Maybe gardening was a hobby for you at one time or another, and you decided to turn it into a full commercial enterprise. Maybe this is something new for you, or maybe this is the way you’re continuing to stay active and make money after you retire. Either way, congratulations: you are now the owner of a gardening business!
Just as with any other business, a gardening business is made up of three different aspects: production, distribution, and marketing. Production is the part that will most likely appeal to you most as a gardener, because it’s all about getting your hands dirty, putting in the hours and harvesting crops to prepare them for sale.
While they may not be as fun or as interesting to you as the production aspect, the two remaining aspects are just as important. Distribution is how you get your products to market. This is how you ship or transport your plants, and sell them in a retail store, or your own shop that you have set up, so that your customers have somewhere to come and buy them.
Marketing is how your customers discover your brand, your products and where they can buy them. This is the number one issue most small businesses have: discoverability. How do customers even know that you exist, what sets your products apart from others, and where to find them? Marketing is how you communicate who you are, what you do, and what makes you stand out from the crowd.
Besides the traditional staples of physical advertisements, such as signs, flyers, and other printed material, there is a whole other sphere of marketing that exists exclusively in the digital domain. It consists of your website, your social media pages, online advertisements and emails that you send to your subscribed users.
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One of the foundations of a digital strategy is to have a home online, where people can visit to learn more about you, get information about your brand, and potentially buy your produce. That home is your website, and one of the most important components of your site is your blog. Here are some basics to build your gardening business through blogging.
Set Everything Up
There are a few critical steps that you’ll need to take first to ensure your online efforts bear fruit later on.
The first is that you need to find and purchase a domain name that is relevant to your business and relatively simple. A domain name is nothing more than the web address that people will type in their internet browser to find your site. Examples of domain names you’re probably familiar with are Amazon.com or Google.com. Your domain name should be easy to say and spell, and be something that is easy for people to share with their friends both verbally and on social media.
Second, once you have a domain name, you will need to find a host. Your host will often be the same agency from which you bought your domain name. Depending on how big you want your site to be and how much traffic you expect, you need to consider your options for the type of host you purchase.
If you’re planning on having a small volume of customers, which is common for new businesses, shared hosting will probably be the best option for you. Shared hosting means that the storage capacity to host your website and keep it running smoothly is shared with other sites. This is typically less expensive than dedicated hosting, which we’ll discuss next. As your site grows, and you gain more site traffic, you may experience longer loading times and other site issues with shared hosting, so bear this in mind.
If you already have a large following in a retail store or you own shop, and you believe you’re going to have just as large a following online, you might want to consider dedicated hosting. Dedicated hosting means your host will dedicate storage and memory space for your site alone, which will help maintain fast load times and reduce other issues. However, dedicated hosting is often more expensive, and can come with longer minimum contract times when you sign up, so ensure that dedicated hosting will be a solid investment for your site.
Third, and finally, you need to set up your web design. Are you going to sell seeds and other products online through an ecommerce store, or are you only going to sell vegetables and other plants at local markets and stores? If the second is true, you won’t need shopping carts and other elements you might need if you are going to sell products online. You don’t have to design your website from scratch; there are plenty of preloaded templates that you can populate with your own text and images, or you can consider hiring a web designer to setup your page based on your input.
Populate Your Site with Content
Now that you have your site set up, you need to fill it with content. This includes your homepage, your product pages that describe what you grow and when it is in season, and pages that tell your readers about you and your gardening practices.
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There’s a saying in online marketing circles: Content is King. No matter how good your products are, or how efficient your processes for delivering customer satisfaction, if the content on your site is cheap, confusing, or you don’t update often, your customers will perceive you as unreliable, and will be less likely to work with you. Your products and brand may be what draws potential customers to your site at first, but quality content is what will keep them coming back.
In addition, you need to populate your blog with articles that will attract readers. What are those articles? In gardening there are several topics you can explore:
- Gardening Practices: How do you run your garden? Are your products certified organic? How do you ensure this? How do you protect your crops from weather and other disasters? Do you grow things in the off season in greenhouses?
- Food and Nutrition: Why are vegetables better for you than other snacks and foods? Can you get enough protein on a vegan diet? What makes your vegetables nutritious?
- Recipes: You know some great ways to prepare your crops. Share those with your readers and buyers.
- Health Facts: Go beyond diet. How can you couple your food with the right amount of exercise and activity to lead a healthy life? What plant-based proteins and supplements do you recommend, if any?
You can see that just these topics, which only scratch the surface of everything you can talk about, will keep your blog updated with fresh content for a long time. Topics like these will appeal to your readers and potential customers, and will help establish your credibility as an expert gardener. The more quality information you give to your customers, that they can actually use in their own lives, the more likely they are to buy from you.
This may seem like you will be writing all the time, but that doesn’t have to be the case. If you can’t keep up with a couple of blog posts a week, you can hire a content strategist and freelance writers to do the work for you. For a reasonable amount of money, your blog can have some well written content that will bring you more customers.
Share Your Content
How will people know about you, or find you if they don’t know your name or what you do? This involves your digital footprint and your social sharing index. What do those things mean? Your digital footprint involves your reach in the digital sphere. How many followers do you have on your Facebook page or Twitter? How about Instagram and Pinterest? The amount of potential reach you have on social media and through your website is your digital footprint.
Your social selling index is the likelihood that you will sell something online. This is more about how much you are engaged on social media. How quickly do you respond to messages? How often do you post, comment, and reply to the comments others leave? How often do you share something that someone else created?
Your social selling index is a number between 1-100, with 100 being the best. The more engaged you are, the better your leads and customers get to know you online, the higher this index will be, and the more likely your digital efforts will be to pay off.
Blogging can be a great tool for building your gardening business. While it may work a little differently than some other types of business, the same principles apply. You start with a quality idea or product, and then you develop methods to deliver them to your customers. Then you setup methods to educate people about who you are, send them information and answer their questions and concerns. Your blog, tied with your website, are powerful tools that will help you to grow your business and reap the benefits of the quality you have sown