2020 Case Study: Growing Alexander Farm & Orchard
The pandemic all but dried up PrettyWork Creative’s (PWC) business this year and the pivot we made was a bit different.
In my previous post, I shared how my side hustle, Alexander Farm & Orchard (AFAO) became my primary business focus. I would bring all of what PrettyWork had to offer—our creativity, marketing, video capabilities, and storytelling expertise to AFAO.
Grow a new business during a pandemic, in an extremely polarized political climate, during a summer of global social activism in response to the murders of Mr. George Floyd and Ms. Breonna Taylor.
I mean, why not?
Take this side business with a growing fan base and quality product, and dedicate all of our creative and strategic resources to minimally double AFAO’s gross revenue and social media followers.
Metrics we would measure included:
- Revenue Growth
- Email List Growth
- Open rates
- Click-through rates
- Facebook Followers
- Post engagement
As of June 2020, AFAO had one product, its handmade soaps. Prices ranged from $5-$10 per bar.
The company discontinued poor sellers and added three new bars: Spiced Cider, Summertime, and Winter Bliss. The decision was made to increase the price of soaps to match industry standards and allow the company to scale.
AFAO also introduced a new product line called relaxed + powerful®— spa products that include handmade soap, body butter, soaking salts, and a candle. The line is scented with an AFAO custom blend of lavender, sage, and patchouli essential oils.
Also added were:
- Soap pouches (microfiber and sisal)
- A Bamboo soap dish
- Okra seeds (from this year’s harvest)
- Charcuterie boards (curated)
- Gift sets
These new products needed to be introduced to existing and potential customers.
AFAO Challenges and Successes
One of the greatest challenges AFAO faced was its website. It was not user friendly and customers found it difficult to checkout. Especially troublesome was the two-step process used during the company’s biggest promo event—the annual BOGO Half Off Sale. In 2019, customers had to fill out a form and wait for an invoice to complete their order. Everyone that placed an order, didn’t always pay their invoice resulting in lost revenue.
Making the website user friendly and installing a seamless sales system was the first challenge to overcome. WooCommerce was installed along with plugins to help recover abandoned carts, cross-sell, upsell, and bundle products during check out.
This year, customers were able to complete their BOGO sales in one transaction thanks to a new plugin. AFAO had its highest monthly revenue during the month of November and the company’s annual BOGO sale generated 115% more revenue than the year before.
We attribute this growth to an improved checkout process (only one customer expressed difficulty using the new system), the abandoned cart recovery system (we recovered $249), and new product marketing. Ninety-nine percent of all orders during the Black Friday Weekend contained new products and half of all orders contained one or more relaxed + powerful® products.
Bringing relaxed + powerful® to Market
Creating, and branding this product was the perfect distraction from the pandemic I never knew I needed. Suddenly I found myself delving into perfuming, candlemaking, and becoming a carpenter’s apprentice. True story. We couldn’t source the box for the gift set locally (I didn’t need a pallet of them, more like a few dozen) so I employed my husband and he made them for me. After blending the custom scent, making the soaps, pouring candles, and sourcing everything needed for this product it was time to brand the product and tell its story.
And it was a story that needed to be told, especially during the pandemic. If women were going to show up powerfully in their lives they needed to be relaxed. And the idea of being relaxed during a global crisis was readily received.
This made marketing during the pandemic a bit easier. Because there was a fine line to watch. Yes, the goal was to move product, but we had to be mindful of the loss many were experiencing and the anger felt by others. One customer commented that she thought our marketing during the pandemic was “thoughtful and considerate.”
relaxed + powerfu® Messaging
The following was created and used in part or totality in all relaxed + powerful® marketing promos:
relaxed + powerful® Facebook Ad
We have successfully run Facebook ads in the past. But running ads on Facebook during a pandemic, during a contentious election season, well that’s something quite different. Myself along with a few other business owners found Facebook to be very sensitive when it came to placing ads.
We created the following video for relaxed + powerful® and submitted it to run as a boosted post. It was approved to run and then later rejected because it was considered “adult content.” After a lovely online chat with a FB representative, it was later approved but nothing happened. There were no paid views, no money being spent, the ad was throttled. The ad was being retargeted so this wasn’t even a cold audience.
relaxed + powerful® Content
Other Marketing Campaigns
In addition to email and social media campaigns, we also worked with a micro-influencer for the relaxed + powerful® brand. Our influencer received the gift set and created a series of videos for IG Stories, posts, and FB Stories and posts. She received a special coupon code to share with her audience. The month-long campaign ended with increased traffic to the AFAO site (monitored through a custom URL), two new followers on Facebook, and a non-relaxed + powerful® sale from a verified IG user.
- New Product Intro Video
- relaxed + powerful® Dance Video
- Holiday Gift Giving Video
- Holiday Gift Sets Video
- Winter Product Video
- Facebook organic post reach also increased by 93% between June and November
- Reactions increased by 450% during the same period
- The number of post comments increased by 300%
- Shared posts doubled by 50%
AFAO Email List
The AFAO email list grew by 80% from June to December and has an open rate of 24.5% and an average click rate of 3%. Imagine our joy when two email campaigns generated over $100 in sales!
AFAO Revenue Growth
AFAO’s annual gross revenue grew by 241% from 2019 to 2020.
So, did we reach our goal? Did AFAO see growth due to improved systems, thoughtful storytelling, and strategic and consistent marketing?
Yes. Yes, we did.
AFAO was able to see significant growth in 2020. A year unlike any we’ve seen in at least a century. Even through the pandemic, a polarized political climate, an economic decline, and lots of good social trouble, the company was able to increase its gross revenue and AOV.
Sales projections show the company’s gross revenues continuing to rise in 2021.