Survival at the forest floor

I had a lovely time at an event run by the Devon Environment Foundation last night, and this morning it is no coincidence I am having an eco-crisis, the more I surround myself with those pouring their love and energy into environmental change, the more it grips me emotionally.

It was very apparent that the radical approach to agriculture and farming at the Apricot Centre on the Dartington Estate has trained enough bright new brains that new ideas and projects are springing up all over the country, a true testament to what a small pot of funding and some very driven and passionate people can achieve.

The small sense of pride at the limited contribution Vu has made to the DEF spurred me on to want to do more.

We have just registered the Positive Nature Network as a CIC with Companies House, perhaps akin to a plant’s growth moving beyond the two leaf stage as the stem begins to emerge.

Its challenge now is the same as our digital challenge for the month, climbing above the canopy for sunlight, gaining visibility.

Getting found online is like the benign yet hostile survival battle of the forest floor, everyone’s positive digital messages trying to flood or strangle their nearby competitors in the battle for growth.

forest floor

Of course, just like those plants trying to survive, it’s not really negotiable for business either, to assume when we open the digital doors that customers will flood to us is optimistic at best.

For the businesses we work with, the task is often helping them grow through better use of their digital tools (web, ads, social, graphics), but the real value we add is helping them to understand their place in the market and how they might evolve into an organisation of purpose and impact (audience, positioning, mission, vision, values).

So, if we have our house in order (and have thrown a bangin’ party) here’s some pointers for gaining visibility, which all come down to one question really, how well do you know your audience?

You may already know the job title of the person you want to speak to, and there may well be multiple personas you serve. Normally a small business owner, perhaps a Sales Manager. But what do you really know about them? 

If you understand their pain points and how you can solve the problem along with where to find them, then you already have as much of a marketing plan as you need to get started.

Who has the need?

What’s their pain point?

What’s your painkiller?

Where are they hanging out?

Explore each of those with post-its, let’s roll with a Digital Marketing based example:

Marketing ManagerLack of lead generationEffective SEO / AdvertisingGoogle the question


This exercise provokes effective thinking for outreach, now we can get creative.

If our Marketing Manager is googling this, then a well written blog entitled “how to generate more leads for your business” may be an idea. Or perhaps a Google Ad pointing to a digital marketing landing page.

When considering your “painkiller” or solution, comparing it to others may help you identify why customers will choose you, these are your USPs. If these resonate with your customer over your competitors and your price is competitive then you win the day. If not, then what needs to change? The price? The solution?

Coming up with a customer focussed solution may lead you to combining several things that haven’t been done before because of *insert logistical/expense challenge here*, this is an innovative space, remember two things: 

  1. Opportunity lurks around the corner of solving problems
  2. New solutions position you outside of competitor comparison, so customers can’t compare price (more on that next month).

Let’s get back to climbing off the jungle floor, there are some basic things that can and should be done, these again will benefit from understanding your audience as every solution requires content, and when we communicate we can turn people on and off.

A well-optimised Google My Business profile adds context to search engines for how credible you are and what you do, and places you on the map. 

Speaking of optimisation, unlike most digital marketing activities that exist offsite, there is one you can do on your website: Search Engine Optimisation. It’s too big a topic for right now, but we’ve got you covered with this guide.

Social media and shopping platforms like Etsy, Folksy and all the other sy’s can hold enough audience within them to sustain a small business. Don’t fall into the trick of joining every possible place and creating content everywhere, back you go to the “where are they hanging out?” question.

At Vu, we toyed with the idea of campaigning the message “You don’t need a website” because we liked the irony of it and wanted to highlight that we take our clients through the thinking process of “buying a thing” to a position of developing their brand. 

It serves to highlight another quick exercise, think about the audience persona/s you have got, ask yourself what an average order looks like, and assign a value to it. 

Now you can think about projections for the year, how many of these can you realistically serve? Then, you have a target. Multiply that by your average sale and you get a turnover target for each persona. 

WhoOrderAvg saleTargetTarget £Budget (5%/10%)
Marketing ManagerNew Website£10k10£100k5/10k


And you can go one further and assign a percentage of that turnover as a marketing budget, if we get 100k of new websites from marketing managers, are we happy to spend 5/10k to do so?

Ultimately, visibility gives you a platform to sell, and anything that does that is valuable, it will either be earned (and likely held by a gatekeeper) or paid and require investment.

The frustration with starting out is that you are the smallest on the forest floor, hoping for a puddle of sunshine from a falling giant or investing your resources to growing tall.

Do you know anyone who may be interested in this project?

Click to share: