Email Marketing Training for Tourism Businesses at The National Botanic Garden of Wales

 Marketing training  Comments Off on Email Marketing Training for Tourism Businesses at The National Botanic Garden of Wales
Dec 052012
Email marketing workshop at Principality House at The National Botanic Garden of Wales

Another email marketing workshop for Gallu at Principality House at The National Botanic Garden of Wales

Yesterday saw 11 tourism businesses gather at The National Botanic Garden of Wales in Carmarthenshire. The workshop was about email marketing strategy. Gallu set up this introductory day so tourism businesses could learn more about sending sales emails. We looked at different uses for email marketing such as:

  • single offer emails
  • magazine style e-newsletters
  • news feeds
  • membership news
  • mobile friendly emails
  • and more

Email Subject Lines

The day covered subject lines. Often neglected, these are an vital part of every email campaign. Ideally subject lines are short, compelling and specific.

Email marketing programmes like MailChimp offer free accounts for lists of under 2000 subscribers. With the current cost of postage rising, emails provide a cheap, instant form of communication ideal for farm retail and rural businesses. The day covered all the basics you need to plan effective email campaigns.

Easy to dive in, but you do need a strategy for email marketing

While it’s easy to get started and fire off emails to your entire list, you do need to plan your campaigns. There are laws you need to know about concerning data protection and opt in. So take the time to educate yourself before you start.

Find out more about hiring me as a trainer.

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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Why a contract butcher is worth his weight in gold when you set up direct selling meat

 Direct selling farm produce, Farm Diversification, Marketing  Comments Off on Why a contract butcher is worth his weight in gold when you set up direct selling meat
Mar 122012

I remember when we first tasted our home reared organic meat. As the bacon fried in the pan we oohhed and aaahed because NO yucky white liquid came oozing out of the bacon. This was going to be good. We made a big thing of sitting down with our plates of bacon and sausage, admiring the evenly sized, plump sausages, beautifully browned, the rind on the dry cured bacon, crisped to perfection. We slowly raised our forks for that first mouthful.

That first mouthful. I still remember the taste. Ahh heavenly. We’d never tasted such fine bacon or such succulent sausages. The sense of achievement was intoxicating. Well of course it was going to taste amazing wasn’t it because we’d reared the meat ourselves? All the care and hard work that had gone into choosing the breed, getting the right feed, setting up the outdoor paddocks. All that work was gloriously justified in that first delicious mouthful.

It might not have been like that.

We might have tried cutting up the pork ourselves, found a recipe for bacon and sausage and had a bash at making our own. Then our reaction might have been a little dampened by the chunky mis-shapen rashers cut without a meat slicer by our amateurish selves. It’s likely that a first attempt at curing bacon could have gone awry leaving us with over salty cured meat. As for sausages, there’s so much that can go wrong, turning your delicious pork into an inedible mess.

The same care would have gone into raising that meat but the lack of skill and knowledge in the processing and butchery could have led to a big disappointment.

Instead we used a superb contract butcher, Amberley Vale Foods.

What is a contract butcher?

A contract butcher provides butchery services, particularly for farmers wanting to direct sell their own meat. They either charge per kilo, or they may charge by carcass weight range. Some abattoirs, wholesale butchers (usually supplying independent retailers), high street butchers and even other farmers, may offer cutting services to other producers.

Surely it’s easy to learn butchery skills?

Why would you use a contract butcher?

Butchery takes precision and practice. It is a skill you have to learn. A totally different skill from farming. For any product, presentation is crucial but for meat in particular if you want to get a good price then please don’t take short cuts with the butchery.

A skilled butcher can take an unpromising hunk of meat and turn it into appetising, ready to cook chops, roasting joints and diced casserole cubes. They make it look easy. It isn’t.

You could save a ton of money if you set up your own cutting room

It’s true you could save on cutting charges and you would have more control. Many producers ultimately do set up their own cutting room. But when you’re starting out, you get so much more than a cutting service from a contract butcher.

As well as the best presentation for your meat, you get valuable feedback on the quality of your carcass. For instance over-fat pigs produce bacon with a thick rind which most consumers don’t want. Butchers are very fussy about the quality of meat they take in from the abattoirs so you can learn so much from a butcher’s critique of your carcasses.

At the other end of the process, a butcher will have trusted suppliers for labels and packaging. All these contacts will be invaluable for you when you set up your own cutting room.

