Listening To Cassandra

I’m writing just after OFA – the Big Kahuna of greenhouse trade shows. There were trends to talk about, but first I want to share my story of Cassandra.

Before horticulture, I majored in archaeology in college. Both fields involved being outside digging holes and ancient history has always held a level of fascination. I really believe that in a large sense what we are today is so often what we were in the past. And if you go back far enough in history you will run into Cassandra, a prophetess of Greek mythology fame who had an amazing curse. Cassandra could see the future, but her curse was no one believed her. Perhaps her most famous moment was in the city of Troy, where she said something like, "Do not let the big wooden horsey into Troy. It’s full of bad guys," or words to that effect.

What does Cassandra have to do with OFA and our little business? This year it struck me that we are only sort of listening to our Cassandras. The trade show floor was abuzz with stories of high fuel prices, rising input costs and various ways to save money. We, as an industry, can talk about buying natural gas futures and all of us have opinions about resin prices. It is good to know that.

But what you did not hear much of was talking about working with retailers. The pundits spoke it in various seminars. It was on the trade show floor, but you did not hear much about getting up the average ticket price so retailers could garner more dollars per transaction. About rethinking what it is we are growing and selling. Cassandra is saying work with retailers, and we just want to open that gate! 

Selling Ideas

It is OK to try to save money. Low overhead is always a good thing. It is critically important to understand all your input costs and to try to reduce costs when you can. But it is also OK to try to offer customers new and more valuable products. There is nothing wrong with a higher return on your bench space (and your retailers). I watched many a grower look at weird and wacky new genetics and I seldom heard the magic words, "How can I package that to get more money?" I heard a lot about cost savings, but not much on value adding.

It was at OFA. I saw it. Dümmen had wonderful new packaging to go with its new items, Proven Winners has moved beyond plant packaging and is even selling hand soap, Wave petunias has a fan club a la Mickey Mouse. All the tag companies have amazing new ideas.

I think the issue is some us of sell plants and some of us sell ideas. I really think we do not sell plants. We sell lifestyle. We sell decorating. We sell concept. But because we are all (myself included) plant nerds, we just see plants. Cool plants, new plants, but still just plants. Our customer is looking for something pink or white to put out front of her house and all we want to do is talk about that new petunia. And with the real issues of energy prices, labor shortages and input costs going up, we tend to revert even harder back to plant nerd ways.

So what can you do? You should consider a two-pronged approach. You must look at higher costs as a major problem for your business. As such, you need to look for lower inputs, for ways to cost average fuel, for ways to reduce labor, etc. But you also must look at ways to increase crop value, to help both your business as well as the business of your retailers to get more dollars per foot of bench space. For all the time you are investing on "cost reduction," how about spending the same amount of time on "value addition?"

Try to keep an open mind to consumer needs. This is very hard to do when faced with real cost increases. You know with certainty that gas and oil will go up. You do not know with certainty that your consumer will pay more for that better pot or nicer package. All the data supports that. All the industry gurus tell you so, but at the end of the day, you have to believe you can add value. If you have a team looking at adding value, it is your job to listen to them!

Here is where Cassandra pops back into the picture. Her curse says you will not understand her message. Look at ways to add value and plants in context with new marketing programs. Look at how she shops for color, look at ways to get dollar per foot up for the retailer, look at ways to increase turns. All hard messages when you must take on some risk to shift product mix.

Business is not easy today. I saw that at OFA, a more somber show than in years past. But if we can open our minds to getting more value to consumers and really listening to our Cassandras, we might make next spring a whole lot more fun.

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