Networking for equine complementary therapists in the rural economy

Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-118
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Volume75
Early online date28 Jan 2020
DOI
Publication statusPublished - 01 Apr 2020
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Abstract

This paper investigates the role of networking as a marketing strategy for alternative equine therapists in rural areas. The importance of social capital in the rural economy as well as the role of reciprocity is explored. There has been an increasing interest in the role of both alternative therapies and micro businesses over the last twenty to thirty years. Although there has been a considerable amount of research into rural entrepreneurship as well as social capital and networks, there has been very little on the equine therapists and their marketing strategies.

Many entrepreneurs providing complementary therapies for horses in the equine sub culture struggle to gain sufficient customers to survive. The aim of the research is to understand the business model of the equine complementary therapists within their markets, and in particular their marketing approach. Equine complementary therapists work within the equine sub-culture, often at a local level. Their client base is also part of this sub-culture and relies on trusted advisors to make high involvement decisions such as the choice of practitioner for their horse. This paper informs policy makers by highlighting the issues faced by rural entrepreneurs in order to develop strategies to support and encourage these businesses. A model is developed that shows the development of reputation and trust amongst all actors through interactions, qualifications and results.

There are implications for practice within the study as the results and the reputation and trust model aids the therapists in changing their marketing practice and overcoming barriers to market overall. Some therapists were already entrepreneurial with a good understanding of their markets and their overall value offering to each marketplace. Others were marginal businesses and the therapists had to increase their income through part time work. Although all therapists had intrinsic reasons for becoming therapists, those with marginal businesses are likely to benefit the most from the findings, which would allow them to take a more professional approach to their offering – developing relevant trust networks and collaborative provision with clients and intermediaries.

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