Helping Customers Succeed – The First Time

May 5, 2016 5 Comments

I know most people are up to their neck in spring and don’t have time to read my ramblings, let alone hold meetings to implement new ideas. But I wanted to record what I am seeing out there just in case some readers were able to use it to help their customers succeed – the first time. The industry is changing because the customer is changing, as my analysis of this year’s National Garden Survey data shows.

Walk any type of garden store (I’ve seen 12 in the last few days) and watch shoppers, especially the younger novices. You can see confusion bordering on panic on some customers’ faces as they read every bottle or plant label, asking each other “what’s the difference between these two?” They have bought into the concept of outdoor fun with the kids or healthy home-grown food but matching the dream with reality is another matter.  “Fear of failure” is the main drawback to increased garden spending at times like this.

So, keeping it brief for Mother’s Day weekend, here are some questions/queries to use for your training or critiques in the next few days:

  • Do displays/signs assure first-timers (e.g., ‘Easiest succulent we carry!’)
  • Is wording simple and encouraging, or botanical and fear-inducing?
  • Are there simple bundles such as “Perennial Success Kit” or “Fresh Potatoes Without Digging”?
  • Are the top 15-20 selling plants accompanied by their essential tie-in products and how-to info?
  • Are guarantee signs positive and pro-customer, or defensive and pro-company?
  • Is there an information desk? Is it always staffed by happy, competent people?
  • Are customer success stories and reviews shared online or on site?
  • Are online how-to videos promoted at the point of purchase for customers to access as they shop?
  • Is there help line/website reference or at home consultancy available for after purchase questions?

How much money from the customer’s “Fear of Failure” is being left on your table for another year?

Let us all know how this questionnaire played out!

Photo by Ian, taken at Family Tree (KS)

  1. John Heaton
    May 5, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    As always you bring up things we all should be doing. Now just to get us to act. Two will be improved before next week end. One can only do so much

  2. Ian Baldwin
    May 6, 2016 at 8:25 am

    John, and as always you are kind in your comments! I know it is much easier to suggest than to implement(!), it’s also one of the biggest weekends in the year – peak those peaks! But If I can get 10% of readers to do 10% of these suggestions, a few consumers will have a better garden shopping experience and the industry needle moves up one more tiny notch. As you’ve heard me say too many times I am sure, Upwards and Onwards! Thanks as always for taking the time to join in the conversation, wishing you a very successful Mother’s Day in Chicago.

  3. Jim Sullivan
    May 6, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    Well said Ian. You know as well as I do, we get beat up sometimes for not having all those control products as a few other companies do and thats intentional. Having a product for each different insect or disease does give the Independent the spice rack they like to have and does differentiate them from the home centers. This was Ortho’s approach for decades. But the consumer is changing and they want easy to understand solutions which includes the name of the product, the simplicity of a label and method of dispensing as well. Examples are weed b gon and bug b gon. Bug b gon kills over 150 insects but this one bottle or bag is all you need. And your favorite … Naturescare. Fun dumbed down labels to invite people to garden organically. Not to mention, they all sell themselves… No salesperson required.

    1. Ian Baldwin
      May 9, 2016 at 12:51 pm

      Thanks for your kind words Jim. Your explanation of Ortho’s strategy to replace specific remedies with wider scope controls plays into the “too much conSKUsion” conversation. While I respect the choice of strategy taken by other manufacturers, their products are heavily dependent on trained, competent and always-available retail employees to help the consumer choose the correct option of control or delivery. That was always the independent’s ace up their sleeve – knowledgable staff to interpret and assist. But as you say the consumer is changing, doing most of their research on-line and then looking for a quick validation, not a long education visit. I also believe there is an increasing number of consumers who actually avoid help as they are embarassed at their lack of knowledge. So, simple grab-and-go solutions appeal to them.

  4. Kathy Wheaton
    Jun 22, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    Why do we always talk about wanting to help the consumer be successful and then set them up to fail? Why do we peach to each other (in the industry) about helping these gardeners, young or old, to be successful, and then put Basil out in 40 degree weather so they can buy it, it can frost next week and it will die? Or Tomatoes in March, or geraniums for that matter. And no we don’t live in California where you can do that.
    Why do we sell them impatiens that we know will get the new mildew and die? Or sell them too early in season? Why do we talk the talk, and not really do what necessary. And it is hard, as you tell person after person its too early, too cold too whatever, and they go up to the ‘other’ place and buy it…And then you see them the next time and they start with that panicked look Ian talked about, or make the statement , “I don’t know why I am doing this again, everything I plant or try to grow dies”…..come on folks, could we step up, get real….DO YOU WANT YOUR CUSTOMER TO BE SUCCESSUL OR DO YOU JUST WANT TO HEAR THE SOUND OF YOUR CASH REGISTAR GOING CR-CHING?

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