Posted by: DrAlanRae | December 28, 2009

Practising What we Preach

Time to Practice what we Preach

For most of the last 12 years I’ve been researching and creating training materials around how small companies can use the internet to promote themselves. In that time we’ve gone from simple e-commerce which was effectively mail-order on line to the kind of sophisticated viral and social media approaches that we know today.

At the same time our company has been steadily building a position as an online marketer selling plants ( and biological controls ( out of a Chrysanthemum nursery which we acquired in 2006 and have since converted to organic vegetable production for the local market.

During the summer, I thought it was time that I started off another line to the business to sit alongside what we already do.

So The Intelligent Garden was born.

It seemed to me that there was a market for products for serious gardeners – but with the products put into a scientific context about how to get the best from your garden, allotment or vegetable plot with advice and insights drawn from our experience as gardeners, small holders and commercial vegetable growers topped up with my original research degree in plant science.

I talk to loads of people when I’m on the Farmer’s Markets about how they think our stuff looks great but they’re growing their own. So I thought – I must be able to sell them something. After all many of them will be coming to the end of their first year of vegetable growing and while some will have given up, more will be trying to do it better.

So, I thought, lets create a site that will let us give them the information and the tools to garden scientifically – only we can’t call it Garden Science.

That’s because carrying out market research in the way we recommend in “Punch Above Your Weight” we found that twice as many people are attracted by the word “Nature” as the word “Science”. We ran a trial Google adwords campaign that drove traffic to an environment created in Squidoo so that we could see which keywords looked promising.

Squidoo by the way lets you create a test domain that you can drive traffic to – quickly effectively and above all free. This is what it looks like.

Tools for the serious gardener

Next phase was to identify a product range.

As gardeners we’re managing the way the plant grows – so we need to make sure it has enough light, water and nutrients – that it’s not competing too much with other plants (that’s called weeding) and the soil is too it’s liking being not too acid or alkaline. You also need to grow it when the daylength will help it to produce what you want – whether that’s leaves, fruits or storage organs (carrots, potatoes) and when the temperature suits it (no late frosts etc)

Finally you need to make sure that you can recognise pests and have the right predators etc at hand to deal with them.

So we put together a range of soil testing kits and meters, propagation kits to get them off to good start. Beneficial fungi and bacteria to condition the soil and kick start compost heaps and weather stations and maximum minimum thermometers to check the conditions plus some nice little USB microscopes to see what creepy crawlies are attacking our little darlings. (We already sell the products to attack them back).

Building the site

Next question – what tools do we need to build a site? We’re still at the market test stage so we decided to build it in WordPress since it gives us most of the front end social media hooks we need and to start off with we decided to do the e-commerce bit by extending the product range in our Amazon shop where we already have a good reputation. This saves a lot of time in getting to market.

So – I’ve just about finished the first iteration of the site – you can see it here WordPress makes it easy to optimise the pages and also to keep track of changes in the structure of the site as you add new pages. Finally being fundamentally a blogging tool, it makes it easy to keep the site fresh and interactive.

The Amazon store which we’re using to test the market went live a couple of weeks ago and I’m already selling about 3 products most days. It’s such a joy to come back from the pub to find you’ve sold another couple of pH meters.

So far so good – next step is to promote the site using social media. I’ll tell you more soon.

Have a good Christmas break and a Prosperous New Year.

And if you want any input on building sites yourself – you know where to come.



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