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Digital Marketing

I built a bird table and the birds didn’t come (bear with me on this one)

Gareth Cartman

I built a bird table in my back garden, and the birds didn’t come. Why? Because I didn’t put any food on it. Silly me.

So, I put some food on it. But still, the birds didn’t come.

So, I created an advert with a picture of a happy, smiling bird saying “Come to Gareth’s bird table, it’s the best darned food in West Reading.” I placed the advert in strategic positions around my garden, hoping for maximum exposure among the bird community.

Still, the birds didn’t come. Of course, birds can’t read.

They were all next door, eating from a table that they’d always eaten from for years. It wasn’t that the table was much better than mine. If anything, my table was built in a more modern style, with more room for birds to sit and eat. I’d used a better quality wood, I’d used colours that – apparently – birds like. What was I doing wrong?

Perhaps it was the food, I thought. So I made the best bird food in the world. I cooked it myself, this time – none of this ‘out of the box’ rubbish. Proper organic bird seed, hand-picked and selected by moi.

One bird came.

He must have tweeted about it, because a few other birds came and had a nibble. Word seemed to be getting around.

Still, I had expected more birds, not just a trickle.

So, I took some of my organic, hand-picked bird seed mix and I put it around the garden, in positions where birds usually go. For example, I knew that a particularly popular Robin lived in the ivy at the back of the vegetable plot. Surely he’d like a bit of this lovely bird food, and then he’d go tell his mates.

Then, I went next door and I spoke to my neighbour. I said “would your birds like some of my lovely organic, hand-picked bird seed mix? I made it myself.”

He was delighted. I gave him a handful, and the birds lapped it up.

The next day, word had obviously got around that the best food in the neighbour hood could be found in my back garden, as there was a queue at my table. I had to provide more food just to keep them happy, and every now and again, I’d improve the recipe – test it out – see what the reaction was, and before long, my table was the most popular bird table in West Reading.


Now, think about the story in terms of Google’s famous quote “build it, and they will come”. This is quite obviously a load of tosh. Build it, and they will not come. Create brilliant content for your website, and they will not come. There’s so much brilliant content out there on the web, that simply providing a brilliant website with brilliant content is not enough.

Build it and they will come, indeed. No, you have to work at it. You have to get out there and find communities who would be interested in your website, and prove to them it’s worth visiting. You have to understand them (remember, birds can’t read, not a great strategy for reaching out to my audience). You have to find influencers (such as the Robin in the ivy, he’s very popular in the bird community). And you have to influence them to influence others.

What’s more, you have to take what you’ve got and continually improve it – provide more of the same, and better. Understand what’s not working, and what you can do to improve it.

Owning a website is hard work. Owning a static website is even harder work. Whether you’re building a bird table or a website, it’s one and the same thing – you understand your audience, you make something they will like, you make it unique, you get out there and work hard at finding those people, and you work on making it better, all the time.

I didn’t really make a bird table, but if I were to do so, I’d probably use this strategy.

And finally, I apologise for the tweeting joke. That was a step too far.