22 May 2007, 13:02 PM
  • Ed Haigh ponders on whether promotion and marketing is right for every business

We spend a lot of time on the phone to producers and retailers across the country, and I always find it refreshing when someone isn’t interested in what we have to say.

We wade in there with some new - and usually genuinely good - way to increase sales and generate new business, assuming that we’re getting straight to the heart of what people are interested in; and miss by a mile.

Some people just aren’t interested. They know that any growth beyond current levels would compromise either the quality of their product, or the quality of their lives. We could stand in front of them with a large, flashing neon sign, saying ‘Free Money Here!’ and they wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. The world needs more of these types of people.

The more difficult calls are the ones to people who are interested in what we have to say. They’re the majority for whom growing their business is still important, but for whom spending even the smallest amount of money to achieve that growth is something really quite scary.

Now, far be it from us to pretend that we have a detailed understanding of anyone’s business, but there are certain universal truths that really can’t be ignored. One of which is that you have to speculate to accumulate. This isn’t just an irritating cliché from the 1980s – though it undoubtedly is that – it’s also one of the basic laws of business.

I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve come off the phone and racked our brains wondering if we can add any more value into our membership package. But the truth is that our membership is great value. For £10 per month, people are getting a huge amount of promotion, both through the BigBarn website and newsletter, and through our partner sites like BBC Good Food and River Cottage. The issue isn’t the value in that (if there’s better value somewhere I’d genuinely like to hear about it), but the fact that it costs anything at all.

If I could sit here and say without the slightest doubt that the return on investment would be guaranteed then I’d be on to a winner. As it is, we reckon that one new customer would repay the membership fee. One. The point is that we all have to take calculated risks at times. Few, if any, successful businesses have achieved success without doing that and few ever will. Maybe, with summer upon us and consumers stretching their legs into pastures new, this is the time for those with ambitions for their business to be ambitious.

Ed Haigh runs BigBarn, the UK’s no.1 virtual farmer’s market. It has a database of more than 6,500 local producers. To find out about becoming a member, visit BigBarn at www.bigbarn.co.uk, call 01234 8761005 or email info@bigbarn.co.uk.

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