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"I want the family farm - the backbone of our country's heritage - to thrive and survive for future generations."

Articles/Press Releases

Fresh Websites Bring in Fresh New Customers

By Jane Eckert

Winter is certainly the opportune time to give a critical review of your website to see if it’s still doing a good job for you.  For some farmers, just getting a website at all remains on the “things to do” list.  However, for most of you that read this column, I would expect that you have a website. 

My first question to you is whether you have redone the look in the past three years or so. The Internet is constantly changing, and what was satisfactory three or four years ago probably does not meet today’s visual standards nor stand up well to your competition. 

Do you still have a website that is geared to smaller screens?  Since most of our desktop computers now have much wider screens, the images on your site should fill the majority of the screen and not leave a large block of solid color on both sides.  Perhaps worse are those that are aligned to the left side of the screen—there was an important reason for that at the time, but those days are gone.   

There is also a much more important reason for the wider sites, and that is to enable larger images.  Larger images show the viewer so much more about your farm with a better quality, and people are attracted to photographs that visually show your business and the fun they will have when they visit. This goes hand in hand with the fact that most people have much faster Internet connections, allowing the designer to use larger images.

Next, be sure the design and look of your site includes your latest offerings. Have you added a jumping pillow, gem mining, or other features that aren’t shown on your website? Many farms just keep adding pages of copy without changing their overall look and images. Be sure to not only add information, but go through older information to check for accuracy.

Are you using a good balance of color, just a few fonts, and plenty of white space around your text and photos?  This helps make the site inviting and encourages longer guest attention.   Too much color, too many different fonts, and a mess of widgets make it hard for customers to sort out all your information. If everything is shouting at your viewer for attention, then nothing gets heard. Keeping a fresh look to your website also communicates that you are current and on top of the latest internet trends of site development—and that implies that your farm is keeping up with other trends in entertainment as well.

A website is truly your billboard for the world to see, which makes it important to make sure site shows your business’ personality! No one would keep the same brochure copy and pictures for four years, and the same is true for a good website.  Your website needs to stay fresh and attractive, while looking professional. No longer do people want to hear blaring music when they enter a website or see cute animation. Instead, they want to see the farm, your activities and products.

Here are nine essential ideas I encourage you to consider in updating your website:

  1. Make it look professional. Yes, we want the farm experience to be fun, but not gimmicky.
  2. Allow your home page to give an overview of the farm and the guest experience.  The navigation buttons allow you to learn more about the specifics.
  3. Write copy that sells the “sizzle” and creates good visual and mental imagery.  (Talk about great taste, the freshness of morning picking, the crunch of an apple right off the tree; come shake hands with the farmer that grows your food….) People need to know why they should come to the farm to get your products versus their local convenient grocery store.
  4. Keep it short and sweet! The copy is best when it is concise and to the point, which will get the information across quickly
  5. Allow the website visitor to see what they can do on the farm; allow them to feel the fresh air on their face and to touch the softness of a sheep.  All of this can be accomplished by good copy and images. Visitors want to see what you have in store for them, not just a list of your products.
  6. Good photography is essential.  A web designer can easily go and purchase stock photos of an apple tree, but it’s much better to actually see a family in your orchard picking your apples.  The best pictures show people in the pictures enjoying your farm.  These are far more effective than beautiful, pastoral scenes, neat market displays, etc. because the customer identifies with the experience of the people in the photo.
  7. Make sure the website is easy to navigate so your guests can find the most important information first. You may have over twenty pages of copy on your site, but you need to present the information logically as to be easily found by the casual viewer.
  8. People want to quickly find your directions, hours of operation, and how to contact you.  Don’t make them have to search hard for this essential information.
  9. People relate to people! Show your activities, the inside of your market, the orchard, your restaurant but by all means show them with people enjoying all of these experiences.  So often we are sent photos of a bare parking lot and the farm market entrance for us to create a website.  We want to see people in the pictures, smiling children and friendly employees. These types of photographs will allow your website visitor to better understand your atmosphere and mentally allow them to place themselves enjoying your farm.

Bill Mauk, our web designer has been servicing our website clients for over eight years.  Just as many of you are transitioning to your next generation, I’m pleased to announce that Danny Mauk, Bill’s son, will be joining us full time in January.  Danny has worked with us the past two summers as he completed his BFA in Graphic Design and Technical Theatre Design.  Danny will bring a fresh new design aspect to our web site design business (www.farmwebdesign.com). If you are going to the NAFDMA conference in Portland this February, be sure to introduce yourself to Danny and Bill.

As a side note, our 2012 Fall Annual Survey is still available for your response on the home page of www.eckertagrimarketing.com. Everyone who completes the survey will be forwarded a summary of the responses in order to assist you in making future decisions regarding your activities, food concessions, pricing, marketing and more.  Be sure to take the survey now if you want to receive these results in January.

Jane Eckert is the founder of Eckert AgriMarketing (www.eckertagrimarketing.com), a full-service marketing and public relations firm that helps farmers to sell directly to consumers, diversify operations and become tourist destinations. She is also CEO of www.RuralBounty.com, a search directory for agritourism farms and ranches in North America. Jane can be reached at 314-862-6288 or you may email her directly.