21 February 2020

Many of our customers are independent garden centres who are proud to say they offer a high service level. On a practical level though, most centres sell plants to their customers with minimum aftercare or service. 

So ask yourself a question: what happens at your centre after a customer buys a plant? Are you selling an apple tree or are you helping your customer to grow apples?


The honest answer: sell them the apple tree

Most garden centres focus their marketing efforts on getting more customers to the centre in an effort to sell them products (and apple trees!). You might be one of those garden centres doing everything you should do in regards to marketing:

  • Post events on Facebook
  • Upload offers to your website
  • Send out magazines and vouchers by post
  • A weekly e-mail newsletter

The good news: keep doing what you do since this is essential to generate more footfall. But you might be missing one key aspect: that you’re trying to get people back to your centre to buy more stuff from you. 

You’re not actively helping them to get the most out of the plants they already bought nor do you help them to grow apples, do you?

Selling apple trees

But we answer all questions

Most garden centres have a team of experienced horticulturalists who are happy to answer questions. Just take a photo or bring some leaves and they are happy to explain what’s going on. It offers some benefits, but it might not be very appealing to customers. I bought a plant from you and it’s not growing as expected: It might feel like a hassle to get some advice from you.

And guess who will be blamed if the apple tree doesn’t grow enough juicy apples? Exactly; you.


Avoiding future disappointment

IKEA gives you a manual with every cabinet you buy from them. Your pizza-box contains instructions on how to prepare your pizza.

But plants? If you’re lucky, there’s a label on it explaining it should be in full sun, shade or semi-shade (whatever that is). 

Many plants sold at garden centres are future disappointments. Since customers don’t know what to do with them, they will die sooner rather than later. Or maybe the plant survives, but it won’t bloom as nicely as it could do.  Maybe it will have only have a few apples instead of dozens. 

You might think that’s good for business since people would need new plants. But if they die anyway, why would I buy them from a specialist? Next time, I’ll buy them from Lidl or Tesco.


The solution: pro-active communication

Here is an option you could consider. Instead of focussing all of your communications on sending out promotions and offers, focus some efforts on helping your customers with the purchases they’ve just made.

You would need a loyalty scheme to make this happen but if you have one, you can start today. Many of our customers are sending out tips & tricks directly to the consumer after buying a plant.

Planting your apple tree

Imagine one of your customers purchases an apple tree. An e-mail is automatically triggered containing planting instructions. On top of that, another e-mail with information about fertilisers is sent out automatically 45 days after the initial purchase. Yes, we are commercial too. But we want to be commercial when it’s relevant to the customer. Targeted commercials will always be more effective than random offers. Keep in mind these are not just discounts, often they are instructions or explanations.

Are you worried e-mail is dead or people will find it annoying? E-mail marketing is only dead if you push out e-mails with no benefit for the customer. E-mail is very effective if you appear in the inbox of your customers when it’s relevant to them.


From offer to knowledge

Nowadays, plants can be bought everywhere, be it online, at the DIY store or in the supermarket. If you want to stand out, you need to share your knowledge pro-actively. Many garden centres say they are helping their customers. But for most, that’s about it. They react to questions and are not actively helping their customers.

So ask yourself the following questions:

  • What happens after someone bought an apple tree at your centre? 
  • Are you reactive or pro-active? 
  • Where would you prefer to shop as a customer? 
Selling plants
Edwin Meijer

This article is written by:

Edwin Meijer

Marketing director

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