5 Essentials for Your Co-op Website

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!

  1. 5-website-essentialsIt 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Cfancyelebrate 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.
  4. 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.
  5. silverton-membersThink 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

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5 Reasons Your Domain Should Be .coop from the beginning

Thomas Bowen loves startup co-ops. True, he loves all co-ops, but the energy and enthusiasm of startup groups brings a big smile to his face.

Thomas is the director of member relations for National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA, and wants to see every new retail food co-op succeed as part of the greater cooperative community. Contact him at tbowen@ncba.coop to share your story, and see how a .coop domain makes sense for your future co-op.

In his words, here are 5 reasons your co-op should be using a .coop domain:

In the beginning . . . your co-op should be a .coop because:

5 reasons1—There are coops. There are also co-ops. Coops are for chickens. Co-ops are for members. Imagine the conversation and educational opportunities you have when giving people your website or email address. Principle 5 of the 7 cooperative principles is about education and information. Inform people who you are and what your store will be with your .coop domain. Tell them how different you are from the other places that may sell similar products.

2.coop domains are unique. They are ONLY available to verified cooperative businesses. Cooperatives are unique businesses–why be lumped into all the coms, nets and orgs of the world. Show your pride and uniqueness! You work hard to show your difference–flaunt it. Plus, the process of verification shows trust and value. You can become a trusted resource for members. You know that group that sells similar products? They can’t have a .coop domain and how many consumers trust them?

3—With your .coop, you get a free gift. They ran out of toasters, so instead you get use of the Cooperative Marque–a unique identifier that is a trust mark for you members and customers. This marque is used exclusively by cooperative business around the world. Yes, your “little co-op” now has international appeal and is in good company. That other place . . . no Marque for you! But wait, there’s more. Act now and you can get your first year of a .coop domain FREE.free

4—Sure, it is a little bit more expensive than the other domain alternatives–but this is about your brand and what makes you different from XYZ Grocer. It is a marketing expense. Ask yourself how much marketing you will get for the cost of a .coop domain? (I’ll tell you, not much.) Then what kind of marketing do you want for the cost of another domain type? (I’ll tell you, not much.)

5—If you are thinking you will add the .coop when you open the cooperative, we will say sure, you can do that–but why? Why go about changing your marketing material ($)? Why go about retraining the staff and members? Why worry about forwarding and redirecting emails and web pages and hope that it works when you change? Have no fear, already have your “other domain” (no judgment from me–none)? We can help make redirecting your .com, .org. or .net. This could be one of the easiest decisions you have to make in starting a cooperative, well, except having FCI help you with the startup process.

Why FCI likes this: It is easy for startup groups to think of themselves as volunteer or non-profit type organizations that are struggling to start a cooperative grocery store. But, just as with any startup business in any field, you are starting a real business! You are starting a retail grocery store that, in a few years, could easily be handing a sales volume of over a million dollars. You do not want your members and community come to think of you as that little .org group that wants a co-op. You want them to believe in the goal—a new retail food co-op in your community that welcomes everyone to shop. Every effort you make to show that you are serious about your goal can help move you ahead. Thomas makes a great point with number five—it is expensive to change all your marketing and such later. (Also, when you are ready to hire a general manager, NCBA is the best place to post your job listing and reach a great set of talent.)