Cover Story : Galloping Ahead
Fasig-Tipton teams catalogs, QR Codes and videos to increase market shareJune 2012 By Heather Fletcher
Glistening horses gallop on the track at the Kentucky Derby. Their human admirers fend off their own perspiration under beribboned, wide-brimmed straw hats by gripping condensation-coated glasses of bourbon, chipped ice, muddled mint sprigs and simple syrup.
The Southern romance of mint juleps and big-brimmed bonnets at the Louisville race tells part of the story of horse racing. But not nearly all of it. Long before the Declaration of Independence, George Washington’s presidency and the Civil War, equines were being bred, raced, bought and sold.
In that context, Fasig-Tipton Co. of Lexington, Ky. was a latecomer to the horse trade. Founded in 1898, the thoroughbred horse auction company is known for premier sales—even selling the legendary racehorse Man o’ War as a yearling at its 1918 auction in Saratoga, N.Y.
Through the years, Fasig-Tipton has maintained its position in the horse industry by updating its methods. That’s why QR Codes and videos are now part of Fasig-Tipton’s marketing program, says Max Hodge, the company’s director of client services. New technologies have helped Fasig-Tipton increase its share in the thoroughbred auction market—up from 25 percent in 2006 and 2007 to 32 percent in 2009. Hodge says even in this economy, his company’s ability to adapt to customer needs has helped Fasig-Tipton maintain 30 percent of the market share since 2010.
“We have competitors, and we’re basically a service industry,” Hodge says. “The higher level of service we offer, I think the larger market share we’re going to take. So we continue to try to evolve and offer a higher level of service and new technologies to help make people make better decisions on the horses they’re buying.”
QR Codes Ride the Catalog
Sweltering summer days in 2011 sparked an idea for Hodge and his team: Why not be the first in the industry to include QR Codes in print catalogs?
A code on each horse’s catalog page could link to that thoroughbred’s landing page on the Fasig-Tipton website, which would then allow buyers to find up-to-date information on what happened after the catalogs were printed.
After all, Fasig-Tipton had overhauled its website and added enhanced video in 2009. So it could be done, Hodge knew. But mainly, Hodge says, he thought Fasig-Tipton could do it because of the company’s “one-man army for an IT department,” Paul Barlow.