Quality Isn’t Enough

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Quality product is a given. What else do you have to offer?

Perhaps this question has been directed to you from potential customers–ones you planned to hook with your company’s “we’re-committed-to-producing-high-quality-plants” mission statement that’s virtually the same as the mission statement the grower next door uses.

Unfortunately, the days of selling plants on quality alone are long gone. The industry is whittling itself down to select growers who are embracing merchandising, packaging, product flow and other components that historically have been the retailer’s responsibility. The my-product-is-better-than-the-next-guy’s approach will no longer fly, and it’s time we accept the fact today’s industry isn’t the one your parents and grandparents built. We’ve hit a paradigm shift.

“When I became a grower, I didn’t know I’d be doing marketing and logistics in addition to growing,” says Tony Barcelo, vice president of Barcelo Enterprises in Salinas, Calif. “You better know what you’re doing or you’ll learn a lot the hard way.”

Growers Are Marketers

Barcelo’s comments, made on GreenhouseGrower.com as part of our State Of The Industry coverage, sparked a discussion among several readers. One reader argues the industry is struggling to transition along with the industry paradigm shift because growers are caught in a “credit trap.” Another reader says growers still don’t understand the importance of marketing plants, while yet another blames government for the demise of some growers.

All three readers make valid points about causes for the current state of the industry. Too much reliance on banks is obviously a problem and the policies the current administration is pursuing don’t sit well with many small businesses. But marketing? That should be a Growing 101 course all greenhouse operators have passed by now. Some are still coming to grips with the fact “grower” also means “marketer,” though.

You probably know them: The growers who argue their plants are so beautiful, colorful or long lasting that their plants do the marketing themselves. There’s no need to budget marketing dollars for plants, they’ll say, because we can grow even more plants with the money we would otherwise dedicate to marketing.

The best plants are indeed beautiful, colorful and long lasting. But if that’s the marketing approach we’re taking, what separates a pair of $175 Air Jordan shoes from a pair of $20 shoes that serve the same purpose? What about Macs over PCs or Starbucks coffee over another really good cup of joe?

But those Air Jordans, Macs and Starbucks are all brands, you’ll argue. And you’re right. Those products are the cream of the crop for their respective industries because they’re brands and not sold based solely on solid material, high-speed capability and great taste. Those products are presented as more.

And that’s what growers are tasked with doing: presenting their products as more. We must go beyond the obvious. What elevates your petunias above your competitor’s petunias? What makes your begonias the best around? There are companies in our industry that get it, and the brands have designed templates you can follow.

The bottom line is building your own brand, rallying around another or building marketing programs for your products should be top of mind–right there with actual production. Quality is still king, but merchandising, packaging and general marketing are all components growers need to take more seriously if they aren’t already.

Kevin Yanik is the former managing editor of Greenhouse Grower.

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4 comments on “Quality Isn’t Enough

  1. Anonymous

    What was said is very true, but small and medium sized growers do not have the money for mass marketing. I believe that there should be a state or national advertizing campaign that will be paid for through taxes and the Department of Agriculture should run the ads to promote planting and our GREEN Industry.

  2. Anonymous

    It took me until the last sentence of your column for the hair on the back of my neck to go down.

    I wouldn’t recommend using the PC/Mac comparison for your conclusion that growers should spend more time and money on marketing. As of a few months ago Window OS represented 91% of the market share, Mac 5%, others (Linus, etc. 4%). PC users vs Mac are 95% to 5%.

    Big picture is that many growers haven’t yet mastered the art of the single biggest opportunity they have…quality. Yeah, many say they produce it but most are falling short…way short.

    I am not suggesting that growers should discount the positive affect of “merchandising”, “packaging” or “general marketing”. I simply suggest they first tackle the issue that currently has the most room for improvement that will yield the best results. Let’s work on real quality first before we move on.

  3. Anonymous

    What was said is very true, but small and medium sized growers do not have the money for mass marketing. I believe that there should be a state or national advertizing campaign that will be paid for through taxes and the Department of Agriculture should run the ads to promote planting and our GREEN Industry.

  4. Anonymous

    It took me until the last sentence of your column for the hair on the back of my neck to go down.

    I wouldn’t recommend using the PC/Mac comparison for your conclusion that growers should spend more time and money on marketing. As of a few months ago Window OS represented 91% of the market share, Mac 5%, others (Linus, etc. 4%). PC users vs Mac are 95% to 5%.

    Big picture is that many growers haven’t yet mastered the art of the single biggest opportunity they have…quality. Yeah, many say they produce it but most are falling short…way short.

    I am not suggesting that growers should discount the positive affect of “merchandising”, “packaging” or “general marketing”. I simply suggest they first tackle the issue that currently has the most room for improvement that will yield the best results. Let’s work on real quality first before we move on.