Earlier this year we had the opportunity to produce a boiler* video for an up and coming Vermont company. I knew that Vermont Woods Studios’ owner, Peggy Farabaugh, was a sharp cookie the moment I sat down for our first consultation, and through some research I discovered that she was actively using social media, blogs and press releases to gain market share in the crowded online retail sector.
Even so, I almost fell out of my leatherette office chair when the following blog headline showed up in my Google Reader feed: “Vermont Made Furniture To Be On ABC World News”.
It happened. Through consistent, quality blogging and careful attention to search engine optimization, Diane Sawyer’s production team found a post about Peggy’s “Made in America Holiday Shopping Challenge.” ABC World News would be coming to tiny Vernon, Vermont to film a segment for its “Made in America” series.
How did Peggy and her Vermont Woods Studios crew hit this PR home run (more like a walk-off grand slam)?
MONDO: How did your “Made in America Holiday Shopping Challenge” originate?
PEGGY: A staff member, Dennis Shanoff noted that we’d all be spending lots of money soon — on Christmas presents. He floated the idea of buying only American made gifts for the holiday season. If we could do that in the office, would it make a difference? If we brought our friends and neighbors on board with the idea, what kind of an impact could we have? If we reached out further, say to our customers across the country and our community in Vermont, could we grow the project through word of mouth and social media?
At Vermont Woods Studios we’ve always promoted American made furniture. All of our furniture is made here in VT. My passion is forest conservation and in particular, rainforest conservation. The world is losing the rainforest at a rate of 1 football field per second (24/7/365). I wanted to do something about that. I figured if we could partner with craftsmen in VT who make incredibly beautiful wood furniture, we could use their work to draw attention to the question: “Where does your furniture come from?” The answer is that your furniture probably comes from the rainforest. Ancient, old growth forests are being destroyed and illegally clearcut for timber that’s shipped to China and Vietnam and made into cheap furniture that you’re going to buy in big box stores and have to throw out in 5 years. BUT, if we could raise awareness about this and persuade people to pay a little more for American made furniture that’s made from sustainably harvested wood from American forests then we could help save the rainforest.
MONDO: How did you use your blog to spread the idea of this Holiday Shopping Challenge?
PEGGY: I think it’s a matter of truly believing in what you’re saying and doing. We just wrote about it from the heart and followed up with decent research, which we shared with our readers. We came up with this idea in September so our blogs and posts got indexed early and started to come up first in searches. We knew it would be critical to be the first to talk about it.
MONDO: How did you use Facebook to spread the word?
PEGGY: We set up a Facebook Event and sent all our friends a link, asking them to attend. We also sent the link out in our newsletter.
MONDO: Aside from The Challenge, are people visiting vermontwoodsstudios.com as a result of your blog posts showing up in search engine results?
PEGGY: Yes, but not as many as I would like. There’s not an immediate link between reading my blog and buying furniture. It may take many years before a sale happens because someone found the blog — and usually there won’t be a sale at all. I think the blog is more making a contribution, trying to influence people to join your mission and about building trust.
MONDO: What kind of a role do blogging and social media play in your overall marketing strategy?
PEGGY: They give customers a look at who you are. Customers can buy your product or service anywhere. I think they choose you because they trust you and because they like the way you think. You can reveal those things through blogging and social media.
MONDO: What general advice would you give a business that is looking to use a blog as a promotional tool?
PEGGY: I would say, use the blog to share what you’re all about. What’s your passion? Why are you in business? Of course, tell about your products or services too and share knowledge and research about them. But I’m finding that what people really want to get out of blogs and social media is a sense of who you are and what you’re doing to make the world a better place.
MONDO: Thanks for the insight, Peggy. And congrats on the bigtime national exposure.
Visit Vermont Woods Studios online and subscribe to their blog.
*a “boiler” is a summary of a business, boiled down to its essence and presented in a short, web-ready video. Watch Mondo’s production of the Vermont Woods Studios boiler video…