The Dunham Barn is a Unique award winning dining destination at a stunning rural location.
A short drive / walk outside of Altrincham, being a destination business presents opportunities and challenges
We chat to Amy at The Dunham Barn about marketing a business like this.
Q:The Dunham Barn- do you want to tell us your story of where you’re based and how you’ve changed the business in the last few years
We are based in a beautiful part of Cheshire called Dunham Massey and I’m extremely lucky to have called it home since 1999.
Dunham Barn is situated right in the heart of the village in the most picturesque and peaceful location on the doorstep of Dunham Park.
As our local town of Altrincham is only a 5 minute car journey away, we have it all , town close by, but looking out at green countryside all day !!!!!
The business prior to me was in need of updating, refreshing and modernising, which we had plans to do but then in 2020 a double whammy hit us, family disaster and COVID.
To be honest I didn’t feel like carrying on and I sat and cried most days.
Left with no choice, and with the support of a few really good friends, my husband and I took the opportunity of being closed, to have the time and space to sit and think and then create what we have achieved so far. Which is a welcoming, rustic, cosy atmosphere outdoors indoors kind of vibe.
We also have an amazing outdoor green space that we wanted everyone to be able to come and enjoy.
We wanted it to reflect us and what we are passionate about, which is the outdoors, nature, fantastic simple wholesome food and to be able to welcome people to a space away from city life even if its only for an hour to reconnect.
We boast a menu that is simple, fresh, made in house using organic produce wherever possible and always supporting local independent businesses.
We also strive to help the local and wider community which is one of our longer term goals and have started hosting a variety of events making the most of our indoor and outdoor areas for families to come and explore what we and the area has to offer.
Q: We start all our interviews with this question. When we’re training businesses on social media we aim to improve their social media in the following areas. Understanding Of Platform; Follower Growth; Idea Generation; Quality Of Content; Consistency / Frequency; Engagement; Analytics; Sales. Which would you say you’re strongest on? And which would you say you’re weakest on and why?
I had very little knowledge of business in any area, let alone social media, so I tentatively reached out to you and then attended one of your courses.
Back in 2020 I would of said all of the above weakest and none strongest. Now I would say My strongest point is consistency / frequency. It is something that I have factored into my working day/week now as a given, as we need to be seen to survive.
It was hard at first and felt quite alien and a bit like I was doing too much but I think I’ve got to grips with it now.
Weakest has to be engagement I still really struggle with this area. I try to engage and always respond.
To be honest I am learning all the time with all of the above areas, so I feel another training session coming on !!!!!
Q: So The Dunham Barn is a destination business. You’re not in the town centre, you have to travel to it, you have to know it’s there. What challenges does this present when marketing a business?
The challenges are real !!!
Some examples : “but its in the country”; “its too far away”; “its muddy”.
I think people often are unsure or don’t feel its for them visiting the countryside.
I think COVID certainly changed a lot of peoples views and we are also trying to change opinions by showcasing what Dunham as a destination and the Dunham barn has to offer.
I had to think outside the box in the beginning with marketing, and to let people know about our existence.
I went old fashioned and invested in signs as I felt at the time this was best option for us.
We are on a route that a lot of people travelling to and from Altrincham and 1000’s of visitors to Dunham Park, so we put boards everywhere to literally point people in our direction.
Q: How do customers find about you and what is your most popular marketing channel? When did you start to realise that social media was the channel to market your business? And what was the biggest shift when taking it seriously?
We have a website, use insta and facebook, that’s honestly all I can cope with at the moment.
As with most small businesses I am everything!!!!
This will change as the business develops over the coming months, as I feel we will start to loose quality in certain areas if I continue with doing it all.
I do feel its been necessary to be just me, as its given me the chance to develop the business as we want and keep total control over our visions.
I felt pretty much in the first year I needed to reach a wider, bigger audience so I gave it a go,, then lost confidence so I reached out to Alex and that’s when he made me take it all seriously.
