HOW TO PLAN PROMOTIONAL ACTIVITIES
CHRIS PHILPOT

Since 2012, Heather Rollins has been the marketing manager at Fairview Garden Center and Nursery in Raleigh, North Carolina. For her, planning is the most important step for spring preparation.

Planning

“Planning and setting our budget is the biggest part of spring,” Rollins says. “We usually try to do it about this time of year [December], and at least have everything — as far as what we’re going to do for our marketing efforts, classes, budgets and everything like that — set, complete and finalized in January.”

For Jonathan Burns, outdoor manager at Tallahassee Nurseries in Tallahassee, Florida, his spring preparation consists of analyzing the previous year’s sales. “A detailed analysis of expected sales is critical to making an educated guess on numbers,” he says. “We don’t want to buy too little, but it’s just as bad to be left holding too much material going into summer. Given constantly changing consumer preferences, it can be wise to limit planned stocking increases/decreases to 15-20%.”

Week to week promotions

For promotions, Rollins says that every department manager, including herself, meets weekly to discuss the outline for their newsletter regarding sales and promotions. According to Burns, Tallahassee Nurseries also has weekly sales that highlights and discounts items that are monitored through their sales data and awards program. They also do flash sales on slower weekdays, which he says are very helpful.

Spring events

Like many IGCs, both garden centers hold events for customer interaction, which doubles as spring promotion. Every spring Saturday, Fairview combines food trucks with educational classes. “We call that our ‘Flora and Food Trucks’ event,” Rollins says. “Our customers look for that every Saturday in April and May.” Rollins says this helps with promotion because it’s an annual and continuous event that draws customers in and coincides with their brand.

At Tallahassee Nurseries, they too, hold onsite food trucks and educational classes, as well as Garden Sip events, hands-on workshops and a Spring Fling. “These events are popular and give an opportunity for the community to come out and enjoy themselves, while also increasing sales,” Burns says.

Flora and Food Trucks Event
PHOTO COURTESY OF FAIRVIEW GARDEN CENTER & NURSERY

Know how and when to schedule events

“We’ve also learned not to schedule classes on our busiest days,” Rollins says, “especially workshops that have a lot of set-up and cleanup time because when we draw more people in when we want to sell stuff, it takes away from the customers who are already here. So knowing when and how to schedule classes is another big thing because we’ve flopped at that before.”

By making modifications to its Flora and Food Trucks event, Fairview Garden Center meets its promotions and community engagement goals each year.
PHOTO COURTESY OF TALLAHASSEE NURSERIES

Be aware of what's not working

While Flora and Food Trucks is successful now, it wasn’t as seamless before. Rollins says they had to make modifications so the event would meet their ultimate goal, which is important to consider. The first time they hosted food trucks, they had multiple food options which drew people in, but for the wrong reason.

For Tallahassee Nurseries, they’ve gathered feedback on specific sales that weren’t received, like their buy one, get one free offer. “Strangely, we’ve seen customers generally take better to a 25% off over a buy one, get one free,” Burns says. “This has prompted much consideration into which promotions we decide to run based on the time of the year and specific item.”

Consider staff training as the foundation to sales

Both Rollins and Burns says staff training is their biggest tip for upselling. According to Rollins, their in-depth staff training shows employees how all sales affect the bottom line, and how important it is for them to sell everything they can. Burns also agrees.

“When you give attention to customers and are readily and joyfully willing to help, whether answering questions, showing them where a specific item is located or recommending a plant for their desired area, you build trust that is important for successful business and provides an opportunity to upsell by suggesting plants and other items that would serve them well,” he says. “This mindset helps transform upselling from a sales technique to a friendly, trusted recommendation [and is] something they likely won’t receive at a box store.”

Events such as Tallahassee Nurseries’ Spring Fling offer the community a fun, carefree way to enjoy itself.
PHOTO COURTESY OF TALLAHASSEE NURSERIES
PHOTO COURTESY OF TALLAHASSEE NURSERIES

The takeaway

When it’s all said and done, both Burns and Rollins’ best advice still comes down to planning. “Planning is No. 1,” Rollins says. “Plan ahead and make sure you have good managers that are all on board.” With Burns however, his advice focuses on the facets of landscape.

“Get your infrastructure in the best possible condition you can before spring hits,” he says. “Weed mat in display beds, gravel pathways, loading/unloading areas and parking lot improvements must all be done while business is slow. Roping off even a single parking space in spring to fix cracked pavement means one fewer customer shopping. Unusable display space or pathways will hurt the bottom line during the intense months of spring. Winter cleanup is a must.”