Why good signage for your farm gate sales (or farm shop) is essential

 Direct selling farm produce, Farm Diversification, farm retail, Marketing  Comments Off on Why good signage for your farm gate sales (or farm shop) is essential
Apr 262012

In Britain during World War II road signs were taken down because of fears of a German invasion. The thinking was that it would slow down an advancing army. No signs, no directions. Travel for just a few miles in the British countryside and you soon see how confusing it would be without signs.

Signs are really helpful! Especially if you want to direct people to your farm gate or farm shop to buy produce. Help people out. Put up a sign and make it easy to find your outlet.

What kinds of signs can you use?

Signs come in a variety of materials and sizes. For your farm entrance you can choose from wooden, metal or plastic signs. There are a variety of recycled plastic signs available which are cheaper than metal and easier to maintain than wooden signs. If you are part of a farm accreditation scheme or registered with a body like the Soil Association, there are often subsidised signs available.

A hand painted wooden sign can be very appealing, just make sure the painting is weather proof so that the sign looks good for years to come.

Let’s say you only sell produce in the summer months, then you want temporary signage. PVC banners can be strung up on your fence line when you’re open for business. What about road signs?

 Are there any regulations about signs?

On public roads in the UK, you may be able to get brown ‘tourist attraction’ signs but there are criteria to be met. The brown signs are regulated by the “Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002”. It is your local highways authority that authorises brown signs on local roads. Read more about brown signs in this article.

 Where should you put signs?

If you were travelling from London to Penzance, just think how many signs you’d pass. So don’t think one sign will do the job. You need to direct people in from the nearest main road right to your farm. And it doesn’t stop there.

Just because they’ve turned down the farm track doesn’t mean they’ll end up knocking on the right door. Don’t forget signs to guide people from your entrance right up to the farm house or farm shop door. Why do you need so many?

Remember what it feels like when you’re in unfamiliar territory. You start to doubt your self. If there is no sign, you wonder which way to turn and strangely many people ignore the obvious way and go off down side turnings.

Plenty of signs reassure people that they are heading the right way. It also avoids them ending up in your slurry pit or hay barn. So what information should go on your signs?

 What should you put on your farm signs?

Roadside signs need to be simple. The name of your farm shop with an appropriate symbol is enough for signs several miles from your farm. Look out for those brown signs that indicate tourist attractions and you’ll get the idea. Once you get to the entrance you can add more details, your farm name, logo and any symbols you can use such as organic certification symbol.

Next to the door of the farmhouse or farm shop, put up a sign with even more information such as the opening hours of the shop, a contact number and website if you have one.

What if you don’t want customers in the winter?

You can simply have a sign below your farm name, which says ‘open’ on one side and ‘closed’ on the other. Bed & Breakfast places do a similar thing with ‘vacancies’ and ‘no vacancies’. If you want to make it extra clear, you could have the opening times at the farm entrance. For example,

Open June to September only, Mon – Sat, 8-6pm.

Don’t make people work to find your farm, use signs to guide them in

With no current threat of invasion you don’t need to skimp on signs. Even with sat navs, people like the reassurance that they are on the right track. Invest in clear, good quality signage and guide people right to the door of your farmhouse or shop.


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3 mistakes to avoid when using Twitter for Career Development

 Twitter  Comments Off on 3 mistakes to avoid when using Twitter for Career Development
Apr 242012

Simon Cowell of X Factor fame, is well aware of the pitfalls of celebrity right now. After years of thrusting unsuspecting members of the public into the limelight where some were savaged by the tabloid press, he is now getting a taste of his own medicine. An unauthorised biography has been seized upon by those same journalists because it contains heaps of tawdry titbits.

Celebrity is a powerful drug but it can turn round and bite even the most experienced stars.

For lesser mortals, Twitter is a powerful tool that can help you develop strong networks to promote your career. But just as Simon Cowell found out recently, there are pitfalls for the unwary, being in the public eye.

We’re going to look at 3 of the biggest hazards. They are:

1) It’s a public broadcast, there’s no delete button

2) Using text speak, slang or swearing will alienate people you want to attract

3) Mixing work and play can be playing with fire

Let’s take the first one.

1) It’s a public broadcast, there is no delete button

Twitter is a public medium. The only tweets that are not visible to the Twitter world are direct messages and private twitter accounts (which are rare). We can set them aside for now.

The whole point of Twitter is that it is a stream of live information that you and every Twitter user can dip into. Every tweet you post can be seen, re-tweeted and replied to. Not just by your followers but by everyone. The other problem is, you can’t take a post back. Once it’s out there, you can’t recall it and you can’t erase any responses or re-tweets.

If, let’s say, you hope to work as a marketing consultant for a blue chip company like British Telecom, you might want to take your rants about their poor service to a private platform.

