Very rarely are garden centre owners thrilled with increased sales from advertising. More often they are left wondering why there was little response, and certainly not enough extra sales to cover the cost of the advertisement. However garden centres continue to advertise on the grounds that they are keeping their name out there and rationalising that if advertising stopped, customers may stop coming in.
There are a few things that can make advertising more appealing and effective. However before we look at that, let's step back and ask – Why Advertise?
The answers are usually
- Because everyone does it
- You have to convey to customers who you are, where you are and what you have.
- You have to give them a reason to come in – product, price, service, or a marketing gimmick.
Our experience over many years has shown that when garden centres first open or first begin an advertising campaign, customers respond and numbers increase.
As time goes by, weeks, months, sometimes over years, the customer response to advertising falls away. The garden centre discusses this with peers, attends marketing workshops, copies advertisements from other garden centres, advertises different product, adjusts pricing, or changes the colour/style of the advertisement.
The results continue to be disappointing.
Whilst it is true that advertisements can be made more effective by understanding what presses the customer’s button and how the advertisement is read, there are more major underlying factors that affect advertising response.
Our first advice to many new clients is – ‘STOP ADVERTISING’.
Our experience has shown that customers will respond to an advertisement once, and if the garden centre exceeds the customer expectations, they will return – without the need for advertising (although it may help). If the garden centre does not meet the customer expectations on the first visit, they will never respond to advertising thereafter – they will shop elsewhere.
Hence an essential first step is to improve your garden centre to a point where it is 'best in town' for
- Premises – comfort, ease of shopping, ambience
- Product – expected range
- Presentation – attractive, visible, appealing, good signs
All of the above should be underpinned with a high level of the three main drivers of customer buying behaviour – Convenience; Value; Inspiration
If the garden centre is the best it can be, best in town, and exceeds customers’ expectation, ‘Word of Mouth’ kicks in and customer numbers increase – even without advertising.
Is this wishful thinking or dreaming? No. We have many clients where we have achieved huge increases in sales by making changes to layout, product mix, presentation, signage, and operation protocols- without advertising.
We have witnessed some garden centres where the standard was well below what the advertisement portrayed, and the result on the customer was negative. (1) they did not make a purchase, and (2) they did not return or respond to future advertisements.
The big factor of course is that every garden centre owner believes they are best in town, and don’t see or readily accept that improvements are necessary to meet customer expectation these days.
Now we can Advertise – but HOW?
Once the improvements above are all in place, advertising will probably help, but what and how become important.
- Advertising media (TV, radio, press, magazines, mailers) are expensive for independent garden centres but may occasionally have a place.
- Roadside signage can be extremely effective for garden centres on reasonably busy roads
- Internal promotion signage is extremely effective.
- A weekly email to data base / loyalty programme customers is extremely effective if the message is carefully constructed – brief, friendly, personalised, use / situation focussed rather than product. A link to a web site for more information.
- Marketing gimmicks are rarely effective, and it is not a sustainable strategy.
The theme and focus of any form of advertising should convey your strategy, market position and point of difference. Remember your point of difference must be
- Tangible and readily seen
- A benefit to most customers
- Unique in your region.