The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man

I consider myself an everyman. I am middle aged, white with an average height and shoe size, two kids, a dog and a mortgage (or two). As a small business owner, I live the ups and downs of the American economy; gas prices, housing crisis, health care costs – you name it, we’ve got it.

I’ve dumped the SUV, embraced the hybrid and am looking forward to raking the front lawn – and then fertilizing it with an eco-friendly and affordable lawn food. I want a greener lawn and nicely edged beds mounded with fresh mulch. But guess what? Like many, I don’t have the time to even shop for the organic fertilizer, let alone spread the mulch. What I need is warmer weather, more time and plants that prune themselves.

I am your average customer, and I feel taken for granted. I shop at the four or five garden centers in my town, yet I am only on one’s mailing list. I have never been asked to join a loyalty club, not yet received an e-mail update and never felt the impulse to visit a Web site. None of the retailers I shop has a sign-up process that I am familiar with – and I am looking. I spend quite a bit at garden centers – well over $1,000 a year – but I have never, ever received a thank you message or a premium in reward for my patronage.

I shop a neighborhood garden center more than others because I get a friendly hello. In the end, aren’t we all just like Norm from Cheers? You know, everyone wants to go where everybody knows your name.

Instead, I feel invisible. It feels like no one is interested. Except, Staples. Like clockwork, I receive rewards in the form of checks – real money to use on whatever I want. I also get mailers with incentives. I recently purchased an HP laser printer for just $35.

Making Life Easier

I am a simple guy. But your garden center could make my life easier, and I would pay for it. I don’t think I am that different from any other “Harry Homeowner.” Here’s what I want: I want someone to deliver my mulch – I now have to schlep more than 30 bags home over the course of a couple of weeks – and some really neat plants for the front planters.

I need lots of impatiens, some advice on my backyard pond and someone to service my mower before the lawn gets more than a foot tall.

If I could find it, I would also love a load of pea stone for the front drive and garden paths. Oh, and good tools, not the cheapie pruners that everyone seems to stock. What ever happened to Felcos?Oh, and it would be great if a garden center stayed open after 6 p.m. I am lucky if my work day ends before 7. How can I give you my money if you aren’t open?

It just doesn’t seem like my garden center even knows I exist. I am the invisible man. My time is valuable, and I enjoy spending my weekends puttering around the yard. I have a nice home landscape and I take pride in it. I have for the nearly 25 years I have lived in Connecticut.

That’s 25 years times an average of 30 to 35 bags of mulch a year. When you add it all up, it’s around 1,000 bags of mulch – at around $5 per bag. You do the math. What I wouldn’t give for someone to remember that I buy that much mulch every year – and to offer to deliver it.

Of course, I understand the irony. For 14 years I have run a marketing company that specializes in the garden center industry, and yet only one garden center in my town has my name on its mailing list.

My local CVS, Staples and even Border’s Books seem to pull it off. Why not my local garden center? If large, impersonal mega retailers can get up close and personal, what’s wrong with my local garden center? Is it money? Is it staff? Management? Technology? Yes, yes, yes and yes.

Money shouldn’t be an issue. You can buy sophisticated CRM tools at the local Staples for less than a hundred bucks. It can’t be staffing, because there are companies out there that can do it for you very affordably.

Putting Priorities In Place

It all comes down to priorities. Successful companies make it a priority to understand the value of each segment of the marketplace. I don’t really like to think of myself as a segment, but you get the idea.

At the end of the day, I just want my local retailer to value my business. Your customers understand what they spend with your business, even if you don’t. Believe me, if you make the effort, your customers will respond.

So make it your priority to connect with your customers, even those guys poking around the perennials. You’ll never guess what they might be worth to your business, but you can certainly measure it in terms of product sales. That is, when you decide to make your customers your top priority.   

Leave a Reply

More From Customer Services/Sales Techniques...
GCA Bathroom Awards 2015 Altums

September 1, 2015

Garden Centers Of America Best Bathroom Awards Announced At IGC Chicago

During IGC Chicago, Garden Centers of America (GCA) recognized a group of independent garden centers for their store restroom designs with the 2015 GCA Best Garden Center Bathroom Awards.

Read More
Growing Solutions Farm Native Plant

August 31, 2015

Growing Solutions Farm Gains New Native Plant Garden

The National Garden Bureau, American Beauties and Midwest Groundcovers have teamed up to provide more than 200 pollinator-friendly native plants to the Chicago-based vocational therapeutic garden for young adults with autism.

Read More
Danish Garden Center

August 31, 2015

How Danish Garden Centers Are Revamping Their Plant Departments

Danish retailers are improving nursery stock and houseplants by altering their growth habits to provide products with unusual or manicured shapes to pique the interest of consumers.

Read More
Latest Stories
GCA Bathroom Awards 2015 Altums

September 1, 2015

Garden Centers Of America Best Bathroom Awards Announce…

During IGC Chicago, Garden Centers of America (GCA) recognized a group of independent garden centers for their store restroom designs with the 2015 GCA Best Garden Center Bathroom Awards.

Read More
Growing Solutions Farm Native Plant

August 31, 2015

Growing Solutions Farm Gains New Native Plant Garden

The National Garden Bureau, American Beauties and Midwest Groundcovers have teamed up to provide more than 200 pollinator-friendly native plants to the Chicago-based vocational therapeutic garden for young adults with autism.