“I’m afraid to tweet anything now”

You don’t need to be afraid and you don’t need to hide your personality completely. A simple test is, how would you feel if this tweet was on the front page of Western Mail?

Another yardstick is, don’t tweet anything you wouldn’t want your mother to read. Which means you wouldn’t fill your tweets with f**k this and f**k that, would you?

2) Using text speak, slang or swearing will alienate people you want to attract

Text abbreviations have crept into Facebook, Twitter and even email. It’s easy to understand why. It’s quicker. With Twitter’s 140 character limit, it’s particularly tempting to abbreviate words to fit them in. That’s fine if you are only trying to network with others who use and understand abbreviations like lol.

But do your potential employers, leaders in your field and business people use and understand that language? If not, then avoid using it on Twitter. You want to be taken seriously by people that can help you develop your career, so use a language you all share.

Slang and swearing not only make your tweets hard to understand, they can offend. Even seasoned professionals seem to like to vent on Twitter. I’ve noticed several freelance journalists who state in their biography that they write for a national newspaper but the tweets are their own. They then express strong opinions, peppered with profanities. This isn’t going to help them get hired to write (it might get them on Newsnight I suppose).

“I thought you should ‘be yourself’ on social media networks?”

Yes, but which self? Most of us already adapt our tone and language depending who we’re talking to. Do you speak to your grand mother the same way you talk to your friends? Would you go into an interview swearing and using slang?

If you want to use Twitter as a tool for career development, put your workplace head on when you’re tweeting. Need more examples? Follow people in the industry you’re pursuing. Take your lead from how they use Twitter and mind your language. That leads on to how much we tweet about our social life.

3) Mixing work and play can be playing with fire

If you just use Twitter to keep in touch with friends then of course you will be tweeting about your social life. Unlike Facebook, where you can confine views of your posts to friends or friends of friends, Twitter is public.

If you want to attract the attention of potential employers, or business partners, you need to assume that they will do their homework and check out your public profiles online, including Twitter. That means they’re going to hear all about the things you share with your friends. There’s no filter on Twitter (unless you make your entire account private, but this defeats the purpose of using Twitter).

So one suggestion is to set up a new Twitter account you can use as a career development tool or change the way you use your existing account. Network with close friends elsewhere, on Facebook or Google+.

For example, if you tweet how fed up you are about job hunting, it might make you feel better but doesn’t look good to potential employers. Likewise telling the world about your pursuit of a girl or boy who you’ve fallen in love with would be good material for a short story but unless your ambition is to be a writer, keep it for a private platform.

“So am I supposed to censor all tweets about my social life?”

Not all of them, no. You need to apply a “work filter” to anything you want to say about Friday or Saturday night. If you were in the office talking to colleagues and your boss about the weekend, what would you say?

If you don’t want a career in politics, then leave strong political opinions for more private conversations. Unless you want to be a music critic, don’t give a blow by blow account of every music purchase for your iTunes library.

On the other hand, if you’re doing a sky dive for charity, or you take photos for your local football team, then these activities give you plus points in the eyes of the world of work. You’d add these activities to your CV because it shows personal qualities that are attractive to potential employers.

So remember 3 easy rules for what to say (or not to say)

1. If you wouldn’t want to see it on the front page of the local newspaper, don’t tweet it.

2. If you wouldn’t use that word in a job interview, don’t put it in a tweet.

3. If you’d add it to your CV, tweet about it.

Twitter is a powerful networking tool but there are pitfalls to avoid. Remember, every Tweet is a public broadcast with no delete button, avoid using text speak, slang or swear words and use a “work filter” when mixing tweets about work and play.

Even the most powerful media manipulators like Simon Cowell can get tripped up by the glare of the limelight. Twitter gives you the opportunity to connect with people all over the world and could take your career in directions you never imagined, but be wary. Watch out for pitfalls and keep your public image clean and appealing to those you want to connect with.

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Why a secondary ‘call to action’ on web pages is often missing (and causes unnecessary reader departures)

 copywriting  Comments Off on Why a secondary ‘call to action’ on web pages is often missing (and causes unnecessary reader departures)
Apr 182012

Which is your dominant hand? Left or right? We use the dominant hand for important things like writing, hammering and striking the ball with a racket or bat. It is called the dominant hand because its role is more important. Or so we think. But where would we be without the other, less used hand? Driving, typing and cooking, to name just a few activities, would be much harder without the second hand. It’s easy to overlook the importance of things that are secondary.

Or neglect them altogether.

On web pages, we know the importance of giving the reader the next step. That step, the primary ‘call to action’ is a key piece of kit in the copywriter’s toolbox. But what about the secondary call to action? It’s usually missing in action and there’s a reason for this. But first let’s make sure we’re clear what we’re talking about.

