A Public Relations Overhaul

A Public Relations Overhaul

Initial Tropical Plants (ITP), headquartered in Riverwoods, Ill., is the largest provider of interior landscaping, design installation and maintenance services in North America. Initial Tropical Plants is the leader in enhancing the customer’s brand image and improving quality of life in the workplace as they change the landscape of business interiors across North America.

However, while Initial Tropical Plants (ITP) is the largest provider of interior landscaping, design installation and maintenance services to businesses, the company didn’t look like the “leader of the pack.” The bloom was off the proverbial rose with the company’s passé internal and external marketing materials and static Web site. In the summer of 2005, the company engaged an outside management consultant who conducted a qualitative customer research study that indicated the brand was in need of serious reinvigoration and provided the foundation of the company’s marketing rebirth.

The consultant led a SWOT (strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats) analysis with company managers, which laid the foundation for the company’s marketing initiatives. Additionally, a one-to-one customer survey questioned clients’ brand perceptions about Initial Tropical Plants. The company’s high-touch care and nurturing of both clients and plants was a common refrain relayed by the majority of clients polled. Research indicated that the company’s commitment to customer service was not reflected in the company’s marketing. The Internet site was widely received as stagnant and unattractive.

Jeff Mariola, president of Initial Tropical Plants, established overall marketing objectives and hired the company’s first director of marketing, Michelle Rodwell, in October 2005. Marketing and public relations agencies were engaged to begin translating the company’s vision to build the brand. The team was united with the challenge of infusing a creative, strategic approach to meet company wide growth goals; employing marketing best practices with consistency and continuity; and developing tools and programs that build sales and awareness. 

Spreading The Word

The internal and external marketing communications team worked to develop and execute core marketing initiatives. The team, led by Rodwell, created key messages that reinforced brand positioning focusing on service, people, solutions, design, knowledge, industry leader, technology and size which also led to the creation of a new tagline, “Changing the landscape of business interiors across North America.” The tagline was woven into all internal and external marketing communications and public relations materials. Each word of the tagline was strategically selected to capture the essence of the brand.

“In March 2006, Initial Tropical Plants rolled out a comprehensive series of marketing materials developed with our brand in mind and were created with a consistent look that could be applied across all mediums and effectively convey what we do and how well we do it,” Rodwell says. Vivid, immersive images of up-close plants and flavors were featured with a color palette in warm hues of reds, sepias and greens. About 1,300 co-workers participated in a company-wide marketing launch meeting with branch managers each doing a presentation to their teams.

“Our brand transformation was both an internal and external event,” adds Rodwell. “The work we did on our brand had to be conveyed properly to all of our co-workers, so that they could become our brand ambassadors.”

Getting It Done

The company’s new marketing collateral included:

Capabilities brochure. A unique square-shaped brochure, featuring immersive plant images, was created to be used in conjunction with the new branded folder and as a stand-alone to distribute to prospects.

Case studies. Case studies showcased the many innovative solutions ITP has engaged. For the first time, the company began creating a library of case studies across client sectors that demonstrated ITP’s original design solutions. In addition to using these case studies to share with clients and prospects, the case studies were expanded for use on the editorial side with public relations.

Market segmentation. To support the company wide movement to a segment-selling focus, market segment sheets were created with a showcase photo of an ITP design coupled with descriptive copy tailored to that segment.

Welcome kit. A welcome letter and envelope were designed that reinforced the customer buying decision and provided a transition from sales to the appointed service technicians. The welcome kit is personalized with important branch contact information and hand delivered to new customers at their first service visit.

Fleet graphics. “A single delivery truck with an effective graphic design can generate 16 million visual impressions per year,” according to a study by the American Trucking Association. ITP’s entire fleet of 350 vehicles was refaced with new color graphics and copy that were in line with its reinvigorated brand image.

Online survey and sweepstakes. A survey to capture customer satisfaction levels was developed that was conducted online by e-mail invitation. The responses are captured and available for review at the branch and regional level. The survey was tested in the Chicago and Milwaukee markets and has been rolled out nationally. The survey was sent to ITP customers with valid e-mails and is averaging a 19 percent gross response rate. About 35 percent of branch customers were surveyed by the close of May 2006 with all customers polled by August.

