The Advent of the "Craft" Grower

While waiting for a plane recently, I bumped into Pat Dahlson, the CEO of Mayesh Wholesale. Mayesh is a nationwide chain with locations all over southern California, several in Arizona, and in Las Vegas, Charlotte, Detroit, Cleveland and Miami.

As we chatted about the unimaginative Valentine’s marketing emphasis on reds and whites, when everyone is longing to conquer January blahs with vibrant splashes of spring color, Pat said the supermarket has taken the lion’s share of rose business away from the flower shop.

He continued to say that without product from “craft” growers (think ASCFG members), wholesalers and retailers would be at a loss on ways to compete for holiday sales. Aha!

“Craft” growers—a distinguishing term separating growers who produce specialty blooms from those producing traditional, everyday types such as roses, carnations, poms, and gyp.

At the risk of sounding new age-y, the prefix “craft” in front of “brewer”, “baker” or “creamery” conveys a host of positive images: mindful production, distinctiveness, sustainability, handmade, characteristics that drive sales. Maybe I’ve been hanging out with the wrong groups, but this was my first time hearing specialty growers referred to as craft growers and I loved it.

Referring to yourself and identifying your business as a craft growing operation seems an excellent way to emphasize the uniqueness of your products over more generic imports. This is an identification that provides a slightly vague, but definitely positive description of what sets you apart from mega-size commercial flower producers. Nothing’s wrong with the moniker “local grower”, but “craft grower” packs more punch, not to mention panache as the wheels start turning in Ms. Flower Consumer’s head.

Staying Connected

What’s your involvement with social media, one of today’s trendiest forms of advertising? Most would agree that a lot of social media marketing is directed at the Gen Y group, but is that the group you want to target?  Look close at Ms. Flower Consumer. Notice that she is between 45-65 years old, and definitely does not fit into Gen Y category (people born between mid-1970s and early 2000s). When planning social media posts, plan accordingly, don’t lose sight of who has the most disposable income and who pays the bills. Many consumer purchasing surveys about flower consumption indicate baby boomers are the top flower purchasers.

Choosing the social venue is also important to hitting your target audience. According to a 2011 survey by Performics on social shopping, women are far more likely than men to search for deals on web sites, and they favor Facebook more than men do. Men look for product information, read reviews, and frequent other social networks including YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn more frequently than do women.

Are you honing training efforts to make 2012 more successful than 2011? Regardless of whether you have one employee or ten, nothing is as effective as good training. Unfortunately, the new person is often trained by the employee he or she is replacing and details are often not clearly spelled out. Sometimes training is an activity that employers assume is happening when in fact, employees don’t realize that daily information feed is their classroom.

Effective training takes on several styles. Hands-on, written, posted information and periodic follow-up quizzes ensure information sticks. Periodic review sessions help keep everyone on the same page. Sales training requires a bit more attention because the salesperson has to establish a clearly defined beginning, middle or end to the activity to close the transaction. Sales success requires good listening skills and the ability to direct the situation rather than passively respond, or talk over the other person. A waiter never responds to a customer’s query on a menu suggestion by asking “How much do you want to spend?”, yet that reply is heard frequently in flower sales venues.

An Educated Customer Means Repeat Business

Don’t underestimate the positive impact of customer education on how to condition their flowers as part of your sales spiel. Customers remember flowers that last long after the memory of cost has faded. The respect you give to the production part of the flower story is seen as an act of respect
for quality. Remind your sales staff to share that message with customers.

Another sales training point is how to speak about flower longevity. A University of Minnesota study examining the impact of flower guarantees found that 76% of participants said a longevity guarantee would positively impact their flowerpurchasing decisions. The same study indicated people are willing to pay more for flowers that last 11-14 days compared to those lasting 5-7 days. What is the take-home message? Provide the average number of vase life days for different flower types in sales displays. Educating customers builds relationships and repeat sales. The flower food packet means more to customers when it’s presented as part of the story about quality and care. Teach them how to recognize quality, how to care for the blooms at home, and where to display (or not!). All of this sounds as though it would be intuitive to people who buy flowers, but it is not! Consumers want to know the origin and production story behind their purchases.

Craft producers are rising stars in meat, veggies, cheese and chocolate merchandising. Fulfill your customers’ desire by becoming their craft flower grower.

Gay Smith

Technical Consulting Manager

Gay Smith is the Technical Consulting Manager for Chrysal USA. Contact her at [email protected]