Own a gardening business and unsure how to promote it? Well, Simon Gibbins, owner of Strawbale Veg UK, has a lot to share with you.
Nine years ago, Simon found himself searching for ways to make gardening easy, accessible, and budget-friendly. That’s when he discovered straw bale gardening, a method where you don’t need soil, just strawbale.
“I was looking for gardening methods that do not require a lot of extra movement, since my wife had an injury that prevented her from taking part in traditional gardening methods. That’s when I found out about straw bale gardening. It’s a super easy method, especially for anyone with mobility or soil issues,” said Simon.
Intrigued and inspired, Simon launched a home-based straw bale gardening business, and set out on a mission to introduce inexpensive, accessible gardening to the world.
When it comes to marketing, Simon’s brewed up his own special strategy. We sat and talked to him about how he uses the perfect blend of social media marketing methods to promote Strawbale Veg UK.
Can you tell me a bit about Strawbale Veg?
Strawbale Veg UK teaches people how to plant seeds and grow produce through straw bale gardening.
Within the UK, there are thousands of people who can’t partake in gardening because they don’t have soil available. And that’s where Strawbale Veg comes in. With our help, people can have the garden of their dreams and not have to ever touch any soil, or worry about weeds or waste.
That sounds very interesting. Do you work on this alone?
At the moment, my wife and I are working on it together.
1) Personalize your services
What services do you offer?
We sell seeds online. I’ve got my own range of seeds for vegetable herbs and flowers, which are super easy to grow in straw bale. We’ve also got what I call our Chili Vault, which is a collection of rare chillies for sale, along with instructions on how to plant them.
We also sell three types of growing kits that provide you with everything you need to start your own straw bale garden.
We’re a very small company so we like to personalize our services and encourage “companion planting.” Every single seed packet you buy from us tells you what vegetables or herbs will complement that particular vegetable you’ve bought. Companion plants are ones that either grow well together, or work great when used together in cooking.
We also used to conduct in-person workshops on how to plant seeds in straw bale before the pandemic hit, and now, we conduct workshops over Zoom.
How many customers do you have?
We have about 300-400 customers at the moment. But the number is definitely increasing, because prices are going up in the UK, and people are starting to become more interested in growing their own produce.
I also just launched my own ebook on straw bale gardening, and it’s helping me bring in a lot of traffic too.
How are you marketing your ebook?
The book is available on my website, and of course, the main part of my ebook marketing plan is to promote it on social media through the posters I create on PosterMyWall.
What’s your primary method of marketing?
I’ve also started to experiment with physical marketing with actual leaflets that I send out through the mail.
From Facebook and Instagram posts about new offerings for seeds, to leaflets summarizing all my services, I create everything using PosterMyWall templates.
2) Tailor your content strategy according to your platform
Do you have the same social media content strategy for all your social media platforms?
I believe in having customized content for each platform, so that my followers don’t ever get bored. Also, my Instagram and Facebook posts are tailored differently, because I feel like they reach different audiences.
For Instagram, people prefer visuals over words, but Facebook users might get bored with just imagery. And of course, different Facebook groups have different behaviors too.
Sometimes, I resize my posts to make different versions of the same content for each platform. And sometimes I create completely different content for each platform. I have posts with a lot of gardening information meant for Facebook. I also have smaller advice-based posts that I call “Simon Says” for Instagram.
3) Find the perfect balance between design elements in your content creation process
What design elements do you focus on during your content creation process?
For me, it’s all about moderation, and knowing how to balance your design elements without going overboard.
The three design elements I focus most on are font styles, imagery, and brand colors.
If I’m adding text to my design, I try to keep the font style consistent. I also try to use fonts that are easy to read, but don’t overpower or clutter up the design.
For colors, I steer clear of colors that don’t match my brand image. As a gardening business, the colors that define my brand are more earthy, like green, orange and yellow. I make sure the colors I add are bright enough to catch the customer’s eye, but not so bright that they distract from the content.
I also don’t believe in using too many images. Use the right amount of images to make your design attractive and eye-catching, but try not to confuse the customer by adding too many to one poster.
4) Engage with your audience on social media
How do you increase and maintain social media engagement?
I keep an eye on analytics for all my platforms. If I’m posting something on a Facebook page, I always note the number of likes and comments the post got, and how many click-throughs I get to my website. I also make sure to post regularly, so that I keep popping up on my followers’ timelines. Regular posting, according to me, is the most important thing about maintaining social media engagement.
The type of posts that work best for me are useful, to-the-point posts on the advantages of straw bale gardening, along with a link people can click through to. I post these on my main Facebook page as well as on a variety of gardening-based groups on Facebook, and I always get a lot of questions in the comments that I make sure to answer.
5) Attract local customers with informational leaflets
Tell me about your offline advertising methods. How do you create leaflets for your business?
I send out leaflets through mail, then I formed the list for my leaflet marketing strategy through my current customers, social media audience, and website audience.
I have a very particular process when it comes to leaflets. Since leaflets usually require a lot more information, I always write it all down on a piece of paper first, to see how it all fits. After that, I transfer it to a fitting leaflet template on PosterMyWall.
Leaflets tell a customer all they need to know about a business, so my leaflets have more text than my social media posts do. And fewer images. They’re more focused on providing information.
Since I just started out with this method, it’s hard to say if it’s been effective yet, but I’m positive we’ll get more local customers soon.
6) Change up your content according to the season
How do you deal with seasonal marketing?
Our business is seasonal because we deal with gardening and all of our vegetables grow in certain seasons and climate. So when it’s planting season, I make sure to post content relevant to my seed collection and how to purchase them.
Towards the end of the season, and up until Christmas, people are less interested in seeds and more interested in our planting kits. A lot of people like to purchase our sunflower kits to give as presents.
And of course, during the colder season, when people have more time to learn about planting, I plan to promote my ebook. So they can read up and be prepared for the upcoming planting season.
7) Engage your audience through videos and blogs
I see that you have your own YouTube channel and blog as well. Can you tell me about those?
I started the blog to spread information on straw bale gardening. Now, I post anything related to straw bale gardening on there. If someone sends me a recipe related to the vegetables I plant, I’ll put it up on the blog. So it’s a fairly informal space dedicated to anything and everything about gardening.
What is the most popular type of content and why?
I keep the blog posts short to keep people interested, and it seems to be going fairly well. My customers like to keep up with my blog. I post about it on social media at times too.
On YouTube, I only have a couple of videos posted. They’re mostly instructional videos on how to start the process of straw bale gardening. There’s not a lot on my YouTube channel, but I plan to post on it more frequently and make more videos, because gardening is an interactive process, and I think videos will do a great job at showcasing that.
Thank you, Simon. My last question is: What do you plan for the future of Strawbale Veg UK?
Well, for starters I plan to increase the range of seeds I sell. And I also plan to focus more on conducting Zoom workshops. I’m currently collecting information from people who will be interested in these, and once I form an email list, I’ll send out email campaigns to them.
There’s a lot I want to do with Strawbale Veg, but I’ll start with increasing our collection of seeds. And I’ll keep using PosterMyWall to promote all my endeavors.
Thank you for joining us, Simon. We wish you best of luck with your business!
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