Here’s how I marketed my products and services on the web

Brown and Forrest has been producing its traditional range of hand-smoked fish and meats for over 20 years near Langport, Somerset. Owners Michael and Utta Brown started their website and online shop,, four years ago to complement their existing shop, restaurant and mail order service. Michael explains how they set about it.

What I did

Get professional help

“I knew a website could raise our profile, reach more customers and open up a new sales channel, so I went on a┬áBusiness Link course to learn more about it. The course made me realise that building and maintaining a good e-commerce website needed more time than I had to spare. I began looking for a designer and an IT specialist to work with us.

“The people we chose not only had the technical expertise, they were also in tune with our business. We wanted the website to reflect our company culture and values. Some web developers were more concerned with trying to sell us expensive extras.”

Make content customer-focused

“Once we’d decided on the basic look and feel and sorted out online ordering and payment systems, we developed the website content. Our typical customer has a natural interest in traditionally produced food so we included sections on the origins of smoked food, the methods used and our company history.

“The site is interactive and we encourage customers to develop a relationship with us. As well as email requests for information and catalogues, we invite visitors to contribute recipes and send us suggestions. We store all customer data we collect, in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. Managing the database is a key responsibility for our IT manager – she spends as much time on it as she does maintaining the website itself.

“We also use the website to market other aspects of the business that customers might not be aware of, such as our weekly market stall.”

Promote the website and keep it fresh

“When the website went live, all existing customers were notified via our regular newsletter. The website address was included in all our merchandising and marketing material too.

“To keep customers coming back the website has to be kept fresh. Changing photos and text design are simple ways to update the look. We also post the latest version of our newsletter on the site so there’s something new to read.

“The website complements rather than replaces existing marketing activities, but it’s becoming more important every year. Out of our six sales channels, the website has risen from sixth to third in terms of orders generated. It’s boosted overall sales as well.”

What I’d do differently

Segment the marketing

“The database we’ve built up is invaluable but I wish we’d segmented it sooner by product sales, location of customers, and value of purchases. We’re now looking at software to help us refine our online marketing to different sets of customers.”

Redesign sooner

“In retrospect the site was ready for a complete redesign after two years, whereas we left it for three. In future, we’ll review it more often.”