Catching up with the outside world

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Catching up with the outside world

As a publicist and writer I get to play a part in the promotion of all kinds of internationally marketed products. From electronic goods to sports shoes to business IT services to human resources, plus of course plants and horticulture-related items. This exposure to other markets sets examples of what businesses in the horticulture industry can and should be doing to remain competitive in a rapidly changing market. Both on and off-line, goods are being retailed in an ever-more integrated fashion – just look at Amazon.com, you can go on-line to buy a book and come away with a patio-full of planted containers – and that means every horticulture-related business has to widen the demographic appeal of its products. While every customer from every demographic is welcome, the challenge the horticulture industry faces is in how to promote goods in a way that non-core audiences respond to. While garden centres are in the consumer front line and have to work on retailer tricks-of-the-trade, the inspiration that drives promotion of individual products needs to come from the beginning of the supply chain. This means that when a new plant variety is introduced it should be accompanied by information that appeals not only to commercial growers and knowledgeable gardeners, but to a broad, uninitiated consumer market who are probably way more familiar with IT terminology than with different soil types. It means explaining how different potting mixtures or containers are suited for different use and why one costs so much more than another. I’ve been working in this industry for many years and when I walk into the garden centre it’s still not clear to me which products are best suited to my purpose! Product originators therefore have a powerful responsibility to feed the market with carefully considered sales stories. One challenge they face is in having staff who are so familiar with the horticulture industry and its vocabulary that they can find it difficult to identify and describe the sales features which make a product appealing to outsiders. This is hardly surprising given that most goods are traded within the boundaries of the horticulture industry’s own comfort-zone, finally coming into contact with consumers who have dared to enter the garden centre sales environment. The industry as a whole is not accustomed to courting consumers who haven’t made the first move, but as attention within the garden centre has to be harder-won and the specialist market contracts in favour of a broader range of sales channels, it must learn to speak the language of the non-specialist consumer. Outside of horticulture I work with businesses who take a strategic and disciplined approach to integrated marketing. They’re playing the internet game with skill, creating well-structured websites that attract search-engine attention and coax sales through. They’re using language cleverly, creating concise, feature-heavy texts that are quickly and easily understood by the widest possible audience. They’re connecting with consumers by focussing on solving their wish-list and resisting the temptation to show off by using jargon. This is the communication style that business customers and public consumers with the potential to buy your products interact with every day. This is their comfort zone. And the horticulture industry must adapt to it, fast. Miriam Young can be contacted at miriam@plantingstories.com or via www.plantingstories.com.