Just Makes You Think

Some terrific insights were shared during the ASCFG National Conference last November. Here are my notes on only a few of them.

“If customers don’t know your story, they don’t have anything to go on except price.” That concept smacked me on the back of the head and rang so true, I almost fell off my chair! 

Telling your story is one way to get a leg up on the competition and win the interest of buyers. Having been a wholesale buyer more than a few times in my floral career, I’ve heard stories from smug colleagues about successfully pounding down a grower’s price before agreeing to purchase. Telling your story is an excellent way to counter such behavior. Prepare a list of features and benefits—your back story—on what is involved in producing quality blooms. This way you are ready to defend your price position and squelch adversarial posturing.

Don’t assume your buyer knows why your product is better than the next guy’s. For example, what postharvest treatments do you use to ensure quality all the way to the end? Do you offer consistent bunch sizes? Do you test various solutions to find which one gives best vase performance? If so, let your customer know about your practices. Keep in mind, many products arrive at wholesalers and retailers in dirty buckets and polluted tap water. Yours don’t.

Explain the research and communication in which you engage as part of making selections to offer the best varieties available. Do you plan production so color assortments change with the seasons? Make sure the buyer knows so he (and his sales staff) can inform his customers. Don’t assume your buyer has a clue about best handling methods for new products. One example is cut clematis, which is showing up in floral designs as a cool new bloom, yet most designers don’t know how to treat it.

Story Matters Here

Today’s ubiquitous answer to almost any question—“Google it”— indicates that consumers are as intrigued by the back story as they are about the product. Make sure it’s interesting with a big dose of panache because the competition is fierce! Stroll through the wine and beer aisles to see striking examples of edgy labeling. How about gourmet salts touting stories of French cuisine and Himalayan adventure, all subtly shifting consumers’ decisions away from price as the primary purchasing component to falling in love with the story featured on the label, the product origin, or the brand? The back story sets the platform; brand recognition, logos and company name keeps your business in front of buyers’ eyes.

My Google search gave this definition for brand: The idea or image of a specific product or service with which consumers connect. Marketing expert Seth Godin puts it this way, “Just as it takes more than the hat to be a cowboy, your brand is more than the design of your goods. A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”

Great quote, considering our products stoke the fires of emotions from forgiveness and gratitude to hope, love, and sympathy. Since 1953, Interflora has featured the Mercury Man logo and the slogan “Say it with Flowers”. If you need inspirational stories, read The 50 Mile Bouquet, written by Debra Prinzing with photos by David Perry. It’s available through the ASCFG.

Another thought-provoking question was “Does the beauty go all the way to the bottom of the vase?” Maybe it is more realistic to ask the question this way: does the value go all the way to the bottom of the vase? Regardless of the phrasing, always define beauty and value in terms of your customer, or as mentioned by one of the speakers, “Know the difference between adding value versus value-added”.

Gens X and Y vs. the Boomers

Adding value for Gen X and Gen Y crowds likely means customizing their purchases. Just as when ordering at Starbucks, this group knows exactly what they want and expects it on demand, but has little interest in details like longevity of blooms. For these folks, it’s all about “now”. On the other hand, if your customers are baby boomers, value-added means information on longevity expectations, furnishing colors and textures that create interesting bouquets, offering a food packet and care information for home use. 

The last quote I want to share from Tacoma was “Are you creating a scent and petal journey?” What an engaging question—one that takes the mind in a million directions.

These quotes represent just a few of the wonderful perspectives shared at the conference.  I don’t know about the Monday Growers’ School, but the weather behaved and sunshine accompanied us as we toured the Skagit Valley on Wednesday. Diane and the conference committee did a terrific job providing stimulating topics, punctuated with speakers’ insights, all of which happened under the calm and super-organized skills of Judy and Linda.

Bev Burrow’s stories toasting Janet Foss for receiving the ASCFG Outstanding Award were a riot. After Dennis Westphall serenaded the group with songs about flowers and seeding equipment, Dave Dowling’s auctioning mastery lured almost $10,000 out of members’ pockets to support floriculture research. Thank you all for another fun and thought-provoking ASCFG conference. Now, talk about a story!

Gay Smith

Technical Consulting Manager

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