Free Essay


In: Business and Management

Submitted By lilyniteflirt
Words 13245
Pages 53



Nanette Riggs
18 March 2013
Marketing Plan


A1. Viability in an online market

ABCveggies Today

ABCveggies is an independent, organic farm, currently operating out of a warehouse located in the north end of Sarasota, FL since early 2009. The unique feature of ABCveggies is that the produce is grown on the roof of a warehouse located in a light industrial zone. ABCveggies is dedicated to the following principals:

• Sustainable organic gardening

• Feeding families

• Education, and

• Earning a living

The business consists of a vertical grow system installed on the rooftop of the warehouse and has in place 200 poles, each with 6 stryofoam buckets, capable of growing at least 4 plants each, for a total minimum capacity of 4800 plants. The owner has an additional 5 acres of land available for installation of vertical grow systems, but doesn’t want to develop it ahead of a customer base to purchase the produce. While the owner has been operating the rooftop farm successfully since 2009, there is still not a very strong customer base. In order to expand the business and to develop a customer base consisting of substantial proportion of repeat clientele, the owner has decided to expand the online presence of the business. In order to determine the best design for the online presence, we must first examine the current business model to explore how an online presence can impact growth while meeting the needs of customers and ABCveggies.

At first glance, it would seem that Sarasota is an ideal location for year round farming, with plenty of sunshine, and only a few days of frost (if any) in an average year. Rain is seasonal, with summer being the ‘wet’ season and barely any precipitation between October and May. The soil, however, consists mostly of sand, with a highly alkaline pH, and is devoid of nutrients. Traditional and even organic farming methods of supplementing the soil introduce chemicals that wash into the watershed, causing algal blooms in creeks, rivers, and estuaries, and choking out native flora and fauna. This introduction of chemicals is one of the suspected causes of red tide (Alcock, 2007), which kills a plethora of coastal species in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast.

In a contained vertical grow system resources are maximized by enabling the grower to produce a minimum of 24 plants in the footprint required by one plant using traditional agricultural methods. Additionally, the contained system, which uses controlled planting medium, and nutrient containing drip irrigation, allows for precise control of ideal growing conditions leading to rapid production, while reducing contamination of the watershed by runoff. Staggering plantings ensures crops are marketable on a consistent basis and differences in weekly yields can be minimized. Rooftop gardens benefit the environment by increasing greenspace in urban areas, and serving to capture rainwater that would normally runoff into storm drains as well has helping to control internal temperatures of their buildings by absorbing solar energy and transforming it into plant matter. Sustainable organic gardening has minimal impact on the environment. The vertical grow system utilized by ABCveggies maximizes growing space, minimizes water use, and due to a rooftop location, minimizes need for weed and pest control, while aiding in controlling the internal temperature of the building. The system also allows for entirely organic growing medium, seeds, and nutrients, and prevents contamination due to encroachment from neighboring lands via storm runoff, wind or foot/animal traffic.

Currently, sales are limited to a few local businesses featuring local, pesticide-free, organic produce (in addition to other menu items) and to shoppers who attend weekly farmers markets where ABCveggies has a booth. The flow of business is impacted by the seasonal nature of restaurants in the area, as well as attendance at farmer’s markets, which can be impacted by several factors, including weather and competition from other local events. Customers are also able to pick their own produce by coming to the warehouse, but the location of the warehouse makes it a little out of the way for people to ‘stop in’.

Goals for Increased Online Presence –

The CEO has three goals in mind for growth and future of ABCveggies, and has requested this marketing proposal. First, the CEO would like to establish a network of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). CSA can be defined as an alternative, locally-based socio-economic model of agriculture and food distribution. A group of individuals support a farm by paying a fee at the onset of the growing season and in return they receive a share of the harvest. Another aspect of the CSA model, is the novel approach of offering stacks for rent, where members pay a monthly fee for stack rental where they are able to plant and harvest their own produce, will further supplement income while increasing community involvement. CSA membership will be facilitated by having an enrollment form on the website, accessible in one click. Initially, ABCveggies will offer 100 memberships, which will be available in 13-week seasons. This puts needed production at 100 members * 9 items per member = 900 items per week + 200 plant cushion backup inventory. Memberships will be paid in advance of the season and will cost $25 per week for total revenue of 100 members * 13 weeks * $25/week = 32,500 per season. Additional revenue would be generated by the 200 plant backup inventory if weren’t required to fulfill the orders. This means that the farm will need to have about one fifth of the buckets turning over each week, with some of the buckets planted with products that have long term production like peppers and tomatoes. Revenue generated would be used to expand production at the owners 5 acre site. This would allow membership next year at a minimum of 500 members, which would increase the potential yearly revenue to $625,0000.

The second goal for growth is to open an organic, raw café on the ground floor of the warehouse. The café’s menu would, of course, feature the farm’s daily bounty. The owner envisions the café being constructed and opened during the second year after the business goes online. Being able to invest part of the revenue generated in year two from the expanded farm should help the café have a successful launch. At this point, the café would be incorporated into the website, with pages for the menu, pictures of the daily special, and monthly calendars detailing entertainment and workshops at the café. The owner hopes the café evolves to become a place where people hang out to engage in health centric activities and discussions with like-minded individuals.

The third goal the owner would like to achieve is to develop the consulting end of the business. The owner envisions a future where all flat roofs across the world are employed in a manner that helps feed the local population, while increasing urban greenspace and helping to remove contaminants from the environment and reduce the carbon footprint. The owner currently offers a consulting service to help interested parties navigate the local regulations and building codes, while designing a feasible grow system, and would like to expand this scope of the business to include installations. The current website will contain pages on vertical grow systems design with links to more information, as well as an inquiry form for local consultations and installations. As the company grows, the owner hopes to have a network of consultants all over the world, who can work with city planners to develop urban gardening and vertical grow systems, or whatever new and better technology that may develop, into possibilities for sustainable local food production. This international consulting service would be added to the site in the future.

By establishing an online presence, and a strategy for CSA, will be able to increase market reach to the community, have an upfront investment in the harvest, and keep demand for the product constant, thereby increasing sales. Revenue from sales can be used to develop the owner’s additional 5 acres (= 120 acres traditional farmland) so that even more revenue can be generated. During the second year and beyond, revenue and growth generated by an online presence, increased visibility, stack rentals, and CSA memberships will be used to develop the warehouse café and an international consulting team.

By analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the competition, we have identified areas to emphasize in the marketing plan and niches to expand into. Since produce is perishable, it is important to have customers in place when the product is ready for consumption. Today’s consumers are more educated and socially conscious and concerned about not only what they are eating, but also the impact of their purchasing habits on the planet. They are concerned with a return to whole foods that haven’t been subjected to processing, contaminated with pesticides, or picked and shipped long distances. They want to know where there food is coming from. Processing foods removes their nutritional benefits and makes them unhealthy. There exists a plethora of ready to steam frozen vegetables, which are already sauced with unhealthy fats, sodium and preservatives. Similarly, there are grocery stores full of fruits and vegetables that are literally coated in poisonous chemicals which a growing number of consumers do now wish to ingest. Some markets do carry pesticide free produce, but they are often brought to southwest Florida from California, or even as far away as South America. Picking produce early enough to insure it doesn’t rot in transit prevents it from maturing to the peak of flavor, resulting in an inferior and often tasteless version of the item, and shipping it over a great distance magnifies the carbon footprint required to bring it from farm to table while the nutritional content diminishes over time spent in travel.