In the meantime it can help reduce up front costs if you pay the butcher to package your meat. This saves you having to bulk purchase packaging if your throughput is small. Again you can learn so much from how the butcher lays the meat on the trays, which type of packaging he uses and even where he puts the label.

If you form a good relationship with your butcher, he may let you watch him cut up the meat. When you do set up your own cutting room, this will give you a standard to aim for.

Until or unless you can achieve a similar standard, why would you want to take all that trouble. Many contract butchers are worth their weight in gold? And especially if you find a skilled one.

What butchery skills can you expect from a contract butcher?

At the highest level you have Q Guild butchers. For these guys butchery becomes an art form. You would be lucky to find a Q Guild butcher offering contract cutting services. They are usually working in top end High Street butchers. The simplest solution is to use your abattoir’s cutting services.

Using a cutting service at the abattoir makes life easier for you. You can deliver the animals and collect finished product from the same place. If you use a butcher elsewhere you need to agree who pays for transport of the carcass from the abattoir.

Expect to pay more for any additional processing such as sausage making. Curing bacon requires specialist equipment. Our contract butcher was a bacon and sausage specialist. He supplied top end independent retailers in London from his industrial unit in Gloucestershire.

What about white meat, like poultry?

Poultry butchery is another distinct skill area. You may find it more difficult to get contract cutting services for poultry. It’s best to ask at the abattoir. Just as there are good farmers and poor farmers, butchery skills vary too.

Not all cutting services are the same. You will get better quality and service from a business that promotes cutting services and is used to dealing with farmers.

Make best use of a contract butcher when you first set up

We were lucky to find Amberley Vale Foods, a family run business whose owner took us under his wing. He helped us produce better pigs and his butchery skills wowed our customers from our very first market. He even gave us a bottle of champagne when our first child was born.

Don’t inflict amateur butchery skills on your customers.

Go away and enrol in classes to learn how to do it properly. In the meantime a contract butcher will give you the professional presentation of your meat that will help you win sales and favour. The added benefit of using a contract butcher is that you can learn so much from them abut butchery, packaging and labelling which will be of huge benefit when you do set up your own cutting room.


If you’re a farm enterpreneur, looking at direct selling meat, then save yourself a ton of time and money by getting advice from someone who can tell you what pitfalls to avoid and how to market your products and turn customers into raving fans. Get marketing advice from Juliet Fay. Email me for a quote.

In the meantime for regular marketing tips for rural entrepreneurs and good links for farm retail follow me on Twitter and don’t forget to sign up for my enews (it’s free!), giving you insights into creating engaging content that lead your customers to buy more.

Look out for Piglet Twitter Clinics coming soon to West Wales!

How Twitter newbies can measure return on investment

 farm retail, Marketing, Social media, Twitter  Comments Off on How Twitter newbies can measure return on investment
Mar 112012

Bad news I’m afraid. You can’t measure return on investment if you’re drowning in the sea of random chat on Twitter. Following conversations about runaway dogs in Richmond Park and Stephen Fry’s latest perfectly formed tweet will give you hours of pleasant diversion. A return of sorts but not, I’m sure, the return you were thinking about.

If you’re using Twitter with no strategy, then you will have no objective. No objective means no idea why you are there. Naturally that gives you nothing to measure. Vague ideas about making connections will stay just that, vague ideas.

Aspiring Ernest pig

You’ll get diverted by any number of random conversations and waste time. Confirming your first impression that Twitter is full of meaningless yakety-yak and talking pigs (oh yes, check out @ErnestPig!).

Eventually you’ll leave the Twitter sphere in disgust or assign it the role of pleasant time wasting like tidying your desk when really you need to work.

On the other hand, you could get yourself a strategy, something most Twitter newbies don’t have.

What is a Twitter newbie?

A Twitter newbie is often a Twitter cynic. New to the tools and with a healthy dose of scepticism, they often come to the Twitter party full of doubt and loathing. Isn’t Twitter full of meaningless chatter and talking animals?

Okay may be not loathing but just that familiar resistance we all have when faced with getting to grips with something new. Even an update to your mobile phone can cause that irritation and frustration while you find your way round a new interface. No one wants to waste their time.

