Fall Changes

What’s on your schedule this autumn? By the time you read this article, the kids will be organized in school, so now it’s your time to shift gears and launch into new classes, programs and projects for your company.  Everything changes in fall. The days get shorter, leaves change color, annuals finish up and die, perennials head toward dormancy. The time is right to take a class, paint a room, and map out your next season.
    
What do you plan to change in your business approach next season?  Anything that will improve sales is worth immediate consideration.
    
The DYI trend is as strong as ever.  One characteristic of the all-things-lifestyle mentality is that consumers want to feel smart about their purchases, including flower bouquets. So why not start with developing “how to” care tips as part of your marketing efforts? The anecdotal sugar/aspirin/Clorox cocktail may sound cute, but the results won’t hold a candle to vase performance from a commercial flower food packet mixed with the right amount of water.

Five tips to kick up new sales action:
1. Describe your product so the people who sell it have good adjectives and descriptions to use.
2. Provide product affirmations and personal anecdotes for consumers.
3. Find poetry that fits your marketing image. One-line quotes continue to be “in”.
4. Supply flower origin or flower meaning information.  
5. Provide color palette information showing what flowers work as bouquet partners.

According to a consumer panel queried during a 2006 industry event, respondents said they want tip sheets to be informative, but not horticulturally condescending. In other words, choose carefully the format you use to describe your product. Whether it’s what the flower means, its history or origin, make sure to limit the use of horticulture vocabulary and have a non-industry person read your verbiage before you print.  Consumers perceive interesting information as adding value to your products. Humor makes the information stick.

Five ideas to build customer loyalty:
1.  Create a feature of the month.
2.  Get your name on it.
3.  Ask for feedback.  
4.  Check out furniture, clothing and sports equipment magazines like Pottery Barn, Pier 1, REI, and Lands End’, to see what colors are trendy.
5.  Bring the outdoors inside.

So you think you are already doing what it takes to build customer loyalty. Maybe you already encourage your staff to be friendly and really try to understand their customers’ needs, remembering their names, offering an unquestioning guarantee.  Great, but frankly, shoppers expect these kinds of behaviors. None of the aforementioned attributes promotes consumer loyalty. Developing this kind of allegiance requires that you exceed shoppers’ expectations and find tangible ways of stimulating your buyers’ habits.
    
Making an impact takes creativity. One idea is focusing on a specific item. A “feature of the month” program sows seeds of interest for a specific flower family. Most people shop once a week, so it’s a good idea to change the marketing bit (and perhaps the variety) weekly, but continue to feature the same flower type throughout the month. This approach gives customers a reason to check out your display every time they shop the market.
    
Sign language is powerful, too. Think of teasing or informative lines, or provoking interest when designing your signs.  “Limited”  gives a great subliminal message that helps nudge customers toward flower purchases. At the very least, “Limited” stimulates conversation. Another idea, not new, but one that cannot be stressed too much: get your name on everything so consumers recognize and connect with your product.
    
Collect information from your customer base to plan production schedules for next season. Develop a simple survey to find out what colors are most desired and take note of what sells first. Better yet, notice what doesn’t move. Check out Pier 1 and Target to see what colors are hip.  Seeing the color brown everywhere? Since there are not many brown flowers, look to see what colors are used to accentuate brown in displays. Add flowers with these colors to your 2007 crop list.  
    
Bring the outside inside. Show customers how to use cut flowers to decorate patios, decks and garden nooks. Give real-life examples. Most consumers love what they see on display, but may not know how to combine the elements themselves. Bring the outdoors in by using common yard art and rustic containers like those blue speckled camp coffee pots as vases. It conveys an idea of buying bouquets for the patio as well as kitchen tables.
    
Use the time this winter when you’re not weeding or watering or driving to market to plan how your next season will be even better than the one just finished.
    
See You in San Jose!!
    
This article wouldn’t be complete if I failed to mention at least one thing relating to postharvest products, so please forgive this horrible segue, but do visit my table in the San Jose Trade Show to get information about CVBn pills, a.k.a. Professional Gerber. These slow-release chlorine pills are definitely worth knowing about: they are easy, effective and inexpensive! Stop by for a description and a sample