What is a call to action?

Let’s recap on the whole’ call to action’ thing. The primary call to action is towards the end of our copy. It tells the reader what to do next. Typically, it says, “email me for a quote”, “visit the e-shop” or something similar. A call to action should be clear with a simple instruction that readers can easily follow.

Before the internet, the only form of direct, written, personal sales communication was the sales letter. Known as direct mail marketing, successful examples stuck to a tried and tested formula that included the all important ‘call to action’ at the end.

According to industry sources, under 3% of readers respond to direct mail letters (that’s why those letters are sent to 1000s of households). We know that because the next step is something clear and measurable like, “Send back the reply paid envelope for your free sample”.

That decision to respond is most likely made on the first reading. This is not a letter you would file away for future reference. It’s goal is to get an immediate response. The secondary call to action is missing from offline sales letters, for good reason. It would be a distraction and worse, might reduce response rates.

What is a secondary call to action?

A secondary call to action offers the reader an alternative next step. So if the primary call to action is “Sign up for my e-news”. The secondary call to action might be “Or read more articles on copywriting”.

If it reduces response rates in offline sales letters, why use it on web pages?

These days customers visit websites to check out businesses. They go there to compare prices, suss out who’s behind the company and even make purchases. On web pages secondary calls to action play an important but often neglected role.

They look after your existing customers, subscribers and those in research mode. It encourages people to linger, who might otherwise leave. When they linger, they get a little more from you, learn a little more about you and make their connection with you a little stronger.

Not every click on your web page is from a first time visitor or prospective customer. Some are from your existing customers, your subscribers, your Twitter followers, your Facebook fans, your connections on LinkedIn or fellow members of business organisations and forums.

It’s easy to lavish fuss and attention on the new people who show up. They might become customers so you’re keen to impress. You want to get your call to action just right for those first timers. But the people who already know you to a greater or lesser degree are the people who are giving you business and referrals right now. Don’t neglect them.

The secondary call to action shows respect for them and your confidence in your material

You’re happy to let them linger and explore your website a little more, knowing wht they find will reinforce your credibility. When an existing subscriber lands on that page, it shows courtesy to them. It gives them a next step too. Let’s take some examples.

What can you use as a secondary call to action?

If your primary call to action is subscribe to your e-newsletter, your secondary call to action could be:

• Client testimonial
• Another article or series of articles
• A case study
• An interview
• A product review

There is one important step that can get overlooked. If you don’t include this step, then your secondary call to action can become a diversion like in the offline sales letter.

The biggest mistake with a secondary call to action?

If you use secondary call to action you must close the loop. What do I mean by that? When you’ve sent someone off to read another article or case study, make sure there is another primary and secondary call to action at the end of that page too. And so on. And so on. Like this,

Twice a month I send out an e-news, especially put together for my loyal subscribers. It contains practical advice on sales writing and marketing to help rural entrepreneurs make enough, from doing what they love. It’s free! Subscribe here.

Want to read more articles right now? Here’s a round up of articles on sales writing.

The best way to do this is a simple audit of your web pages. Decide on your primary and secondary calls to action (they may be different for different pages on the site). Make a check list and work your way through the pages on your website.

People visit your website at various stages of their relationship with you. Just as in real life we start to take for granted the people we know best, so the primary call to action can neglect your loyal subscribers and business friends. Add in a secondary call to action and make the extra effort to take care of the not so new visitors to your site.

Why taking a Perample Sample into butchers gives you twice the chance of getting a regular order

 Farm Diversification, farm retail  Comments Off on Why taking a Perample Sample into butchers gives you twice the chance of getting a regular order
Apr 052012

In the days before websites, I turned to the Yellow Pages to find butchers’ shops in the nearest city. Once I had a list, I set off, without any samples, hoping to interest them in our organic chickens. At each shop I gave my spiel about our wonderful chickens, and smiled hopefully.

What happened?

All but one said no. That one butcher took a chance on me and asked me to deliver 10 chickens the following week. He took a big risk because I had nothing to show him.

Imagine how much more compelling my spiel would have been, if I’d offered a sample. Imagine if it hadn’t been any old sample but a Perample Sample.

What is a Perample sample?

A Perample Sample is the sample that creates the best, but true, first impression. It is a perfect example of the quality product you can deliver to the butcher’s shop week after week. Let’ say it is a fresh, oven- ready chicken, plucked to perfection and dressed with an inconspicuous poultry tie. The skin is firm and taut with perhaps a golden tinge from an outdoor life pastured on grass. It looks ready to be basted and popped in the oven.