“Tell me how I can measure my return on investment,” the Twitter newbie asks, Every penny conscious rural entrepreneur, quite rightly wants to know the answer. First you need something to measure. To find out what that is, you need a strategy.

Okay, so what strategy do you need on Twitter?

A strategy for your time on Twitter is simple to conceive but harder to implement (it takes discipline). Your Twitter strategy needs to consider these areas:

What do you specifically want to achieve? What’s your objective. Let’s say you want some publicity,  you’d like to get your  rare breed pork featured in a newspaper or magazine.

In order to get there you’ll have to work through a number of steps.

First, you need to know who to connect with to achieve your objective. In our example above there are several types of publications that might feature your rare breed pork. Perhaps food magazines, the recipe section of the weekly paper, regional magazines like Carmarthenshire Life, trade magazines like farm retail, or farming publications like Farmers’ Weekly.

Each of these publications has a different audience, so you need to consider why you want publicity. If it is to get more sales enquiries, then you would focus on the consumer publications.

So you set about finding editors, journalists and writers on Twitter who contribute to such magazines.

How do you find journalists and writers like these?

You probably won’t know their names, so search for the publication names for instance, “WesternMail” and also current topics that they may be writing about for instance Spring pork recipes.

So step one is finding those writers and journalists. And how to measure that?

At every stage, record hours spent per week on Twitter and your results. In this case, how many writers did you find and follow and how many have followed you back.

Stage 2, engaging writers in your product or service

This is where it gets tougher. If you bounce on to Twitter and bombard journalists with pleading tweets asking them to feature your rare breed pork you are going to annoy them and worse damage your business reputation.

Journalists know that businesses want free publicity so they will see you coming a mile off. However journalists and editors also want good content for stories. If you have a good story there is a strong chance of finding a publication that will want to feature that rare breed pork we used in the example above. But you have to give writers something different, something interesting that will get your story picked up. How do you do that?

Stage 2, the long game

The bad news it takes more than one tweet. To attract the attention of influencers and writers you need to build a picture of your product that shows its uniqueness and value. Then you need to engage in conversations with the writers. Just as you would if you met them at a networking meeting, you need to get to know them. Let them get to know you. Take an interest in what they do. Read their work. Be creative, give them images and words about your products and the life behind the business.

That takes time.

So during Stage 2, your hours spent on Twitter will increase. The results you are measuring may first be the number of relevant conversations you have with writers and journalists but ultimately you are after those features in publications.

Right now, you might be thinking, this sounds like an awful lot of work but ask yourself where else can you ‘chat’ with journalists from across the world writing about everything from food to farming? Twitter gives you unparalleled access to them.  What you do with that opportunity will determine how much return you get on your investment.

Making the most of the opportunities

As with all social media platforms, the key is to create, share and broadcast good content. That can be images, stories, links and yes some chat! You are showcasing yourself and your business, telling your story. Engaging with others is not only rewarding in itself, it also adds another dimension to your business image on Twitter. This in itself can attract positive attention. By being clear why you are on Twitter, you also start to tune into people and conversations that help you promote or develop your business.

The opportunities for publicity and promotion can often be totally unexpected as Wigwam holidays found.

Wigwam Holidays (follow them @wigwamholidays) promote farm wigwam sites throughout the UK where glamping (more up market camping) is becoming very popular. Through Twitter, Wigwam Holidays got the opportunity to recommend a farm wigwam site for a location for a fashion shoot. If that resulted in images of a wigwam on a beautiful farm location appearing in a fashion magazine, how much was that conversation worth?

In PR circles editorial is estimated to be worth 3 times the value of a paid advert. So if a half page advert in a magazine is worth say £1500, the value of a half page feature is nominally worth £4500. We begin to see how targeted conversations could give you a very high return on invesment. What about other returns on investment?

Reducing spend on paid advertising

For larger businesses that have advertising budgets, Twitter and other social media platforms are providing an alternative to paid advertising. Calon Wen, an organic dairy co-op in West Wales has reduced advertising spend by 50% over 12 months and seen no drop in revenues, since spending just 4 hours per week using Facebook and Twitter.

One tweet from the wife of a Welsh Government minister alerted Calon Wen (follow them on Twitter) that Tesco in Cardiff had no Calon Wen milk in stock. A quick call to Tesco, who were unaware of the problem, got the shelves re-stocked quick smart. That timely communication saved Calon Wen from making an avoidable loss of trading sales that day.  What can you expect once you’re more established on Twitter. Let’s take a look at a Twitter Pro, who is filling seats on hertraining courses.

