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...
Bauman Farms

July 28, 2015

Local Garden Centers To Visit During Farwest 2015

While you’re in Portland for the Farwest show, set aside some time to pay a visit to these local independent garden centers and check out some of the innovative things they’re doing.

Read More
Farwest Seminars

July 28, 2015

What’s New And What To Do At Farwest 2015

Are you planning to attend the 2015 Farwest show? Here's a list of things to do, including new activities, at the event, which take place Aug. 27-29 in Portland, Ore.

Read More
Bob Peters featured image

July 28, 2015

J.R. Peters’ Founder Dies At 97

Robert "Bob" Peters founded the garden fertilizer company that became JR Peters and has been an active supporter of the greenhouse and garden center industries since World War II.

Read More
Latest Stories
Bauman Farms

July 28, 2015

Local Garden Centers To Visit During Farwest 2015

While you’re in Portland for the Farwest show, set aside some time to pay a visit to these local independent garden centers and check out some of the innovative things they’re doing.

Read More
Farwest Seminars

July 28, 2015

What’s New And What To Do At Farwest 2015

Are you planning to attend the 2015 Farwest show? Here's a list of things to do, including new activities, at the event, which take place Aug. 27-29 in Portland, Ore.

Read More
Bob Peters featured image

July 28, 2015

J.R. Peters’ Founder Dies At 97

Robert "Bob" Peters founded the garden fertilizer company that became JR Peters and has been an active supporter of the greenhouse and garden center industries since World War II.

Read More
IGC Show App

July 27, 2015

Want A Guide To This Year’s IGC Shows? There̵…

IGC Show organizers have launched new free apps for IGC East and IGC Chicago, available for download in the Apple App Store and on Google Play, that offer information on conference sessions and special events.

Read More
Impatiens Lollipop Series (Ernst Benary Of America)

July 27, 2015

18 New Annuals That Are Great For Either Sun Or Shade […

Now is the time to start planning for which annuals will be on display at your garden center in 2016. Check out this slideshow of breeders’ picks for their favorite new sun and shade varieties for the garden retail market in the coming year.  

Read More
Ingenico EMV

July 27, 2015

Why PCI And EMV Compliance May Not Be Enough For Retail…

A report from the National Retail Federation indicates that while companies are becoming more compliant with PCI standards, it may not be enough to protect them from fraud. Note: Thanks for Epicor for sponsoring this EMV story.

Read More
Ian Baldwin

July 27, 2015

Ian Baldwin: Validating Customer Complaints Can Pay Div…

In his latest blog posting, Ian Baldwin says when you deal with customer concerns in an empathetic fashion, you’re more likely to earn repeat business and future sales.

Read More
Farwest Nursery Tour

July 24, 2015

Farwest 2015 Show Promises To Be Far From Ordinary

Farwest, which takes place Aug. 27-29 in Portland, Ore., is the show to discover new nursery and retail-focused products, equipment and services, find new, popular plant varieties, and network with thousands of top industry professionals.

Read More

July 23, 2015

Lakeview Nurseries’ Michelle Harvey Appointed To Massac…

Following a passion for government policy, Harvey says she’s excited to be able to educate elected officials about issues important to the horticulture industry.

Read More

July 22, 2015

Economic Growth Will Fuel Garden Demand [2015 State Of …

As the housing industry continues to rebound and the economy improves, economist Charlie Hall says consumers will unleash pent-up demand, which means good news for garden retailers.

Read More

July 22, 2015

Local Garden Centers To Visit During The Nursery/Landsc…

While you’re in Dallas for the Nursery/Landscape EXPO, set aside some time to pay a visit to these local independent garden centers and check out some of the innovative things they’re doing.

Read More
Texas NLA Trade Show Floor

July 21, 2015

What To Do And What’s New At the Nursery/Landscap…

Are you planning to attend the 2015 Nursery/Landscape EXPO? If so, here’s a list of things to do, including new activities, at the event, which take place Aug. 13-15 in Dallas.

Read More
Texas NLA Opening Ceremony

July 21, 2015

Nursery/Landscape EXPO: Where Business Begins With A Ha…

The Nursery/Landscape EXPO offers independent garden centers the chance to diversify their product lines with the latest varieties in greenscapes and hardscapes.

Read More
Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Holy Moly!’ From Proven Winners

July 21, 2015

Garden Center Retailers Highlight Their Favorite New Pr…

Coordinated by The Garden Center Group, the Retailers Choice Awards’ are selected by a team of retailers, along with Sid Raisch and Danny Summers, walking the trade show flow in search of stand-out plants and hard goods.

Read More
girl on smartphone

July 21, 2015

Cultivate’15: Keynote Curt Steinhorst Says Generational…

Curt Steinhorst of The Center for Generational Kinetics kicked off Cultivate’15 with a dynamic keynote address filled with humor on how to bridge the generational gaps in the workforce and use it to your competitive advantage. Steinhorst says that his generation of Millennials has a reputation for feeling entitled, an attitude that many employers are baffled by. The biggest question is, where did this attitude come from? Steinhorst says you don’t have to look much further than parents who wanted their kids to have an easier life than they did, so they paid the college tuition, financed the cars, bought the clothing and covered the rent on the apartment and on and on. “Baby Boomers who wanted your children to have an easier life, I just want to let you know, mission accomplished,” he says. “Millennials have had all of the freedoms of adulthood without the responsibility.” One problem with […]

Read More

July 21, 2015

SNA Providing Scholarships To 12 Horticulture Students …

The Sidney B. Meadows Scholarship Fund has announced the names of 12 students from five southeastern universities chosen to receive academic scholarships this year. The presentations will take place on Wednesday, July 22, during SNA 2015 in Atlanta.

Read More
Wertheim in 1941, taken by his future wife, Margit.

July 21, 2015

A Homeless Ernest Wertheim Makes Lasting Connections On…

Editor’s note: When Ernest Wertheim arrived in the United Sates, he first landed in New York and traveled to the Philadelphia area, being hosted by established Jewish families. But he needed to work, and the most promising job he was offered that fit his landscaping design training would not be available for several months. Then he was invited to San Francisco to work for a woman who would be able to launch him in California. Here’s an excerpt that shows how precarious his position was once he arrived in a part of the country where he knew no one. We arrived at the Greyhound station at Fifth and Mission in downtown San Francisco. When I got out of the bus, the loudspeaker was on, and I heard an impassioned voice speaking in German. It was Hitler. He spoke of the strength of the Nazi Party and the recovery of a nation […]

Read More

July 20, 2015

Ernest Wertheim Tells General MacArthur He’s Not …

Editor’s note: Wertheim was recruited to train as an intelligence officer. Prior to D-Day, he was assigned to a group that would go behind enemy lines into Germany for a secret mission, with each team member taking a different route into London to rendezvous. So when he received orders to leave, he didn’t think it odd he headed west. However, when his final destination was the South Pacific, he realized a mistake had been made. Here is an excerpt which recounts Wertheim’s first encounter with General Douglas MacArthur, when he finally learns why the mistaken assignment was not corrected.   The 40th encountered several severely damaged bridges. The Army engineers had to repair them before we could cross with all our heavy equipment, and this caused a substantial deal in our flanking maneuver. In the meantime, the 37th ran into far less opposition and made it to the meeting place outside Camiling. […]

Read More