10 Marketing Takeaways From The Top 100

Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Panelists On Marketing

The opportunity to devise innovative new marketing programs isn’t the reason most greenhouse growers got into the business. However, marketing has developed into one of the most critical parts of what most growers — especially at the Top 100 level — do every day. Increasingly, even growers without consumer-facing brands find themselves connecting more directly with consumers, either by crafting marketing messages to help retailers move plants, or by going past the retailer and communicating one-on-one with gardeners using tools like video and social media.

This new marketing landscape was the topic for a panel discussion at Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Breakfast at OFA Short Course. This year’s Top 100 event was sponsored by Becker Underwood and Sakata. We invited representatives from three Top 100 operations — Natalie DiScascio, marketing coordinator for Delray Plants (number 14 on the Top 100 list); Jason Roseman, director of sales for Rockwell Farms (number 58), and CherylAnn Morgan, marketing specialist for Paul Ecke Ranch (number 7) — to talk about how they’re managing marketing methods, messages and costs in 2012.

1. What’s The Most Important Message You’re Taking To Consumers?
“One of the biggest challenges we face is that consumers don’t have the confidence in themselves that they can use our products. Negating that concern is one of the big things we focus on. We try to grab their attention first, and then show them how fashionable, convenient and easy it is.” — Jason Roseman, Rockwell Farms

“Plants are an emotional product for consumers. They have a fear they’re going to kill the plant. We’re trying to give them better resources, and show them there’s a lifecycle to the plant. The internet and social media are helping us communicate that message to our consumers.” — CherylAnn Morgan, Paul Ecke Ranch

2. Whose Job Is Marketing In Your Greenhouse Business?
“I know the others on the panel have dedicated marketing departments, but for us, sales and marketing are still under one job description: me. I’m using third-party help in social media and website development, and we’re trying to decide if we should bring other people on board. But sales and marketing go hand in hand today. One can’t exist without the other.” — Roseman

3. Are You Spending More On Marketing Today Than Five Years Ago?
“The cost in dollars is about the same, but the real new costs are in time. Time is a resource. It’s hard to calculate the time cost to do all of this, but it is significant.” — Natalie DiScascio, Delray Farms

“Our budget hasn’t changed much, but we have reallocated how we’re spending it. Instead of mass marketing, we’re targeting certain areas and spending more on consumer focus groups, social media and helping retailers.” — Morgan

4. Measuring Marketing ROI
“It’s difficult to measure success. With social media we’re able to engage frequently with the end consumer. We can see the interaction, and we can tell the message is being followed. We’re not necessarily able to quantify results, but we can at least see the message is being heard.” — DiScascio

“The bottom line is we’re looking to be profitable. You might have a 90-percent sell through, but then you can be left wondering, was it due to the weather or the packaging or maybe everything working together? You have to rely on your gut with this and sometimes you’re going to be wrong. It’s not black and white.”
— Roseman

5. The Trend Of More Women In Lead Marketing Roles With Big Growers
“Over the last five to 10 years the numbers of women in key positions has increased tenfold. This makes a lot of sense since in our industry the female shopper is our main customer. Who knows better what a woman wants then a woman herself? — DiScascio

“Personally I don’t think it matters if it’s a man or a woman who runs the department. Some of the best shoe and clothing designers are men. When looking at filling this role, you need to find someone who is willing to push the envelope and take risks. You want someone who understands your industry and your end consumer.” — Morgan

6. So Much Social Media — Where Are You Focusing Your Efforts?
“We’re using Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn and we’re playing with Pinterest. That’s enough. We don’t want to jump on everything.” —  Morgan

“We work with Facebook and YouTube and we’re getting into Pinterest. You can provide ideas that get people thinking about ways to use your plants. Pin a photo showing a fern in a bedroom. It gives people ideas they hadn’t considered.” — DiSciascio

“Pinterest is definitely trending for us right now. But you have to have a strategy for whichever social media outlet you choose. Know your goal and your message or you’re wasting your time.” — Roseman

7. Video Has Become A Powerful Tool — How Are You Using It?
“We’re not doing as much as some people are yet, but when I’m looking for information, I look for online videos. Why shouldn’t it work for our industry too? It doesn’t have to cost a lot or be professional quality to be valuable. — Roseman

“You don’t need to hire an expert to do video. The cost can be minimal. My advice is to invest in a Sony Bloggie camera or something similar for $200 and create your own two-minute videos. Video is more about the content than anything else. — Morgan