From newbie to advanced level, leveraging the power of Twitter

Bricks and Bread Sustainable Living Centre run by Trudy Thompson is a dynamic social enterprise that has used Twitter to build an astonishing business hub in Aldershot, UK. Now Trudy is leveraging that learning by offering Twitter courses. She has over 7000 followers on Twitter. Here are the numbers.

Trudy spends 30hrs a week on Twitter. She promoted her free Twitter guide to her Twitter followers and in 4 weeks it had over 44,000 views of the pdf & ISSUU document. This was achieved because of the number of retweets she got. This was followed by promotion of her Twitter courses run every week. Trudy tweeted notifications about the courses 3 times a day for 4 weeks. She gets between 50 and 100 daily retweets. To date, the Twitter class is growing by up to 20 bookings a day. The average value of a booking is £37.50. Follow Twitter power user, Trudy @bricksandbread.

So what if you’ve only got 15 followers

You’re a newbie, you don’t have 7000 followers but you still want to measure results. Set out a clear strategy with specific objectives. Decide what you want to achieve at each stage, for example finding food journalists, then measure your progress and record hours spent per week. Do this for every stage of the process until you achieve your goals e.g. a feature in a magazine. Then work out the value of that result. The question to ask is could you achieve better results for the same time, no money investment using other types of marketing strategies. If you can, then go ahead.

Twitter is a gateway to a mind blowing number of opportunities but you can only find them if you map out a clear strategy. The fastest way to increase return on investment is to learn from those who are already using it successfully.

If you want intensive, hands on Twitter training for your staff or members, take a look at my Become a Twitter Pro (even if you don’t like small talk) courses, available throughout the UK.

For more questions answered about Twitter, follow me on Twitter and sign up for my enews giving you insights into creating engaging content that lead your customers to buy more.

Look out for Piglet Twitter Clinics coming soon to West Wales!

Mar 302010

Imagine if you had a bucket with holes in the bottom.  Every time you filled it, most of the water would leak out the bottom.  The faster you tried to fill it up, the faster the water would run out.

It would be silly to keep trying to fill the bucket without fixing the holes, right?

Yet many rural businesses, like farm retail (farm shops and farmers' market stalls), are fixed on 'getting more customers' without attending to what happens to their existing customers. Are your customers coming back for more?  Or are they disappearing without trace?

If you are trying to find new customers to plug the holes left by your existing customers heading for the door then you have a leaky bucket.  What can you do about it?

Confront the brutal facts.

Why do customers leave and never come back?

Customers can leave for a variety of reasons – all of these can be altered by you:

  • can't find what they need – store layout hard to navigate
  • staff are unfriendly – have they ever been trained?
  • staff are unhelpful – is this company policy or are they feeling undervalued?
  • staff are negative – have they learnt this from you?
  • just don't feel looked after or valued – what is your staff's attitude to the customers?
  • produce isn't fresh – could stock control be improved?
  • produce isn't well presented – do you need some fresh ideas for this?
  • displays are understocked – how can you improve ordering & deliveries to avoid this?
  • favourite items aren't available – if this is outside your control can you make a feature of hard to get items by creating waiting lists?
  • deliveries are missed or incomplete – where is the system breaking down?
  • shop isn't open when they expect it to be open – does every customer know your opening hours?

Are there holes in your farm retail business bucket?

Confronting the brutal facts

Jim Collins in 'Good to Great' – Why some companies make the leap and others don't, (2001 Collins Business). talks about the Stockdale Paradox.  That is summed up as,


Retain faith that you will prevail in the end regardless of the difficulties

at the same time

confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.


Admiral Jim Stockdale was the highest ranking US military officer in a prisoner of war camp in Vietnam between 1965 and 1973.  He was absolutely determined not just to survive but to survive and prosper, rather than be crushed by the experience. 

In order to do that he had to face the brutal realities of the day to day torture that was all around him.  He focused on strategies for dealing with those brutal realities while never losing sight of his overall mission – to survive unbroken.

Jim Collins noted this attitude was a feature of chief executives in top performing companies he researched for this book.

Your desire to increase customers and build sales is a good thing as long as you confront the brutal facts if there is a hole in your sales right now.