Recently I was asked some very intriguing questions. Whose responsibility is it to market to the end consumer? Should growers share that responsibility? I had never thought of it like that before, marketing as a responsibility. Then I started to think. Who really should be marketing a product to the end consumer? At the end of it all I really couldn’t pin that responsibility on one person. I don’t think that all of the marketing responsibility should ever rest on one person or on the shoulders of on business or on one leg of the industry. This ties itself to the old saying about putting all of your eggs in one basket. However, that leads to another question. If every part of the industry has some role to play in the overall marketing scheme, who should take on which tasks?
One of the biggest questions marketing departments in any business or industry come across is how much do they invest in the marketing of a product to the end consumer? How much is better left to the retailer? Is there a definite strategy out there? I really don’t think so, but I think it’s really about taking a look at what your organization can do and can do best.
For the horticulture industry for instance it wouldn’t make sense for large growers to spend a ton of money advertising new plants in local papers all over a region. Something like that is better left to a retailer. They understand their customer (hopefully). They know how to market to the end consumer in their area, or at least know how to reach them. In my opinion the grower’s part of marketing to the end consumer is to make knowledge about the product easily obtainable for the retailer. This way when consumers have questions, retailers have the answers or can get those answers quicker because there are methods in place to obtain such information from the larger growers.
On a larger level, with things such as brands, companies market to consumers in a different way. They try to encapsulate a large amount of consumers and spread messages about the products nationally or globally. The goal is to raise awareness and get people excited about looking for something in their local retailer. Brands also create a sense of community. It is actually interesting to think that consumers all over the country grow some of the same brands of plants. The marketing that brands do is really a service to their customer. It’s like saying “All you have to do is grow it, we handle the consumer demand”. However is that to say that retailers shouldn’t have marketing strategies for branded products? They absolutely should!
Brands and nationwide marketing strategies are great because they can do wonderful things with content and create media that can be accessed globally, but I firmly believe that no one should know a customer better than a local business. They interact with consumers on a personal level every single day.
When it comes down to it effective marketing for this industry or any other for that matter depends on every piece of the puzzle. Every type of business has a role to play whether that is creating national awareness and loyalty (brands), holding a wealth of knowledge (growers), or having the ability to run local specials (retailers) everyone plays a role in marketing in some way to the end consumer.
I also just wanted to give a shout out to Sara Tambascio (Twitter: @Sara_GG_TGC) for proposing the question stated above.
Horticulture is not an easy industry to make a fortune. It requires putting in extreme amounts of work over long hours. Often times the money you make depends on three months out of the year. To be successful in the industry means to operate rapidly in any condition as efficiently as possible, and at the same time hope that mother nature doesn’t completely destroy your selling season. When you think about it this way, why would anyone want to work in this industry? Why would anyone want to open a garden center? For that matter why would any student out of college want to go to work in horticulture?
This is where one of the main problems lies in the communication between existing professionals in the industry and the youth (specifically students considering careers in horticulture). One of the things that we as an industry like to do is tell people how hard the work is and how often things don’t go as planned. We like to emphasize how the weather was terrible, or how “you don’t really make any money on mums”; you just grow them to stay relevant in the fall. This is understandable. The horticulture industry is not a place for those unwilling to put in massive amounts of time and effort. It is in our nature as social people to seek justification for our endeavors and therefore “complain” when things don’t go as well as we had hoped. However we have to watch our audience when we do this.
If there was no money to be made in the horticulture industry nobody would sell plants. No one would raise vegetables. No one would have landscaping around their homes. If there was no market for horticultural products we would be extinct just like the typewriter industry. There has to be a way to make a profit. Sure people aren’t making Bill Gates money in our industry, but we have more to offer. Our industry attracts people that like different things that you cannot find anywhere else. Our industry combines living things with chemistry with business with conservation with marketing. It’s one of the few industries that combines all of these different elements which make it attractive to people with diverse interests. Everyone in our industry loves what they do. Face it, there is a reason each and every one of us does what we do.
Recently I came upon a saleswoman (for a wholesale grower) giving a presentation to a group of students. Throughout the presentation she kept emphasizing that the money isn’t good and neither are the hours. Hearing her talk I wondered if I was in the right industry. I couldn’t imagine what the other students were thinking. I was raised in the industry. It’s all I know, and yet she made it sound as if I would be living in my car if I decided to work in the industry. Finally at the end of the presentation I asked her “Why are you in this business?” She then said it was because she loves plants, and that she loves getting people the plants they need, and that it was a job that could pay all of her bills. Why didn’t she mention that in her presentation?
People often claim that we aren’t getting enough young people interested in our industry. This is because we aren’t showing young people the positive aspects of pursuing a career in horticulture. Presentations like the one above are not rare. I see things like this all the time. I agree we should inform students that this industry is built upon hard work, but at the same time we need to show young people the benefits that horticulture can offer them. We have to show them how this industry can offer them experiences that no other industry can. We have to let them know that a career in horticulture can support a family, and it can be enjoyable too!
The question is: how do we do this? How can we get more young people to stick with horticulture? How can we convince people to be more positive in their approaches to the youth? We have to change the mentality of an industry and that isn’t an easy thing to do.
I’m interested to hear from you on these platforms: