Dandelions Flowers & Gifts employs consistent interactive
marketing to ensure top-of-mind awareness in current and future
by Kelsey E. Smith
After 36 years in business, Shirley Lyons, AAF, knows more than a
few things about enticing customers to Dandelions Flowers & Gifts,
LLC in Eugene, Ore. Her assertive marketing to corporate clients,
brides, sympathy customers, the media and the next generation of flower
buyers has helped Dandelions become Eugene’s “readers’ choice” favorite
florist, awarded by local newspaper The Register-Guard. Mrs. Lyons’
savvy strategies, detailed on the following pages, prompted the judges
of our 2010 “Retail Florist of the Year” contest to take note as
well. They earned the shop the award for “Outstanding Marketing and
Promotions” in the contest, which is co-sponsored by the
Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association (WF&FSA).
optimizing web presence
Technology is one of Mrs. Lyons’ focuses in keeping her
business up to date. At press time, Dandelions’ main website,
claimed the top position in a Google search for “florist in Eugene.”
Mrs. Lyons and one of her daughters—a stay-at-home mom in Minnesota—have
worked diligently on search engine optimization (SEO), constantly
experimenting with key words to keep this prime status.
Dedicated websites for weddings and sympathy business,
www.eugenefuneralflowers.com, feature designs pertaining to those
occasions and serve as helpful tools for brides and grieving
families. And their success can be found in the numbers.
Lyons, AAF, owner of Dandelions Flowers & Gifts, receives the
honor for “Outstanding Marketing and Promotions” in the “Retail
Florist of the Year” contest, co-sponsored by Florists’ Review
and the Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association (WF&FSA),
from the wholesaler who nominated her shop, Dave Slonecker, of
The Flower Market in Eugene, Ore.
The wedding website was
launched in mid-2008, and the number of weddings Dandelions booked later
that year grew by 17 percent. And the number of weddings in 2009
increased 29 percent over 2008, with the website being the only new
bridal marketing tool, Mrs. Lyons says.
The shop also owns more than 60 other domain names,
ranging from those that include “Eugene” and surrounding towns, such as
www.springfieldoregonflorist.com, to those with various misspellings
of the shop’s name. Each links directly to
hosted by GoDaddy.
"It’s $10 a year or less to own each of those names,”
Mrs. Lyons says. “I think any shop would do well to investigate the
different kinds of things people might type in because if you don’t buy
them, you lose them.”
addition to its main website, Dandelions Flowers & Gifts has
launched websites targeted to wedding and sympathy clientele:
attention to e-mail
Dandelions sends e-mail blasts two or three times per
month—more during peak holiday times—to capture customers’ attention.
Many have compelling offers such as “Free delivery if ordered by ... ”
or “Save $5 on your order” with applied discount codes. E-mail also is
used to market regular specials such as Half-Off Friday Flowers—which
applies to all loose flower stems—as well as contests and giveaways.
Each of these efforts has helped sales increase
exponentially. Mrs. Lyons shares that the shop’s web sales grew 172
percent from 2006 to 2009, and coupon redemption promotions grew a
whopping 491 percent. Continued exposure often leads to residual sales
as well, regardless of the content of each e-mail promotion.
“Every time we bring someone over the threshold of our
shop, we have an opportunity to win that customer,” Mrs. Lyons says.
“Today, they might be looking for half-price flowers, but tomorrow, they
might need funeral flowers or a get-well bouquet.”
Face-to-face marketing also is a key strategy,
particularly for Dandelions’ corporate segment, which accounts for
approximately one-fourth of annual sales. Having an employee whose
primary focus is marketing is one of the most effective ways to promote
the business, says Mrs. Lyons, who refers to the shop’s part-time
outside salesperson, Sharon Foster, as its “marketing secret weapon.”
Mrs. Lyons explains that she looks at Ms. Foster’s
salary not as payroll but as part of Dandelions’ advertising and
marketing budget, which is 5 percent to 6 percent of annual sales. “She
is our walking advertisement,” she says.
When Ms. Foster visits a potential corporate client,
she takes a vase of flowers, featuring Dandelions’ signature bear grass
and beads, as well as an introductory letter citing ways flowers can
improve the business and touting a few of Dandelions’ offerings as well
as its satisfaction guarantee. She also visits current clients. They,
too, receive flowers, along with a letter thanking them for choosing
Dandelions and reiterating that “we are committed to providing you the
very best in quality and service.”
One way Dandelions achieves loyalty from corporate
clients is by developing custom “menus” of their favorite designs, which
can include the companies’ logo items, if desired. Clients keep the
menus on hand along with the florist’s customized fax order form, which
features check boxes for them to quickly and easily mark their
preferences. Dandelions keeps a large alphabetized book containing each
business client’s design preferences, with recipes and color photos, for
designers to reference when they receive orders. This ensures a
consistent look to reflect each business’s image, regardless of who the
designers are that day.
As an additional incentive for corporate clients,
Dandelions offers an annual rebate based on the companies reaching
preset benchmark purchase volumes. Though the program has some variables
based on criteria such as standing-order programs that may already
include special pricing, its basic structure follows.
Level One, $1,000 annual
sales, yields a 10 percent rebate
Level Two, $2,500 annual
sales, yields a 12 percent rebate
Level Three, $5,000 annual
sales, yields a 15 percent rebate
Mrs. Lyons relates that the rebate program helps ensure that larger
clients, who may have multiple locations, keep all their employees on
the same page instead of losing each department or branch to another
florist. Rebates are credited to clients’ house accounts in the first
quarter of the following year.
blasts and fliers delivered to elementary schools and child-care
centers promote Dandelions’ annual “Make It for Mom” event,
which garners television news coverage each year.
direct-mail postcard for Administrative Professionals Week is
addressed “To: The Boss” and features best-selling packages in a
variety of price points.