Read More
Danish Garden Center

August 31, 2015

How Danish Garden Centers Are Revamping Their Plant Dep…

Danish retailers are improving nursery stock and houseplants by altering their growth habits to provide products with unusual or manicured shapes to pique the interest of consumers.

Read More
Garden Design Magazine

August 28, 2015

Garden Design Magazine Now Available For Sale At Indepe…

The upscale magazine, which was previously available only through the publisher’s website, focuses on high-end outdoor design and lifestyle trends.

Read More
Steve Bailey

August 27, 2015

How To Set An Attained Margin Percentage Goal At Your S…

One retailer asked this question: Is there an attained margin percentage that is considered a good goal for garden centers and their various product lines? Check out financial consultant Steve Bailey's advice.

Read More
Viola ‘Sorbet XP Coconut Swirl’ (PanAmerican Seed)

August 26, 2015

19 Versatile Cool-Weather Annuals For Beds, Borders And…

Annuals can be versatile not just in their suitability for cool conditions, but in their adaptable use in beds, borders and containers. Here are breeders' recommendations on their top new selections.

Read More
Holly Wilson Wilson’s Garden Center

August 25, 2015

How To Make Your Newsletter More Interesting [Solve My …

A retailer recently asked how to come up with fresh ideas for your store’s eNewsletter, so that it does not become redundant. Here's some great advice the retailer received.

Read More
Farwest Nursery Tour

August 25, 2015

Farwest Show Will Include A Retail-Focused Idea Sharing…

The 2015 Farwest Show, taking place this week in Portland, Ore., will include an Idea Center For Retailers, a comprehensive learning experience focused on garden retail. Located on the main show floor, garden center owners and employees can participate in many sessions as industry experts share advice and how-to information.

Read More

August 24, 2015

Let Us Know About Your Greatest New Idea!

October is "Steal This Idea" month at Today's Garden Center. We're looking for the latest, greatest and most successful new ideas that you've incorporated at your store and are willing to share with your industry peers.

Read More

August 24, 2015

PANTS Show In Philadelphia Canceled For 2015

The Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association (PNLA) was informed by the PANTS Show producer that this year’s show, planned for early November, has been canceled. PNLA is reviewing its options for the future.

Read More

August 24, 2015

Mark Your Calendar For These Gift Shows

Want to enhance your gift department? Here's a look at some of the major gift shows taking place later this year and early next year.

Read More
Ingenico EMV

August 24, 2015

Small Retailers May Face Big Challenges In Complying Wi…

The National Retail Federation’s J. Craig Shearman says it may take a couple years for credit cards with EMV chips to become the norm, but retailers should still begin preparing, or face increased liability.

Read More
Helleborus ‘Winter Jewels Painted Doubles’ (Terra Nova Nurseries) FEATURED IMAGE

August 21, 2015

12 Cold-Hardy Perennials For 2016 [Slideshow]

Your customers are likely looking for plants that can withstand cold temperatures. Here's a look at breeders' suggestions for some of their favorite cool-weather perennials.

Read More
USA flowers

August 18, 2015

Gift Shows Are Focusing On Local Products

Hoping to change the buying experience for attendees, gift show organizers are adapting through technology and a focus on locally produced items.

Read More

August 18, 2015

6 Super Ideas From Product Express

Take a look at some innovative new products that will add a spark to your business!

Read More
IGC East Martha Stewart

August 18, 2015

Eight Insights From Martha Stewart’s Keynote Pres…

Martha Stewart's Q&A presentation with Jeff Morey at IGC East in early August yielded some revealing information about her branding, and how the independent garden center industry can stay relevant in a changing market.

Read More
Geary-Michael

August 18, 2015

Michael Geary Is Leaving AmericanHort

AmericanHort president and CEO Michael Geary announced last Wednesday that he will be leaving his position at the end of September to serve as CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services. “I am writing to share with you that on October 8 I will begin a new professional chapter as CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, an organization dedicated to creating business opportunities in the architecture, engineering and construction industries,” Geary said in an email. His last day with AmericanHort will be Sept. 30, 2015. “As some of you know, I grew up connected to the horticulture industry so this was not an easy decision for me,” he said. “I have loved working with our organizations and our talented members, staff and partners. However, my choice to return full time to Washington, D.C. will allow me to be closer to my family and aging parents and to re-engage with another industry […]

Read More
Mother and Daughter gardening

August 17, 2015

5 Things You Need To Know About Young Plant Consumers […

Younger garden consumers think it’s important for children to learn how to grow plants, even though they themselves see gardening as a time-consuming and expensive hobby, our latest research shows. This insight was just one of many unearthed by Today’s Garden Center’s 10% Project as it seeks ways to increase consumer interest in plants and local garden centers. We conducted three focus groups made up of consumers under 50 years old during the late winter this year. These focus groups took place over three days. The first focus group was made up of 18-29 year olds, the second of 30-49 year olds and the third of parents with children between 2 and 12. Our next steps are to develop marketing campaigns based on issues our research revealed, then work with garden centers to use the marketing during the spring of 2016 and measure the results. You may recall Today’s Garden […]

Read More