8. Bilingual Marketing Is Here
“We’re doing two versions of our videos, one in English and one in Spanish. We recognize the buying power of this market. It’s vital that we speak to our customers in their own language. Right now it’s only Spanish but going forward this country will continue to grow with many languages and we will adapt.” — DiScascio

9. Who Is Responsible For Managing All Of Your Social Media Accounts?
“We hired an outside social media consultant to help us, and our technical support specialist and I do some as well. For those who can’t hire someone to help with it, there are tools like Hootsuite.com that make it really easy to manage everything. They allow you to schedule your social media posts in advance. — Morgan

10. What’s The Coolest Marketing Idea You Tried in 2012?
“We came up with a four-inch plant and a greeting card all in one, called Green Greetings. It’s a plant with a pot cover that looks like a coffee cup. The cup has a message for a specific theme or holiday on the outside. You’re getting a greeting card and a plant for about $4. Most greeting cards cost $4 now all by themselves, and we’re providing a plant on top of it. Mother’s Day did better than Valentine’s Day for us, and we plan to do it again at Christmas.” — DiScascio

Leave a Reply

More From Top 100 Growers...

March 4, 2015

Nexus Corporation’s Cheryl Longtin Encourages Women To Seek Volunteer Leadership Opportunities

When Cheryl Longtin came to the horticulture business in 1994, she applied her experience in the automotive industry to promote the adoption of more technology in greenhouse production. Longtin says horticulture, with its rich family tradition, has long promoted women in the industry compared to other industries, but women in horticulture must continue to seek out opportunities to provide volunteer leadership in organizations that shape the future of the business.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Second Annual GreenhouseConnect Will Bring Growers and Suppliers Together in San Diego This October

Following a successful inaugural event in Tampa last fall, Greenhouse Grower has announced the dates of its second annual GreenhouseConnect: October 26-29, 2015. Representatives of an expected two dozen leading greenhouse operations from across the U.S. will join senior-level suppliers at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego for several days of one-on-one strategic meetings, a growers-only roundtable, informational sessions and a variety of networking events.

Read More
cultivate'15 logo

March 4, 2015

Cultivate’15: AmericanHort Announces What’s New

In an industry that has seen major changes occurring at a fast pace, many industry professionals leave Cultivate with their heads spinning and no clear idea of how to regroup and strategize. Cultivate’15 is “Changing the Game.” As this year’s focus, Changing the Game will call your attention to the ways in which our industry has changed and your opportunities to compete successfully.

Read More
Latest Stories
Top 100

September 18, 2014

The Top 100 Growers On Merchandising

See what Greenhouse Grower's Top 100 Growers have to say about merchandising changes over the last 10 years in our 2014 Top Grower Survey

Read More

September 18, 2014

The Top 100 Growers Talk Pollinator Health

The panel of experts at Greenhouse Grower’s 2014 Top 100 Growers Breakfast offered insight on how the industry is addressing the public scrutiny on neonicotinoids, research that still needs to be done and what growers can do to promote their operations’ responsible practices.

Read More
Top 100

August 29, 2014

2014 Top 100 Grower List

The 2014 Top 100 Growers list represents the largest greenhouse operations in the United States.

Read More
Gary Mangum

August 12, 2014

What Bell Nursery Learned From Growing Without Neonicot…

Determined to find out firsthand what a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides would mean for growers, Bell Nursery CEO Gary Mangum challenged his team to grow without them. Read to find out about the lessons he learned.

Read More
Top 100

May 14, 2014

2014 Top 100 Growers [Whitepaper]

Get the full set of data from our 2014 survey, including how the Top 100 Growers have changed their crop mix over the last 10 years.

Read More

May 13, 2014

The Top 100 Growers Find Diversity Provides More Securi…

Growers continue to broaden their crop offerings, provide more retail merchandising and market their own crops through social media, in an effort to increase sales.

Read More
Top 100

April 29, 2014

2014 Top 100 List Shows Growers Are Expanding

Grower acquisitions throughout the year, bankruptcy, closed doors, new operations, reduced square footage and changing business status have reconstructed Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers list, yet again.

Read More
Top 100

February 18, 2014

Help Us Find Out How Crop Mixes Have Changed Among The …

Is your environmentally controlled greenhouse production area 650,000 square feet or larger? If so, we want to hear from you.