“My clients relay that the survey demonstrates that we really care about them,” says Don Koonce, a Seattle-based Vice President for ITP. “The information we received from the survey helped us save some accounts.” Service technicians handed out postcards during service calls and alerted customers that ITP had a new Web site that included a sweepstakes for customers where they could enter to win prizes including an iPod.

e-Newsletter. Each quarter, ITP creates and e-mails out e-newsletters to the customer base. ITP is able to keep in touch with customers while providing them with useful information. The importance of capturing and keeping customers’ e-mail addresses current is a high priority. ITP’s first quarterly e-newsletter e-mailed to current customers netted a 36 percent open rate. To date, Initial Tropical Plants has received 200 sign-ups for future newsletters. The majority of the new sign-ups are triggered by Web site visits.

Redesigned Web site. The launch of www.initialplants.com in April 2006 replaced a static, old-fashioned digital experience with a lush, immersive one that encouraged potential customers to linger and learn. The site showcases a constant mix of intimate, up-close and artistic plant photographs along with outstanding interior landscape designs. The home page features three main silos that reflect the three primary revenue drivers for the business: interior landscaping, national accounts and architectural landscape design services.

In the Web site’s first two months, the number of visitors increased by 33 percent with 4,323 unique visitors versus 2,316 unique visitors in 2005. Additionally Web visitors’ time on the site doubled versus a year earlier. Elizabeth Miller, a business development specialist serving the Seattle region for Initial Tropical Plants, says the “Web site created so many opportunities in Seattle with prospects calling who wouldn’t even return calls in the past.”

Capabilities brochure, case studies, market segmentation and welcome letters were distributed to ITP managers in March 2006. Responses have ranged from “we now look like the leaders we are,” to “these new branding materials inspire confidence in ITP as a true market leader with new prospects.”

“It’s been a pleasure to evolve from the bland, impersonal corporate image our previous marketing materials represented,” says Christopher Karl, a California-based sales and design consultant for Initial Tropical Plants.

Leave a Reply

More From Marketing...
Petal-it-Forward

October 3, 2017

October 11 is Your Chance to Petal it Forward

The Society of American Florists’ “Petal it Forward” campaign returns in 2017. Learn how you can participate in this day of spreading kindness through flowers.

Read More
Micandy Gardens Team

September 17, 2017

4 Ways Micandy Gardens Greenhouses Reaches Out to Millennials

Micandy leverages social media to get the word out about its products and spread the word about how flowers can make a difference in people’s lives.

Read More
Costa Farms Exotic Angel Idea Book

September 12, 2017

Costa Farms’ New Lookbook Offers Consumers Ideas on Best Plants for the Home

The new “Bring Your Home to Life” lookbook is a curated collection of more than 300 unique plant varieties best suited to grow in homes and offices.

Read More
Latest Stories
Petal-it-Forward

October 3, 2017

October 11 is Your Chance to Petal it Forward

The Society of American Florists’ “Petal it Forward” campaign returns in 2017. Learn how you can participate in this day of spreading kindness through flowers.

Read More
Micandy Gardens Team

September 17, 2017

4 Ways Micandy Gardens Greenhouses Reaches Out to Mill…

Micandy leverages social media to get the word out about its products and spread the word about how flowers can make a difference in people’s lives.

Read More
Costa Farms Exotic Angel Idea Book

September 12, 2017

Costa Farms’ New Lookbook Offers Consumers Ideas on Bes…

The new “Bring Your Home to Life” lookbook is a curated collection of more than 300 unique plant varieties best suited to grow in homes and offices.

Read More
Certified American Grown Flowers

September 5, 2017

Certified American Grown Flowers Names New Third-Party …

The organization’s new partnership with Where Food Comes From Inc., an agriculture-focused certification company with more than 20 years of experience, will be launched via video conference on September 14.

Read More
Container Gardening

September 5, 2017

14 Consumer Gardening Trends That Have Stood the Test o…

In early September, the Garden Media Group will unveil its 2018 Garden Trends report. To whet your appetite, here’s a look back at several trends that remain relevant today.

