Day 13 – Communicating with you all!

Technological developments over the last 20 years have helped small businesses so much!

When we first opened the Farm Shop I remember collecting handwritten addresses in the Butchery and on our Charity Open Days so that we could post out a newsletter to potential customers.  We had a computer and a printer but Email was in it’s infancy, as was Facebook  – and Instagram didn’t come along till 2010.

Before we had social media we relied on our newsletter to keep our customers in the loop with what was happening on the farm.  We used to print off the newsletters and hand them out in the shop.  Nowadays we use a mailing app to collect customer’s contact details and send out targeted newsletters to over 7000 subscribers.  This saves a lot of paper!  We love updating customers on what’s happening on the farm, it’s a great way to keep in touch with the seasons and continue to tell the story of Broom House. These newsletters can also be found in our blog pages and one copy is printed and laminated for Coffee Shop customers to read.

We also used to print an awful lot of leaflets, for example promoting Christmas orders and the Forest Adventure.  In 2004 and 2005 we hand-delivered 25,000 leaflets to every primary school, leisure centre and library in County Durham, with 5 teams of 2 spreading the word by car and on foot about our Maize Maze and Farm Shop.  We even stuck leaflets on windscreens in Sainsbury’s carparks…dodging the attendants as we went.

A website was first created in 2007 and we invested in a substantial upgrade in 2019 with an online shop, a new logo and a much more user friendly site. This came into it’s own once we were able to open the Forest Adventure during Covid, as we were able to limit tickets by selling them online, meaning that the Forest was never crowded and that people did not make wasted journeys.

The online shop had to be closed down temporarily at the start of Covid, when panic buying saw one customer order £300 of sirloin steak and other such craziness. For a few months we had to rely on the old fashioned telephone to take people’s orders, but we were able to use the website for special lock down treats such as Mothers’ Day Hampers and take-away afternoon teas. 

We are now fully back to normal and post meat parcels nationwide using special WoolCool sheep’s wool insulation and Sorbafreeze ice packs – meaning that we can send meat from Durham to Dorset and it arrives in tip top condition.

Facebook in particular has been an amazing marketing tool. In the early days of our diversification we relied on placing adverts in local newspapers and those free magazines that come through the door.  We were lucky to get some free editorial when we had something exciting happening on the farm, but advertising was expensive. Once Facebook arrived we soon realised that we could tag a post with a special offer for the Forest Adventure on to a page called “Mums in Durham”, spend no money on advertising and guarantee a full car park the next day. With a bit of thought, content can be fun to create and we hope that it brings new people here – although it’s always quite hard to know what captures people’s imagination.

One aspect of technology that is a constant headache is Tripadvisor and Google review. Neither are platforms that we have signed up to and both are the cause of many sleepless nights.  Unsurprisingly we are far from perfect and obviously we do mess up unintentionally but quite frequently.  Usually we manage to apologise and sort any problems out straight away, but these days a 1* google review can be posted before we even get back to the kitchen and people who wouldn’t dare speak to us in person can have a truly mean hand with the keyboard, upsetting the whole team, who really do only try their very best.  Most of our visitors have a lovely time and go away happy without thinking of putting pen to paper, but those people that don’t like being made to wait, or who aren’t allowed to eat their picnics inside the coffee shop or who are asked to leave the Forest as they don’t have tickets….these are the ones who love to shower us with single stars!

Modern technology is currently enabling Emma to update this blog from New Zealand, and with the benefit of using shared albums on our phones we can maintain photo quality and she creates our reels and photographic content.  Emma is also working on the wages, tills and accounts from Auckland, with Whatsapp and Facetime allowing us to have face to face meetings at a distance of 11700 miles; showing just how far technology has advanced in these last few years!  She can even log into the CCTV and see all you customers!

See below for a snippet from our newsletter from June 2014… almost 10 years ago!

june 2014