How a website can help your offline sales

Plant Heritage North East website rebuild, Facebook and email marketing

Plant Heritage is a national plant conservation charity which I joined as an ordinary member in 2013, and by 2014 I had been asked to join the committee, with no particular role assigned to me.

It soon became apparent that, like many volunteering organisations, Plant Heritage North East (PHNE) was suffering from an aging and falling membership and was struggling to recruit new members. For me, with my IT background, the solution was obvious – let’s go online. The committee agreed, and PHNE became the first website I built, back in 2014.  I used a template builder package and knocked it up in just ten hours, so it was ok as a source of general information about the group, but it wasn’t really very good at all.

Moreover, its SEO wasn’t great, so we needed another way to get people engaged.  That was when I created the Facebook page.  And soon after that I created our email list, made up of members and other email addresses we gathered at our various events.

In 2015 we decided to trial all these new tools by completely abandoning paper adverts, which were costing us several hundred pounds to run, in favour of just one Facebook ad and the monthly ‘Gardening Events’ emails. The effect of this was that at our Plant Fair in 2015 we had the highest footfall and the highest takings for ten years, and by the end of the year we had a net increase in membership.

By the end of 2015 I was getting heartily fed up with trying to manage the content on the old site, so I rebuilt it as a WordPress site, together with an Events Calendar which we use to advertise any gardening event in the region.  And then last week we had our Plant Fair again.

Once again, we only used email marketing and a Facebook ad costing just £52, and this time the results were just amazing.

We took £3,700 in just four hours, and both footfall and takings were up 15% on last year, despite the dreadful weather on the day.  All of the plants were donated by the members, as was the venue, so that’s pure profit – and it will all be ploughed back into the charity to continue our mission to preserve biodiversity in our own gardens.

And now, if you search for Plant Heritage, you’ll see us at no 2 on page 1 of Google, second only to the national site.  How chuffed am I?