Getting clients to think outside the box

metasequoiamanAugust 8, 2010

Does anyone have any insight on how to get clients to think outside the box? All they want is geraniums and gaudy blooms blooms blooms! You show them an artfully arranged bed and all they say is "whens it gonna bloom?" Its hard to get enjoyment out of my work when my horticultural hands are tied behind my back..... any thoughts?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It sounds like you need to advertise the fact that you do NOT do the same old tired out uninspired design/landscape work. There's enough people out there that are progressive and want something different in their gardens. I am a grower and part time landscaper and my claim to fame is that the plant material that I produce is not what everyone else is growing. The last garden I designed and installed consisted of plant material that the home owner was not familiar with at all, but trusted me (and was very pleased with the results) - so maybe it is just a matter of communicating with customers and potential clients that the work that you do is truly inspired and amazing. With confidence and some persistence you can sell just about anything to anyone. Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 11:14AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

So please tell us what part of the industry you are employed? Growing/wholesaling/distribution/retail or installations? My answer would be different to each of these branches.

Good luck is a good response. Bending the public perception/demand to alternative selections is a slow and arduous process. It is a time investment. As a wholesale grower or distributor you will be locked in to what your customers can move. If you retail, it's a little more window of opportunity to move unusual items. It will also very much be dependent on your market. I hear/have heard for as long as this forum's been on the GW that if you grow something different you'll pull in customers. LOL. Good idea but it has to be modified to your market and advertising. In my area I can only dedicate a very small amount of bench space to novel introductions. When I grew 'cutting edge' I ate a lot of plant material people were afraid to try......carried the line on my shoulders for several years until I dropped it, and by that time the box stores started to do that item. Then I'd get enquiries if I carried them and remarks like 'you should grow X and Y!'. Where were the customers when I was growing X and Y. IOW, profit is the bottom line and it keeps you in business. You have to have the newest but in some areas that translates into a line out five years already. You get used to it and try to enjoy the other aspects of growing. I am semi-retired now and part of the reason I am is so I can start growing things I want to grow.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 11:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Calliope - I am very fortunate working for myself operating a small nursey that grows ornamentals, selling the majority of it through an upscale farmer's market where the customers are very loyal. I also wholesale plant material to several garden centers, design and install gardens for customers when asked. believe it or not I also work for a commercial seed company as their horticultural advisor, speaking with customers over the telephone whenever there is a problem with germination, or any other greenhouse/nursery related question that the sales reps cannot answer on their own. The company has me test seed for germination and every year I get to trial all of the varieties from seed that are so new that they won't be released until the following year. My customers LOVE to get their hands on a plant that no one else has. I know this sounds over the top but I am living and working on the family farm - I am fifth generation and that seems work in my favor as far as business is concerned - people like the idea of me coming from a background of farmers. But I am in the plant business and that means that I DO eat a lot of the material I grow, some crops are a complete loss due to lack of interest from the public. This year I did cut back on the volume normally grown, and stuck with plants that I know sell well. Most of it from seed, some of it from my own vegetative propagation of royalty free plant material. I have been selling plants for the last 30+ yrs and have developed a wonderful customer base. Again, I have been very fortunate. Looking forward to my semi-retirement!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 9:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Calliope - I just realized that you weren't even talking to me! Ha! was blowing my own horn just a bit!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 10:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

LOL You probably earned the right to blow your horn. I had a really good niche market in specialty perennials too and ran it hard for about ten years, but markets change and that means growers must keep morphing. My business and customer base changes with the flow and that's why I strongly recommend business plans and an open mind.