The number of consumers switching to plant based and organic diets has created a demand for high quality organic produce, and these consumers are also interested in the movement to support local independent farmers in order to aid economic development in a sustainable manner. Additionally, the farm provides an avenue for urbanites to rent garden space in the form of a stack. Enabling membership applications and other transactions to be processed online, and using social media marketing to create a buzz about the CSA are the two immediate goals the business has for the implementation of an e-commerce capable website. The future goals include developing the additional farm property and the warehouse café, as well as the international consulting and installation service.

The Impact of Growth on Operations

ABCveggies must be ready for the impact of an online presence on the growth of the company. All other CSA farms in the neighboring counties rapidly sellout memberships each season. Production must be ramped up to nearly 100% capacity, and instead of occasional harvests, and haphazard plantings, a production schedule must be designed and executed to fulfill standing orders. Additionally, the website will require updating on an at least weekly basis, and more often when the café opens, to keep it current and accurately reflecting the available merchandise. The current staff (the owner and one part time employee) will not be sufficient to handle the increased workload, so plans must be put into place to hire additional workers. One possibility to save on labor costs would be for the owner to offer internships where students would learn the business in exchange for reduced wages. Another possibility is to offer CSA members the opportunity to work in exchange for their farm share (work share). Both of these options help both the owner and the community. The owner benefits by acquiring low cost labor, while the community benefits by having an increased involvement in community farming at the same time as it expands its knowledge base. As the company continues to grow, employees will need to be brought on to work in maintenance, the café, and administration. If the owner does not have a strong background in human resources management, he may consider beginning training in the area, or investigating employment agencies to manage the work force. The owner may also consider continuing the work share business model into these areas, by exchanging labor hours for farm shares. As the consulting branch of the business grows, the owner will need to have expert staff in place. Interns or graduates of the work share program would be excellent candidates on which to focus professional development efforts to fill these expert positions.

A2. competitive analysis

There are a few direct competitors in the area that grow and market organic produce, and have an online presence. Some of the farms are involved in CSA, and some have markets onsite or participate in farmer’s markets. An overview of these competitors is below, with a table summarizing their features for easy comparison.

111 Community Farm ( is located in Bradenton, FL. It is classified as a local urban farm, featuring CSA, and is certified organic. The CSA consists of members who pay $23 per week from November through May (26 weeks total) for a share of the harvest consisting of 6-9 items. Shares are delivered to several pickup points on a few days each week. During the 26-week season, a farm stand market is open to the general public for 4 hrs on Sundays. The area served is from Bradenton south to Venice.

111’s website is concise and user friendly, with well thought out menu options including:

• Home – the home page has information regarding their business, and locations where and when consumers can purchase products (farm stand or farmers markets); directions to the farm; links to sign up for the CSA plan, facebook, T-shirt purchases and donations to the county food bank to name a few (Figure 1).

• About – contains information about the CSA, the history of the farm, crops, operations, the management plan, pictures and FAQs

• Members – contains information specific to members – information on the CSA, how to make payments, what to do when they miss a pickup, newsletters, etc.

• Get Involved – contains information on how to get involved with the farm, such as becoming a member, volunteering, workshare and internships

• Contact – shows how to get in contact with the farm, hours and locations, email information


Figure 1. home page.

The website is well thought out, and easy to navigate and has an exceptionally user oriented design. The website makes it simple for the consumer to spend money. By allowing new members to join by filling out the form on the website, and having a link to that form at the top of the home page, as well as having additional links pages with merchandise for sale, money can be generated right from the site. By offering information on farmers markets, the website helps direct future spending. The website also prominently displays the words ‘organic’ and ‘local’, and contains most of the information consumers need right on the home page.

While the website has several options for online commerce, and provides great information, it does not offer the ability to order produce online, or to add additional items to the weekly pickup. Of course, when you arrive at the farm for your pickup during the farm stands operating hours, you can purchase additional items at that time. Additionally, the website is ‘wordy’. A ‘wordy’ website simply has too much text on it to be esthetically pleasing. The design would benefit from the use of buttons and widgets to replace some of the text. Buttons would be nice for most of the links on the page, especially the items in the ‘Highlights’ menu, or any text that includes the phrase “click here”. Buttons help break up text into individuals units so it doesn’t seem to all flow together. Instead of the ‘Like us on Facebook’ link, which is quite out of place in the middle of the farm market announcement, another section should be added to the website for social media. Also, Facebook is great, but it is not the only social media site, therefore the social media section should be expanded to include at least Twitter, Pinterest, Digg, and Google+ and an option to subscribe to RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds. It should also be noted that 111 does not do a good job of branding as the company name is only mentioned twice on the homepage. They could improve branding by including 111 in front of several lines on the page. For example, “Members receive a quantity…” and “FARM T-SHIRTS & cookbooks” could be changed to “111 Members receive a quantity…” and “111 Farm T-shirts & cookbooks” (Why is everything except ‘cookbooks’ in all caps?).

Another feature lacking on this site are pages that keep you on the website and pages that make you want to return to the website. There are a few pages that will change, like the weekly harvest, but the majority of the website is static. While having a cookbook for sale on the site is nice, and sales from the cookbook generate revenue, it would be great to also have a recipe page. Browsing recipes helps customers see the potential in produce they might not have considered buying, and can help to increase sales. Browsing recipes also increase the amount of time people will spend on the page, and all the links can help improve search engine rankings.

Another competitor, 222 Farm (, whose tagline is “Fresh Local Organic”, is located in Punta Gorda, FL. It is classified as a family farm, featuring CSA and is certified organic. The CSA consists of members who pay $580 at the beginning of the harvest season, which runs for 20 weeks from December – April ($29 per week). For an additional seasonal delivery fee of $100, each week members can pick up their boxed 8-item share from one of several sites located between Punta Gorda and Sarasota, or they can drive out to the farm and participate in a one day per week market style pickup, where they choose their 8 items from the farm’s bounty that week and skip the seasonal delivery fee. There is also a system for farmers market credits, where members shop the 222 farm booth at their local farmers market using credits they have purchased at the beginning of the season. Produce for members at the farmers markets is discounted when they use their credits to purchase, but non-members can also shop at the farmers markets without using credits or receiving a discount.

222’s website is another well designed site with several pages including:

• Home – images and links to other pages as well as location, contact information, public relations links, and links to sign up for courses offered at the farm (Figure 2).

• About 222 Farm – contains a description of the farm, CSA, and links to information about the owners, CSA, sustainability, apprenticeships, seasonal events, etc.

• Farm Membership - contains a list of benefits of farm membership, and links to membership options as well as a printable membership brochure.

