Plum Village


Plum Village is a monastic and meditation community in Southern France founded by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk.  Their homepage offers many examples of holistic marketing:  


Plum Village uses a few standard practices for communicating clearly in website design. Eye-tracking studies show that readers start at the upper left of a page, then move over to the upper right, then to the left side of the page.  So standard practice is to have the logo on the upper left, the menu across the top, the 'call-to-action' on the upper right, and important information on the left side of the page.  

The first thing you read on the left is a clear statement of who they are.  It's at the top of the homepage ('above the fold'), so you don't have to scroll down. There's a clear call-to-action on the upper right (Donate) of the page, which helps communicate to the reader how they can engage with the community.  The overall feel of the page is simple, clean and peaceful--giving you a sense of who they are and what they value.  

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The next section is a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh that communicates the community's core values. Notice they're not trying to 'sell' anything--they're just talking about what they stand for, and allowing the reader to decide if it resonates with her or not.

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This section anticipates the questions in the reader's mind: Who is Thich Nhat Hanh and What do they do there?  They're showing empathy and understanding for their readers, then answering their questions.  This is part of being problem-solvers: they build trust and credibility by understanding and answering their audience's questions.  They offer themselves as teachers and guides to the reader.

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The next section communicates a few of their offerings.  If the reader is interested in what they practice, then here are a few opportunities to learn more and practice with them at retreats.  

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Articles and news are next: more opportunities to build relationships with their readers by offering content that answers their questions.  This section also helps establish Plum Village as a community of teachers and guides.  The famous Content is king declaration (by Bill Gates) has a holistic aspect to it: high-quality content helps you build relationships, gives you opportunities to listen to and respond to your community, and becomes an outlet for you to express generosity by offering the gifts of knowledge, wisdom, and empowerment.  

Another attractive thing about Plum Village is the community aspect to it: you can feel from their content and photos that this is actually a community of people--not just one person.  You get the sense that they respect, listen to, and appreciate each other.  It also offers social proof that others have enjoyed good experiences with Plum Village, helping the reader picture themselves as a potential member of the community.

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They offer two more options for engagement in the next section: subscribe to their updates or support the community.  Notice how they phrase their sign-up section: Do you want us to keep you posted?  They're interested in building relationships with people--not trying to convince them to buy something.  They want people who are genuinely interested in being part of the community. 


The standard practice for building your email list (and therefore your online community) is to offer a 'lead generator' in exchange for someone's email address.  Ten Ways to Improve Your Meditation Practice would be a typical offering in this case.  They don't do that here, which suggests that this is a different sort of community.  I once sent an email to another meditation community that I'd studied with, wondering if it was a little too difficult to opt-in to their email list--I had to click on eleven different links until I found the right page!  They said that they deliberately want sign-ups to take a few steps, to ensure that they're getting subscribers who genuinely want to be part of the community.  (But they did agree that eleven steps is too long, and made the path a little easier for subsequent subscribers.)

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The footer of the website is sometimes called the 'junk drawer': it's where you post all the extra links so you don't clutter up your main message.  It's important to have a good sense of what are the most important things to your reader and what can be corralled into the junk drawer at the bottom.

I love how Plum Village has structured their website: they provide clear information that's respectful and responsive to their audience; they keep things simple but informative; and they're generous with their teachings.  Nothing about this website feels manipulative or sales-y; they're attracting their community by having a deep sense of who they are and what they have to offer, and they communicate that clearly.