Better Communication Equals More Profit
Danny Gouge, the marketing manager at Willoway Nurseries in Northeast Ohio, is one of 19 innovative thinkers who attended The Grow Summit in August 2011. In this editorial, Gouge writes that to drive consumer success, growers must revolutionize how they connect with their retail customers and, ultimately, consumers.
January 26, 2012
Everyone is trying to manage costs, inventory, labor and margins and increase turns. Goals like these aren’t unique to our industry. They’re common for all businesses.
The group Greenhouse Grower brought together last year at The Grow Summit shares these goals. Businesses from all areas of greenhouse floriculture were present, and we discussed how we can address the industry’s many concerns.
Consumers were a big part of our discussions. If we can get consumers to have a higher perceived value and a good experience with our products, they’ll pay more. We see other industries that are successful in this approach. So how can we increase margins and the perceived value of our products and services?
Communicate With Consumers
Let’s start by facing the facts: Most consumers today are not avid gardeners. People want their yard to be nice, but they have limited time for research or maintenance. They want a good product, information on how and where to use that product and fast service. We have to keep it simple as they make buying decisions. If consumers have a good experience and we can gain their confidence, they’ll return for future purchases.
Right now, consumers visit the garden center and are largely overwhelmed. So the first step in our revolution is to condense information into short, easy-to-understand messages they can digest. The second step is to offer high-quality plants in prime condition. Third, we must merchandise effectively.
Try placing products together by categories like sun or shade – not in alphabetical order. Consumers do not know plant names, so presenting plants alphabetically simply does
not make sense.
Signage, tags and bench cards must be the instruction manuals for consumers. Signs must direct them and draw attention to the products you want to sell. Again, making the process simple will increase turns, expand profits and give consumers a better chance to be successful.
Communicate With Your Customers
At Willoway Nurseries, we grow more than 2,000 plant varieties. We ship to 27 states in the Midwest. Our customers place spring orders and then take advantage of our location to restock as needed throughout the season. Many of our customers are making buying decisions by the week, so it’s important we keep things simple for them – just as we should for consumers.
I try to condense our 2,000 varieties down to our “wow” plants of the week. Beginning in May, we produce a weekly list of 50 to 75 “wow” plants that are in prime condition for sales that week. We post a dock video to our website and social media channels that actually show how plants look as they’re being loaded onto the dock.
In addition to the videos, we create a monthly eNewsletter that keeps our customers posted on new products and marketing and merchandising ideas. We also provide a plant database online where customers can search for information by name, type or site condition. Customers have 24-hour access to photos and information on the plants we grow, as well as our availability. This system also provides customers the tools to print professional bench cards with their logo and pricing.
The key really is communication – to your customers and to consumers. Our staff meets weekly to review crops, products, services and promotions.
Take advantage of information, too. Collect eMail addresses and produce eNewsletters that tell consumers what’s new with you. Tell them when products will be available for their stores. Train staff on new products so they can answer questions and offer solutions.