• Farmers Markets – contains information on farmers markets where 222 farms has a booth

• Events & Tours – contains links to culinary workshops, farm tours, private bookings, farm feasts, gardening workshops, special events as well as a link to shopping for 222’s recommended books, gardening tools, kitchen supplies and more

• Consulting – contains information about the farmers and the consulting services they offer

• About the 222s – contains information bout the farmers, including their background, projects they are involved with and awards they have received

• Sustainability – contains information about sustainability and details how 222 farms practices sustainable agriculture

• Crops & Recipes – contains a list of crops which are linked to recipes for each

• Photo Gallery – contains photos of 222’s booth at farmers markets, shares, the farmers and tours

Again, this is a well-designed site as far as layout and information available. You can see the difference between the use of buttons in place of large amounts of text in the design of this site and 111’s site in figure 1. There is also a good use of branding (222 is mentioned seven times on the homepage) and social media widgets on this site as compared to 111’s site. 222 prominently displays the ‘Organic’ logo, along with the ‘Local’ designation on the homepage and on all site pages. The site makes good use of pages that encourage visitors to stay on the site and to return to the site. Pages for crops and recipes, events and tours, and the blog keep visitors browsing through the site and returning for updated information.

The major drawback to this site is that it functions more of an information hub than a commerce center. While there is an online form to sign up for the food preservation workshop, there is no online form to sign up for membership, so in order to become a member, brochures must be filled out and mailed in with payment. Also lacking is the ability to purchase farmers market credits online. The site does not provide for the ability to purchase produce online or at the farm stand for non-members. There is information on 222’s presence at local farmers market, so it does help to direct future spending.

The third competitor analyzed, 333’s Organic Farm (, is a certified organic family run farm with an on-farm market that is open from October through April on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. 333’s has a website, but there is no option for purchasing items on the web. The farm market does have a loyal following, but it is located in a rural part of the county and requires a planned trip to shop there, and also has a very high price point.

333’s website has a lot of information on the farm, directions, operating hours and several links to additional information, but no commerce is offered on the site. It is a strictly farm stand operation and the website is used for informative purposes only.

Of the 3 sites analyzed, the most commerce friendly is 111’s, as there is a mechanism to order farm shares and merchandise on-line, while the least commerce friendly is 333’s, with no online commerce available. 222’s does not process memberships on-line, but the membership brochure is available for download, which at least facilitates membership. It should also be noted that both 111 and 222 consistently sell out their CSA shares year after year. It should also be noted that all three websites contain social media links such as Facebook and Twitter, allowing visitors and users to like, follow or pin their pages when they visit the sites. See Table 1 for a comparison of the sites.

Table 1. A Comparison of ABCveggies Online Strategy with Competitors

| |ABCveggies |111 |222 |333 |
|100% Organic |X |X |X |X |
|Online Market |X | | | |
|Delivery |X |X |X | |
|CSA |X |X |X | |
|Farm Market |X |X |CSA members only, pre |X |
| | | |paid | |
|Farmer’s Market Presence |X | |X | |
|Consulting services |X | |X | |
|Price point |Low - med |Med – high |Med -high |High |
|Year Round |X | | | |
|Option to rent garden space |X | | | |
|Ability to enroll online |X |X | | |
|Newsletter |X |X |X |X |

A3. Online Marketing strategy

Marketing Strategy Goals

The initial goal of the website is to sell out the CSA shares, and that will be the main goal of the online marketing strategy. The company plans to offer membership plans in four 13-week seasons, with the initial season beginning November 1, 2013. This provides an opportunity to sell out the initial CSA shares and time to develop a production schedule and to get the farm into full capacity production. The e-commerce site is being developed specifically to assist ABCveggies in reaching this goal. The online presence will be used in several ways that will benefit both the customer and ABCveggies by driving traffic to the site that will result in the sales of CSA shares. In addition to selling membership shares, the website will also be used to generate commerce from workshops, stack rentals, sales of excess inventory, and consulting fees. As the business matures, the goals of the website will be extended to include information about the warehouse café as well as expanded consulting and installation services, and a revised marketing plan will be prepared at that time. But we can’t just build the site and expect them to come. We need to target customers and invite them to

Target Market

With movements such as Millions Against Monsanto, we see evidence of a growing number of consumers who are looking to support small farmers when they purchase organic produce that is fresh, not terribly expensive, and locally produced. Further research on this target market indicates that the most likely individual to purchase organic produce is an affluent, well educated, Caucasian (Dettmann, 2008), which to a great extent describes the population of Sarasota county (US Census Bureau, 2013). Additionally, the knowledge that the competition in neighboring Manatee (111) and Charlotte (222) counties regularly sell out their CSA shares, leads to expect their shares to sell out each season. The trick doesn’t appear to be getting the horse to drink, but more so getting the horse to the water, in this instance getting them to the website to sign up for CSA shares will be the first task of the marketing plan. Additionally, the target market will be limited to a geographic area within approximately 50 miles of Sarasota. This area is an estimation of the long end of the commute that most people are willing to drive on a daily or weekly basis, and since door to door delivery is not part of the business plan, members must be in the area to pick up their shares from either the farm or one of several pickup locations around the area.

Online Marketing Strategy

In order to bring the target market to, the online marketing strategy will initially include four components. The first tactic of the online marketing strategy will be SMM. SMM will be initially used to acquire potential customers by inviting visitors to the website. SMM will be conducted as described elsewhere in this paper, with a consistent dedication of five hours per week. Website analytics will be used to collect data on visitor behavior and the home page will have an area for visitors to enter their email address in order to subscribe to newsletters. Data collected on the membership forms will also be used populate the customer database, and fed into CRM software. Visitors will also be invited to follow via several social networking widgets. While useful in acquisitions, SMM will be an ongoing e-marketing effort as works to emphasize the community aspect of CSA.

SMM benefits the customer by making them feel like they have a personal relationship with the company. It makes the members of the social networks aware of new products entering the market, often before the general public. SMM allows for the customer to comment on announcements and otherwise participate in discussions, which can help the company respond better to customer needs and anticipate problems, enabling to offer outstanding customer service. SMM benefits the company by enabling brand awareness and assisting the in creating a buzz in the community. Social networks will also be used by to keep informed on what the competition is up to. The company will follow competitors’ blogs, Tweets, and other social networks to keep informed of potential threats resulting from changing business models of the competitors. For instance, if 333 decided to begin offering CSA shares and planned to begin using their site for e-commerce instead of simply information, it could have a direct impact on’s ability to sell out its CSA shares each season. Getting an early warning can help start an early outreach campaign to sign current customers up early for the coming season, and to reach potential new customers before the 333 targets them.

SMM alone is not enough to bring traffic to the website. needs to expand the reach for acquiring customers beyond their social circle. One way to do this is to use what is called “Pay Per Click” advertising. Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising works by charging advertisers each time a user clicks on their ad. Ads are placed in front of users as the result of a keyword search (in the case of search engines) or as the result of a comparison engine (like Ads are placed on the results page in order of bids made by the advertisers, which determine how much they are willing to pay each time the ad is clicked. In order for PPC advertising to be effective, when an ad is clicked on, it should go to a page tailored to that ad. For instance, if someone clicked on an ad for “CSA Shares available in Sarasota”, they should not end up on the homepage, but rather on the page that describes the CSA and the seasons and includes a membership application form. This not only ensures the visitor finds what they are looking for, it also directs them to an area of the site where commerce can be conducted, turning a visitor into a customer.