It comes in a pristine, cardboard poultry box where it sits on crisp, clean grease proof paper. Because you know how to process birds properly the chicken has set properly and there isn’t the hint of a blemish anywhere on the bird.

 Why does it give you twice the chance of getting the sale?

There are 3 reasons the butcher is twice as likely to want to do business with you. These are:

1. You’ve shown the quality of your product

2. You’ve made the effort to bring in the sample

3. You’ve shown enterprise in cold calling

How does the Perample sample help the butcher decide?

They always say you never see a poor butcher. Why? Successful butchers combine an uncompromising attitude to quality with a farmer’s attitude to price. To make their margin they will push for the lowest possible price. Quality is what brings their customers back. They can’t afford even one sub standard lamb chop, so woe betide any supplier that tries to get away with seconds or poor quality meat.

By bringing in your Perample Sample, you allow the butcher to weigh up the quality right in front of his eyes. If satisfied with that, all he has to do is focus on getting the right price. Without a sample he is taking a big risk by ordering with you.

When should you take in a Perample Sample?

Pick your time to deliver a Perample Sample. Avoid delivery times as you’ll be jostling with established suppliers. Avoid times when customers are queueing, the butcher won’t give you the time of day. How do you find out the best time? An hour before closing when equipment is being cleaned down, is a good time to call in.

 It takes too much time to visit butchers with samples

Taking a Perample Sample to the right butcher could get you a £100.00 worth of weekly orders, that’s over £5000 worth of business per year. If you take your Perample Sample then you’ve taken away half the risk for the butcher, making them twice as likely to place an order with you.

A carefully prepared Perample Sample will create a lasting, good impression which will increase your chances of winning new business. All you have to do is make sure every consignment maintains the same quality.


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Apr 052012

When you have a baby, everyone has an opinion about the best way to look after it.

Your mother will tell you how she did it in her day. Your mother-in-law will tell you something else. The midwife will give you the current thinking (which contradicts everything else you’ve heard) and your friends will do something never advised in the baby books.

And all this leaves you, the new parents, totally confused. What do you do? How do you decide what’s right and what’s not?

Whenever there’s conflicting information we get confused. That’s why the Grocer’s Apostrophe has caused confusion for writers down the generations. It’s very common but never appears in English Usage books.

 What is the Grocer’s Apostrophe?

The Grocer's Apostrophe

The Grocer’s Apostrophe is the little, suspended comma that mysteriously appears on signs, typically in green grocers’ shops. It shows up when vegetables go plural. One apple; many apple’s.

It was named for the greengrocers who brought it into common usage. You’ll find plenty of examples of the Grocer’s Apostrophe along the racks of beautiful fruit and vegetables. Look out for: potato’s, tomatoe’s, cauli’s, carrot’s, banana’s and more.

So what’s wrong with it?

Why is it incorrect (what is an apostrophe anyway)?

Technically it is the wrong use of an apostrophe. Strictly speaking, an apostrophe has only 2 uses:

1) To show missing letters

2) To show possession

Let’s take a look at those two examples:

 1) To show missing letters

In spoken and written English we often run two words together. So did not becomes didn’t, he will becomes, he’ll. The apostrophe tells us there is one or more missing letters.

Didn’t (the apostrophe marks the missing ‘o’)

He’ll (the apostrophe marks the missing ‘wi’)

That brings us to the second use of the apostrophe.

 2) To show possession

You can use an apostrophe as shorthand for ‘belong to’. Instead of, The coat belongs to Jack, we can say, [i]Jack’s coat.

You never need an apostrophe just to show the word is a plural.

So by adding apostrophes to plurals, grocers are accidentally making their vegetables possessive. And possessive vegetables are something we don’t need!

Grocer’s Apostrophes pop up in all sorts of writing, not just on signboards. How did this catch on so widely?

How has it confused generations?

It is a universal truth that when unsure, we tend to look over our shoulder. What is our neighbour doing? We learnt this in school. If in doubt, copy your neighbour. Yes it was frowned on, sometimes got us in trouble, but it beat handing in a blank page.

Seeing the Grocer’s Apostrophe scattered liberally around sign boards up and down the high street, is it any wonder that it has crept into annual reports, sales copy and articles?

The question is, does it matter?

Who cares about apostrophes these days?

Grammarians get very upset about the Grocer’s Apostrophe. They cry foul and lament the decline of language and standards in public life.

But language is about communication.

I’ve grown up with the Grocer’s Apostrophe. It hasn’t impeded my vegetable buying efforts. In fact I feel quite nostalgic about it. So I say let it stand……but only in the green grocers’.

I don’t recommend using the Grocer’s Apostrophe in your sales copy or article writing. Iit gives conflicting messages. They confuse people. Confusion is best avoided when talking to customers (as it is when looking after babies!).


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