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Balancing online and offline investment in your business

I founded Greensquares in 2004, but it wasn't until a few years later that I began making a real effort to promote the company online. These days, the vast, majority of our sales begin with an Internet search, but back in the very earliest days of the business, we didn't even have our own website. Instead, we concentrated on sourcing high-quality products and forging profitable long-term business relationships.

Greensquares has grown exponentially since those days. We now have showrooms in Slough and St Albans in addition to our head office in Cardiff, and where we used to specialise solely in the sale of composite wood decking boards, we now offer a comprehensive garden transformation service comprising a huge variety of customisation options.

This growth is thanks in no small part to the extra traffic and revenue captured through our online marketing efforts. Over the past ten years or so, we have invested a significant amount of money in a number of different digital avenues, including:

  • professionally-designed websites for each of our brands, as well as for Greensquares itself
  • targeted content marketing
  • advertising via Google, Facebook and other online platforms
  • producing high-quality photos / videos of our work and sharing these on social media

I think it's safe to say that, without the above, Greensquares would not be the successful, thriving company that it is today. Every day, hundreds of people stumble across one of our brands while searching on Google or scrolling through Facebook, and even though none of our showrooms are located more than thirty miles from the M4, our online presence gives us national reach - in the past year alone, we have overseen projects in Blackpool, Radnorshire, Edinburgh, and numerous other places all over Great Britain.

And yet I don't believe that pouring all of your resources into online marketing is the best way to grow your business. While it's true that we wouldn't be where we are now without our websites and our carefully-managed advertising campaigns, the same might just as accurately be said of our superb product range, our company culture, and the hardworking people who staff our three showrooms across England and Wales.

The lesson I've learned is that – at least in this industry, where customer service and product quality are so critical to the making or breaking of a company - it's equally important to invest in the online and offline sides of your business. Digital marketing can open the door for enormous growth, and I'd definitely recommend seeking professional assistance when you're setting up your company's website or looking into pay-per-click advertising. Experience goes a long way when it comes to things like search engine optimisation and user interface design.

Having said that, all the website optimisation in the world won't keep your business afloat for long if you're unable to make your customers happy. Yes, people largely rely on search engines to find what they're looking for nowadays, but word of mouth must not be dismissed - if anything, it's even more powerful now than it was in the early 2000s. A single dissatisfied customer can easily wreak havoc on your company's reputation with 1-star reviews and angry tweets, so for all the opportunities that the Internet has to offer us entrepreneurs, I'd argue that it's only made it all the more important to invest in the nuts and bolts of your business.

For me personally, that has meant:

  • training my sales staff to maximise quality and customer satisfaction at every stage of the purchasing process, from the initial showroom visit to after-sale support
  • seeking out the very best products on the market, in terms of both aesthetic appearance and long-term performance
  • adding new teams (such as our CAD specialists and our professional installers) to make the customer's life easier and set Greensquares apart from the competition
  • keeping a close eye on our brick-and-mortar locations in Cardiff, Slough and St Albans to make sure all three showrooms are running smoothly and giving a positive representation of the business
  • working hard to ensure harmony between our online profile (including all of our websites, adverts, blog posts, social media accounts, et cetera) and the business that customers encounter when they actually get in touch
  • keeping an eye out for offline promotional opportunities - such as television programmes and relevant magazine features - while simultaneously striving to maximise our online visibility

Blog by Jason Cole Greensquares.

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