Q: Where is the furthest someone has travelled from to try out the Dunham Barn?
Ancoats Manchester,,,, We have a guy who WALKS from Ancoats to have our Garlic mushrooms on Sourdough toast and a Dunham Massey brewery Craft Ale. He says its better than Albert Schloss !!!
Q: I know there’s a real sense of community in Dunham offline. Does that community translate online or are you one of small number of business online in the area?
I am passionate about helping others and I always promote others businesses in our area or use their products in the barn.
I feel that it does translate a little online, but a lot of the other businesses in the area are mostly farmers who have just diversified and don’t have the time or the understanding to use social media as a tool to help develop their business.
This is a real shame as I feel Dunham is often over looked partly by this lack of moving forward into the 21st century.
Q: One of your big offerings is food. It’s probably one of the most competitive industries to work in and people buy with their eyes. How do you ensure the quality of photos and videos is high and represents you?
And don’t I know it !!!!!!!
In the early days I invested in professional food images with the help of one of our amazing suppliers Lovingly Artisan who I feel now are more like friends.
This was money well spent as they are timeless and captured what we were trying to create back at the start.
I also,on Alex’s instruction added my own content to keep it real.
Q: The Seasonal Marketing such as Valentines, Easter, School Holidays, Christmas etc. Do you want to talk us through how long you spend marketing events like this to give other businesses an idea of the work needed?
This has been a real hard lesson learnt, as some events I was way too early like 5 months in advance and people had forgotten and others way too late like 2/3 weeks in advance and people had made other plans.
I am still trying to figure out whats best but what I am learning is that I really need to research and plan more ahead for the year rather than month by month or week by week.
I feel we have our seasonal events set in stone now as in the early days we were really just making it up as we went along, so planning and scheduling is something I need to get to grips with this year to keep being successful.
Q: Consistency on social media. How do keep up with posting all year round?
Its tough as its only me at the moment. Now I have had to organise my days so as I take enough pictures while i’m at work, then use them later to create content.
I have also just started using scheduled posts which is helping massively as consistency and coming up with new content is very time consuming.
Q: Networking and engagement on social media – how much time do you spend each week talking to other people on social media?
I am quite active on socials as I love looking at other similar business content, but for our social media The Dunham Barn I would say around 1 hour a day chatting commenting and replying to customers and suppliers.
Q: How do you encourage customer reviews?
We try to always ask customers who have just visited us to leave a review and by always giving amazing customer service, amazing food and keep an amazing location!!!!
The staff always try their hardest in all these areas every day, so the reviews have just happened to be honest.
Q: What is your biggest social media marketing success story?
Our Christmas event has doubled in size since we started back in 2020.
We sell out on multiple dates and we also took a massive risk last year and bought a synthetic ice skating rink.
This turned out to be a massive success and was a lovely addition to the Santa’s grotto.
We get the most views and engagement from this event, and is a real boost for us over what used to be a really quiet time of year.
Q: What is your biggest social media marketing failure? And what did you learn from it?
Advertising the skating rink incorrectly.
I’ve learnt you need to cover all angles and people DO NOT think like you so make sure you explain your product in a simple and honest way.
I don’t want to sound harsh but everyone is running at 100 miles an hour these days so they don’t seem to read things properly and then blame you when its not what they expected.
Q: If you started your business again would you have anything different with your social media marketing?
I would go straight to you for advice!!!!!! Rather than asking a million other people and some days getting it right some days getting is sooooo wrong.
Q:You’ve been on our social media courses and follow our content. What’s your biggest social media marketing lesson from Altrincham HQ?
Biggest lesson – Being consistent
And I know this is only a tiny element to the bigger picture, there is so much more I could be doing in all areas, but as this whole business development has been a massive learning curve for me.
I am taking it slow and steady and to be honest enjoying every minute, well maybe not every minute, most minutes!!!!!
*** FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE DUNHAM BARN HERE ***
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