver family) and will be relocating Desidera Farm to Pennsylvania this spring.

A few dynamic conversations led Nat Masin to ask if I would be interested in writing an opinion piece for Warmblood Stallions of North America on the topic of marketing sporthorses. Anyone who knows me — knows I love any opportunity to voice an opinion 😉 so here we are.

I am passionate about advertising. During the Super Bowl you will find me petting the host’s dog until the commercials come on — I view advertising and the marketing behind a successful campaign as a reflection of its target audience and a glimpse into the future of that community. For me, it is about connecting and communicating with people. Marketing must identify an audience, pin-point a need in the marke,t and then offer a future solution. 

Most of us do not have the budget for a marketing team, or the availability to dedicate endless time to advertising. But, put down the pitch fork for a few minutes and I will trot you through some ideas that are currently working for me.

Stallion Marketing Success
Amazing (Balou du Rouet x Voltaire)
Star of The Barn Bachelor

If you are promoting a stallion, know what he offers, what mare he suits best and what types of people own and love those mares. You need to know what these mare owners value, how to reach them and then use content marketing to build long-term relationships with them. North America is a diverse territory on every level— and the equine industry here is no exception. We have everything from boutique breeders to powerhouse operations— our mare owners range from sentimental personal dreamers to Grand Prix visionaries.

Stallion Marketing Success
Click pictures to view videos on Facebook

To create a successful brand we need to understand and utilize both. If you successfully develop a recognizable brand, you will be able to adjust your offering, attract new business, retain clients, and build industry engagement.

Stallion Marketing Success

I am so fortunate that Amazing came to me with a well-established reputation curated by his former owner, Ahna Phelps. It took a little creativity and time to blend him into my own brand and I think we are just scratching the surface with ideas like our team’s new contest —The Barn Bachelor— that launched in January. Last spring, I offered a more traditional contest to gain visibility for Amazing, test the waters, and encourage the quality of mares I would like on his book. That contest was so successful I knew I wanted to do something similar this spring.

The Barn Bachelor concept came to me late one night while packing for my upcoming farm move (yikes, daunting). I am really excited by the community engagement the contest has inspired, from the amount of entries submitted to the quality of those mares. This will probably become a yearly themed contest for our team. The Barn Bachelor required community engagement and therefore increased our visibility, built brand recognition, and was simply a lot of fun for everyone involved. We asked mare owners to submit entries for our team to review and then selected the five topo mares to receive roses. These five contestants were then eligible for the final round, where the public voted to select the top three and the bachelorette. Second and third place mares won discounted breedings, and the bachelorette won a free contract.

A note about the incredible group of people in my network that I refer to as “my team.” Sharing that this is not a solo venture, and is indeed a team effort— filled with colleagues, friends, mentors and other professionals— has been really well received by my clients and peers. I think we all need to embrace the fact that this is a community-based industry. The North American breeding market has a bit of a reputation to overcome, but there are so many individuals who are eager to learn, want to better the industry and raise the standards of the sport as a whole. These people crave resources, direction and inspiration.

So find your niche. Be honest with your clients — your reputation, future offspring and customers will thank you. It seems to me, breeding in North America is an evolving market at a crossroads — so let’s shape it together.

If this is a helpful conversation to have… leave a comment telling me what you want to hear more about — digital marketing? Client communications? Content acquisition? Branding? Let’s work together.

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