Read More

August 29, 2017

Know Your Grower: New Platform Brings Consumer Transpar…

The new Follow Your Flower or Plant vignette from MPS allows consumers to learn all about the producers of the plants and flowers they see at retail, and how sustainably their products are grown.

Read More
green-plan-it-gardening-outdoor-nature-explore-classroom

August 29, 2017

First-Of-Its-Kind Federal Grant Designed to Stimulate C…

The National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture has received a USDA grant to help develop strategies and tactics to grow the practice of gardening 20% by 2025.

Read More
Luxfloraflowerrun17

July 20, 2017

Luxflora Attracted Even More Participation to its Secon…

More than 170 runners kicked off Cultivate'16 on Sunday, July 16, with Luxflora's second annual 5k race. It was a great way to start the week, participants said.

Read More
National Garden Bureau 2018 Year of the Calibrachoa

July 15, 2017

National Garden Bureau Announces Featured Plants for it…

Plant classes recognized include bulb crops (tulip), annuals (calibrachoa), vegetables/edibles (beet), and perennials (coreopsis).

Read More
cut flower arrangement

July 5, 2017

Congress Designates July as American Grown Flowers Mont…

Last week, Congressman Salud Carbajal (CA-24) introduced a bipartisan resolution designating July as “American Grown Flowers Month.” Co-sponsored by Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler (WA-03), Rep. Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA-50), Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Rep. Don Young (AK-1), Rep. Jared Huffman (CA-02), and Rep. Darrell Issa (CA-49), House Resolution 413 declares July as the month to celebrate the economic and cultural impact of America’s cut flower and greens farmers and demonstrate Congress’ commitment to support America’s flower farming families. Congressman Carbajal spoke from the House Floor, introducing the legislation and encouraging fellow members of Congress to support American Grown Flowers Month. “I have seen firsthand the value the grown flower industry adds to our economy and communities during my visits with our Central Coast growers,” said Rep. Carbajal. “California produces three quarters of all cut flowers grown in the United States. I am committed to recognizing their contribution […]

Read More
PlantHaven Team 2017

July 2, 2017

PlantHaven Wins Medal of Excellence Award for Marketing

After 20 years of making the world a more vibrant, colorful place, PlantHaven wins Greenhouse Grower’s Medal of Excellence Award for Marketing for its groundbreaking ability to connect breeders, growers, and consumers through personable advertising campaigns.

Read More

June 1, 2017

Reimagining a Brand: How Did We Do With Greenhouse Grow…

Changing the design and content strategy of a brand isn't easy, but we think the new Greenhouse Grower will help carry our innovative industry forward and allow us to better serve your information needs.

Read More
NICH Plants Do That infographic feature

April 11, 2017

New Infographic Highlights Economic Impact of Plants

A new report from the National Institute for Consumer Horticulture shows how horticulture positively affects people’s lives wherever they live, work, shop, and play.

Read More
National Garden Bureau New Website

March 22, 2017

National Garden Bureau’s New Website Features Mobile-Fr…

The new site is designed to serve as a home base to drive traffic from NGB’s social media community to one central location.

Read More

March 7, 2017

Local Florists Celebrate Women’s Day and SAF Prom…

Florists across the U.S. are celebrating International Women's Day, March 8, and raising awareness for non-profit organizations. The Society of American Florists is raising its own awareness of what happens when women receive flowers with a new video for International Women's Day.

Read More
Savor New Website

February 16, 2017

Pleasant View Launches Updated Website for its Savor Ed…

The site is designed to offer a friendly and informative vehicle that delivers product information in an easy-to-navigate format.

Read More

January 24, 2017

Beekenkamp Plants B.V. to Take Over Marketing Sunny Ost…

Beekenkamp Plants B.V. will take over Sunny Holland B.V.'s marketing activities as of July 1, 2017, and begin offering Sunny Osteospermum to the supply chain.

Read More
gg-january-2017-cover-arizonaeast-feature

January 5, 2017

Why ArizonaEast Is Expanding Its Succulent Production T…

In Greenhouse Grower's January cover story, learn how Brian and Joe Vitale of ArizonaEast saw a chance to expand and diversify their New Jersey-based succulent operation, and why they jumped at the opportunity.

Read More