Maximising your potential without a big marketing budget was a key theme at the HTA Marketing Forum, which took place on 8 November at Whittlebury Hall, Northamptonshire.
100 delegates from across the industry heard how creating unique and relevant content, using smart ways to find out what your customers want and getting the most out of your staff are more important than a big advertising spend. ?This is the age when staff come into their own? according to marketing consultant Nigel Temple. They are knowledgeable, know the business and they can help you with your online content creation.
There?s an opportunity for garden centres to share relevant, helpful and up to date content with gardeners online as a mimic to what people might find in the shop. ?A continual conversation about your business is happening out there. But you can?t see or hear it. Pay attention to what is being said online as it is a window to conversations that happen behind closed doors.?
Content is king and traditional advertising can no longer match it according to Antje Derks, Senior content manager at Haymarket business media, who gave an overview of the different approaches they have used to generate content for different brands and clients to create unique leads.? A creative blend of live events, webinars, blogs, video can help you stand out in a crowded space.
Pete Doyle, founder of SocialRetail, spoke about moving your social media channels away from promotion and more towards making connections and starting conversations. Listen to your customer feedback and reply intelligently. Be humble and think of the customer you are speaking to. Use local hashtags and empower your teams. People who work in store are local and can connect you with the local area ? empower them to respond to customers!
Cleeve Nursery?s Alan Down demonstrated the less conventional ways they have engaged with their community and younger audiences, including planted up pick-up trucks in Bristol city centre and giant planted watering can at Bristol Airport. He said ?The less conventional approach reaches a younger audience and is very good for staff morale. Engaging with your community largely involves time rather than money. Providing expertise, rather than products?
Create your own community ? utilise your customer data and provide a calendar of niche and targeted events says Sally Cornelissen from Burleydam Garden Centre. Showcase the talents of your staff and establish yourselves as experts. Link up with a charity and become visible in your local press. Creating loyalty and engagement through events can help you build your customer base.
Ann Bryant, account director at Garland PR presented an overview of the 2016 Love the Plot You?ve Got campaign in which social media has been core. Putting a small amount of money behind Facebook posts has been critical to spreading the message wider. Plans for 2017 include further developing the digital side of the campaign and creating a consumer website.
Greenfingers Garden Re-leaf Day 2016 raised over ?140,000 for the Greenfingers Charity. Trevor Pfeiffer explained how taking part in the campaign offers a great PR opportunity and adds to your garden centre credentials. Next year the event takes place on Friday 17th March and the industry is encouraged to get behind the campaign once again to enable Greenfingers charity to continue its work creating magical gardens for children who spend time in hospices.
Google has become the third half of our brains according to Romeo Summers, addressing our obsession with smartphones. Attention spans are getting shorter and the customer is changing and so they need to be approached differently online and offline.? Customers need to feel good when buying a product, whether it?s helping the environment or helping wellbeing. This is where storytelling is really important ? don?t sell a plant, sell a story. Employing good staff, having excellent customer service and using storytelling can make a real difference between online and offline. ?The digital world is not a threat ? it has created more opportunities?.
Visual merchandising consultant Maxine Groucutt demonstrated how she created stories instore at Liberty in London. She explained how they stopped having departments, but instead focused on ?rooms?, giving their customers the experience of walking from one room to another. Offer escapism and comfort throughout the shopping experience. One customer described Liberty as a ?journey where you discover hidden treasures in every room?.? Another described it as a ?decompression zone? in that they liked to walk through to relax and unwind after a hectic day at work.? All ideas that could be translated in garden centres.
Delegates also heard from Mark Mars, managing director of Perceptive Flow who demonstrated how effective Facebook advertising can be. Facebook adverts are cheap, and targeting is exceptional. You can narrow down your audience by criteria including location or age or boost your audience by identifying those with similar profiles as your existing customers.
Mark Palmer who has led the marketing for Pret a Manger urged delegates to invest in customer experience ahead of advertising to develop customer trust. Show your customers you are listening to them and that you?re trustworthy. It?s important to have the right people working for you so invest in your team ? happy teams mean happy customers. Innovate to stay relevant; Pret has been using contactless payment systems since the technology first became available. Now three quarters of all card payments at Pret are made via contactless methods, as customers continue to seek fast, convenient ways to pay.
QVC is one of the most trusted brands in the UK, ahead of Amazon, Virgin Atlantic and Waitrose. Gardening presenter Richard Jackson highlighted the opportunities for the garden industry in that it can really build brands. He said ?Don?t be worried when you see garden products on QVC. Appearances on TV will drive customers to stores too.?
Matt Young, executive producer at Spun Gold TV discussed how the presence of gardening on TV could be developed. Looking at cookery programmes such as Bake Off and Masterchef, it?s the competition format of programmes about food that attracts non-foodies to tune in.? Also the human, storytelling element entices people to watch. Garden designer and presenter on ITV?s Love Your Garden, Katie Rushworth said the industry should not dumb down in order to attract a younger audience. ?Being smart is cooler than ever for those millenials between the ages of 26 and 36, particularly if its anything sciency. So offer educational content with their interests, not their wallet in mind. Get weird ? our age group loves weird!?