An excellent creative marketing strategy is hard to come by, and yet is critical to develop for small businesses, both in and out of the garden center industry. There are many posts and suggestions online to market as an entrepreneur, a small business, a local start-up, or a large corporation.
Although some similar suggestions run between them all, realize that your marketing strategies need to look different for each industry and business. In the garden industry, there are large-scale production facilities and smaller, local businesses that want to expand their client base.
This article focuses on marketing strategies that work well for local garden centers, greenhouses, or small-to-medium businesses. As you begin to read through our greenhouse and garden center marketing ideas, suggestions, and advertising tips, think about the kind of people you want to reach and how these could work into your strategy to hit your goals.
The Importance of Good Marketing in the Garden Industry
Before jumping right into our tips, it is helpful to realize why a creative marketing strategy is essential to your business. Otherwise, it will feel like walking with purpose towards an unknown destination.
Marketing is often considered the primary factor in growing businesses. It is the side of your business that is the slick salesman, getting people to come in and leave with products. Marketing is how you find new customers, engage and educate your audience, and sell yourself across applicable industries.
With that plug, take a look at our top tips for how to expand your creative marketing strategy.
1. Utilize Social Media
As if we haven’t plugged this enough in some of our other articles, this tip managed to be number one on our list.
The importance of digital advertising and social media specifically cannot possibly be overlooked or overestimated. The amount of time people spend staring at their screens with a social media profile on the other side is outrageous, yet it is also worth taking advantage of for businesses.
In a study done by Hubspot, Facebook is the most common social media channel for which companies create their content. It almost doubles others like Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn, which follow close behind each other.
These four are some of the most important social media channels to focus on, and many times similar content can be adapted for each channel, so you don’t have to recreate it.
Use social media to create a brand for your business and to let your customer base know what is happening in your business.
2. Publish Authority Content
Starting a blog for your business is no laughing matter, and it can play an integral part in a creative marketing strategy. It can take quite a bit of planning and time at the start, but it is also one of the more cost-effective ways to market yourself online.
A good blog has the power to give your SEO an incredible boost, ranking your website higher in search results. It also establishes you as an authority in your industry. It is valuable if customers can see you this way, particularly in the garden industry.
You don’t have to start a blog to put out quality content, but it does create a convenient conduit for you.
3. Create a Press Release
The point of writing a press release is to let members of the press know about something they might deem as newsworthy. The hope is that they will choose your topic and write about it in their publication, online or in print. Doing this is handy, both locally and on a large scale, depending on what kind of business you are promoting.
If you are a smaller, locally-focused business, it helps get press features in the newspapers for your city and other towns around your area. It will help get locals interested in what is going on at your greenhouse.
On a larger scale, focus press releases on garden and industry publications, both print and online. These might be nationwide magazines or newsletters that go out to people with an interest in your industry. Local interest is still worth garnering as well.
4. Develop a Customer Loyalty Program
Gaining new customers and retaining your old customer base are both very important for a successful business. Customer loyalty programs are beneficial when you are not the only garden business in town. Asking for a customer’s loyalty can be just the way to help combat some of the local competition.
On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10x as much as their first purchase. (Invesp)
64% of retailers say their loyalty/rewards program is the best way to connect with consumers. (Hubspot, 2020)
There are many ways to run a loyalty program, and ultimately the best one will be subjective to the type of business you run and how you interact with your customers.
You can use the little punch cards that give you special perks once you fill them with punches after each visit. You can provide them with some money back or a gift after spending over a certain amount of money. Getting deals often keeps people coming back time and time again. Be creative and think of offers that your customers have appreciated in the past.
5. Run a Promotion Competition
Another opportunity for creativity as a business in the garden industry crops up once you begin to look at promoting your business through competitions. Many people are naturally competitive and get a rush from winning something. Winning something worthwhile from a local business is also another way to secure a customer’s loyalty.
Promotion competitions can celebrate certain times of the year, like offering gift baskets to the winner over the holidays. You could also use these to promote a business’s anniversary or do a business card drawing to get more contacts handed to you.
