Reconnecting With Consumers Crux Of Seeley Conference

In today’s post-recession marketplace, the “reborn consumer” is asking tougher questions. She is making more critical decisions as to what is really important and what she really needs. Marketers can no longer assume the consumer will return to buy what she has bought before.

Indeed, total consumption levels have already returned to pre-recession expenditure levels, but not every subsector of the economy has rebounded, as the consumer is spending differently, buying more in some categories and less in others.

Time For Major Change?

For our industry and our businesses, it is appropriate to examine what we have to offer and study how we are connecting with the consumer. Is it time to move “beyond pretty” to feature new properties our products and services offer? Does our value proposition need adjusting or just our marketing messages? Are there segments of the population we just aren’t reaching or are our offerings stale and out of touch with what the consumer needs or wants? 
 
Ask any marketer, and he or she will tell you the first key to a successful marketing program is getting your product or service in front of your target market. A corollary is to have members of that target audience remember your product or service once they are acquainted with its features and benefits, so that when the time comes to buy (or buy again), they remember what you have to offer. Top of mind recall is important, no doubt, but correctly connecting with what the consumer has in mind is paramount.
 
For much of modern floriculture’s history, we have sold our products or services based on their aesthetics. For florists, we have said, “Say it with flowers!” claiming that we can put together the perfect arrangement that will convey just the right meaning, but we have never explained that meaning, the “it,” leaving that up to the consumer and letting our design and beauty speak the volumes for both the consumer and the industry.

In the blooming potted or foliage plant arenas, we have associated many of our products with certain holidays or settings and argued that tradition suggests a certain plant was appropriate for the occasion or the amount of available light. And for the landscape, we have typically specified a plant as right for sun or shade and sold the annual or perennial based on its color, bloom power or size–or, perhaps, its foliage characteristics.

At the 26th annual Seeley Conference, greenhouse industry leaders will explore a series of questions through thoughtful, relevant presentations and lively group discussion. Among the questions:

–Why are people blind to the plants and flowers that surround them in everyday life?

–Can the industry overcome plant blindness and increase mindshare in the consumer by understanding and communicating that our products are necessities in people’s lives and not mere luxuries?

–How has consumer mindset changed during the Great Recession? Will spending ever go back to the way it was before?

–Can we focus our value proposition on the unique ways in which plants enhance the quality of life by economic contributions, environmental eco-systems services, and health/well-being benefits of flowers in interior and exterior landscapes?

–How do others do it? Case studies of firms using social media to articulate the “more than pretty” value proposition.

–What is the role of advocacy groups, promotion programs, or city-wide beautification programs?

–What happens when an entire city takes on a green attitude?

–Does engaging your neighbors improve your bottom line? Case studies of major greenhouses and nurseries who are opening up their facilities for public inspection and good-will generation.

–Creating the urban and destination connection: Case studies in building involvement with plants and flowers.

–Do we need to rethink our offerings one product at a time, or does everything we do need a major makeover to connect with the consumer?

–How to put it all together and build consumer mindshare for your products and business?

Learn more about the Seeley Conference at www.hort.cornell.edu/seeleyconference.

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