You website is the world’s window to your co-op. Whether you are a new startup with 100 members or an established one with 10,000, giving your site a regular once-over can help build traffic and interest in your startup or store. You may have an elaborate site, a simple Facebook page, or both. It doesn’t take a major overhaul on either to keep your site on track. Open your site/s and check for these five things right now!
- It quickly defines who you are what what you are doing. Be sure your site says you are working towards a RETAIL FOOD CO-OP.,Share how a COOPERATIVE business model is different. Tell why this is important for your group and your community. Startup committee members may be too involved with co-op organizing to remember that total strangers may find your site and want to understand just what is going on here. Sharing your vision and process in a clear way is vital.
- It tells people where you are, and how to reach you. This may sound obvious, but here at FCI we look at lots of co-op sites everyday. About one-quarter of them do not show the city and state they are located in. Even more use contact forms and never list an email address, or phone number. Be sure your “contact” area is not just a form, but also lists an email address for people who want to use it. Most startups do not yet have a location, but they have a town, county, state, zip code—something to tell people that they are in Springfield KY, not Springfield MO or FL. At the very least, show an email address and your city and state in your footer or”about” area. Better yet, get a PO Box and share that—it tells people you are a real entity in the community and they can reach out to you.
- Celebrate your ownership numbers. Nothing tells people that you are serious about building this co-op more than showing how your ownership is growing. Prominently showing your numbers, and keeping them current, lets prospective member/owners know that they are important to launching the co-op. It tells future lenders you are proving your ability to grow. This can be a simple text box stating “As of October 31, 2016, we are 321 owners strong.” Or it can be a fancy graphic showing your goal and where you stand this week. Keep the design easy to update.
- Show your co-op status with a .COOP domain. Don’t wait. Do it now. Only available for cooperative businesses, it puts you clearly in the co-op world. It shows you support the cooperative principles. It tells your community that you are community owned. It may even be less expensive than a dot com for you. Many startups shoot for a dot org in the beginning, but that domain is intended for nonprofit 501(c)3 organizations and charities. As a retail food co-op you will be a business working towards making a profit, and usually that profit will either be turned back into the business or shared with the owners. Extremely few co-ops operate on a truly nonprofit model, and they are usually partially supported by a nonprofit or charitable agency. . Check out our blog post 5 Reasons You Should be a coop from the beginning, and reach out to the author of that post to get started.
- Think like a produce manager—Keep It Fresh! Show you are an active group serious about bringing a retail food co-op to your community. Seeing membership numbers that are seven months old or a Facebook page that has not had a post in over a month can turn potential owners away pretty fast. Check your links—clicking on your website link in Facebook and winding up on an Error 404 page will chase people away. Update everything on a regular schedule. Share info and tidbits to keep your audience excited. Make your web presence your best tool for keeping your community informed on your process and progress.
Your website is THE best way to get the word out as you grow! For more ideas check out the resources on our website and webinar series for marketing, membership, and branding.