Marketing your business

clink(IA-5a)August 1, 2006

Rita asked a couple of questions about marketing so I thought a thread about what we do to increase our public presence would be good.

I'm different than most of you as I own a U-pick flower farm and do not sell at markets. The good thing is that I don't have a great deal of time in harvesting, conditioning, making bouquets, transporting and selling. The bad thing is that I wait for customers to show up.

This year -- I have been incredibly blessed with excellent pr. We start in May with an article in 3 local papers. In June, the Iowa Farmer Today magazine featured us. In July, a local lifestyle/gardening magazine used the May article for "Grower of the Month". And in August, a local tv station is featuring us as a "Daytrippin'" spot.

After each and every article, I have written thank you notes plus forwarded the articles to other media outlets with a press release about the article. I am not media-savvy .... but now, the thank you notes are being published. So I'm actually getting a two-fer-one.

We did produce a tv commercial and aired it on 3 local stations until my money ran out ......very quickly!! But the ad is in the "can" for next year and we will run it again. If you want to see it -- email me and I'll send it to you.

I tell everyone to tell their friends. And when someone comes out --- and "so-and-so sent me" --- so-and-so gets a thank you.

I try to keep a very thorough mailing list and send cards when I open for the season. Cathy DeValk does the same. That would work at the farmer's market -- with just an open spiral notebook.

Local organizations like -- Buy Fresh/Buy Local are great to use. Media outlets like to feature local producers and by having a "group" --- they have more sources to draw upon.

What does everyone else do to market their flowers?


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bluestarrgallery(zone 7 GA)

Cathy, My business is similar to yours in that people come to my lavender gardens, (but I am branching out - more about that later in post).

Business Plan - I wrote a business plan and asked advice from the Small Business Administration for ideas on marketing. I try to refer to my business plan and change it if it isn't working.

Business Philosophy - My business philosophy is for visitors to have an enjoyable time when they visit my farm and to take time to smell the "lavender". I try to establish a raport with each customer and make them feel relaxed here. I think having a philosophy in mind and remembering that when dealing with the public helps your business in the long run.

Business Goal: My main goal is to educate visitors about lavender, gardening, landscaping and nature and to learn from visitors about their gardening expertise. My secondary goal is to expose the public to flowers and products made from flowers and herbs and to provide good quality products to my visitors.

Network - The two years previous to opening, I networked with my local chamber and local clubs and told everyone I ran into that I was opening my lavender farm. I posted a sign out in front of my property saying lavender farm coming soon. I visited other farms and lavender festivals and asked advice of anyone I could think of. I also was asked by several garden clubs to come and speak about growing lavender and I obtained several customers from my speaking engagements. With several speak engagements behind me I now feel confident enough to ask organizations if they would want me to come and speak about my gardens or about growing lavender. I have also been asked to submit articles and photos to my local newspapers about growing or cooking with lavender.

Signs - I opened at the end of May this year. I posted a large professionally painted business sign at the entrance to my farm. I have another sign posted that states my hours and a movable sign that says gardens open that I place on the highway when I am open. I keep regular hours but also state that I am open by appointment during other times or for special groups or tours.

Budget/Publicity - Since most of my budget was utilized to have my website built, to build, decorate and stock my gift shop, and develop my gardens (I started from the ground up literally, have only lived here two years, and it was cow pasture before I moved here) my advertising budget is small so I am trying to capitalize on all the free publicity I can get. I started by sending out press releases to all the local newspapers and many out of area ones. I have had an article each month in a different newspaper and have gotten many visitors from them.

Chamber of Commerce - I belong to my local chamber and have a business card logo/link to my website on their site. I also joined several nearby chamber of commerce and when they do a ribbon cutting ceremony, they come and take pictures and do an article either in their newsletter or have a newspaper come and take pictures - so more free publicity.

Guest Book/Mailing List - I have a sign in book in my gift shop that people can put their addresses or email down for sales and special events. I ask customers how they heard about me and ask if they have any advice or comments.

More Signs/Customer Ideas - In addition to my business signs, I have another entrance and parking sign directing people where to park. I then have a welcome sign with a mailbox that contains brochures for a self guided tour which has my business name, website and phone number on it that customers take home with them. The welcome sign lets visitors know I have a gift shop, about any new products or anything new in the garden or special events coming up. The tour talks about the establishment of the gardens and features here. Most people get a personal tour but if I am busy people know they are free to wander around. I also have plant labels posted for many of my flowers, shrubs and trees. People have said they appreciate the signs and knowing just where to go - the parking sign with an arrow was suggested by one of the visitors - so I try to incorporate suggestions from customers into what I do. Another customer said some items were too inexpensive - so I raised the price of some items.

Direct Mail - I have done some direct mailings and I have joined a marketing subcommittee of my local chamber. I try to attend chamber mixers - where you can give out your business card and network with other business owners and they give you advice on how to increase business.

Newsletter - I have sent out my first newsletter via email and did the newsletter with photos from my garden and the newsletter was written in computer code so the photos and newsletter come up in the body of the email and not as an attachment.

Brochure - I have developed a half page brochure that I place at the chambers, and at businesses that have agreed to market for me - i.e. if you have a friend in business or someone who wants you to refer to them.

Logo/Brand Name - I use my logo on everything to establish my business/brand name - business cards, tour brochure, flyers, informational brochures, website, email newsletter and any products I sell - all have my logo, website and phone number on them.

Wholesale - I am now working on placing some of my items on consignment in several locations with my own section for my products so I can place a small informational placard with info about visiting my farm. The more places you can sell your product the better especially if you can establish some steady (wholesale or retail) customers.

Brocure Locations - I am in the process of contacting local hotels, motels, travel agents, etc to ask them if I can give them some brochures to place in their brochure dispensers or hotel rooms and ask travel agents to let folks know about my farm. The more places you can think of to get your name out there the better.

Web - Market your website on the web and to other businesses with similar functions as yours. Find as many sites where you can list your farm, business or website on the internet and list it there.

Hope all of this helps.


    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 4:01AM
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Linda made a great point about business plans. Even though we may not have the large economic investment of a factory or a retail store -- business plans are important. They should be thought out carefully, gone over yearly, adjusted if necessary. I asked a friend about her business plan --- even with a large investment in greenhouses -- there was no plan. Just sell pretty flowers.

So far, business plans are used the first year and never looked at again. But a yearly review can tell you where you are going and where you have been. What worked? What didn't?

For my own business, I started selling herbs along with the flowers. The first year, I sold enough basil to pay for one plant -- trouble was I had 300 plants. Second year -- I reduced the number of plants and still didn't make a profit. Third year, I grew herbs for my own use only. Now -- year number 5 -- I have customers asking for more herbs........ maybe I was ahead of my time.

Great ideas, Linda! Keep them coming.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 8:05AM
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Marketing is a very important part of business. Learning how to promote a business on the internet is not as always simple as it seems. So many options and routes to take but understanding which one is right for you is the key.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 3:28AM
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I want to start selling cut flowers and herbs i am in a small but wealthy town in ky have 200 acres im 3 miles from a main rd there is a florist in town but i plan on promoting locally grown heirloom blooms and english roses any advice? Any would help.donna frost.... oh the name is Frost hollow farms!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 12:40AM
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