As a retailer, social media is one of the great marketing tools of the 21st century. It’s a comparatively low-cost option that lets you connect with customers. Grower operations, however, are often invisible to the consumers purchasing their plants, so one of the big draws of social media – building a relationship with the customer – doesn’t easily apply.
One grower that seems to have figured it out, however, is Bell Nursery. Its team – including CEO Gary Mangum himself – uses Facebook as a marketing tool. The goal is not to promote Bell Nursery to consumers, but to drive people to where its plants are. Bell’s Facebook page constantly highlights all the exciting new plants and happy shoppers at the grower’s sole retail customer, The Home Depot.
“We wanted to create a connection with potential and existing customers that shop The Home Depot garden stores and garden centers,” says Brett Guthrie, Bell Nursery Vice President of Sales and Sourcing. “In the stores we serve, the most popular questions have always been, ‘What’s new? What’s coming next week? Are there any special values we shouldn’t miss?’ Our social media presence is focused on helping those that like us and their friends get that information on a regular basis.”
Bell Nursery maintains merchandising teams in its Home Depot locations, and the staff from North Carolina up to Pennsylvania and Ohio use Facebook to see what other Bell stores are doing.
“One division will see something displayed on Facebook and contact Gary and say, ‘Are we getting that? I could really use that to drive sales,’” Guthrie says.
Pull-Through Marketing Makes Customers Want To Buy Plants
Posts are typically made daily by a team of three. “Gary Mangum takes a lot of photos himself. Both he and marketing professionals on staff communicate related to direction and create the postings,” Guthrie says. “Photos come in from the garden centers, greenhouses, and distribution teams regularly, so there is always more than enough subject matter.”
Though it’s notoriously difficult to measure return in terms of dollars generated by social media, Guthrie is convinced there is a payoff.
“I think we have been able to influence purchases. We know that families love being part of our ‘action photos’ at the checkout line and seeing their images posted by the time they unwind that evening. We know the younger ‘could be’ gardeners will be more influenced by social media and relevant information than any generation before,” he says. “It’s not quantifiable dollars that we’re getting from driving people into the stores, but we do have customers saying, ‘Where is this plant? I saw on Facebook it was coming in.’”