Keep Your Customer Satisfied—Every Week

Any easy-to-read availability list could mean the difference between making an order and missing an order. Each week, most florists purchase flowers from wholesalers in addition to farmers. For many of your clients, the availability list is the only contact they’ll have with you. It’s worth the time and effort each week to make your list a reflection of the great work you do.  Any easy-to-read availability list could mean the difference between making an order and missing an order. Each week, most florists purchase flowers from wholesalers in addition to farmers. For many of your clients, the availability list is the only contact they’ll have with you. It’s worth the time and effort each week to make your list a reflection of the great work you do. 

The Look 

It’s never too early to show your customers that you’re an expert in your field. Even in your first year of business, you can start with a professional-looking availability list. If you don’t have the funds to pay for a program like Shopify, you can use Google Drive, Microsoft Office, or MailChimp. A polished availability list is organized, free of typos, has a font that’s simple and large enough to read without squinting, and says who you are.

Many growers have fairly small quantities of product, which can be tricky to handle on an availability list. When Laura Beth started her farm, she was growing on a tiny urban plot. She got a maximum of about 25 sellable stems from each crop. It looked silly to list 2.5 bunches of sunflowers on an availability list, so she used stems as the unit instead. Twenty-five stems looked a lot more bountiful on paper than 2.5 bunches.

It’s perfectly fine to use stems as the unit on your availability list, but keep in mind that the majority of florists are used to bunches, with a standard ten stems per bunch. Buying from local farmers is much more appealing to florists if farmers’ availability lists don’t differ too much from what the wholesalers’ lists. Laura Beth switched over to bunches in her fifth year, when she had enough product that she could offer at least five bunches of any given crop.

Photos are definitely a plus on availability lists. It’s possible that your clients or potential clients may not be familiar with some of your more unique products. A photo or a link to a photo of the crop will make it easier for your florists to accurately choose what they need. Additional details such as stem length, number of stems available, and any other pertinent info (“Fragrant!” “Without foliage!” “Branching!”) should be included.

The Timing

The earlier you can send your availability, the better; many florists would love to know what you have months out! Next season, Laura Beth will email her availability on Tuesdays at 7:00 a.m. for delivery the following week. That way, she can create the list on Monday afternoon, type it up Monday evening, and hit “send” the next morning. She often sends an additional email later in the week with updated availability. Jessica Todd from Cut Flowers by Clear Ridge (Maryland) sends her list by 3:00 p.m. on Tuesdays; Maya Kosok from Hillen Homestead (Maryland), and Barbara Lamborne from Greenstone Fields (Virginia) both send theirs on Wednesday afternoons or evenings. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the general consensus here!

Estimating what will be ready for cutting over a week in advance is an acquired skill, but one thing is always certain: it’s best to under-promise and over-deliver. That means that if you’re pretty sure you’ll have ten bunches of champagne ranunculus, you should list that you have only eight. You can always send a follow-up email asking if a florist wants a few more bunches of those lovely peachy blooms—chances are, the answer is yes. On the flip side, it can send florists into a panic when you said you would have ten bunches but bring only eight.

The Reality

These guidelines are a great place to start, but ultimately each farmer has a different style, and each florist has unique expectations. If you’re not sure what your customer wants, simply ask! Schedule a meeting, treat her to a latte, and ask:  What can I do to make buying from me easy? What would make my availability list clear and concise? Am I sending it on a convenient day for you? 

You won’t be able to please everyone, but communicating with your florists (or rather, listening) will give you a broad picture of what will best suit their needs. Remember to ask for feedback during florists’ down times:  January and July are typically the slowest months here in Baltimore, so that’s a good time to reach out. And, being open to constructive criticism isn’t easy, so treat yourself to a latte too!

Ellen Frost

Local Color Flowers

Ellen Frost is owner of Local Color Flowers Contact her at [email protected]

Laura Beth Resnick

Butterbee Farm

Laura Beth Resnick is owner of Butterbee Farm Contact her at [email protected]