Originally given as a presentation at the 2023 Texas Bison Association Spring Conference, today’s blog posts covers why your ranch needs a website and the basics of creating a site. While this post specifically refers to ranches, the information below is applicable to many other verticals including farms, producers, creators, and manufacturers!
The Importance of Having a Ranch Website
Local, Regional, & Global Reach
So, why might you want a website at all? Most fundamentally, a website is a channel of communication and it’s unlike any other when it comes to reach.
A website has local, regional, even global reach. No matter how narrow or broad your target market is, your website can reach them on any scale.
Your website is accessible 24/7. We’re not sure what sort of hours you keep, but I have the habit of going down a rabbit hole of research at the oddest hours. And those hours don’t usually align with normal business operating hours.
Whether it’s late at night or early in the morning, your website can provide key information for potential customers on their schedule. I see tons of web sales come through in the middle of the night. I’ve made those purchases myself. It’s important to meet your customers where they are. And more often than not, they’re on their phones.
Mobile First World
Over 60% of all web searches are from mobile devices. And more generally mobile devices are often the first place we go when we need to look something up.
I pulled this chart from a sample of our managed sites for the last 30 days and over 60% of all our visitors were on a mobile phone or tablet. Remember how your website increases your reach? Making sure that website is mobile-friendly will meet your customers where they are.
Credibility & Trust
Your website serves as an authoritative source for information about your business. While there are many other websites and services that may mention your ranch, whether that’s a news article, search engines, social posts, or business directories, your website is the best place to provide up to date information about your business. Sometimes things as simple as a current email address, email contact form, or phone number can be difficult to find.
A Digital Front Gate
Your website will often be the first point of contact for potential customers or associates. A professional-looking and informative website can instill confidence in visitors, and ultimately make them more likely to do business with you. So just like you might build out your ranch entrance to represent your brand and make a first impression on folks, you should do the same online.
If you pull out your phone right now, I won’t see you again for the rest of the hour. But if you did, hypothetically, and searched for your own ranch or brand name. Take note of the first few results on the search. Hopefully those results already represent you well and are maybe even from a website you own. If not, time to do something.
What Can a Website Do For You?
Now that we’ve covered why a website is important to you and your ranch, let’s dive into the website more specifically.
Display or Sell Products and Services
So perhaps the most obvious thing you can do on a website is Display or Sell Products and Services. Online shopping is pretty much ubiquitous these days at 21% of global retail sales. As of 2022, at least 75% of consumers shop online at least once a month. So it’s safe to say that if you’re selling retail goods and don’t yet have a website, you’re missing out on an important sales channel.
But even if you have goods or services that aren’t conducive to direct sales online, you can still provide important pre-sales information through your website. And as mentioned earlier, this is a salesman that never sleeps. So you can generate leads or inquiries without even having to answer the phone.
Promote Agritourism or Event Hosting
You can also promote Agritourism programs or event hosting: Your ranch might have an event venue space available for booking online. Or offer ranch tours and family activities that you can either advertise or sell through your website.
Event Calendars and Tickets
For programs, events, and other happenings, you can share event calendars for ranch activities and sell tickets right on the site.
We’ll cover more about this a bit later when we get to content – but one of the best ways to keep your website interesting is to keep it up to date.
Donations or Memberships
If you are involved with associations or other memberships, your website can serve as a database for storing membership information, collecting dues or donations.
Even robust membership portals with member exclusive content are relatively easy to setup now. And that will allow your organization to streamline communication with both internal members and external audiences.
Your website can facilitate communication with your audience the same ways you might do so in person. And also in ways that aren’t as easy in person. Not everyone communicates in the same way. Even if your phone number is public, some people are hesitant or even unable to communicate over the phone. Some people would prefer to use text messages to communicate with a business. Or a direct email.
But sometimes, potential customers are hesitant to reach out directly through any of those forms. Maybe they’re so unsure they don’t really know what questions to ask if given a blank slate.
So it’s important for your website to also have some form of lead generation. That might be a contact form with specific information guiding the inquiry. Or something as simple as a newsletter sign up form. That way someone who just wants to keep in touch with what’s happening with your ranch can hear what you have to say easily.
The Basics of Creating a Ranch (Or Any Business) Website
Storytelling & Your Brand
What do you have to say? Your website is more than just a digital billboard. It’s a place where you can tell your story, share your values, and express what sets you apart from the rest. So before you even think about the design and layout, you need to figure out what story you want to tell.
Is your ranch a family legacy? Is it dedicated to sustainable practices? Do you breed the most majestic bison in Texas?
That story will guide everything else.
Once you firm up your brand of storytelling, you’ll need to gather content that will tell that story. That means things like descriptions of your ranch and products or services, photos – lots of photos, and maybe even testimonials from customers or employees. The more original and high-quality this content is, the better. Not only does it make your website more engaging, but it can also give you a leg up in search engine rankings to help people find your website in the first place.
While it’s no murder mystery, this is often the most exciting.
Assets You’ll Need
In addition to the aforementioned content (history, stories, descriptions, testimonials) you will need:
- High Quality Photos: your ranch, your animals, your products, your team
- These can be from your phone, but they should be purposeful and focused. The more specific the better. Of course professional photography will stand out and pay for itself.
- Logo and Brand Assets: colors, fonts, iconography
- Do you have a logo, a (literal) brand, or other style materials already such as colors, fonts, or icons? You’ll need those or will need to create them as part of this process.
- Existing Marketing Materials: videos, advertising, flyers, wraps
- If you have any existing promotional materials, like brochures or flyers, vehicle wraps, advertisements, or videos, those can be really useful too.
The more you have collected in one place about your brand the easier it will be to communicate that with your visitors and ensure brand consistency.
Know Your Audience
As you’re gathering content and telling your story, remember, your website is not for you – it’s for your potential customers. They might not enjoy the same memes that you do! So you need to think about who they are. Are they local families looking for a day out? Restaurants looking for a new meat supplier? Event planners scouting for unique venues? Understanding your audience will help you tailor your website and your memes to their needs and wants.
Just like in any other aspect of your business, setting clear goals for your website is crucial. Are you looking to sell more meat directly to consumers? Attract more tourists? Host more events? Raise awareness about bison conservation?
Your specific goals will guide the design and functionality of your site along with how you will measure success. And each part of your website will contribute differently to those goals.
Keep New Content Coming
A website isn’t a ‘set it and forget it’ project: It’s important to tend it like you might your herd. Update your site regularly with new content that continues your story. This could be in the form of new product listings, blog posts, company news, events, or customer testimonials. Update old content as needed and remove anything that’s out of date or outstayed its welcome. Keeping your content fresh helps establish your website as an authoritative source on whatever story you’re telling or products you’re selling.
If you’re comfortable writing your story, that’s probably going to be best for the brand. But that can sometimes take valuable time away from your business. This is commonly something that we help clients with when it comes to writing or adapting articles or sending out newsletters.
Maintenance, Updates & Changing Trends
No matter how it was built, a website needs regular maintenance to function optimally. This can involve routine tasks like updating your site to incorporate new features, ensuring compatibility with new browser versions, applying security patches, or adapting to changes in web standards. It’s also crucial to keep an eye on changing user preferences and industry trends. This continuous maintenance is what keeps your website competitive, fast, and secure. It also contributes greatly to ensure your site instills trust from your potential customers. If a site is broken in any way, it’s nearly a guarantee that customers will balk and go elsewhere.
Choosing a Website Partner
Finally, you’ll probably want to seek out a website developer or agency to partner with. We know this is sort of a shameless plug, but we’re being honest when we say we think it’s a good idea. For all the reasons we discussed at the start of this blog, your website is an extension of your business and brand. You’ll want someone who can not only build it right, but help it grow and develop over time.
So in conclusion – A website is a powerful communication channel that can help you share your ranch’s story, reach a wider audience, sell your products, and grow your business. But it’s not just about having a website – it’s also about having a website that truly represents your brand, tells your story, and serves your audience. So even if you already have a website, hopefully I shared some ideas to help you breathe some new life into it. To do that, you’ll need to put in some thought, some effort, and probably some money. But if you do it right, it will be well worth it.