The Right Tools Can Make All The Difference

The Right Tools Can Make All The Difference

by Robert Hendrickson

Ask almost any garden center owner a question about the past and the typical response will be… “I don’t even remember what I had for breakfast!”

Which is why the Monthly Department Review was invented.

Ask almost any garden center owner or the person responsible for the company’s marketing decisions what they have planned for the upcoming year and the typical response will be… “We don’t plan that far ahead.” Which really means when it comes to marketing, they usually make last minute decisions based on a quick look at what’s selling while a media rep is standing in the office, then say… “Just do what we did last time.”

Which is why the Ad Planner was invented.

The Monthly Department Review

Each month the person responsible for a key department like trees, shrubs, perennials, etc. fills out the report called The Monthly Department Review. It’s a simple form that records the previous month’s sales, comments on what worked well in the department and what is in need of attention. Based on this information, a projected sales goal for the department is established for the same month next year. Twelve reports for each key product department plus sales from remaining departments when added together, creates both monthly and yearly sales goals for the company.

“A garden center owner is only as successful as the skills of the people running the company’s key departments.”

People responsible for the success of a product department are best at knowing what needs to happen in order for them to reach their projected sales goals. Repeat what worked best, look for new opportunities and fix any problems that need to be fixed. When these three issues are properly addressed, sales goals have a much better chance of actually coming to pass.

Each year in the fall, all Monthly Department Review forms are revisited by the owner and team to set month and year sales goals for the company. Based on the agreed upon goals, a total company sales goal is determined which becomes the base for setting the marketing budget.

I always remind people responsible for filling out the MDR form and setting monthly sales goals for their department that so far, no one I know of has been fired for not reaching their sales goal for the month. But there have been employees given the opportunity to look for other employment after refusing to participate in setting sales goals for their department.

A Budget Isn’t Just a Number

How much to assign to a marketing budget is unique to each company based on goals and expectations for the coming year, along with marketing costs. Grabbing some percentage based on what other garden centers might be spending on marketing is a risky way to run a business, similar to setting retail prices based on what other garden centers charge.

When helping garden centers decide on how much to spend on marketing, I usually ask the following questions…
1. What do you want to accomplish?
2. What makes you believe your company deserves what you want to see happen?
3. How much are you willing to spend to make this happen?
    In dollars, not percentages.
4. What sets you apart from all the other ways people in your market can spend their money?
5. What does it cost to effectively use the media choices we have at our disposal?

The Monthly Department Review forms determine what needs to happen to reach department and company sales goals. Honest conversations identify personal perspectives and company potential. Experienced research uncovers the true cost of using media choices properly.

With this information in hand, we’re ready for the next marketing tool.

The Ad Planner

Anyone who has worked at a garden center at least one year should be able to identify which products are most likely to be desired by customers for any week of the year. This is probably one of the few advantages of being a “seasonal” business. Nobody wants a poinsettia in March and Mother’s Day always happens in May. Since we know by experience and sales records what the largest number of people want for any particular week of the year, why not plan our marketing accordingly?

The Ad Planner provides a place to identify the most important product, event or promotion for each week of the year. My preference is to pull the key department leaders together, then as a team identify what should be the main focus of marketing for each week of the coming year. Some weeks it’s a product, like a pansy promotion in early spring. Other weeks it could be an event or holiday tie-in, but out of all the options available, the team agrees upon the one main theme of the marketing message for each of the weeks the company is open. There may be weeks when no marketing is scheduled but the team can still create signs and displays for walk-in traffic to support the main focus identified on the Ad Planner.

The first step in creating an effective Ad Planner is to fill in the blank representing the main focus of marketing for each week of the coming year. This becomes the theme around which the marketing message and story is developed.
The planner also identifies which media choices are scheduled to be used, a topic for future discussion.

A copy of the Monthly Department Review and Ad Planner are available of the Group WebSystem. Go to the Clients-Only menu and then POWERtools.

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