Mutual Marketing

Mutual Marketing

Putting together a cooperative marketing message for the floriculture industry as a whole has proven to be a challenge over the years. But taken in smaller bites, growers and retailers have seen some real gains by working together on local, regional, and even statewide projects. Here’s a quick look at three new group projects that have been successful so far in 2009.

Local: Passport 2 Plants

Gilson Gardens, Martin’s Nursery, Middle Ridge Gardens and Sabo’s Woodside Nursery & Garden Center are friendly competitors. When a customer shows up looking for a special plant that one of the businesses doesn’t offer, the staff is quick to send them to one of the others that can help. “I don’t look at them as competitors,” says Sabo’s owner Brian Sabo. “I think of them as colleagues.”

In fact, these four Northeast Ohio businesses took that cooperative relationship to the next level this spring, launching a group marketing effort, Passport 2 Plants. The Passport 2 Plants program promoted attendance at all four businesses the weekend following Memorial Day. Customers received a sticker on a “passport” at each stop. Anyone getting all four stickers during the weekend could exchange their passport for a 20 percent discount coupon on a $25 purchase at each retailer, and a chance in a drawing for a $400 gift certificate. As a bonus, anyone who redeems their coupons during the slower months in June or July is eligible for another gift certificate drawing in August.

The results, says Sabo’s garden center manager Cathee Thomas, were even better than expected. “We had 200 people visit all four garden centers that weekend. I want those names for my mailing list. Those are dedicated people,” she says.

The chance for a $400 shopping spree was enticing to customers, obviously, but the prospect of a 20 percent discount was just as important–both for the customers and the retailers. “They make sure they spend that $25,” Thomas says. “They’ll say, ‘Oh, I need to spend $2 more to get the discount? Let me buy these $8 gloves.'”

Those incremental dollars were important for the weekend’s sales, of course, but the bigger benefit for each of the grower-retailers is the potential for bringing back those new customers again and again.

“All four of us had a lot of new people coming in that we hadn’t seen before, which is what we were trying to achieve,” Thomas says. “We were thrilled.”

Regional: Maumee Valley Growers

Considering four small growers were able to entice 200 customers with a collaborative marketing idea, it’s no surprise a bigger group can do even better.

That was the experience for a branding program orchestrated by the Maumee Valley Growers (MVG), a collection of 70 or so Northwest Ohio grower-retailers. The group was founded on the premise people participating in similar businesses can gain far more from working collectively than they can individually.

“We’re proving that to be true,” says Joe Perlaky, program manager for the Maumee Valley Growers. ” We’re able to pool our resources to essentially make 1 + 1 = 3.” And a great example, he says, is the branding program the group launched this spring.

The MVG got 12 of its member growers to invest in a large newspaper ad that ran twice in the Toledo Blade. The ad promoted the staycation concept and featured smaller, business card-sized ads for each of the participating growers, along with a coupon for $5 off a $25 purchase. Results exceeded expectations by a long shot.

“We went in thinking 40 or 50 returns per grower would have been fine, and that was the minimum,” Perlaky says. “Over a 10-day period we had rates ranging from 42 coupons for one grower all the way to 780 for another–3,500 total.”

But even more important, especially considering the significant cost of the ads, the average ticket price was up as well. “Some people were coming in and spending $250 on a $5 coupon. The average was $40 to $45, and we were delighted with that number,” Perlaky says.

And coupon redemption isn’t everything. Just being visible has merit too, he adds. Which is exactly what this collective branding effort did for the participating growers, as well as MVG as a group.

“Working together has provided some great opportunities for our growers,” Perlaky says. “I would encourage everyone to do it.”

Statewide: The Connecticut Garden & Landscape Trail

Money-saving offers are one way to drive traffic, but sometimes an experience is all it takes to pull people in. That was the thinking behind another new program this spring, the Connecticut Garden & Landscape Trail. This joint project of the Connecticut Greenhouse Growers Association and the Connecticut Nursery and Landscape Association is a public-private partnership. Its goals are to highlight the role of floriculture in the state and bring attention to growers and garden retailers. The groups combined their own resources with a $30,000 USDA grant to create a guide encouraging consumers to visit 72 of the state’s greenhouses, garden centers, and nurseries.

“A lot of our facilities are beautiful unto themselves. There are probably thousands of people out there for whom going from garden center to garden center or greenhouse to greenhouse is as much fun as going to a theme park,” says Bob Heffernan, executive director of the Connecticut Greenhouse Growers Association. The hope is that many of the visitors also will open their wallets and take home a few of the plants they’ve seen.

The program launched in February with a slick 48-page brochure showcasing the many beautiful stops up and down the Garden & Landscape Trail. Growers and retailers paid for listings or display ads, and each business invested in signage to alert visitors it was a stop on the Trail. Phase two of the program placed 16,000 of the brochures at 250 hotel and visitor attractions around the state to keep traffic flowing throughout the summer.

Since the program isn’t tied to a coupon, Heffernan says it’s hard to get a read on the results of the Trail so far. But he has anecdotal evidence that’s encouraging.

“The other day, a guy from New Britain came up to me and said, ‘You know, I was on your Trail last week and my wife spent $100 at one of your stops.’ That’s exactly what we’re hoping for,” he says.

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
Heating Roundup Feature Image

August 1, 2015

5 New Heating Options For The Greenhouse

Five heating systems manufacturers share their latest and greatest products. Tubing And Aluminum Heat Pipes (BioTherm) From Megatube and MicroClimate tubing to DuoFin and StarFin aluminum heat pipe, BioTherm is dedicated to providing heat solutions that can withstand the toughest greenhouse environments. The MegaTube and MicroClimate tubing options are easy to install and ideal for bench or floor heating. The tubing has a conductive heating surface that allows for maximum root-zone heating. The DuoFin and StarFin aluminum pipe options are great for perimeter heating and melting snow trapped in the greenhouse gutter. It can also be useful for bench heating. Both pipe options provide gentle, radiant heat for plants and don’t require welding. Infinite Energy 2 Condensing Boiler (Delta T Solutions) With up to 98 percent efficiency, the IE2 condensing boiler boasts a stainless steel heat exchanger with larger waterways to ensure maximum heat transfer. The product’s design ensures flexibility while […]

Read More

July 31, 2015

All-America Selections Promotes Garden-Fresh Cooking

All-America Selections (AAS) has stepped forward with another first when promoting AAS Winners, this time in the form of cooking videos using vegetables/edibles that have performed extremely well in the AAS Trials. These days, a love of gardening is directly related to a passion for cooking. Tying the two together is a natural when marketing joys of cooking with fresh vegetables from the garden and farm market. After 82 years of conducting trials where only the best performers are declared AAS Winners, the organization now has more than 325 individual varieties that have been “Tested Nationally & Proven Locally.” It is some of these many varieties that culinary storyteller, entertainer and horticulture industry veteran Jonathan Bardzik will use in a series of five videos demonstrating cooking techniques with AAS Winning herbs and vegetables. “I am excited to partner with All-America Selections to show people across the country that AAS Winners perform […]

Read More
Burpee Home Gardens Brand Adds Flowers

July 31, 2015

4 Reasons Retailers Snub National Brands

Greenhouse Grower’s lead editor, Laura Drotleff, and I got into a debate about why garden retailers, especially independent garden centers, snub marketing efforts from breeders and growers. She was very much on the breeders’ and growers’ side, expressing frustration about how limited retailers’ vision can be on the topic. I’ve reported on the garden retail side of the industry since 1998, about the same length of time Laura has reported on growers. I’ve heard a lot of retailer views on this, so allow me to share the most common reasons why retailers decline free marketing: Costs. While the marketing materials are free, and sometimes advertising, participating in these projects usually requires minimum orders. From a grower’s perspective, the minimum orders are reasonable. If garden stores promote a plant line, they need to have enough supplies to satisfy demand. From a retail perspective, if inventory reports show a plant line can […]

Read More
Latest Stories

July 30, 2015

Spread Your Risk Beyond Spring Sales [Opinion]

Growers who participated in Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Spring Crops Recap Survey said they have had enough of the uncertainty that the weather brings. They said it’s time to build up sales in other seasons like fall so we’re not so dependent on spring. As a couple of wholesale growers, both from the Southeast, very eloquently stated, our industry has mastered squeezing everything we can out of the spring season. And while this year happened to be a very successful one, thanks to the improving economy and elevated consumer confidence, they said, “now is no time to celebrate.” “Spring is still Christmas in the horticulture industry, but we have done such a good job focusing on spring that we have neglected other seasons,” one grower said. “Having so many eggs in the spring basket is dangerous. Fall will never be what spring is, but having a solid second season is in […]

Read More
Berns_Roberto Lopez_Purdue6

July 22, 2015

Cultivate’15 Greenhouse Learning Tour Showcases G…

Growers took advantage of the Greenhouse Learning tour held Saturday, July 11 at Cultivate'15 to see the strategies and technology two successful growing operations are using to tackle production challenges and come out ahead of the game.

