When gardening meets Web 2.0 – An interview with Heather Gorringe


I interviewed Heather Gorringe from a delightful company called Wiggly Wigglers a little while ago. Heather and her team are avid podcasters and blend a unique mix of home gardening and online promotion through podcasting and blogging. 

I highly recommend that you have a listen to the podcast. Subscribe to the iTunes link here! The highlights of the interview are blogged below.

Q. Why does your business blog and what benefits do you see from blogging?

"Wiggly Wigglers blogs as a direct result of starting a podcast in September 2005. We originally started a conversation via an audio file, and felt that a blog would be a really good backup to our podcast. The blog allows our listeners to post questions and also to get involved with the company. In fact, it brings us innumerable benefits. First of all, it raises our Google rankings. Secondly, we have people connecting to us from all over the world, which gives us global word of mouth marketing. But also, it enables us to update our website really easily, efficiently and helps us to be much more user friendly. So, we can put up answers to questions that would previously have been dealt with on an individual basis and still can be. But there’s the added resource online for people to delve into. Perhaps, for those who aren’t likely to ask questions but who do actually want to know the answers".

Q. How has the Web today changed for small businesses?

"I think the web has often been used as a tool to disguise the size of your business. For example, when I first started online in 1996, we missed off the word farm in our promotion. In those days, it was all about small companies being able to compete on a level playing field with the corporates. Almost as if, to be big made you better. But I think it’s now completely around the other way now. I think that niche, is the way that people want you to be and it’s perfectly acceptable however small you are. In fact, transparency and honesty to me are the revelations of Web 2.0, compared to what I call the ‘conventional web’. It makes everybody level on the playing field. You know all about the company and where they are. But, you don’t necessarily judge it on size any more. You are judged on customer service, communication and great products. So, we have come full circle and instead of not mentioning farm as we did in the early days. Now, the farm is used as a serious marketing tool. Mainly because its part of us and people want to buy from people, not just buy products as far as I can see".

Q. How do you measure podcast downloads that translate into direct sales?

"Everyone always asks this question! What I do know is that my podcast is being downloaded all the time and I figure that if you are going to download it, you are probably likely to be interested in what I’m doing. So I already have a warm relationship and a warm prospect there. Regarding direct sales, I just can’t tell you. Mainly, because our customers reach us from a variety of different ways. So for instance, they’ll say I listened to your podcast, but I read about you in the Daily Telegraph. Over the past two years, I’ve smashed my advertising budget and my job is to get between two and half to three thousands prospects a month. I’m still achieving that without spending much extra money. I’m spending time, effort, ingenuity and having genuine conversations with people like you".

"I’m trying to engage people, so that our customers go out and tell other people about our business. I know that what we are doing, is working very well for us. Maybe it will dry up? Maybe it will change? But I think the way people buy, is to get them to be enthusiastic. I’ve always thought, people don’t buy on price. They buy on whether or not they care about what you are doing. So, all I have to do is to make you care and hopefully we will get your business! I don’t think people care about advertising anymore".

"What used to make products great used to be the advertising budget you had. I don’t think that’s the case anymore. I do think it’s all about goodwill. Our job is to keep goodwill with our customers, readers and listeners. Not only does that involve encouraging a conversation to find out what others think. But also, to make sure that if we have got that goodwill, that they bother to tell other people and that’s the difficult thing".

Q. Apart from podcasting and blogging, what other tools do you use?

"We use Google Adwords to promote the company. Over the past two years, I have gradually reduced our conventional advertising budget to virtually nil. It did stand at over £110,000 per year, which is a very considerable change for this company. We’ve achieved this process very gradually, month by month. People say to us that must have put £110,000 on your bottom line. I wish I could say it had, but it hasn’t. Its not like we’ve saved that money completely, but we’ve certainly made major differences to our profit and also our spend. It’s completely changed the way we operate".

"With regards to the other tools that we use, a lot of what we do is to comment on other people’s blogs and use social networking in that way. But, we also send out a regular e-newsletter. I haven’t got a Squidoo lens but that is next on my list. I think they are wonderful. We have recently setup a Facebook group and we are in the very early days with that. I have found that to be really exciting! We have just started our first two videocasts, the most recent one has so far had about 7,000 viewings, which I’m really pleased about".