Read More
Richard Jones

August 16, 2013

iPads, Automobile Cameras And The Future Of Your Busine…

Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers Breakfast has become a great annual event during OFA Short Course. We get together with representatives from the country’s largest greenhouse operations to talk about trends and developments in different areas of the business. And while the meeting is targeted for the Top 100, there are invariably interesting lessons that apply to growers across the board. This year’s breakfast featured a panel discussion on “The Even-Higher-Tech Future Of The Top 100.” (You can read about some of the highlights from the event on page 32.) Our panelists included Gary Falkenstein, president and CEO of the new online live goods broker, ePlantSource; Paul Pilon, owner of Perennial Solutions Consulting; and Charles Grinnell, COO of Harvest Automation (whose plant-moving robots were one of the highlights on the trade show floor at Short Course this year). They shared their opinions on what exciting new developments growers may have […]

Read More

August 16, 2013

The Even-Higher-Tech-Future Of The Top 100 Grower

As part of Greenhouse Grower’s 30th anniversary celebration, we’ve been taking a look at the current state of various segments of our industry in 2013. But there’s also value in looking ahead at — and preparing for — the next 10, 20 or 30 years. “The Even-Higher-Tech Future Of The Top 100 Grower” was the theme for Greenhouse Grower’s annual Top 100 Growers Breakfast, held during OFA Short Course. The Top 100 program was sponsored by BASF. The breakfast featured a panel discussion with experts in web technology, robotics and production: Gary Falkenstein, president and CEO of ePlantSource, Charles Grinnell, COO of Harvest Automation and Paul Pilon, owner of Perennial Solutions Consulting. Each shared his vision of the future and identified readily available technologies and opportunites that growers should be exploring for their business today. Where are the Top 100 Growers on the technology curve? Falkenstein: On the technology side, […]

Read More
Hermann Engelmanns Sandra Kitain, Chuck Romagnoli and Erin Leonard

August 12, 2013

Hermann Engelmann Greenhouses Reaches Out To Consumers …

Do you grow foliage and houseplants? If not, it might be time to consider it. In a recent Today’s Garden Center magazine survey, of those garden retailers who carry houseplants, 54.3 percent report an increase in sales in 2013. Hermann Engelmann Greenhouses reports good news, as well, with a 5 percent increase within the foliage segment in the past year. So how does the operation plan to keep the good times rolling? The formula for this grower includes marketing directly to the consumer through in-store materials, a loaded website and an active social media presence. But the message being broadcast through all these media is the same — to inspire the customer to create home décor designs and to educate with plant care tips that will turn timid gardeners into experts. “We want to transition our product from a commodity item to a home décor item,” says Erin Leonard, director […]

Read More

June 26, 2013

Metrolina Greenhouses Enters Purchase Agreement To Buy …

Metrolina Greenhouses, based in Huntersville, N.C., has entered into a purchase agreement to buy the assets of Stacy’s Greenhouses, Inc. pending U.S. bankruptcy court approval. “As part of Metrolina’s continuing expansion, the proposed asset acquisition of Stacy’s will improve our business growth as we continue with our 2025 Vision plan,” says Abe VanWingerden, co-CEO of Metrolina Greenhouses. “Stacy’s perennial business is a natural addition to our current product lineup as we continue to provide new and innovative solutions and concepts for our retail partners. “Additionally, by making this asset purchase, we will be able to honor and extend the business legacy of Mr. Stacy as he and my father, Tom VanWingerden, were both pioneers in this industry who worked together on many projects over the years as they both started in their businesses in the early 1970s. Combining the work of these two visionary leaders into one company makes logical sense.” […]

Read More

June 24, 2013

Stacy’s Greenhouses Files For Bankruptcy

Stacy’s Inc. has filed for Chaper 11 bankruptcy protection in order to facilitate an upcoming sale. “The process is going forward the way we had hoped,” says Stacy’s President Tim Brindley. “The court has approved a working budget to keep everything moving forward through July 26, and we have another hearing soon to approve a budget through August.” With the company going through Chapter 11 proceedings, any sale will be an asset purchase rather than a sale of the company. The business will no longer carry the Stacy’s name. “We have been in negotiations with a potential buyer for several months, and have a signed asset purchase agreement in place,” Brindley says. “Everything has to be approved by the courts and there are a lot of steps that still have to take place, but the goal is to have the sale complete by the end of August. The sale of Stacy’s […]

