Confession of a grow-op junkie

Kerry Knudsen
Kerry Knudsen

I didn’t intend it to go like this. It started this time last year. I was doing some research on a rare, Peruvian chili pepper, the lemon drop, to be precise. I discovered its days to harvest are too many for Canada without assistance, and I discovered it needs bottom heat to germinate. That led to a T5 artificial light set-up to start the seeds early, as well as to extend the harvest from October into January.

Unfortunately, it was a huge success, since that has now led to a 1,000-watt, high-pressure sodium (HPS) light, more flats and seed sources from around the world. I have always thought the worst thing for a gambler would be a big win at the gaming tables. The lemon drops confirm that.

It is that time of year, again. This time, I am in pursuit of the aji pineapple – a lemon-drop look-alike, but it smells, they say, of pineapple. Since I had success last year, I returned for my search resources to Google and Bing. Unlike last year, this year all my searches started out with paid responses from a bunch of U.S. and Canadian seed companies that were promising aji pineapple seeds or Noah’s Ark Turkey Map (go figure). They saw me coming.

Folks, I already knew those companies, with the possible exception of Noah’s Ark, did not have aji pineapple seeds. If they had, I would simply have added them in my regular, annual order.

In fact, the entire internet has gone the way it has been predicted. If you searched over Christmas for an on-line gift, you already know the little, boutique-type places have been pushed to page 800,000 or later by paid search, by programs that relegate little, boutique-type places to oblivion or by diligent key-word-makers, paid out of the budgets of small, boutique-type places as “marketing.”

The problem with key-word-makers is that the universe of keywords will expand to consume whatever budget is set, and then, like Chinese carry-out, leave you feeling uncomfortable and short of your goal.

However, rather than throw our hands up in despair, as if the internet has beaten us once again, it is worth going back to the seed companies. Obviously, even a medium-sized catalog business can find the budget to force its name to the top.

Importantly, the vast majority of Canadian shops in our sector are little, boutique-type places. As such, we are ripe for getting elbowed out of the way by keyworders, programmers and oblivion relegators. But let’s face it, being elbowed into oblivion is the wrong way to go.

Since every Canadian shop I know of has said its marketing budget is stretched to the max, and since the associations are looking for something constructive to do, it seems there is a marriage to be made.

Before we go there, however, let’s look at the idea of the internet as marketing. Everybody says the internet is marketing, but is it? Most of the folks I talk to say their internet presence is pretty much their website. However, it also seems none of them actually market much on their sites. Each site provides an About page. It often has a Careers page. It has a Contact page. And it often has a Products page.

If you step back and look at that, it seems people come to your website to look for a job, to sell you something, to talk to somebody or to buy. Rather than a marketing program, it functions more as a virtual front door. It is not marketing, at all, but infrastructure. It has a front door, a receptionist, a couple photos on the wall and maybe a mission statement and company directory.

If we took that concept – internet as front door – through an association budget, we as a group could hire a professional, buy a program and retain a keyworder and a relegator to put together the infrastructure to lead searchers to association members, even if the searcher is in Botswana. After all, if a Canadian seed company is willing to review an exotic, Peruvian order, why not us?

I admit I have been a long-time detractor of the internet, and that won’t stop. However, if you go back and check, I have always allowed that the internet does two things well: archive and search, and market research is actually a function of marketing.

Since search is one thing the internet does well, what are you waiting for? If it’s too expensive for one company, it may not be too expensive for 40.

Dave Grulke, executive director of the Cabinet Makers Association in the States, has asked for Wood Industry’s help in their current 2014 Benchmark Study. All sizes of wood industry companies, from one-person operations to shops with hundreds of employees, are encouraged to take this year’s survey. “To sweeten the pot,” Grulke says, “we’ve added a prize drawing, including a new stationary woodworking machine, portable power tools and gift cards.”

Survey respondents will be the first to receive copies of the 2014 CMA Benchmark Study Report. Here is a direct link to the survey:


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