How can a 50+ years old family farming business still be relevant in 2018? By evolving at the same pace of its millennial consumers, without alienating its older clientele. Heeman’s Garden Centre & Strawberry Farm is a must for the majority of families in London, Ontario. Everyone here love their strawberries and most people are also know their garden centre, with all the plants, gardening needs and home decor essentials. When Bill and Susan Heeman’s bought the land in 1963, they got working on their strawberries field that was soon growing by 1 acre each year. Now the 3rd generation is working on the farm and on social media: Will Heeman, Chief Daymaker, is running the online presence of Heeman’s quite effectively. The family feel is really present on their social media accounts, but also during any visit to the greenhouse, making the whole experience very authentic for all their customers.
The vast majority of Millenials is active on Instagram on a weekly basis (Source: Statista). Catered principally to women, Instagram is used for inspiration with beautiful curated images. A look through Heeman’s feed features: porch décor and Holidays ideas, as well as information about everything happening at the centre, making the best of both visual and content-driven posts. A study from 2 years ago showed that Millenials are spending an average of 7h/day online – I don’t find it probable that this number decreased in the last couple of years, so I’m assuming it is still accurate today (Source: emarketer.com). According to CAMP (Canadian Association of Marketing Professionals), “[…] a lot of that time is spent on Instagram. But it’s not just about Instagram. It’s about the whole picture.” (Source: CAMP) Creating trust, building relationships by posting good content and offering an overall great customer experience, is the authenticity that Millenials are looking for. Will Heeman, Chief Daymaker, offers just that on all social media platforms used by the company. “I consider Heeman’s SMM culture to be very modernist. There isn’t anything I don’t at least consider on it’s merits for use. As our industry (at least garden centre) is traditionally older customers and old owners I feel we get more credit for being adventurous and ‘fresh’ from having an approach to marketing that matches the age of the average user”, says Will Heemans.
The company complete experience can be found on social media, with the decoration inspirations, to the farm, with decorative elements for sale as well as creative workshops available to inspired DIY-ers. Heeman’s is “people, kid and dog friendly” and that translate well into their physical business and online presence. Through the online content and the garden centre business, there is truly something for everyone there.
Murray Newsland, a VIP contributor for Entrepreneur.com, lists a few marketing strategies that Heeman’s uses on social media: creating an effective content marketing strategy and creating a community for its audience (Source: Entrepreneur.com). The content that is created, shared or linked on the Heeman’s platforms is very efficient because it relates to the desired of Millennial women, mainly on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook, to gather inspiration and ideas for their home décor, as well as generating calls-to-visit the farm by advertising fun events (Food Truck Event! Berry Brunch!) and workshops. The audience following Heeman’s is mostly local, which also helps to maintain the community feel that is so important to the brand. Heeman’s followers are experiencing direct interaction, with their own posts being liked and shared by the company. This is part of what Will Heeman calls ROR (Return on Relationships). Being real and authentic is important for the clientele – both Millenials and older generations, and Heeman’s capture this fact within the scope, structure and governance of its social media marketing strategy. “I actually like to think that we use social media as more of an ROR – Return on Relationships both new and existing to help and break down pre-purchase barriers and also celebrate and support people after the purchase. Creating a bond that we nurture like the plants we grow. So we definitely a defending our space now with such a loyal clientele but we have found thousands of new clients from our social media efforts.”
The social media marketing at Heeman’s has a definite central structure. By managing all content on every platform, Will Heeman can make sure that the right message is coming across. I believe that this point must be really important to family businesses, so they can be in close contact with their customers. “Our social is definitely central – it has to be. The voice is key in my opinion, people get to know how we talk, how we interact and ‘who’ Heeman’s as a company is. I feel it’s inauthentic to celebrate engagement but lack the ‘awareness’ to connect back or call out/recall past engagements with that person. It comes off as tone deaf when you treat each interaction like the first. Would you do that to that customer in store? So, keeping it central allows for more institutional memory of touch points you’ve had. Most importantly though our company sounds like a single person – because really that’s what it’s meant to be – consistent. Not fun and fresh most of the time but occasionally (if a different person is running it) cold and distant. No way, not how I want to run our social!”
Heeman’s social media marketing is being run mostly by one person, so there is a strict control over the content. “[…] To my previous point about consistency in voicing, I actually only turn over our channels to 1 person and that’s only been when I’ve on vacation. I have tight control over who and what they post and how they post (read my brand voice PDF and study our past posts) but also when I’m running it I do basically whatever I think it is right from content creation, engagement perspective. This is partly because our brands voice is actually my own – how I interact with people online and in store. One definitely rule though is be a Daymaker, try to make each person you interact with feel a bit (or a lot) better than before you started a dialogue. Another is if I wouldn’t be comfortable wearing my response to any post (especially the negative ones) in store for the world to see, don’t post it – in public or private chat, period.”
Lessons for Others
Heeman’s Garden Centre and Berry Farm is the epitome of a family business who is able to reach demographic with the highest buying power and to rejuvenate its brand through their good understanding of social media. Their authentic strategy seems to be paying off, with more than 7,500 followers on Instagram, 4,100 on Twitter, 15,3k monthly viewers on Pinterest and +23,000 likes on Facebook. In real life, Heeman’s is winning awards in the farming industry, growing the family business to new high and continuing to be the local business that Londoners know and love.
Industry: Food Producer & Agriculture
Name of Organization Contact: Will Heeman, Chief Daymaker
Authored by: Cami Beaulieu
If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.
York, Alex (February 19, 2018) 7 Steps in Creating a Winning Social Media Marketing Strategy in 2018. https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-marketing-strategy/
Newsland, Murray (May 1st, 2017) 10 Social-Media Marketing Strategies for Companies. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/293321
Jackson, Dominique (May 29th, 2018) 8 Standout Social Media Marketing Examples from 2018 https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-marketing-examples/
Clark, Hannah (January 24th, 2018) Canadian Social Media Stats (updated 2018) https://www.sherpamarketing.ca/canadian-social-media-stats-updated-2018-471
Canadian Association of Marketing Professionals (January 2nd, 2018) Market to Millenials Using These Social Media Tips https://canadianmarketer.ca/millennials/