"Regarding the expense, compared to any other form of marketing that I can think of including normal word of mouth marketing. This new media, just doesn’t even compare. It’s so inexpensive compared to other forms of communication because it’s just so efficient. Our commitment to this form of media is such, that from next week we’ll have one of our team dedicating three hours of her day to blogging".

Q. How much feedback do you get from your readers/listeners?

"I think we are probably the first company who put their podcasts on their answer phone. So, if you are on hold to Wiggly Wigglers, you will hear a little bit of the podcast. We have over thirty reviews on Apple’s iTunes UK podcast page and they are all 5 five stars. So, we do get feedback but personally, I don’t take too much notice of it".

"I figure that the feedback you are going to get is probably from one extreme. I don’t want us to become diluted by the loudest voice. So, we carry on in our own sweet way really. We are on a mission rather than trying to react to every bit of feedback. We do generally try to acknowledge it however".

Q. What have been the major barriers in the adoption of Web 2.0 tools?

"I’m the founder of the company. So when I listen to my first podcast that was in June 2005. I found out about the Podcast conference in September 2005. I went on the Saturday, I made the podcast on the following Wednesday and I put it out on the Friday. So it was within days. I got the help from our web guy, who had been a sound engineer in a former life. Therefore, there were no technical problems for me to overcome. If I hadn’t had him, I would have had no clue about how to work out the RSS feeds etc. I guess I was lucky in that sense. I then went to the team and said, I want to divert some money from our advertising budget to this, because I believe that it will be miles better. So we did ten shows, I figured I needed to give it a proper chance. So there wasn’t really a barrier".

"The barriers that I find now are getting people to understand the importance of social media within the company. I find it is important for me to keep up with it all. But things like Facebook are so user friendly, that it gives me a real heart. Because I think that those things will win through. If I can work them, then it’s likely my audience and my customers can also work them. If I can’t work them, I figure they probably can’t either".

Q. What are your concerns in using Web 2.0 tools?

"Well, as in everything else in life, if you put yourself up, you are more likely to get shouted down. If there was someone who wasn’t in agreement with what you were doing, there may be a risk of exposing yourself and your business globally to nutters. My concerns regarding Facebook as a platform, are that the people who run Facebook have got a lot of statistics regarding people’s political views etc".

"As a company and as a leader, your whole point is to change the way people think. My passion is to change the way people think about their gardens and the spaces outside their houses. So, the more ways I can change people’s thinking, the better. I guess if you Google Wiggly Wigglers, you’ll probably get perhaps a thousand positives and maybe one negative about something. A further concern is that there’s so much good stuff out there. I have to cut down the podcasts I listen to, because of time".

"I don’t worry about competitors because I figure, as we have a fairly loyal base, they will always stick up for you and so I don’t worry about that at all. If a competitor starts blogging, that will just raise the profile of the whole thing. Rural businesses and farms have a great story to tell. There are tons of ways now to get your message across, whether it’s through a podcast or a YouTube video".

"It makes me laugh so much when the corporates say we don’t believe in it, we’ve got nothing to say, it’s too difficult to do, we have to get approval or, we’ve got the lawyers to think of. I think fantastic, don’t do it! Because there are tons of small businesses out there that are better than you, but haven’t got the large corporate advertising spend. Small businesses can use Web 2.0 tools cheaply and get a foothold in the market. I don’t care about the corporates, I care about people who have a passion for their business and that’s usually the smaller people. So, I just think that its completely going to change that way that we operate, as long as the small business gets to understand it quickly enough".

Author: Jas

Jas Dhaliwal is a highly experienced International Social Media Strategist. Currently working as AVG Technologies, Director of Communities and Online Engagement, he specialises in building and engaging with social communities across the web. Born and bred in London, he is passionate about technology and social anthropology. Prior to AVG, Jas launched the social media program for Microsoft’s MVP Award program. Jas holds a BSc (Hons) in Information Systems and has an MBA from Brunel University in London, England. You can follow Jas as @Jas on Twitter or on Google+