Five lessons from the chook shed

Online business is just like the regular kind. Working for a company that sold poultry farming equipment to farmers taught me traditional business lessons that apply perfectly to your firm. 

“Sorry, I can’t email you – the person who knows how to use the computer isn’t here today.”

Yep, I heard these words when I traded in a job at an ASX-listed domain name trading company for a position in the family business selling equipment for poultry farming operations across Australasia.

The main benefit was a four-day working week, which I thought would speed up the process of starting my own consultancy, Dot Marketing.

So what can a 20-something communications professional learn about online business from a farmer who’s right at home in a chook shed? Quite a bit, actually.

1. Work smarter, not harder

Poultry farmers are masters when it comes to automating their operations for minimal effort and maximum return. Why suffer in the dust, heat and stink when, with a bit of careful planning, technology will take care of it for you?

Know what affects your profitability and automate what you can. Take a look at your website. A comprehensive frequently asked questions page can increase your sales and reduce time-consuming phone calls from customers.

Sound obvious? That’s because it is. Get to it.

“Make sure your website appears in search engines when people are looking for what you sell” 

2. Grow your sales without increasing your staff

Make sure your website appears in search engines when people are looking for what you sell.

When I redeveloped the family business website, optimising it for search engines and visitors, we started receiving qualified leads from deep within the Australian farming country.

If your website isn’t improving your bottom line, it’s not right.

If you think you can’t profit from the internet because your business is service-based or you haven’t jumped into e-commerce yet, you’re dreaming. Wake up. Add some calls-to-action and enquiry forms to your service pages.

3. Be innovative

We were the first in our industry to release a full-colour spare parts catalogue (also available online) allowing customers to easily identify the parts they needed and order them by part number. This increased sales and minimised the risk of shipping the wrong part.

Innovation doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Think about offering useful tools or information online that will make your customers’ life easier and increase your sales.

4. Know what’s important to your market

Farmers are not known for subtlety. Operators prefer a discount on their next purchase to a gift at the end of a project and will tell you this. Loudly. Money talks, not a nice bottle of red.

Everyone wants something free so give it to them. Create an online buyers’ guide, offer a free PDF download on how to grow herbs – whatever it takes. Know your customer and give them what they want. At no charge.

5. Offer the best service

Offering the best service will keep you ahead of the competition, even if you’re more expensive.

Remember those enquiry forms we spoke about earlier? The number of businesses that don’t respond to qualified leads or contact requests is staggering.

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