A berry good communications strategy

Hargreaves Plants used UKTI’s Export Communications Review to radically update their online presence and build a social media following

Hargreaves Plants was established by the current MD’s father and can trace its roots back to the 1920s. The company sells specialist berry, asparagus and rhubarb plants to growers and home & garden retailers. In addition to the sale of plants for mass production, the company also sells the intellectual property associated with particular genetic stock.

In 2009 Hargreaves Plants’ Managing Director, Rupert Hargreaves, led a significant company restructure with an increased emphasis on export sales. "We’d always had good connections with UKTI," explained Rupert, "and it was our International Trade Adviser, Sarah Dudley, who introduced us to Mary Cousins, a Consultant working for the UKTI Export Communications Review (ECR)"

The ECR provides practical, impartial and straightforward advice to help companies improve their communications to overseas markets. Each review is conducted by a communications expert and is tailored to the company’s individual requirements.

Perfect time for a new website

The timing was perfect: Hargreaves Plants had developed a website many years ago and were aware that it was becoming dated and was no longer portraying the correct image, either in the UK or overseas. In addition, Rupert was very keen to make more of the social media opportunities available.

Mary met with Rupert and his team in early 2011; she gained a good understanding of the business, and their aims for the future. "It was great!" enthused Rupert. "She was able to review our current website, our desires for social media and the image we wanted to convey, and then bring the whole thing together into a concise report."

Hargreaves Plants

Export Communications Review

The Hargreaves Plants’ Team was able to follow up the straightforward recommendations in Mary’s report to enhance the business’ appeal to an international audience: develop the website to be relevant and engaging for the target markets, improve its rankings in overseas search engines and measure traffic to the site. In addition, they created a YouTube channel containing videos of the plants and how they look at the various stages of growth; this has provided a real added-value service for their customers, and has also acted as a personalised way to communicate with clients. "We can shoot a short video, presented by the person with whom our client has been talking on the phone, showing the plants and then simply put this in a ‘dropbox’ for our clients to access."

Developing a Twitter strategy

Hargreaves Plants’ Twitter strategy has also proved to be a great success. As a company selling directly to trade, Twitter has enabled Hargreaves to communicate with end users, increasing the awareness and desire for the various types of plants, and creating a ‘pull-through’ from the supermarkets and home & garden retailers. "We know this is working," explained Rupert, "because we can tweet about a particular variety of plant, and monitor as it gets picked-up on the social media sites and talked about."

Hargreaves Plants’ enhanced social media presence has also helped when negotiating with overseas clients as the company is perceived as being modern, driven and forward-thinking.

Over the past three years, Hargreaves Plants has seen the level of their International business expand consistently. As Rupert says, "Whilst it’s hard to know exactly what’s had the biggest effect, we are sure that our enhanced website, Twitter and YouTube presence has had a significant impact on our sales."

Rupert is now a strong advocate of the ECR, "It’s great to have the opportunity to talk to somebody with real-life experience in this area who quickly understands our aims and can provide support and advice to guide us in the right direction. It’s been the perfect platform to take us to the next stage!"

Sectors: Agriculture, Horticulture & Fisheries
Countries: East Anglia
Topics: Getting Started
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