Refocusing the marketing, leading to increased income

 

Interview with Simon Jay, Managing Director,
Butser Ancient Farm

 

 

Summary:

  • Butser Ancient Farm’s marketing was unfocused – prioritising short term marketing activities which meant they were slowly eroding their unique brand position.
  • Kara analysed their approach to marketing and all the related activities,
  • She then helped them create clarity of purpose and a marketing plan to achieve their goals.
  • One of the results has been a 485% increase in visitor numbers from one target group in one month alone – as well as income increasing from other segments.

 

The Problems

“We were losing ownership over the image and public perception of the Farm.

We’d begun as a serious, experimental site for archaeology but, over time, we’d made decisions that meant we were giving the impression we were some sort of glorified adventure playground. Some of these decisions had been made to bring income in – and we were nervous about reversing them and losing that income.

We also have a large and passionate team. Within this, people have different marketing responsibilities, whether that’s the website or marketing to teachers or the general public. It meant our approach to marketing was to run off in lots of different directions, pursuing different ideas. I knew this needed to change.

Ultimately, we wanted to see an increase in numbers visiting the farm, but not at the expense of the brand.

We wanted people to visit understanding what we were about and what they would get from us, so they left happy and satisfied.”

 

Why did you bring in Kara?

“Kara was recommended to us.

My wife, who’s a partner in the law firm Shentons Mediators and Solicitors, had used Kara and spoke so enthusiastically about the impact her work was having on the business, I thought, ‘this is someone we could really benefit from getting on board’.

We had an initial phone conversation and Kara understood us immediately. She’d done really good research, understood what we were about and was friendly from the outset. I felt straight away she would become part of the team and was invested in us.

We’re a farm in the middle of nowhere. Our team are made up of people from archaeological, academic and farming backgrounds. We’re not marketing specialists.

Someone bursting in with ego and a big corporate swagger would have put us off. But Kara seemed to understand all of this without me ever having expressed it.

Kara has always been jargon free and immediately accessible.

She created a relationship from the beginning and gained our trust. I felt she had really considered her approach, how to focus our minds on how we could change, but without alienating us.”

 

The process

“The first thing Kara did was to make us take a step back and focus on the reason why we took on the farm in the first place.

Handwritten mission statement of Butser Ancient Farm on a whiteboard

Getting back to what the Farm is all about

She got us to think with greater clarity about what we wanted the business to be, and then set about examining with us how we would achieve this.

Stripping everything back to this basic premise was exactly what we needed to then move forward.

We wanted to take the farm back to its wider educational origins; as a place of serious academic study and as an educational resource. Kara realised quickly that, in order to do this, we had to clarify and focus our messaging.

Kara then helped us develop a clear, perceptive and targeted plan for improving the messages and the way we gave them out. This targeted two key areas; the website and our correspondence with schools.

Lecture tour group outside the Roman Villa at Butser Ancient Farm

Lecture tour group outside the Roman Villa at Butser Ancient Farm

Schools are our main income, so Kara made it clear we had to get this right by also simplifying administration for teachers and making it easier for institutions to use us.

From here we moved onto the website, reshaping it to better represent our vision for the business.

Kara also helped us review the events and workshops we offered to the general public. As a result, we refocused our events, moving away from things like populist one-day festivals which we just did to generate revenue, to events such as lecture tours which still bring in income but are aligned better with who we actually are and what we are about.

Looking back now it’s remarkable to see the difference, but at the time we needed her objective clarity to allow us to recognise how we could change.”

 

The results

“Kara has had a huge impact. We really feel as if the image of the farm is truer to our initial vision.

But, more than this, we’re seeing tangible results.

We’ve invested more in our relationship with teachers; making their life easier, making their visit to us more accessible and, in turn, encouraging them to become more loyal customers. We’ve improved our clarity of messaging and how we communicate with schools and teachers.

As a result, we’ve seen a significant increase in school visits.

A group of school children visiting Butser Ancient Farm in spring

School children visiting the Farm

Our autumn and winter months, usually really quiet, have seen huge increases in the number of schools visiting.

For example, in December 2018 we had 169 children visit on school trips, in December 2019 it was 820.

This is impressive given that we are operating in a highly competitive market where many schools are struggling to even afford to run trips for their students.

Images of bronze axe heads and spears which you can make at Butser Ancient Farm's workshops

Bronze casting workshops at Butser Ancient Farm

 

 

With our other market, the general public, our more focused and better targeted messaging campaign has led to improved sign up for our events and workshops.

99% of these are already booked up and we are busy adding more to our calendar.”

 

Why would you recommend Kara?

“She analysed quickly what the business needed and built a relationship with us that was friendly and supportive.

In this way she had the ideal balance, guiding us to analyse clearly what we wanted for the business and how to achieve it.

Kara is incredibly friendly and approachable, working with her felt like a real partnership.

But she’s also driven and highly organised.

She never pushed or alienated us with corporate jargon, but always ensured that we stayed on task and focused on achieving our aims.

I couldn’t recommend Kara highly enough.”

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