Focusing On Community with Heike Jung
We had a blast chatting with Heike and learning about Horse World Connect. If you are a regular listener of the podcast, you’ll know that we talk a TON about the importance of community. Heike is a perfect example because she’s built an entire business off of this idea.
Focusing On Community with Heike Jung
Back to The Beginning – The Birth of Horse World Connect
Horse World Connect helps equine businesses get the word out about their horse related products or services. Three years ago, Heike and two partners set off to create a Google of the equine industry. The universe just kept throwing obstacles into their way.
It began with the programming not working the way they wanted it to. The issues piled up, and they kept pivoting and changing the business until it evolved into the Horse World Connect that exists today.
The journey was just like the cartoon below:
A Diverse Mix of Offerings
Horse World Connect offers business coaching, giveaways, podcast services, and a community where members can connect with buyers. It all came about by looking at what was working and what wasn’t.
The giveaways were originally meant to grow the horse world connect email list. Today they work great for any business with a product to give away and have worked for a few service businesses as well.
As more service businesses came to Heike for support, she started the podcasts. The podcasts help people get to know the service businesses, and they begin to trust them and, from there, potentially sign up for their services.
In the beginning, it was just personal interviews, and it was called Getting To Know the People Behind the Businesses That You Love. Today the podcast is 10-minute segments directly from the business owners. They can educate or inspire the audience in any way they want to or just tell fun personal stories.
A Surprising Success
Heike needed a way to encourage people to enter the giveaways and reward those who participated more than others. With Horse World Connect’s viral giveaways, the more you share the content, the more entries you get. Sharing on social media, or with individuals, gets you 1 entry per share. Sending out an email gets you 5 entries.
One particularly memorable giveaway was for a camping spot. The Horse Connection, one of Horse World Connect’s business members, was hosting a camping trip in the mountains of Ohio.
People had to trailer their horses to Ohio to participate, so the barrier to entry was quite high, but they were having trouble filling the camp so they decided to run a giveaway. Even though the giveaway was very specific, because you had to go to Ohio to this camp spot, they got a ton of entries.
On top of that, she filled all the spots in the trip because of the hype around the giveaway. Heike didn’t expect that to happen because of how specific the prize was, but it was wildly successful.
Less Surprising, Another Major Success
Another giveaway that went crazy was for a Revitavet Infrared Laser. They gave away and tendon saver. Heike had used it quite a bit on her horse during that time. He had a growth on his fetlock about the size of the tip of her pinky. In an effort to avoid surgery, she used the laser on it. It fell off after 10 days of treatment.
Heike posted about her experience, and that generated a lot of interest and led to a HUGE giveaway. You will want to keep an eye on the Horse World Connect social media pages because another giveaway from Revitavet might be coming soon!
They’ve been throwing around the idea of giving away a pole cap, a tool for anxious horses at shows, or during transport. The Horse World Connect giveaway system allows people to enter as many times as they want. The more they share, the more entries they get.
Horse World Connect Podcasts
Business owners who are members of Horse Word Connect can record podcast episodes, and Heike handles the production end of things. All the horse word connect podcasts are 10 minutes or less. If you struggle to come up with a topic or a plan for what to talk about, Heike helps you come up with ideas.
The Horse World Connect podcasts don’t need to be professional (kind of like how this one isn’t either EHEM we’re looking at you barking dogs meowing cats and crying babies). You can be in the stall next to your horse. Listeners love to hear your horse munching hay while you record.
Once Heike has your recording, she uploads it to the podcast channel, puts a photo and headline with it, and it gets pushed out to the Horse World Connect audience. The idea around the podcasts being 10 minutes or less make it easier for the people recording. They can record five podcasts around one topic in less than an hour.
Plus, the audience doesn’t have to schedule the time to listen. You don’t have to be driving for half an hour or longer to listen to a podcast. There are no excuses not to listen to a Horse World Connect podcast!
Meet Frog Hekie’s Horse
Heike has a pretty special equine named Frog. He is in his mid-teens now, but she’s had him since the day he was born. He grew up in the shadow of Heike’s mare but became her primary horse a few years ago after her mare passed away.