Again, these are relative to the kind of business and the way that you run it. Competitions allow you to gather more customer data as well, gathering their emails or physical addresses. As a creative marketing strategy, this option gives you the opportunity to express your business’s individuality.
Whatever way you decide to run the competition, social media steps in to give you a hand. Use it to promote the competition and spread the news far and wide faster.
6. “Customer-of-the-Month” Promotions
You have probably all seen pictures up on a prominent wall of a local business featuring their “Employee of the Month.” What about a “Customer of the Month” instead? It is another way to garner loyalty among your most common customers.
You can use your email or social media channels to develop the campaign, allowing customers to nominate those they believe most deserve recognition.
It is best to set up rules that are easy to follow and to incentivize it. You could consider giving each customer a gift that becomes the feature of the month to encourage participation.
For some garden businesses that are only open seasonally, it might be more useful to run them each week instead of monthly.
7. Produce Usable Resources
Developing a blog isn’t the only way you can establish yourself as an authority in your industry. Gardening and other everyday skills in the green industry take a lot of development, primarily if someone hasn’t grown up with them as hobbies.
Allow this infographic, ebook, pamphlet, or other print information to be available as a free download when customers visit your site. Give them instruction on how to plant individual plants you offer or care for landscaping once it has been installed.
If you have other, more specific services, the aftercare or maintenance of these described in print format is another excellent service that you can market as a bonus your business offers compared to others.
8. Ensure Your Website Performs Well
Having a workable website that is easy for customers to navigate is essential in today’s tech-driven world. We talk about this in more detail in another article.
A quick overview should help you to develop a checklist for website goals. Ensure that you:
- Optimize for search engines
- Develop aesthetically pleasing graphics
- Define your services
- Make contacting you convenient and clear
- Use a fitting domain name
Starting with all of these allows you to have a solid base and work from there. You can integrate your blog or other content into the website later to increase your ranking and your site’s quality.
Currently, 37% of adults in the United States say they predominantly use their smartphones when they access the internet. (Pew Research, 2019)
If your website is not mobile-friendly, it means that you are missing out on a lot of potential business and searches. Even if it shows up, mobile users are unlikely to stay on your page long if it is not mobile-friendly.
9. Consider Social Media Ads
Many small businesses will not have the budget to cover a large paid ad campaign. However, nowadays, there are plenty of ways to invest only a select amount in your paid advertising and get the most from it.
One of the most common examples is paid advertising on social media sites. Facebook ads are typical, allowing you to run a campaign that can cost only a couple of cents per click, depending on how you lay it out.
The primary benefit of an ad campaign like Facebook ads is its ability to focus your ads on a specific market. You can only have users registered in your region that will see the ads, users that have shown interest in the garden industry previously, or even a specific demographic of users.
10. Run Free Educational Events
A creative marketing strategy doesn’t only have to be fun, it can also be educational. Establishing your authority online isn’t the only way to do it. Perhaps more important for local businesses is developing your know-how and reputation in the surrounding area.
A prime way to go about doing this is to host some kind of event or class relating to your industry or services. Some ideas include:
- How-to pot plants
- Wreath making
- Developing a garden design
- Creating a rock garden
- Choosing and building water features
- Floral arrangement
Advertise these effectively by hanging up flyers around town and posting bulletins on your social media pages.
11. Don’t Forget About Google
How important do you think having a business presence on search engines is? The short answer is that it’s significant.
Most new customers are likely to try to look you up online and compare you with any of your competitors in the local area before visiting your storefront. For the most part, Google is the most influential search engine currently used globally and ranking well for local SEO should be part of your garden center marketing.
Google process 2 trillion searches each year from researchers around the world. (99 Firms, 2020)
The best way to establish yourself on Google is to register your business under Google My Business. This feature gets you the potential listings at the top of a search page when applicable searches are done.
Don’t skimp on your Google My Business form. Enter as much info as possible, including your contact information, your website address, links to social media if applicable, your opening hours, and plenty of representative photos of your business.