In order to make PPC advertising work, the ad itself needs to be quite specific. For instance, if the ad read, “Sarasota Organic Farm”, it may get a lot of visitors to the website, who may be interested in purchasing organic vegetables, or they may be looking for information on how to start an organic garden, or they may be looking for organic milk. If the ad read, “CSA shares available in Sarasota County”, the ad has a better chance of generating clicks from visitors who are interested in becoming involved with CSA. Additionally, the keywords searched on that return the ad must also be very fine-tuned. As opposed to “produce” the return should be limited to a string of keywords, such as “Sarasota organic produce”. This will keep the ad from being returned to users in other parts of the country who are searching for produce.

The customer benefits from PPC advertising by being directed to websites related to their search. Since the searcher is looking for organic produce in Sarasota, implicit permission is granted to display advertisements related to that query. This is a form of permission advertising, rather than interruptive marketing, and customers are more likely to react positively to it than to interruptive marketing. Ideally, this will cause the searcher to a click on the ad, and ultimately a to purchase CSA share. The benefits to the company of PPC advertising are many. First of all, the only payment is for actual clicks, not for displaying the ad, and there are no set-up charges when getting started. Money spent on PPC ads can be tracked and analyzed, and therefore fine-tuning and improving the click through rate are possible. Ads can be specifically targeted at users based on geographic location, age, gender, and time of the day or week. If you expect your target market to be working during the week, it might be best to restrict the ads to running evenings and weekends.

The third component of the e-commerce strategy will be to launch a viral marketing campaign. With the advent of the Internet, there is the possibility for information to be viewed on the web in an exponential fashion. Information that might have taken years to circulate can be conveyed in seconds. With a little direction, this phenomenon can be directed and harnessed in a viral marketing campaign. In order to get a buzz going about the CSA memberships, will target reach out to several of the bloggers that write about Sarasota lifestyles, events and businesses. For instance, might comment on a blog post by a local blogger related to health and nutrition, and invite them to visit the farm via a linkback to the website (“This is great information about getting started with your training for the upcoming half-tri. Good Luck! I noticed that green smoothies are your daily breakfast. Check out if you are interested in a local organic source for fresh greens or getting involved with community supported agriculture. Also, I have lots of healthy recipes on my site that you might like). will also include the opportunity to sign up for their blog and / or newsletter as a tagline on all emails and printed collateral material. Basically, technology will be used to spread the message to as much of the geographic target area as rapidly as possible.

The benefits to the customer from a viral marketing campaign are that the customer gets a lot of information about a brand and can develop a sense of familiarity with the brand. If the campaign contains information that the customer is looking for, then their satisfaction level with the brand increases. For the company, customer acquisition and brand recognition are the major benefits of viral marketing campaigns. New customers who were previously unaware of will be invited to the website. Like SMM, viral marketing campaigns are virtually cost free, and when controlled properly, can generate a great deal of interest in a brand or product. Amplified viral marketing campaigns can greatly increase traffic to a website, and if targeted correctly, can greatly increase sales. One caveat of a viral marketing campaign is that is should be authentic and transparent. If the messages seem invalid or do not appear to be genuine, the campaign can backfire, and damage may be done to the brand or reputation of the company.

The fourth tactic that will use to acquire and retain customers will be e-mail marketing. Promotional e-mails will be used to acquire new customers. Promotional emails will be focused at bringing visitors to the site with the goal of converting them to customers. Promotional emails contain a strong call for action and have a specific, time-sensitive, goal. A promotional e-mail might feature a reduction in the price of a seasonal CSA share if purchased by a certain deadline, and would contain a direct link to the CSA membership page. will also use retention-based e-mails to cultivate the relationship it has with existing customers. A good example of a retention-based e-mail would be a newsletter. Although retention based emails may contain promotional items, they should contain a majority of information that the recipient might find useful. In the case of, it might contain tips on preserving or storing produce or recipes for a featured item that will be in the share that month. The newsletters should also contain links to blog entries, and other features of the website, such as recipes that keep the customer returning to the website on a regular basis. Both the recipe pages and the blog entries will have areas where the users can leave comments and add content to the website.

Customers benefit from e-mail marketing when they take advantage of a promotional offer, or gain knowledge in an area of interest. They are kept informed about happenings at the farm and workshops that are coming up. They learn new ways to prepare a food they are familiar with, or perhaps a food they had never heard of but were introduced to via participation in CSA. will benefit from using an e-mail marketing campaign by acquiring new customers and strengthening the relationship they have with their existing customers. E-mail marketing is also a relatively low-cost method of strengthening customer relationships, increasing website traffic and increasing profits. E-mail marketing can be highly targeted and mass customized, and the results are measurable and quantifiable. It is critical to remember that e-mail marketing is another type of permission marketing, and it must contain an option for the subscriber to “revoke permission” to be marketed to, or, as we are more familiar with, “Unsubscribe” from the e-mail list. will begin its e-marketing strategy with tactics designed to acquire and retain customers. In order to sell out the first season’s CSA shares, ABCveggies will use SMS, viral marketing, email marketing and PPC advertising. These tactics can be targeted to bring the visitors most likely to become customers to the website. In order to cultivate the relationship ABCveggies has with existing customers, retention-based emails will be sent on a regular basis. With these plans in place, hopes to generate interest in the CSA shares and sell them out each season. Once the CSA shares are selling out and the farm is in full production, ABCveggies will revise the marketing campaign to bring attention to the opening of the café and the expansion of consulting and installation services.

A4. search engine considerations and optimization strategies

When someone is looking for something on the web, they usually start their quest by employing a search engine. One of the most well-known search engines is Google. Search engines, or more specifically web search engines, are software programs that return web pages based on a search query entered by a user. Search engines operate by employing spiders that search the world wide web on a continual basis and compile results into a database. When a user enters key words into a search, the search engine combs it’s database and returns the results in a list, called a SERP (search engine results page). The SERP contains descriptions of and links to websites, and is ranked by relevancy, and the art of getting highest placement on the SERP is termed Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.

SEO is important, because it drives traffic to websites. If a website is not in the first few listings returned in a SERP, then there is little chance the link will be clicked, and therefore, little chance of driving traffic to a site, and little chance for e-commerce to occur. Even the difference in click-throughs between the top listing and the second listing is enormous (Chaffey, 2012). Being listed near the top the SERP also leads to the perception that the brand has better authority or is more reputable than sites listed lower down on the SERP.

