It’s all just guesswork…
There are hundreds of thousands (at least) of people in this new-fangled world of technology and social media supremacy, all trying to be the next big internet thing. I’m not, I’m just trying to do my job and have fun.
What’s my job? To get as many bookings as I can for the Wonderful World of Woodfarm Barns & Barges.
I hate ‘selling’ on social media, and in our newsletters, but it is my job to tell as many people as possible about Suffolk and Woodfarm, and pass on some reasons to book with us. I have to really try hard not to say “Hey, book a break, we are the bee knees”. It does make me squirm when people continually do that. I have to try and promote what we do, but in fun, innovative, or creative ways. And that is not easy.
If you’ve followed us for any length of time, you’ll know that a lot of what I do is plain daft. I take my business extremely seriously, but fortunately I don’t take myself too seriously. Business should pass the fun test! If it doesn’t (or your job doesn’t) then do something else.
I post a lot of ridiculous things on social media, and we recently started sending our ‘Woodfarm weekly roundup of positive stuff in a wonky world’ emails.
The response to those emails every week is off the charts! My first response to last Friday’s email was this from Sarah: “Seriously the best newsletter I’ve ever received. The world needs more communications like these.” That made my day, and I wrote back and told her so. I write to everybody who responds.
You see, most of my competitors, most of the industry, and most of the world doesn’t do things the way I do. I’m not to everyone’s taste, and I’m ok with that. But it drives me crazy when people just send out bland, boring, magnolia messages to try to get us to buy their goods or services.
I can’t help doing things differently, it’s just the way my brain works. As I say, I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. There will be people out there who have unsubscribed from our emails and unfollowed us on social media. In the early days I got paranoid about that, but not any more. I even get the occasional comment of “this is supposed to be about business”. Oh you dull plebeian, you couldn’t be more wrong if you tried! It’s about life! It’s about living, having fun, and yes, I do this because I want to make money, but I want to enjoy my short time on this planet.
It’s a shame I have to share the planet with someone who objects to my approach, but as long as we don’t hurt anybody, we all have a right to be here. I just wish these people wouldn’t share their opinion with me on how I go about my business. It’s my business. Trouble is, social media gives everyone a voice, unlike the old days, when they would just mumble over what they read in the newspaper.
As you may know, I recently gave away yet another free holiday. I’ve been doing this for over a decade now, and loads of people have been very happy about this. This may seem daft, but I’ve built a database well in excess of 30,000 subscribers over the years, partly by doing this.
It’s such a lovely feeling to talk to someone who you have just given a holiday to. Yes it costs me money, but I bet there are very few small, independent holiday cottage businesses like mine with a database that size. That’s a database that has been grown organically, from scratch, not by buying mailing lists.
People can unsubscribe any time they like, but we even go through it periodically and remove from circulation anyone who hasn’t opened our emails in a certain number of months. We figure it’s pointless sending them email which they consider to be uninteresting or irrelevant to them. We don’t remove them, we just pop them in our inactive pile. Our actual list of active people is just under 25,000 at the mo. That’s 25,000 people who do read the things I send.
Our main Facebook page currently has just over 19,000 followers. We have 3,500 on Woodfarm Barges as well, but we amalgamated the brands on Facebook a while back, so I don’t post anything on there any more.
The Woodfarm Instagram page has 1,500 followers, and we have just under 2,000 on Twitter. So that’s around 26,000 followers on social media.People who have chosen to keep an eye on us. Not everybody chips in, but that’s a lot of people observing my business.
Let me get back to where I started (I do go on don’t I?). My job is to get bookings for my Barns and Barges, that’s it. That’s my ultimate aim. How I go about it is up to me. Nobody told me how, and nobody tells me what to write. It goes much deeper in terms of how we operate to ensure our guests have an awesome time, but I have an equally awesome team to help me!
On the tech side of the business, my colleague Andrew handles all our digital marketing with me. He used to try and reign me in, in the early days. He’s long since given up on that though and has realised that I go about things differently, and it works.
Andrew and I have a digital marketing meeting every week, where we analyse statistics, work on the websites, and brainstorm ideas. As scientific and as commercial as we try to be, we still think a lot of it is in the lap of the gods. We sometimes have no idea why something we did works well, or doesn’t work well.
If I did what I did and nobody booked, and nobody subscribed, and nobody followed us, then I’d have a rethink, but that’s not usually the case. Despite global concerns, 2022 was a great year for Woodfarm, and 2023, though just two weeks in as I type, is up on 2022.
That said, I continually scratch my chin and wonder what people want to read, what makes them like what we do, and what doesn’t. If anybody really knew the answer to that they would be a multi-gazillionaire. Nobody really knows though, even if they think they do.
As long as I keep getting bookings, and getting the kind of positive feedback that I get, I’ll keep doing what I do. And if there’s anything I don’t do that you think I should do, then tell me! I operate in an extremely transparent way as you can see, so I’m more than happy for you to pitch in your ideas too.
We know you have a choice on who to follow, and where to go on holiday, and I am genuinely grateful every single time that someone chooses Woodfarm, comes back, and recommends us to family and friends.
I’ll keep trying to mix up fun stuff with business messages, whilst trying not to overly ‘sell’ to you. I can’t help it if I do kinda sometimes promote Woodfarm though, it’s my job!
So in summary, it’s all just guesswork.