Dandelions offers employee discount cards to selected large
corporate clients for their employee incentive packages. The
cards are customized with both business's logos.
Visiting corporate prospects is among the responsibilities of
part-time employee Sharon Foster, the shop’s “marketing secret
Dandelions promotes corporate “holidays” as well.
Although Mrs. Lyons shares that direct mail has declined in recent years
due to the increase of Internet promotions, postcards have been
particularly effective for Administrative Professionals Week and
National Boss Day. Mrs. Lyons notes that she orders the postcards with
black type on color cardstock for cost savings. In addition, she points
out that a bold color, such as lime-green, is not likely to get lost in
the shuffle of office mail.
Last year, Dandelions sponsored its first contest to
find the “Top Boss” in Eugene, receiving about 20 entries in which
“people wrote in such compelling things about their bosses,” Mrs. Lyons
says. “We took a framed certificate, a bouquet of flowers, balloons and
chocolates, and we surprised the winner at his office.”
Sympathy is another strong push, accounting for 18
percent of Dandelions’ annual sales. In addition to its sympathy website
and advertisements on the obituary page of the local newspaper, Mrs.
Lyons and her staff work with funeral directors in a variety of ways.
They provide books of sympathy designs for the funeral homes and deliver
flowers for their reception areas each week.
“While we’re seeing sympathy trends change to more
memorials and cremations than traditional services—and certainly on the
West Coast—there’s still a wonderful place for flowers, so working on
that relationship is critical,” Mrs. Lyons explains. “We work with our
funeral directors very closely, and we get a lot of referrals. We also
attend an annual staff meeting at one of the mortuaries. We take flower
arrangements and talk about the value of flowers and how they can talk
with the families.”
& gifts, LLC
Owner: Shirley Lyons, AAF
Location: Eugene, Ore.
Shop size: 3,000 square feet in two buildings (main
building is 2,000 square feet and includes 1,200 square feet for
sales area with remainder design and office space)
Clientele: middle-income consumers ages 25 to 55 years
old as well as corporate
Average sale: $48
Number of employees: 20 (10 full time; 10 part time)
www.eugenefuneralflowers.com, plus more than 60 additional
domain names linked to the core website
focus on the future
Marketing to children is important to the future of not
only Dandelions, Mrs. Lyons says, but also the traditional retail floral
industry. “If we don’t stay in front of young people, they won’t know
what a florist is,” she explains. “We have to think about how to keep
kids knowing what we do.”
One way Dandelions achieves this is its annual “Make It
for Mom” event, in which children can stop by to make a floral
arrangement the day before Mother’s Day. Adults who bring children
receive a $5 coupon to use in the shop while they wait.
Dandelions caters to high-school students in several
ways as well. Among the most notable is providing a college scholarship,
each year since 1996, to one senior at the school located near the shop.
The scholarship opportunity is posted in the community room of the
school, and each student submits an essay about role models along with
his or her transcript and application form. Mrs. Lyons works with the
school’s guidance counselor to select the winner. She also presents the
$250 scholarship, along with a large flower bouquet, to its recipient
during the school’s year-end awards ceremony, in front of a captive
audience of students, teachers and approximately 500 parents, many of
whom may be thinking of ordering flowers for graduation parties the
following week. “You don’t get better advertising than that,” Mrs. Lyons
alert the press
Though she works hard to achieve it, Mrs. Lyons credits
much of her business’s success to free publicity. She sends press
releases to local media for everything the shop does that is noteworthy,
including “Make It for Mom,” “Top Boss Award” and other events and
contests. She also takes pictures of new designer hires and sends them,
along with a press release, to the local newspaper for use in its
“Always be ready to tell a story,” Mrs. Lyons advises.
“Media coverage extends your marketing reach big time. Our goal is to be
on the news for every holiday with at least one station and hopefully
more. It doesn’t matter how busy we are; we will be there.”
This positive attitude is what keeps
the media—and customers—coming back for more.
best marketing practices
Outside salesperson who
visits potential and current corporate clients as well as
Targeted wedding and sympathy websites (www.eugeneweddingflowers.com
“Make It for Mom” free flower arranging event for children
during Mother’s Day weekend
Corporate brochure, featuring a 15 percent off coupon,
marketed to prospects via direct mail, in chamber of
commerce marketing packets and via direct contact at
business events, etc.
Annual corporate rebates for businesses that reach
established benchmark purchase volumes
Custom design menus for corporate clients
Employee discount cards—offering 10 percent off all
purchases except outgoing wire orders—for selected large
corporate clients to use in their employee incentive
Direct-mail postcards for Administrative Professionals Week
and National Boss Day featuring a variety of priced packages
Free rose coupons included in statements and used at events
E-mail campaigns two or three times each month, featuring
compelling offers such as “Free delivery if ordered by ... ”
or “Save $5 on your order” with applied discount codes
“Half-Off Fridays,” featuring 50 percent off all loose
Giveaways and promotions such as free arrangements, gift
certificates, “Top Boss Award” and more
Birthday and anniversary reminder service
Frequent flower buyer cards
Partnerships with schools via scholarships, field trips,
flowers donated for projects, job fair presentations, etc.
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