Keywords are one of the most important considerations for SEO when designing a website. Keywords are inserted into specific non-viewable places on a website called meta tags, which contain information about the content of a page, and were originally the way search engines such as Yahoo and Google were able to determine which pages to return for a particular search. With the advent of Web 2.0 and the appearance of dynamic content, engines are assimilating the number of inbound links, video views, and user comments and reviews to determine ranking of a particular page. In order to optimize ABCveggies placement in the SERP, the following minimal list of keywords will be incorporated into the website: Organic produce, local produce, ABCveggies, Sarasota, pesticide-free, vegetables, CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, produce, vertical garden systems, vertical grow systems, roof top gardening, gardening, local farms, fresh, healthy, nutritious, sustainable, agriculture, community garden, garden rental, consulting, and stack rental, as well as a listing several types of produce. Google Adwords will also be used as a tool to expand this list, and the proprietor will keep a running list of words to add to the key words. There are several places, such as the title and in meta tags, where these keywords will be placed in the website when it is designed which are not readily viewed when the page is displayed, but which are important to SEO, such as in the full html text of links throughout the site and in descriptions of images on the pages.

The keywords also need to be used in the viewable portion of the page. Text on the pages must contain keywords, and the more times keywords are used in the text and in links on the pages, the better the ranking. Additionally, in the viewable portion of pages, links to videos containing keywords, and frequent use of keywords in blogs and links to other information sources will help to improve rankings. Several tools are provided and are often free for analyzing website traffic. These tools should be used monitored to determine how changing content and advertising efforts affect website traffic.

Another phenomenon used in search engine ranking, is social bookmarking, which has been popularized by the website (Delicious, 2013). Delicious allows users to manage their bookmarks from a centralized source, thereby enabling access to them from any computer. Users describe their bookmarks by tagging them with a descriptive word. Tags can be made up and users can apply as many of them as they want to a particular bookmark. Bookmarks are then aggregated into a tag cloud, which is a list of tags where the size of the word reflects the popularity of the tag. The more times a page is bookmarked, the higher the search engine ranking. Similar to Delicious, Digg (Digg, 2013) is a website on which people submit their favorite sites to be viewed by, voted on, and discussed by other users. Again, the more votes the higher the search engine ranking. Making sure to include widgets on websites and blogs for grabbing content to post to new sites and link back to a site, as well as bookmarks and tags for, Delicious, Digg, and other social networking sites, makes it easy for fans of products or companies to submit pages to these sites and improve their popularity and subsequently their search engine rankings.

As mentioned earlier, the web is dynamic and changing content helps to improve SEO. Creating and maintaining a blog is a great way to add new content to a page and increase rankings. Blogs should be updated at least weekly, and should contain varying content related to the business, including general and organic gardening tips, information on health and nutrition, general happenings on the farm, seasonal recipes, and vertical grow systems. The blog should also provide for the ability of visitors to leave comments. This will keep the site interactive and fresh, create followers, encourage community dialogue and interaction, and also enable other users to post links on the site as well as providing a forum for posting links to other sites. The ‘blogosphere’ can be a powerful network, and when combined with social media, videos and articles have the potential to go ‘viral’ or explode in popularity on the Internet in an exponential fashion. This type of networking can create incredible numbers of link backs to a website, again increases rankings.

Since hiring a firm specializing in SEO can be expensive, especially for a start up site, it is best to determine if it is necessary to hire one prior to the initial launch. The truth is, that websites shouldn’t be designed for SEO optimization, but for users. From Google’s own guide for webmasters, we are told to “Create a useful, information-rich website, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content” (Google, 2013). A well designed and well written website should include, but not be limited to dynamic content such as, a blog, sharing of information (e.g. recipes), useful applications or tools (nutrition calculators, perhaps), white papers (vertical gardening made easy), Q&A sections, and user generated content (feedback on CSA, or sharing of recipes). This type of information keeps websites dynamic and keeps the content changing, which also encourages visitors to become followers, instead of only hitting the page once without returning. This will also be discussed further in Social Media Marketing (below).

Since the competition is relatively limited at present, and the market is currently local, the recommendation is to initially use good design principals in the website. The use of keywords in meta tags and design will be employed for SEO. Efforts will be made to encourage traffic through marketing and dynamic content, and analytics will be run to determine ranking and visibility once the site is published. If rankings are low and site traffic is minimal, and shares remain unsold, it may be necessary to hire a firm that specializes in SEO. While the consulting services are a global commodity, the current major product is strictly local, and will be the main focus of the business during startup of the online presence. When the company has sold out it’s CSA shares, and farming is in full production, and the café has been established, emphasis can be placed on selling the technology and consulting services, which may require a broader audience, and which may again require the services of an SEO consulting firm.

A5. Social media integration

In it’s origin, the World Wide Web (web) consisted of static pages connected to each other via hyperlinks. It has since evolved into what is commonly known as Web 2.0, which is an interactive format consisting of user generated and dynamic content. What was once the forte of expert programmers, creating and posting web content is now open to just about any one at any time, and posts are immediately viewable by any person. Marketers must change the way they think about doing business on the web, due to this interconnectedness of a new age of thinkers, enabled by the accessibility and immediacy of Web 2.0. By harnessing the energy of this interactive population, vigorous relationships can be created which in turn promote meaningful and measurable behaviors, both online and offline.

Social networking is possibly the most defining characteristic of Web 2.0. While social media and Web 2.0 are interconnected and similar, they are not the same thing. The technology behind Web 2.0 is the platform for the interactive Web, while social media relies on user generated content and, importantly, human engagement. Social Networking Sites (SNS) are rapidly becoming the dominant way users spend their time on the internet, with a Pew Internet survey (Pew, 2012) showing that in several countries, over half of the adults are using SNS.

Social networking can be used for marketing purposes, but not in the traditional sense. The most important thing to keep in mind is that social media marketing isn’t just about marketing, it’s about socializing. Marketers have realized that people are using SNS to connect with each other, and now understand that SNS can be used as marketing tools. Web 2.0 has enabled a conversational media and people are using SNS to share experiences, stories and pictures, and in order to mount a successful marketing campaign, this interaction needs to be tapped into and exploited. When the Web was launched, it was truly a medium for interchanging information, but has since evolved into not only a platform for exchanging ideas, but also as an integral part of business and the economy. Advertisements have evolved with the Web, having gone from being non-existent at its inception, to becoming mass marketing banner-ads and spam email campaigns, and now marketers are striving to capitalize on niche penetration. In order to accomplish this, marketers need to not only be aware of the differences between traditional marketing (TM) and social media marketing (SMM), but also of the techniques available to successfully achieve their goals.

Perhaps the most significant difference between the two is that TM marketing is considered interruptive marketing, while SMM is considered participation marketing. TM will interrupt with an advertisement, whereas SMM either starts a conversation, or joins one already in progress. While TM forces an ad upon viewers or listeners, SMM requires an element of being social. TM seeks lead generation, by broadcasting an unsolicited, non-tailored message to the largest audience possible, while SMM seeks to nurture a relationship with a community by actively participating in what that community is involved with. This can be viewed as TM shouting a message out loud, while SMM first listens to the community, then joins in the conversation, politely and without being the only one talking.