Once you have your Google My Business form up and running, encourage customers to leave positive reviews. You can do all of the personal promotion that you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that customers tend to trust what other customers have to say more than your promotion.
12. Form Valuable Partnerships (In and Out of the Garden Industry)
Industry partnerships aren’t only applicable to CEOs of billion-dollar corporations. Consider partnering with well-respected local businesses or local offices for larger companies. These partnerships can be especially helpful if you are a new business trying to establish yourself in the locals’ eyes.
These partnerships are useful for spreading the word about your business, running competitions together, hosting webinars, or other customer engagement forms.
13. Apply for Business Awards
As a creative marketing strategy, this one is pretty straightforward. Patting yourself on the back for a job well done doesn’t have to be a mark of pride. Nominating yourself for local business awards, or at least entering them if you qualify, can gain you value and authority in your region.
Many cities run award competitions for the best local businesses each year. Winning these is a great way to promote yourself and often comes with additional opportunities beyond putting up a sticker on your front door or display window.
14. Awesome Business Cards for the Garden Industry
The name of the game is getting your name out there and increasing the awareness of your business. Business cards might seem old-fashioned, but they are still a handy way to advertise physically.
On your company or personalized business card, make sure to include your:
- Your name
- Company name
- Tagline or mantra
- Job title
- Social media tags
- Contact details
You want to keep a business card uncluttered and straightforward, even if there is a lot of information to include. Use these at local gatherings for small businesses, company meetings, place them in other retail areas, or hand them out during applicable conversations.
15. Advertise with Stickers, Car Magnets, or Local Art
Bringing your business to the forefront of people’s minds is an excellent way to remind them that they should come in and visit soon. The more they see it, the more likely they are to interact with your business.
You can do this easily by making stickers or car magnets and passing them out for free. Depending on how your locality feels about its art scene, you can even commission some paintings or murals to be put up around town, enhancing the local aesthetic and bringing people to you.
16. Brand Company Vehicles
Beyond spreading your name with freebies or cheap creations, if you have any company vehicles, they should always be branded. Most garden-based businesses will use some kind of van or pickup on and off their property.
When your vehicles are driving around town, they create an advertising opportunity for anyone who sees them on the road. Maintenance isn’t difficult, so it is typically a one-time investment that works efficiently.
17. Participate at Local Events
Townships, cities, and regional areas all tend to have established traditions and special celebrations. Don’t miss out on these fun times and get involved. You can do something as simple as giving out balloons or little gift bags for children. These are also great times to run competitions since you will have more access to a potentially wider customer base and get more people involved.
18. Participate in Awareness Causes
There are many needs for increased awareness in our modern world. People need support, and they garner this and educate others by running awareness campaigns. It has become widespread for certain causes to become associated with specific months of the year. Examples of some of these include:
- January – Blood Donor Month
- April – Autism Awareness Month
- May – Asthma Awareness Month
- August – Bone Cancer Awareness Month
- October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
- December – Drug & Alcohol Prevention
If any of these are near and dear to your heart, consider getting involved and working with your customer base to spread awareness and support. These only scratch the surface of what each month can represent, and sometimes they vary for different countries. You can find some other examples here.
19. Go to the Streets
Finally, don’t think that the edge of your property is the limit for where you can actively advertise for your business. Don’t be afraid to put yourselves out there and try these garden center and greenhouse marketing ideas. If you are just opening for the season set up booths in an area of high traffic or have signs outside of your storefront announcing new deals or your opening.
Ultimately, good marketing comes down to thinking creatively and taking advantage of all the opportunities that present themselves.
At times, it can be challenging to know how to start or where to go if your marketing has gone stale. The help of an industry-specific marketing company like Bloom can help you to pinpoint areas to which you should direct your focus and see increases in your customer base like you haven’t previously.
Amanda Williams is a freelance writer that specializes in topics on gardening and online marketing. As a graduate with an honors degree in Horticulture and experience working in greenhouses, she understands the marketing challenges within the plant production industry. She has a background in content marketing, which she uses to help small businesses and enterprises enhance their advertising schemes. Find her work at clearvoice.com/cv/AmandaWilliams3.