This is a very conservative area, and rural. The accounts I used to have who could move upscale are for the most part defunct. I do not do landscaping but worked with my daughter who did and she could indeed move some esoteric stock. But, she is out of the business now. That's why I was enquiring about what segment of the green industry the OP was in. If I were calling out the plantings, I'd also think progressively. But I just supply and in this economy, the resale market here want's 'sure things'. It's frustrating to me because I invest time and energy to keep abreast in my field and the only thing I get payback on is growing quality. I even have display beds where I trial absolutely everything I sell on the premises. But the majority of my customers just pick up a phone and place an order. LOL. That's OK...........they're loyal and kept me in business. I'm just saying your tailor your business to your market.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 1:56AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

There is an assumption that most people should want "out of the box" stuff. When we find that "out of the box" is not well received there seems to be a perception that the market owes it to us to change to meet our hopes, needs, or sales goals.

While it is true that new and interesting things often catch on and become very successful niches, it is far more effective to offer what people already want.

If you want red shoes, but I want you to buy blue shoes because I think they are so much cooler, you reaction would be .....?

I have a niche style that I enjoy doing and like a whole lot more than "main stream" landscaping in my area. I learned a long time ago that I make my living on "main stream" and occasionally get to have a lot of fun doing "my thing".

If you want to make a living, you need to sell enough of something that other people want to buy. If they don't want it, you have two choices. One is to move on to others who do want to buy it, or to offer them something that they do want to buy. It is just that simple.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 8:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

The mass marketing aspect of our culture will have an effect on how well small growers (and small others) can get a good enough cut to get by. It goes back to the beginning of this discussion, you have to talk people into buying your stuff if they have not heard about it elsewhere. If not enough of them believe everything you say it still won't pay off.

Big growers employ big marketing.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 10:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yes, they do but a bug in the ear to small growers. You can save some advertising $$$ by riding the coat-tails of big money advertisers. Let the big box put out four page ads with pictures and prime the audience, then run your four inch ad with the same products listed. Let them market shot-gun approach with bulk mailings, but keep a database list of your patrons, and prior to the season, send out a couple hundred flyers first class mail. They don't automatically get thrown into recycling or file 13. I used to get astronomically good results by keeping a retail customer database with their permission and doing small, good quality mail-outs.

I've never done the bulk of my business retail. For me, it was an after market to address shrinkage after my early wholesale commitments were filled. If you're a grower, it's about hitting the market with a wallop in the early window and then moving out the inventory so you end up with little or no shrinkage. You don't have to grow out of the box so much as market out of the box. And no method is generic. Always know what is selling, what it costs to produce and keep your posting to accounts up to date at the end of every business day to know exactly where you stand and do not kid yourself. Be brutally honest. Worked for me for twenty one years.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2010 at 7:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

i've given presentations to local garden and herb clubs and always(!) include a bit about perennial gardening is unique in that most of the time the plants are NOT in bloom so that you must consider foilage texture, foilage color, plant size and handouts include pictures of awesome gardens and landscapes (purposely) not in bloom. like you and others above, i like cutting edge and 'different'things. i must say i've learned more from my customers than they've learned from me. lol.
i sell perennials. many are what i call common varieties, i moved out of my personal gardens years ago. my first year i swore i wouldn't offer stella d' oro (i love daylilies and offer about 30+ varieties)-every box store has them-this year i sold out of stella d' oro. lol. BUT i've learned the average customer is NOT a gardener or a landscaper. most are lining (literally) a foundation, planting a few around a mailbox or utility box... i've learned many people are not creative. calliope is right- i sit on my unusual varieties longer than i should, and appreciate my loyal true 'gardener' customers more everyday, offering a few 'new and unusual'. i spend much of my time thinking of ways to market my plants to an average customer and buy accordingly.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 7:08AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

One think you might like to do is start calling it foliage instead of foilage.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2010 at 11:34AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Ideal careers for a male with a horticultural degree?
I still have a long time to think about this, but it's...
RE: hiring help
I've been the sole gardener at an estate for 15+ years...
Plant identification needed - please see photo
Dear Master Gardeners, please help me identify this...
Starting a small iris nursery
I have been digging thru this forum the last few weeks...
Design Software
My old company has asked me if I would like to be a...
Kirstin Zone 5a NW Chicago
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™