One Dartmoor family business is finding that social media and the internet are increasingly becoming the key battleground for market share in the highly competitive organic meat sector.
Recent graduate Anna Bury is convinced that her organic farmer father, Mark, had a plan in mind when he gently pushed her towards taking a degree in Marketing Management at London's Kingston University.
She said: "I really wanted to do something a bit more hands-on, like training to be a product designer or chiropractor."
But having graduated last June, she is now happily ensconced as head of marketing for the family's multi-award winning organic farming business in Bratton Clovelly on the edge of Dartmoor.
Even then there was almost a last-minute hitch. "I told him I'd never join the business unless we changed our website," she continued. "The old one used to drive me mad."
So it was no surprise to anyone when the new Eversfield Organic site (www.eversfieldorganic.co.uk) went live in October last year, a first labour of love for Anna which she is constantly continuing to build and refine. She has also called on the advice of the Rural Focus service from Peninsula Enterprise, to help maximise business growth through monitoring the website's effectiveness and integrating online marketing with Eversfield's wider activities.
The business that Anna and her brother Hamish are assuming control of first saw the light of day thanks to their father's long-held desire to own and run a small estate in the heart of the country. So just when Mark successfully sold his Surrey-based computer business in 1996, he bought the delightful Eversfield Manor with 200 acres of land. The organic meat he started to produce there rapidly proved popular, and in 2002 he bought more nearby farmland to bring the estate up to today's total of 850 acres.
Today, the family produces and butchers organic beef, lamb and pork on their own acreage and buys in top-quality chickens, turkeys and duck from neighbouring farms.
Even while developing a UK-wide market for their organic meat boxes, Mark, Anna, Hamish and the rest of the team are determined that all non-poultry production will continue to take place exclusively on their farm and are seeking to increase their capacity significantly in the years to come.
As Anna said: "Essentially, the business is half organic, half electronic. It's a competitive world out there for selling organic meat, and the winners will be the ones who get their internet and social networking strategies right."
This is the driving factor behind Anna's desire to upgrade the company website and her decision to attend two free workshops on social media and internet marketing, also provided by the Rural Focus service.
"They were excellent," she said. "Even with my degree, I learned much that was new at both events. For example, I was particularly interested in getting help with factors like search engine optimisation and pay-per-click advertising to boost our hit rate, both of which met all my expectations.
"Most interesting of all, I learned that social media is not a selling tool – it's for communication and getting your point of view across, not for making special offers. Having that kind of knowledge is invaluable."