In the highly competitive horse-hay marketplace, quickly getting messages about your product to potential customers can give you a leg up. Hay grower Kenneth Klabunde’s marketing tools of choice: a smartphone and a Web site – Indianahayonline.com.

“I can snap a photo of the hay with my iPhone while I’m cutting, raking or baling, write a few lines of text to go with the picture and post it on the Web site all in about two minutes’ time,” he says. “And I can do it without getting off the tractor seat. It’s amazing technology when you think about it.”

Klabunde and his wife, Rebecca, grow alfalfa-grass and timothy-grass hay part time on their 75-acre farm near Rushville, IN. The hay is packaged in small square bales weighing 50-60 lbs. Their target market: horse owners with one to five animals.

Those searching for hay appreciate the photos and text. “Before they come to our farm, they have a real solid sense of the quality of what we have for sale because they’ve already seen it on our site,” says Klabunde, who works full time as a financial planner.

He designed the site using the Web publishing platform WordPress. To attract visitors to it, he first ran ads on several Internet sites, including Craigslist and Internet Hay Exchange. But he found that wasn’t necessary. “Some people hear about us from our existing customers,” he says. “But for the most part, potential customers find us when they do a Google search.”

From that standpoint, choosing the right name for the site was important. “Our official farm name is Klabunde Farms, LLC, but that’s too hard to pronounce and spell,” he says. “We wanted to get indianahay.com, but that was already taken. So we went with Indianahayonline.com. Now when people do a Google search for Indiana horse hay, our site will usually come up first or second in the search results.”

Maintaining the site costs $22/year – $10 for a custom link to make it easy to find them on the Internet and $12 to register their domain name.

WordPress reports how many people visit the site each month. “We usually get the most traffic in January and February when people are running short of hay,” he says. “In January of this year, we had 170 visits in one day.”

Last month, 1,000 visitors checked the site. “That was a record for us. We’re having a dry summer and hay production is down in many parts of the state. I think a lot of people want to get their hay bought early. They … figure they better lock in their hay supply now or they’re not going to get it.”

Visitors can sign up to receive email alerts whenever Klabunde posts new hay-crop information. “That way, they can be aware of when it’s time to place orders in order to beat the crowd.”

Actual sales are the best indicator of the Web site’s value. “For the last couple of years, we’ve been sold out at the end of the season. That tells us that what we’re doing with the site must be working.”

Future marketing-program plans include an annual newsletter sent to customers and eventually establishing a Facebook presence. “But all of that will be later on. Right now, the Web site meets our needs and then some.”

To contact Klabunde, call 317-572-7335 or email info@klabundefarms.net.