Read More

May 28, 2013

Rocket Farms Launches New Interactive Website

Rocket Farms has launched a new website to support the brand’s innovative approach that focuses on fun, creativity and interaction with the consumer. Offering a clean, modern look, the new RocketFarms.com offers a wide variety of information on the company and its products, the Rocket Farms Wholesale Center and product inspirations. In an effort to cater to today’s mobile consumers, the new website is compatible for viewing on all media devices, including PC, mobile phones and tablet devices. The website will continue to evolve as additional enhancements and new information are added to appeal to consumers’ changing interests and expand the product interaction portions of the website. The most exciting and original part of the website is Inspirations. An online reference guide for consumers to find fun and unique ideas for selecting and enjoying Rocket Farms products, Inspirations includes recipes, design ideas, inspirational concepts, and more. Visitors can then share […]

Read More
Top 100

May 6, 2013

Top 100 Growers 2013: The State Of Production

  As part of Greenhouse Grower’s 30th Anniversary, we reviewed the state of production among the nation’s largest operations. Our 2013 Top 100 Growers Survey, sponsored by Becker Underwood, asked three big questions to get a feel for where they see the biggest developments in greenhouse production. Innovations First, we asked them to identify the most important innovation in the greenhouse industry in the last 30 years. We got a variety of opinions, including integrated pest management, bottom heat and heat curtains, open roof greenhouses, plugs and other growing techniques and computer-based environmental controls. Most commonly cited were breeding improvements, hydroponic production and the big winner, automation and transplanters. “It’s not even close,” one respondent said. “Transplanters are the best innovation we’ve seen. To plant at the speed we do now, we would have to put 30 people on each production line.” Improvements Next, we asked them to tell us […]

Read More
Top 100

May 6, 2013

Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Growers: The 2013 List

It’s not necessarily an indication of a top-to-bottom trend in the horticulture industry, but one thing is clear from the results of the 2013 Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Grower survey: The largest greenhouse operations in the U.S are getting larger. Perhaps it’s a sign of things turning around after several years of a stagnant economy and an evolving customer base. Maybe the greenhouse industry is just continuing a shakeout, with the largest operations absorbing the production and space of growers who are leaving the market. Could be it’s simply the big continuing to get bigger to take advantage of the production efficiencies size can offer big retail customers and the growers’ own bottom lines. It’s likely some combination of all three. Whatever the reason, nearly a third of the growers in Greenhouse Grower’s 2013 Top 100 survey reported growth. Some of them significantly so. Ups And Downs Greenhouse Grower’s annual […]

Read More

April 29, 2013

Rockwell Farms Introduces Ready-To-Pour Container Ferti…

Rockwell Farms has introduced Rockwell Farms Plant Food, a bottled liquid fertilizer that does not need to be diluted before use. Always looking for ways to help the consumer succeeed, Jason Roseman of Rockwell Farms says the operation is also always looking for ways to get consumers to come back and buy more plants and flowers. “We feel like fertilization is one of those things that can be very confusing,” Roseman says. “Not everyone does it, and not everyone knows what they’re supposed to do.” The solution: Rockwell Farms Plant Food. The formulation is 150 ppm of a 20-10-20 fertilizer and is sold in 24-ounce bottles. Rockwell recommends that one bottle be used to fertilize 1.5- to 3-gallon outdoor plant and flower containers every 21 days. The product’s signage shows a young patio gardener pouring the bottled fertilizer on a windowbox with the tagline, “Just pour on your way out […]

Read More
Richard Jones

April 4, 2013

Top 100 Growers Evolve Over 25 Years

We were thinking about the past quite a bit this month as we compiled the 2013 Top 100 Growers list — for a couple of reasons. First, our Top 100 survey this year focused on advances in production. We wanted to get the perspective of the nation’s biggest growers on the most important developments over the last 30 years, both in the industry and in their own operations. You’ll see their opinions, as well as other facets of the current state of greenhouse production in this month’s cover story. And second, this is the 25th time Greenhouse Grower has published a list of the Top Growers in the country. It was fun looking back at the original list, but drawing any direct-line comparisons to the greenhouse business today was difficult. It’s striking how different today’s list is from the first one — The Top 50 Growers — back in 1987. […]

Read More