| Sep 01, 2008
If you build it, they will come…Not in today’s e-world!
This article originally appeared in the September 2008 issue of the Texas Longhorn Journal
My husband and I both grew up in rural Iowa and have also made the decision to raise our children here. In Iowa, cornfields are plentiful and the sport of Baseball is a summertime favorite.
I can remember several years ago when people across the state were excited for the release of “Field of Dreams”, a baseball themed movie starring Kevin Kostner. It was filmed in the town of Dyersville, Iowa, still known today for the movie. If you’re a native Iowan, a Kevin Kostner fan or a baseball buff, you will surely recognize the following line: “If you build it, they will come.”
Throughout the movie the phrase above is referring to the building of a baseball field in the middle of a cornfield that eventually beckons the all-time greats of the game. For the sake of this article, I think that phrase will suite us best when discussing Longhorn Breeders and the Internet.
Having a website, as well as making use of Internet marketing, has become a very important facet for most businesses today. In fact, it has become almost as essential as having a telephone or a fax. Having an up to date, professionally designed or well presented website is now almost obligatory, and serves an essential tool to providing information on other breeders, your herd/inventory and general contact information.
Have you stepped up to the plate?
Do you have a website for your ranch, farm or breeding program? Do you plan to build a site in the near future? If you’re serious and want to be taken seriously about having a reputable Longhorn breeding program, you may want to consider investing in a website, making sure your current site is updated or partner with a reputable sales/promotion site that already exists.
Does your site Strike Out with visitors?
Does your site hit a homerun with visitors or do you find yourself wondering why people don’t return to your site, stay on your site for longer, purchase more cattle or recommend your site to others?
There are a number of factors that will influence potential customers and visitors when coming to your website for the first time. These include how visually appealing your site is and how easy they find it to navigate or search out specifically what they are looking for.
A site does not have to be extensive to make a statement. I’ve visited or designed many outstanding websites that maintain good visitor statistics and promote the breed very well that are simply single “splash” pages. Splash pages serve as your business card on the World Wide Web and can be very beneficial in being contacted by other breeders seeking out you or your programs’ genetics.
Complex, interactive sites can also serve Longhorn Breeders well. These sites allow for a variety of functions, such as the ability to search for animals, locate another breeder, submit a request form, purchase an animal on-line and more. It is important to ensure that your website is designed professionally so as to maximize visitor appeal. It should be comprehensive, but not overloaded with words and images, which can lead to the viewer leaving confused. It must be user-friendly and above all easy to navigate. Your site should always reinforce your brand.
Is your site #1?
Another important factor to consider when discussing websites is ensuring a good ranking among search engines. This is achieved by means of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). In a nutshell, SEO is the process of improving the amount and quality of traffic that is directed to your website through a keyword search. SEO is an initial service that should be included by a good website design company, but that will need to be maintained on a regular basis, such as by adding new content and performing monthly updates.
Achieving high rankings for targeted key phrases, such as “Texas Longhorns”, “TLMA Member” or “My Ranch Name” while an admirable and worthwhile goal, is really only a small piece of the entire online marketing game plan. Remember, attracting those “major league” players is only part of the bigger picture…Your site has to serve a purpose once they find it!
Does your site have good stats?
Your website should also provide you with valuable statistics and marketing information. This will better enable you to understand the effectiveness of your site and allow for more informed marketing decisions. Most web hosting companies or design agencies will offer some type of statistics and reporting packages for your website. Your site’s traffic analysis, visitor statistics, search engine rankings, and bandwidth usage are all important pieces of information, and are critical to the effective marketing of your website. For example, you
should know the number of hits you get from each search engine, what key phrases other breeders are using to find you, and which sites are sending you the most traffic. How many of you track your hits following placement of a big ad or an e-blast? How many of you know which herd sire’s offspring are getting the most hits on your site? All of this information is extremely valuable if you are going to have long term success with your website.
What’s your game plan?
Some of the Longhorn Breeder’s that I work with tell me that they see increased sales, profit and recognition in the breed from various marketing services and that they feel they don’t need to develop a website to reach their goals. Of course, I always disagree and visit with them about a websites full potential.
Today, sale barns are utilizing the Internet to broadcast their sales on-line in order to attract more buyers and cut on transportation costs. Advertisements are directing readers to visit websites for additional information, forms, registration services and more. Martee Searle, of Martee’s Cattle Investments successfully uses a website by helping breeders buy and sell high quality Longhorns. The TLMA has developed a breeder locator on its new website to allow for us to better network and find other breeders at the simple click of a mouse. And, soon, you’ll even be able to read your Texas Longhorn Journal on-line. <!--[endif]-->
If you are a Longhorn Breeder that does not have a website to promote your program here are some questions to ask yourself while developing your new site:
1. Does my program need a Web site?
Maybe it doesn’t. It could be that your marketing dollars are better spent somewhere else. However, many people won't discover your services through any other means.
2. What are my goals for the site?
It’s important to know why you're building the site. Is it for marketing or to sell cattle? Is it a tool to tell your herd’s story or to serve as an on-line brochure? Do you want visitors to email you? Call you? Subscribe to an e-newsletter? Knowing your goals will help focus your ideas for the site.
3. What are my responsibilities?
No one knows your breeding program as well as you do. You should expect to spend a reasonable amount of time helping to develop copy that best tells your story and assist with the sitemap or outline. You should also be prepared to reply to emails and inquiries generated by your site in a timely fashion.
4. How will I know that my site is successful?
Look at your goals every few months. Did you meet them? Is it time to create new, more challenging goals?
Does your website need a new Publicist?
Your website is only one potential online destination where people can find out about your company. Many times, visitors to your site will regard it as an advertisement since you have complete control over the content. However, with optimized press releases, expert articles, and e-newsletters, you can have your program’s name mentioned on popular news sites and industry portals, where credibility should be more inherent.
Just as direct mail was once considered a marketer’s dream, e-newsletters and e-marketing has become much more mainstream and effective. Breeders should consider publicizing their sale consignments, herd sires, semen sales, ranch events and more via opt-in newsletters. People who have shown interest in your program can invite you to communicate with them on a regular basis by sharing their e-mail addresses. They essentially give you permission to keep yourself and your breeding program “first in mind” whenever they are considering products or services. Ideally, an e-newsletter or e-blast should get readers to take a specific action without having to search through your website itself.
Do you need a Website Coach?
There are a number of websites on the Internet that will allow you to create a site on your own for a nominal fee, or even for free. This might sound great but as mentioned above there is so much more to having a successful website. It is no good having a brilliant looking website that does not show up when a potential customer does a search for Longhorn Breeders in your area or even searches for you by name. A site that ranks high with Search Engines but does not have eye appeal to visitors is also of no benefit to you. It is vitally important to achieve a correct balance of these factors. Breeder’s should also be ware of “free” sites that trade their templated services in exchange for dozens of pop-up ads every few minutes.
Stealing home (Conclusion):
Remember the movie line “If you build it, they will come”? Well, in today’s ever changing technologically advanced world that’s just not the case. Building a website is no longer enough to attract and maintain visitors. A Longhorn Breeder’s website must be visually appealing, technologically savvy and optimized for all of the major search engines. Your website should also reinforce your brand and core identity so that you will see a greater return on investment of any advertising monies that you decide to spend. And always remember to promote your website in everything that you do – it’s THE easiest way for people to find you!
Molly is the owner of Hired Hand Software and Mo Co. Creative Services. She works with dozens of clients in the Industry building successful websites and brands. Molly grew up raising and showing Longhorns. Molly@HiredHandSoftware.com