Typically, when a company had a new product or service, it used TM to push its message onto a captive audience through mass advertising. This methodology too must change, as more and more consumers are embracing options such as prerecorded television, satellite radio and reading their news online rather than in printed media, enabling them in some instances to skip commercials and advertisements altogether, or to ignore them if they appear along the top or sides of a page they are viewing. In contrast, SMM seeks to pull people in with the company’s message. In order to get the message out, marketers may do a search for specific bloggers, contact them with some information, and encourage them to investigate, write about, and post links to their product or company. They may also set up a Facebook page, encourage some of their employees to become fans, and start a viral marketing campaign. Instead of focusing on advertising, like TM, SMM focuses on word of mouth marketing. Rather than giving a message to an audience and controlling that message, SMM allows the community to shape the message. After initiating a conversation SMM stays involved in the conversation, but doesn’t try to dominate it. For example, recently a design contest was held called Virtual Thirst for a new kind of Coca-Cola vending machine that would be built into the virtual world Second Life. By relaxing the strict guidelines for branding, the diversity and quality of the submissions by the fans of this product who were allowed freedom in design were quite impressive to the company officials (Chapman, 2008). It is clear that there are major differences between TM and SMM, but the question still remains, how do companies carry out a successful SMM campaign?

There are many key steps involved in executing a SMM initiative, which may or may not be obvious. The first thing for the marketer to do is to discover what the online presence already is for a particular company or product (Rognerud, 2008; Himmelspach, 2008). This can be done by using a variety of tools. One of them is TweetDeck or Twitter Search to monitor chatter on Twitter. Google alerts may be employed to send email notifications of the latest Google results pertaining to the query or topic of choice, a service which can also be performed by Yotify. Both of these engines will send results from items appearing in news, blogs, web page updates, videos and groups. There are also several engines that focus specifically on blogs, and should be used if less recent data is to be included in search results. Some of the more popular blog search engines are Google Blog Search, Technocrati and Co.mments, which also keeps tabs on new blog comments, allowing one to stay abreast of sway in the community. Boardtracker is an engine that tracks thousands of forums, and can be used to send notifications when the topic of interest is discussed on any of them. Really Simple Syndication feeds, known as RSS feeds, are another way to monitor the buzz on a specific topic. RSS feeds can track frequently updated content such as blogs and news updates, and return information from them as either a summary of content or as full text, depending on the user’s preference (Corlis, 2009).

The next step to undertake is to determine what the marketing goals are. There are several things SMM can do, so it is important to determine the desired marketing goals. SMM can easily increase brand recognition by creating content and spreading it throughout the web. It can also be used to manage reputations, by seeking to improve positive comments and/or decrease negative comments. Search engine rankings can be improved by virtue of the fact that if a company is being discussed on sites with updated content, search engines will crawl over those sites more often and ranking will be improved. The ultimate goal of marketing is to improve sales, and while many authorities will argue that SMM is not the way to go if increased sales are the goal, this idea is still open for debate, several of the side benefits of SMM, do contribute to increased sales.

These next few steps are where the truly social nature of SMM comes into play. After discovering the online presence and determining marketing goals it is time is to invite interested parties to join the conversation and encourage user generated content and interaction. In order to do this, marketers must go to the places where people are already discussing the company or product and invite them to do more talking. Post links to SNS on the company blog, and make sure that there is ample place for user feedback on your company website and a place for product reviews. Use the results of blog searches to let bloggers know that you really enjoyed what they wrote, offer them links to the company’s Facebook page and invite them to become fans and share stories and pictures. Send tweets, and invite the public to view your new product. Let the community know they can find photos and videos of interest on Flickr and YouTube, and that this media can be easily copied to their pages. Adding widgets to a site is a great way to encourage people to grab media and display it on their sites. Pin sites on Pinterest and link them back to your pages and blogs.

Once the conversation has been initiated, it becomes necessary to listen to what the community says about you. Do they like your products, or the information you are sharing, or do they think your products are substandard? Did they have a good shopping experience on your website, or was the site cumbersome? An incredible amount of information can be gained by simply monitoring the buzz on the Internet. The same tools that were used to determine your online presence can be used to monitor it (Frank, 2008). Additionally, once a branded Facebook page has been set up, Facebook Insights can be used to view fans and page view counts, and see if new groups have been formed to discuss the company or product.

Simply getting the conversation initiated and listening in is not enough to keep a buzz going. It is necessary to respond to what people are saying. If one person has negative comments, it is sometimes best to ignore them, but many negative comments can be recognized as a trend, and therefore it is important for the company to acknowledge them and respond. Likewise, if there is a lot of positive feedback, it is critical for the company to realize what it is doing right, and respond to it as well. Blogs and other SNS need to be updated regularly in order to keep the engagement active. Communities need to be kept abreast of company news or produce harvests and made to feel that their input is valuable to the company. It is also necessary to recognize what the community’s goals are and how to meet them. When SM techniques are used rather than TM techniques it is easier for this to be achieved. By not forcing control of the message, relying on word of mouth marketing, and listening to the community, marketers are more likely to enable users to actively participate in ongoing discussions.

SMM provides several benefits for the marketing investment. Perhaps the greatest benefit of SMM is that it allows a conversation to be created about a company or product, and while this may seem trivial, it is actually a cornerstone of branding, which is a key goal in marketing (Stelzner, 2009; Walmsley, 2008). It is the equivalent of having millions of people around the world promoting you for free. The fact that a relationship has been created allows for the natural evolution of a dialogue, and this dialog can be used to enlist an army of advocates, which can provide even more benefits. Also, many of these benefits feed from and off of each other and instead of a linear relationship, they form a circular and synergistic relationship.

While gaining exposure and improving brand recognition is arguably the most significant benefit of SMM, over 61% of respondents to a recent poll indicated that they benefited by having traffic to their websites and subscriptions to opt-in email lists increased (Stelzner, 2009). This adds the benefit of being able to gather information about visitors almost instantaneously which can be used to target email campaigns or tweets to a select group which compromises an interested and connected community (Kahlow, 2009). These communications can be used to direct the community back to the corporate website or online commerce site, thus expanding the campaign beyond the SNS. Customers feel like they are members of a special group and have been invited to view information that may not be as readily available to the general public, and are more likely to review the material and click through an ad to a website, instead of just clicking the delete button.

Another benefit of SMM is that it can result in a rise in search engine rankings. Search engine optimization is a very hot topic in marketing, and while this may not seem an obvious benefit of SMM at first, when the methodology of search engine ranking is examined, the gains resulting from SMM are explained. (See discussion above on SEO optimization)

Increasing consumer trust in a company or product is also a benefit of SMM. A recent Neilsen poll provides information on just how powerful the persuasion of peer review can be: 78% of consumers trust the opinions of peers over all other information sources and advertising (Congdon, 2008). Online consumers are apt to compare several products prior to purchasing, and often the peer reviews and customer ratings play a significant role in their final decision. A friend of mine posted a question on a SNS recently, soliciting opinions on vacuum cleaner brands, and in one day got over 43 responses. Word of mouth and peer reviews are nothing new, but what is new is the introduction of social media into the mix. What was once mentioned to one or perhaps a small group of friends can now be posted via interactive websites and made visible to a larger number of people with nearly instantaneous feedback.