Heike moved from Michigan to Florida and then from Florida to South Carolina and then from South Carolina to Northern Virginia with her two horses in tow. Bug (her mare) was her main squeeze for a long time. They did a lot of trail riding and Parelli courses at Pat’s barn.
Frog was along for the ride, but she didn’t ride him much. They actually got excused out of a Parelli clinic once because Frog was acting up. The horses were two totally different personalities. Heike just started riding Frog last year. Before that, she would pony him a lot.
He’s more extroverted than Bug was. He’s fun. She started out riding him bareback because he would jump or spook very quickly. When she was in a saddle, she couldn’t feel him as well.
With the bareback pad, she can feel him tense up. It doesn’t take much from being tense to spooking and trying to launch her off. It felt safer because she could immediately feel him get tense and take action to keep him calm.
Riding bareback helped them feel connected and work on their relationship. Now that that’s going well, they’ve recently gotten a new saddle. Prolonged bareback riding isn’t great for horse’s backs. We are excited to hear about their trail adventures in the saddle this summer.
The Horse World Connect Facebook Group – Community
A huge part of Horse World Connect is the community Facebook group. It’s a place for horse businesses and equestrians to interact. If someone has questions about saddle fit, they can connect with a saddle maker, engage with them, and learn directly from the business owner.
Heike has been on a mission to figure out how to foster more engagement between businesses and equestrian members. Everyone was engaging with her, but they were not engaging with each other. This year she began spotlighting one business each week.
That business gets to post in the group on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and the members can engage with that business if they want to find out more about them. This tactic is helping the Horse World Connect Members reach a new audience, and they’ve been really happy with it so far.
There are no guidelines for what time they post or what they post about as long as it’s about their business. Heike is looking forward to seeing what each business posts about, and going back and seeing what worked and what didn’t work for them.
The Horse World Connect Club is a Group of 700 Members. Two years ago, when she started it, Heike leveraged her email list to get the group off the ground. Now she continues to get members from her email list, when Facebook promotes the group in equestrian feeds, and when people invite their friends.
If you’re thinking that 700 members is a big group, and you’re never going to get there, go back and read that last paragraph again. TWO YEARS guys. Real authentic engagement doesn’t happen overnight. Heike says she tries not to look at the numbers because that’s not what it’s about.
Hike is super passionate about creating a positive, safe space for people to share. You have to be supportive in her free group AND her mastermind group. If you are negative, you will get a message from Heike! Everybody is on their own journey, and everybody is at a different point in that journey.
Musings on the Horse Industry
Heike has been in the horse industry for a long time. She says the equine industry as a whole has become much better advocates for horses, which is wonderful! When she first joined the industry, most people saw horses as a means of getting from one place to another or for winning ribbons.
Once natural horsemanship became more mainstream, the horses’ welfare started getting put first a LOT more often. Heike has also seen equine businesses collaborating more with each other (like us on this podcast). People are really focused on supporting each other, and when they don’t feel that support, they will look for a different group of people. The expectation today is that people will be supportive.
Advice for Horse Business Owners from Heike
Once you find your niche, if you like to write articles, then do that. If you like to talk, do podcasts or videos. Whatever you do, be consistent with that and make sure it broadens your audience. You don’t want to talk to the same people over and over. Always be looking for a way to increase your influence and reach a wider audience.
That’s why collaborating is so great. It gets you into a new audience while providing value for that audience owner at the same time. Sometimes a business owner will feel like they are tiny, and everybody else is so big when that’s probably not the reality of the situation. They just have the wrong perception or the wrong mindset around what they do.
When this happens, jumping on a call with a coach, or posting in your favorite Facebook group for support will change your mindset and stop you from getting boxed in. You have so much to offer. You just have to start and put it out there, and you have to be consistent with it and not look at the numbers. Stop looking at the numbers.
It’s not so much the growth of the numbers, but the growth of community that will make a difference for your business. There’s a difference between looking at the numbers and looking at your data. When you’re looking at data, you’re going in to see what’s working and what isn’t working. That’s a lot different than just being worried about the numbers.
If anyone wants to go ahead and join the horse world Connect Community on Facebook head over to the sidebar of this post and click the link!
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