When you’re trying to develop a new customer base, the obvious first step is to figure out who you want to attract. Even if you’ve lived in your hometown your whole life, there are likely communities you are not aware of who have the income to support regular gardening purchases.
Try these six simple steps to help you get started:
1. Sift through your community’s demographics. To get started, spend time on sites like American Fact Finder, which draws on all the data available from the U.S. Census. You can learn about the income levels, demographic data like race, age, and homeownership rates by zip code and city.
2. Identify new groups you want to target. America is made up of shifting communities. A new aero-space firm opens its headquarters near you and that area is flooded with engineers. A small group of refugees settle to the north of town, and within 10 years, it’s a significant and thriving subculture of your city.
3. Reach out to the community. Identify and contact leaders in the areas you want to attract. That can vary from religious leaders to homeowner’s association [HOA] board members.
4. Hold focus groups. You’ve got to listen to what new customers want if you are to meet their needs. New homeowners may want a lot of easy projects that won’t break the bank. Immigrant communities may love gardening, but they have cultural practices that will value certain types of plants and gardens over others. And HOAs are infamous for having strict guidelines about what’s allowed and what’s banned.
5. Host an event. Target your wish-list customer group. After you’ve listened to your potential customers, you’ll know what type of event to hold. Millennials may want an after-hours class to make succulent container gardens (naturally, with drinks involved). Families with young children may want a “Grow Your Own Food” workshop.
6. Create an advisory board. We humans like to return to what we know. If you have an advisory board focused on the new customers you want to attract, and host a meeting every couple of months or so, it will ensure you look beyond what is familiar to you, to what your customers want.
Why Aren’t We Concentrating On Baby Boomers?
A question Michigan State University’s Dr. Bridget Behe and I were asked again and again as we shared the results of our researching consumers over three years was, “Why are you studying those under 50 years old? The main customer base for gardening, after all, is Baby Boomers. Why not try to attract more of them? They have more money, and already like gardening.”
The answer is simple. There are a lot more potential customers to win among Generations X and Y.
Before we got started, Dr. Behe reviewed all the previous studies on consumers and gardening that she could find. She learned:
- Those Baby Boomers who aren’t gardening are pretty set in their ways. They quit gardening for good reasons and don’t plan to pick it up again. And those who have never gardened, don’t intend to start now.
- Those under 50 who aren’t gardening can still be persuaded. They may be not gardening because they don’t know how, or they’re just now beginning to buy homes with yards, or they simply never considered it. All of those barriers can be addressed.