SMM also reduces marketing costs (Gillin, 2009). The most significant cost of TM was paying for the media, whether it was printing costs or airtime. The most significant expense of SMM is time, and if one is setting up a corporate site on some of the SNS, which would be free of ads from that site, sometimes a cost is involved for the setup. Marketers are realizing significant increases in brand recognition, website traffic, rises in search engine rankings and rises in consumer trust levels even when spending as little as 6 hours per week on SMM, and marketers who spend more time gain even greater benefits (Stelzner, 2009). The ability to obtain email lists from subscribers who have opted in, instead of purchasing email lists or air time for broadcast marketing, enables the targeting of a specific audience, greatly reduces marketing costs, and results in responses to campaigns being much higher (Wilson, 2009).

While there are many benefits to SMM, there are also some drawbacks. In a few cases, marketing strategies have backfired. When executives try to run SMM campaigns as if they were running TM campaigns this is the usual result. A fine example of a failed SMM campaign is that of the Wal-Mart blog that was entitled “Wal-Marting across America”. The premise of the blog was that a couple would drive their recreational vehicle across the country, using Wal-Mart parking lots for free overnight stops, which is a practice that Wal-Mart allows. The blog was exceedingly upbeat and ultimately contrary to the perception that most Americans have of Wal-Mart with regard to employee relations, and the blogosphere became understandably suspicious. The blog was exposed as a fake; the couple's trip had been financed by Wal-Mart and engineered by its public relations firm, Edelman, which incidentally, had been involved in writing the ethics guidelines for word of mouth marketing (Gogoi, 2006). Thus, the Web 2.0 term flog, or fake blog, was born, and the reputation of Wal-Mart and Edelman were damaged.

Another disadvantage to SMM is that it requires attention, and this means a time commitment is necessary. In order to maintain high quality connections with the community, SNS need to be maintained and monitored daily and the content needs to be kept fresh, or the conversation will fade. Once again, the tools that were used to determine and monitor the online presence need to be used to keep the conversation going. Marketers need to start by checking Tweetdeck, Google Alerts and RSS feeds, and read all the chatter about the company. Then they must take the time to respond to blog comments and questions on LinkedIn that can be answered by them or others in the company. If videos are posted on YouTube, the Insight feature should be used to gather marketing data. Other tools can be used less frequently, such as sending emails or newsletters to subscription lists detailing new products or special offers. Companies owned by sole proprietors and those just beginning to use SMM as a tool tend to spend less time per week using SNS as a marketing tool, usually 10 or less hours per week. As a company's size increases and as the online presence increases, the time spent online monitoring and maintaining SNS and SMM campaigns grows to between 10 and 20 hours per week (Stelzner 12, 2009).

Once a SMM campaign has been launched and an effort is being put forth to monitor and maintain the conversation, how can success be measured? Metrics used in TM or even from Web 1.0 are of limited value for SMM campaigns (Gillin, 2008). Clickthroughs on banner ads and page views, or the number of times a page was accessed from a server, used to be acceptable metrics for Internet marketing campaigns. The Internet has changed, and users have changed with it, and are less interested in ads that interrupt their socializing. Pages that were once static are now dynamic equating to one page being viewed multiple times without having the same content, so these former metrics are becoming less acceptable for SMM initiatives. While page views are losing favor as a measure of success, they are still useful to measure changes in traffic to a website, and subscriptions to email and RSS feeds can be used to measure customer engagement. Indeed, new formats for advertising require new ways of thinking about metrics. One way of looking at this is that marketers have measured the speed at which the message was gotten out, and are now focusing on how the speed of the message changes over time (Evans, 2008). Instead of interrupting, the marketer should be joining the conversation. Social marketing starts with the marketer listening to what is already being said about their brand or their sector. Google Alerts is a great way to accomplish this. Any time the key word(s) are published on the Internet, the subscriber receives and email alert.

Based upon the above information, the following steps are recommended as a start to SMM.

1) Set Alerts for keywords used in SEO. Use at least the following tools: Google Alerts, Yotify, Technocrati, Boardtracker and TweetDeck. Listen to the chatter and determine sites your targeted marketing group uses most, and what topics they are discussing.

2) Determine SMM goals. What does ABCveggies want to gain from participation in SMM? The following should be considered and ranked in order of importance to the company:

a. Brand recognition – we want everyone in Sarasota to know who ABCveggies is and how we operate our unique farm

b. Sell out of CSA shares – we want nearly all the produce grown to be accounted for before the start of the growing season

c. Increased traffic to warehouse – we want any unsold produce to be bought by members seeking additional items or non members who have heard about us

d. Build customer base for launch of café – future plans involve the launch of a café on site. We want to have customers who know about it before it opens and who are eager to support it.

e. Increase sales of consulting services – We want every flat roof in the world to be a garden. We want community supported agriculture to be the norm. We can’t grow enough food to support the world, but we can help teach others how to do it for themselves.

f. Build community awareness – This will be essential in order to get support at zoning board meetings, where government resistance has hindered progress.

3) Join the following SNS – Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Digg, Stumbleupon, LinkedIn, Google+, and MySpace. Devote one hour per day to monitoring sites and adding content. This could be updating blog on website, posting updates to Facebook, pinning items on Pinterest, sending out Tweets, etc. Only quality publishing – no spamming. New crops planted or coming to harvest, new recipes, specials, seasonal announcements, and other noteworthy information should be added. If there is no news per se, then add content on gardening, organic seed banks, pest control, benefits of rooftop gardens, etc.

4) Listen to the buzz and keep the conversation going. Review comments and replies to blogs, Tweets, posts, etc. Reply to conversations and include comments and questions designed to keep the conversation going. Monitor for negative and positive feedback, and respond appropriately.

Remember – social media marketing is about socializing! Enjoy the party!

A6. Online CRM

Online Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is the practice of maintaining a relationship with customers via the use of technology. CRM can benefit the company by strengthening the relationship between current customers and enhancing the experience for potential customers. Maintaining current customers is critical to business success, as the cost of acquiring new customers is significantly more than obtaining new ones, however, business growth is dependent on new customers, so both groups must be attended to using CRM. Happy customers are repeat customers, and happy customers refer business. Whether the customer is new or current, CRM will be used to ensure that the customer needs are met or exceeded at every opportunity. ABCveggies will use CRM to determine potential problems customers may face and provide solutions to those problems. The website will employ technology to facilitate CRM. This will be considered Operational CRM (forward facing – towards the customer). This area of CRM encompasses what the customer sees and interacts with. Examples of this area of CRM that will be used on the website are membership forms, e-commerce functions, blogs, live chat, instant messaging and areas for customers to leave comments and reviews. With this type of CRM personal interactions with web visitors are enabled, and unbiased feedback can be obtained. Analytical CRM, as the name suggests, will be used to analyze website traffic (the data will be viewed by the webmaster and used to develop further marketing efforts). Browsing and purchasing patterns can be studied used to help predict future behavior. They can also be used to determine where website efforts should be focused. Data collected can also be used to target specific customers who have been segmented based on mined data. The website will use analytical CRM to tailor efforts to anticipate customer needs and increase satisfaction. Another critical type of CRM is collaborative CRM. Collaborative CRM is the process of combining and sharing collected customer data across departments. Data collected can be used to improve the customer experience. For instance, if there is a large number of customers abandoning their shopping cart, it may mean there is an issue with the payment methods. Or, if customers constantly inquire about the availability of a particular item, this information can be fed to production so it can be added to the crop schedule. Collecting data at all channels of the website and sharing it seamlessly across all facets of the company is the key principal behind collaborative CRM. When choosing CRM software, it is suggested to research a few of the top rated brands to determine which product best meets the needs of While most offer the same basic features, there are some that integrate better with other applications, and some that may seem easier to use. Also, take a look at contact management features, sales and marketing tools, and the help and support features offered by each. Pricing also varies – with some products, extra charges might apply for additional levels of support. Figure 3, compiled by TopTenReviews (2103) shows a comparison of several CRM products, and also lists extensive features that were compared. Based on this review, it is suggested that SalesForce, Oncontact, and SageACT! brands be evaluated by before a decision is made to commit to a CRM software package.

