How a tree-growing business went online and grew their audience reach
Robert and I run Cullen Nurseries. We’re a family business based in Hacketstown, Co.Carlow. Robert has always been interested in horticulture. Robert has always been interested in horticulture. His father worked in forestry too, so it’s always been a family passion. We specialise in growing native Irish trees and hedges - with an emphasis on biodiversity.
Our customers span the farming and equestrian sectors, as well as domestic and community groups. You need to plan well with this business as what we plant in the ground, we don’t lift for three years, so we’re always ahead of ourselves.
I joined Robert in the business later in 2019. We started off with just 3 acres and now we have 19. I came on board during Covid, when our capacity to sell trees obviously was impacted with the lockdown. With the help of a Local Enterprise Office trading online voucher, we set up an e-commerce website, and now offer nationwide delivery. This has enabled us to reach customers beyond Leinster, delivering trees from Carlingford to the Sheepshead peninsula. About 30% of our sales now come from the site versus a phone order. And 50% of those people have found us through a Google search. People will often do their research online, then call us. Selling trees and plants is a very tactile experience - people like to see and touch what they are buying. So the website is very important and gives us credibility. Also Google reviews are massively important, as having good customer experiences means that it really influences other people to purchase from you too.
Going online has also helped us reach different audiences - not just from further afield. We’ve diversified so now it’s not just farmers, but homeowners who’ll shop on our site. Google Maps helps customers find our business. And digital tools help us see what’s selling - which helps us plan for future planting. At the minute I can see from Google Search insights that we’re ranking number one for mature laurel. And that is borne out, as we’re flat out taking calling and enquiries about that particular plant.
Social media is important too, as a consumer and a business person. We want to use video content better so that we can put up how to plant tree videos on YouTube. Create more content for our customers that’s helpful to them.
We’ve a busy family life with three young boys. So it’s important to maintain a good work/life balance.
I really want to build a business that will support the lifestyle of a working parent, and ultimately can trade in my absence. Digital can help us do that.
Caitriona & Robert Cullen