Counting On Another Boom Year Isn’t A Plan

Counting On Another Boom Year Isn’t A Plan

by Robert Hendrickson

Circumstances no one expected created two great sales and profit years for the garden center industry. Expecting this business boost to become what cliché lovers like to call “the new normal” is short-sighted and risky. Better to spend time and attention on how you plan to spread the word that your company and the products you provide are important to the health and happiness of past, current, and future customers.

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.” This usually means when it comes to marketing, they make last-minute decisions based on what’s selling, what’s not selling, or what other garden centers say they should be doing.

Your company, your team, and your customers deserve better, so do the work. Two tools to make the work more precise and effective follow.

The Monthly Department Review

At the end of 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. Monthly reports for each key department plus sales from remaining departments when added together, create 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 reviewed by the 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.

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 is a risky way to run a business, similar to setting retail prices based on what other garden centers charge.
Ask yourself 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?

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 purchase for any particular week of the year, why not plan your 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 or a new item one of the buyers believes will be amazing. 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 space representing the main focus of marketing for each week of the coming year becomes the theme around which the marketing message and story are developed.

The Ad Planner also identifies which media choices are scheduled to be used each week to promote the chosen theme, but this is a topic for future discussion.

A copy of the Monthly Department Review and Ad Planner is available on the Group WebSystem - in the CLIENTS-ONLY menu and scroll down to POWERtools. You will find both under the list of my shared items.

Got questions about either the Monthly Department Review or the Ad Planner or need more information about your marketing programs? Give Robert a call or email!

Robert Hendrickson
Cell: 443-255-8282

Robert Hendrickson is founder and a service provider for The Garden Center Group and our "guru" for how to best tell your story.

REMEMBER: Your interaction (by phone and email) with Group Service Providers such as Robert Hendrickson, Steve Bailey, Sid Raisch, Jean Seawright, and John Kennedy are included in your retainer!

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