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Figure 3. CRM software comparison from (TopTenReview, 2013)

A7. e-commerce solutions

E-commerce software is essential for conducting business efficiently on the internet. Today’s e-commerce solutions, or shopping carts, as they are commonly known, have evolved from merely transacting business to managing all facets of on e-commerce website. When deciding on an e-commerce solution, several parameters should be compared, including, cost, features to aid in website design, back office integration, shopping features, payment options and options for handling tax and shipping, marketing tools, security features and the help and support offered for the product. will launch their website with e-commerce in mind. wants customers to be able to join the CSA and / or to be able to order items for pickup or delivery. Once again, TopTenReviews (2013) does a great job of comparing different e-commerce solutions, as summarized in Figure 4. Based on the reviews, and due to the length of time they have been in business, it is recommended that use Volusion as its e-commerce software. Volusion offers several hundred website templates, easy set up, excellent customer service options, and enhanced security and fraud protection.


A8. International considerations

While produce is perishable, and commerce across state and international boarders is subject to agricultural regulations, the technology and business plan for the rooftop vertical growing system used by ABCveggies is marketable across all regions of the globe. The ultimate goal of the proprietor is to have every flat topped building covered in a veritable garden. While not all climates have year round growing conditions similar to southwest Florida, even Alaska can produce mammoth plants during the growing season that does exist. Additionally, innovators are redirecting heat that would normally be wasted forges in Detroit to enable year round growing in greenhouse setups (Runk, 2010). This means that with innovation, there are endless possibilities for rooftop gardening, no matter what the climate is.

By the very nature of the Internet, the will be visible to on computers around the world. In order to maintain cross-cultural sensitivity, the site will be designed using a neutral, earth tone color scheme and will be thoughtful as to the posting of images (e.g. no images of women with shoulders bare either shopping or working at the farm will be posted). In order to facilitate international commerce, a great feature of Volusion, the recommended e-commerce software, are tools that allow for the site to be viewed in multiple languages, and for any currency to be accepted. When the company starts selling consulting services at the international level, the website will have the technology to accommodate the growth.

A10. projected web development and maintenance costs

In order for a site to be visible on the Internet several things are required. First, one needs a domain name. A domain name is what the web uses to identify individual sites. Once a unique name is selected, a registration fee plus annual renewal fees apply to keep the domain registered. The second requirement for a site is to have an actual website. A website consists of one or more pages that are connected to each other via links and can be represented by a site map. While it was once the forte of highly skilled professionals proficient in HTML, web site design has become accessible to practically anyone who is tech savvy. Most web hosting sites now include free site development tools, as do software packages for e-commerce solutions. As easy as it may be to design and maintain a website, it is not a task that the owner wishes to engage in, therefore the design and maintenance of the site will need to be contracted out to a webmaster. The third parameter required for a website to be live on the web is a hosting service. Websites consist of several files and pages that are housed together on a server. The server returns a web page and it’s associated files in response to a request from a user via their browser, and web hosting services make sure these pages are available from the server without interruption. While web hosting can be done for free on a server in-house, it is not recommended for those without a strong background in information technology, as the server will need to be backed up and will need to be available 24 hours per day. There are several excellent web hosting services available, and cost and features should be considered when deciding which to use. The decision on which web hosting service to choose should be a collaborative decision between the owner and the webmaster. Since the owner will be paying for the service and the webmaster will be using it, it is important that both of their requirements be met by the chosen service.

In order to prepare and estimate cost of developing and maintaining a website, and based on familiarity with the product, the site was used as an example hosting service. While the hosting service starts at $2.99 per month on, it is advised to go with the deluxe hosting package, which includes an SSL Certificate and malware scanning, among other features that the less expensive versions do not. Table 2 contains an estimate of proposed costs, and is broken down by initial set-up costs and annual costs. One of the premises of the table is that while the initial design of the site will be done by a IT professional, monthly maintenance will consist of updates to inventory and SMM and can be done in house by administrative assistant level employees or as part of the work share program, so costs are not as high for maintenance per hour as they are for the initial development. However, we must anticipate there will be some larger changes that the company will need developer assistance with, so that has been budgeted in for one day per quarter. also provides a $50 credit for both Facebook and Bing Ads, which is reflected in the table. Once the site analytics are used to determine which ads are working best, they will be tailored and focused and expanded to include SEO ads as well. The owner does not wish to spend a great deal on advertising and is hoping the daily investment in SMM can create enough buzz in the local area to sell out the CSA shares. Once the company experiences sufficient growth, and is ready to launch the café, and later to expand the consulting and installation services, investment in advertising will again be investigated.

Table 2. Estimated costs to develop and maintain web presence.

|Estimate for Website Development an Maintenance Costs |
|Initial setup costs |
|Domain Name Registration | |$9.99 |
|Site Development |40 hours @ $100 per hour |$4000 |
|Advertising Facebook and Bing Ads |$100 credit |0 |
|Total | |$4009.99 |
|Recurring Annual Costs |
|Domain Name Renewal fee | |$14.99 |
|Hosting fee – Deluxe package |$7.49 per month |$89.88 |
|Site Maintenance |5 hours per week @ $12 x52 |$3120 |
| | | |
| |week | |
|Site Development |8 hours per month @ $100 x4 |$3200 |
|Advertising |$100 per month |$1200 |
|Total | |$7624.87 | References

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Himmelspach, J. (2008). The essentials of social media marketing. Grand Rapids Business Journal (26.52), 4

Kahlow, A. (2009). How social networks can enhance e-mail marketing. B to B (93.13), 27
Neilsen Company. (2009). Global faces and networked places. Neilsen The Neilsen Company. Retrieved from:
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Runk, D. (2010). Companies cater to rooftop gardeners. Retrieved from:

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US Census Bureau. (2013, Mar 17). Sarasota county quickfacts from the US Census Bureau. US Department of Commerce. Retrieved from:

Walmsley, A. (2008). Talk is cheap, but priceless. Marketing (5), 12.

Wilson, M. (2009). Social media makes sense for frugal CMOs.” B to B (94.1), 9.

Figure 2.’s home page.

Figure 4. TopTenReviews (2013). E-commerce software comparison.


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