Read More

June 16, 2015

Philip Schaafsma To Represent Thermoflor In The U.S.

Philip Schaafsma is a new sales representative for Thermoflor, a company with a lot of experience building garden centers worldwide. The history of the Dutch construction company Thermoflor goes all the way back to 1877. Since then, the company has been through a lot of changes, from simple conservatories to complex glass and steel turnkey projects. With a new sales representative, Thermoflor is well equipped to service the American market. Previously, Petitti Garden Center (Avon, Ohio), Chuck Hafner (Syracuse, N.Y.), Jacob’s Garden (Ottowa Lake, Mich.), Hicks Nurseries (Westbury, N.Y.) and Holes (Alberta, Ca.) were all built by Thermoflor. After a period of absence, the company is now  represented in the U.S. and Canada by Schaafsma, who has more than 40 years of experience in retail lawn and garden, greenhouse growing and the floral industry, and is a former board member of the Garden Centers of America. Schaafsma is the former owner […]

Read More

June 15, 2015

Hortica Insurance To Become Member Of Sentry Insurance …

Upon completion and approval of an affiliation agreement, Hortica Insurance (Florists' Mutual Insurance Company) will become a member of the Sentry Insurance Group, based in Stevens Point, Wis. As a member of the Sentry Insurance Group, Hortica keeps its name and brand and will continue doing business from its current headquarters in Edwardsville, Ill.

Read More
Cal-Poly fields

June 2, 2015

Cal-Poly Students Seek Continued Industry Support To Sa…

Agriculture students and faculty at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, want industry members to continue to stand with them in their effort to preserve Class 1 agricultural land from being repurposed. The university recently released an update to its Master Plan that indicates that almost all of its orchards, horticulture facilities and field sites could be repurposed for buildings, including residential and/or recreational space. According to Joel Leonard of Students For Agriculture, an organization of Cal-Poly students in favor of saving the land, the Master Planning Committee will be meeting over the summer to form a final version of its plan and present it once more to the public in the fall, before it is submitted for final approval to the California Board of Trustees. Students For Agriculture’s goal in the meantime is to increase awareness and rally industry supporters to continue to send their input to the planning committee. Visit to see more […]

Read More
Cal-Poly fields

May 27, 2015

Cal-Poly Students And Faculty Ask Industry To Help Save…

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, has released an update to its Master Plan that indicates that almost all of its orchards, horticulture facilities and field sites could be repurposed for buildings, including residential, and/or recreational space. According to a letter from Scott Steinmaus, the horticulture and crop science department head, the proposed changes directly affect the current orchard plantings and other long term plans for the department. The department is committed to making sure that its facilities remain invaluable teaching environments that enable its students to learn about crop, fruit and horticulture production, food safety and pest protection, in addition to providing sites for externally funded research projects that benefit the industry. Industry members are invited to submit comments to the university. According to Steinmaus, a recent eMail to the Cal-Poly community from the university president indicates that all of the input gathered through the end of May will be studied by the planning […]

Read More

May 13, 2015

Battlefield Farms Receives MPS-A Qualification

Battlefield Farms, Inc., in Rapidan, Va., has been awarded the MPS-A qualification after becoming a participant for MPS-ABC in 2010. After four years of showing effort and improvement, the company has been awarded the qualification.

Read More

May 8, 2015

How To Survive Succession Planning And Resolve Conflic…

If you work in agriculture, you most likely work with family-owned businesses. This is especially true within the greenhouse industry. I’m fortunate to work for a company that specializes in financing and supporting such businesses. Family-owned businesses often have a level of commitment and support that helps during lean times. This is important for a company exposed to seasonality and events that are sometimes beyond management’s control. Business owners and management are constantly looking for solutions to the unique issues faced by these small but complex businesses. Specifically, how these issues affect the transition from one generation to the next. There are many family enterprise success stories, cases of harmony, health and longevity. Yet it’s no secret that family businesses can struggle with governance, leadership transitions and even survival. According to the Family Business Institute, only 30 percent of family businesses last into the second generation, 12 percent remain viable […]

Read More

April 30, 2015

North Creek Nurseries Welcomes Nikki Drake As New Finan…

Nikki Drake will fill the role of new financial administrator at North Creek Nurseries, with responsibility for the accounting department. She will also serve on the strategic planning committee.

Read More
Andy Huntington Pleasant View

April 29, 2015

Pleasant View Gardens Promotes Andy Huntington to Natio…

Pleasant View Gardens recently announced that Andy Huntington will be the company’s National Sales Manager. Huntington, who has years of horticulture industry experience, will oversee national territory and inside sales departments, while fostering strong partnerships with customers. “Our relationships with customers are central to all that we do at Pleasant View,” Huntington says. “In my new role, I am excited to work with a broader base of broker, grower and retail partners to understand their business needs. Pleasant View’s goal is to be so in tune with our customers that we are able to anticipate their problems before they arise.” Huntington has a history of growing sales and forming long-lasting relationships with a diverse customer base. For the past two years, he has been working as a territory account manager for Pleasant View Gardens, responsible for young plant liner sales in New England and New York. Prior to that, Huntington was […]

Read More
PittMoss on Shark Tank

April 22, 2015

PittMoss Wins On Shark Tank

Mont Handley, president and CEO of PittMoss, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank on April 17 to try to get the “sharks” to invest in his peat moss alternative. Three investors from the TV show contributed $600,000 to PittMoss for a 35 percent stake in the company. Check out this clip from ABC’s website in which Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec discuss getting on board with the product. PittMoss is an alternative to sphagnum peat moss, made up of a mix of proprietary additives and recycled paper rescued from landfill space. Handley founded the Pittsburgh-based company in 1994. What started as a small experiment grew into a full-fledged business with the help of funding provided by an EPA SBIR grant and Pittsburgh’s Idea Foundry. Today, PittMoss is available to commercial greenhouses and nurseries from Michigan to Maine to North Carolina, with plans to grow. To learn more, visit PittMoss’ website, or check it […]

Read More
Syngenta logo

April 15, 2015

Syngenta Names Chris Freeman Senior Key Account Manager…

Chris Freeman is the new senior key account manager for Syngenta Flowers, Home & Garden's Commercial Sales business in the Americas, effective March 2015. Freeman, who joined Syngenta in 2006, carries more than 25 years of experience in the agriculture and floriculture business.

Read More
Lake Buchanan_LCRA

April 10, 2015

USDA Designates Areas Of West And Southwest As Drought …

The ongoing drought has resulted in disaster area designations in counties across nine Western and Southwestern states, including Texas, where some reservoirs are at or near historically low levels.

Read More

April 9, 2015

Altman Plants’ Online Cactus Shop Shows Strong Sa…

Altman Plants recently opened its new Cactus Shop, an online retail store that sells a variety of cactus and succulents. The store is a take-off of Altman’s original wholesale business, as the company started as a mail order catalog.

Read More

April 8, 2015

Dümmen Group Welcomes Jim Devereux And Andrew Konicki T…

Dümmen group recently announced the addition of Jim Devereux and Andrew Konicki to its team. They are the newest members of the Key Account and Broker Support team for Dümmen, and will be responsible for building, developing and maintaining current broker and grower customer relationships.

Read More

April 8, 2015

California Institutes First Ever Statewide Mandatory Wa…

California Gov. Jerry Brown announced April 1 that, for the first time in state history, action will be taken to implement mandatory water restrictions, with the ultimate goal of reducing water usage by 25 percent. As Californians are pushed to conserve more, growers will need to think about how demand for products will be affected.

Read More

March 31, 2015

DNA Green Group Will Acquire Rijnplant

DNA Green Group and Riknplant have finalized DNA Green Group's acquisition of Rijnplant, meaning that the breeding and propagation activities in pot and cut anthurium, bougainvillea and heliconia will transfer to DNA Green Group.

Read More
AFE scholarship_Ryan Dickson

March 25, 2015

AFE Educational Grant And Scholarship Application Deadl…

Apply now for American Floral Endowment (AFE) scholarships or educational grants. Applications can be found online. For educational grants for 2015-2016, applications must be submitted no later than June 1. Scholarship applications are due May 1. AFE will award $40,000 in scholarships for 2015.

Read More