Marketing Seeds

Since I started freelancing, I have liked the idea of marketing as “sowing seeds.” One the most lucrative clients I’ve had called me almost exactly one year after I originally contacted him. The same has been true for many of my clients – I contact them, either by phone or email, chat for a few minutes and explain what I do, then hear from them months later. It happened again last week, and I wanted to share the story here, in case anyone reading this feels discouraged or as if their marketing efforts are not paying off.

I am an avid gardener. (Note the use of the word “avid” rather than “accomplished” or “successful.”) Every spring, I spend more money than I should on seeds and plants. Last

The clerk gave me coneflower seeds that day.

The clerk gave me coneflower seeds that day.

spring, I read about a hydroponics store in Chattanooga, and then found out they were having a plant sale. Going to commercial hydroponics stores can help the avid plant lover with choosing the best way to grow their own plants without access to soil. Anyway, I went, bought some seeds, asked a thousand questions and chatted with the clerk. We had a discussion about some professional and commercial hydroponic grow equipment like what’s found on In the course of the conversation, I mentioned being a writer and ended up leaving a couple of cards. “Here are a couple; one for you and one to give away,” is my standard line when giving out my business cards.

The hydroponics store never called, even though I sent a few follow up emails, with high hopes of writing for them. It would be fascinating to research articles that would appeal to customers who grow things without dirt. But, then, last week my phone rang.

The person who contacted me was a prospective customer who is part owner of an aquaponics farm – they maintain fish, filter the water to collect the fish waste, which they use for fertilizer to grow delicious produce in large commercial greenhouses. They need some help marketing. He had gotten my card from the clerk at the hydroponics store, who told him in the course of their conversation, “I’ve been looking for someone to give this card to for awhile.”

I don’t know yet if this farm will become a client. But here are some things that I do know:

  • Writing about farming, food, and agriculture in general is an increasingly interesting niche for me.
  • Pleasant conversation combined with handing out business cards works.
  • It’s an amazing feeling when prospects call me instead of the other way around.

There is one step left in this marketing loop: a thank you note to the clerk at the hydroponics store. Partly, I want to keep my business in his mind, and also I’m genuinely grateful for his referral.

Have you ever gotten results from this sort of “marketing”? It has always been both the slowest way to find business, but also the most profitable way. I’d love to hear what works best for you, or what you find most comfortable when it comes to telling people about your business.

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