Since its launch three years ago, the livestock marketing web platform, The Herd Online, has grown from strength to strength, thanks to the persistence and passion of its creator, Sam Levett.
As a former buyer for Landmark Global (now Landmark International) procuring cattle for export to Russia, Mr Levett was continually surprised at how difficult it was to access updated information on livestock sales and numbers offered.
"I spent a lot of time looking at lines of cattle in Vic, SA and NSW and found it difficult to find updated sale information, particularly when there can be an average of four to five updates for many sales," he said.
"I found it amazing that we weren't able to convert this into online communication which could be continually updated and accessed."
Working closely with a team of technology experts, Mr Levett developed his idea for a simple online solution for marketing livestock.
After more than a year of trial and error, he launched the innovative platform in January 2016 to coincide with the Victorian weaner sales series.
"Initially I ran it as a free space, working closely with livestock agents to get as much feedback as possible.
"I knew if a buyer or livestock agent jumped on the platform and it was easy to use and the information was continually updated, they would keep coming back, so that's all I focused on."
Being committed, responsive and having a good understanding of what information is required by the buyer and the seller has made The Herd Online work.
According to Mr Levett, The Herd Online is a simple concept with livestock agencies paying a minimal fee to advertise their up and coming sales.
Buyers can then access the information free of charge, either via a computer or by downloading the The Herd Online app onto a phone or tablet, which provides quick and direct access to the latest sales information.
Livestock agents are also able to link AuctionsPlus sale listings through to The Herd Online platform as well, further expanding the buyer base. This link is activated when loading information onto the AuctionsPlus system.
"In the early days, with a small marketing budget, the idea was to ring as many agents as possible, " he said.
"Generally they were not that excited to talk to me about online advertising, but eventually my phone started to ring."
Growing up on a property near Euroa, Vic, Mr Levett spent time working as a chopper pilot in the NT before becoming a cattle buyer.
He believes his practical experience in the beef industry as well as access to an established network of livestock agents has been a huge benefit.
In the next 12 months the platform will advertise 450 saleyard auctions, it has recently hit 124,000 page views per month and is averaging about 4500 buyers each month.
"Being committed, responsive and having a good understanding of what information is required by the buyer and the seller has made The Herd Online work.
"The Herd Online gives livestock agents greater exposure and allows them to get their information out quickly to a very broad group of potential buyers right across the country.
"This is very important considering the inconsistent seasons throughout Australia at the moment."
With The Herd Online now an established part of livestock marketing in Vic, SA and NSW, Mr Levett is focused on expanding its reach to other areas of Australia.
"It has grown from the Western Districts of Vic, into north-east Vic as well as Gippsland, then into southern and northern NSW and the South-East of SA, but there's still plenty of further potential in all regions."
Another exciting part of The Herd Online's evolution includes the development of an updated sale platform which will be rolled out in the coming months.
"We are in the middle of updating the technology and adding some very new capabilities to the website platform which will improve the current offering for both buyers and sellers," he said.
"The big focus now is connecting buyers and sellers and ensuring the technology is as practical as possible for our clients."
Previously The Herd Online listed machinery and clearing sales as well, but the new platform will focus on the livestock sector, including paddock sales, AuctionsPlus, saleyard information and market reports.
"We are really good at livestock and that's what we are known for.
"I may consider re-introducing the machinery component down the track but the big priority is building on our livestock business and know-how.
"Moving forward I would challenge individuals in the industry to think about online marketing and how effective it is.
"Five years ago I certainly didn't give online much thought, but it has amazed me through this process how powerful The Herd Online platform is in delivering sales results or awareness of upcoming sales."
Mr Levett has also taken on three experienced business partners in a private equity venture.
"They all have specific skills in business, online technology and marketing and will play an advisory role in the business which will hugely benefit The Herd Online's expansion and provide me with sound advice and direction.
"I am also really pleased we now have a Brisbane-based technology team so all our work on the new platform is now managed locally."