Put a fence
around your customers
How to keep customers coming back, spending more money and spending
By Rick Rivers
Today’s florists have to add one more thing to the
already long lists of items that they must do: They must protect their
“exhausted” customer base. Customers of today’s florists have so many
more choices than ever before. Everywhere they turn, they are being
“redirected” and “re-educated” and pulled away from local florists.
Customers are becoming increasingly confused in today’s economy, and
local florists need to step up and protect and redirect the customer for
We are not in a recession but an ever-changing economy,
and I believe local retail florists will be the benefactors. In this
changing economy, one thing that is emerging is that the “personal
relationship” marketing strategies of the ’70s and ’80s are coming back
and emerging even stronger. Consumers of all ages want that “personal”
attachment when buying their products. Even the smallest of shops need
to put a fence around their customer base to keep big-box retailers from
“fishing in their pond.” It amazes me how no one I talk to makes an
effort to protect his/her market share, allowing anyone to throw a pole
into his/her pond.
We put a fence around our pond about three years ago
and have seen some results on direct-mail pieces as high as 29.6
percent, and the norm of direct mail is 1 percent to 3 percent. I still
think the best way to keep and get new customers is the first class
stamp. We write 15 to 20 campaigns per year for various events and then
“target market” to our lists.
To start building that fence is very easy. You must
have a system in place that allows you to segment your customer base
(with buying habits) and the buying patterns of the customers. It takes
26 “touches” a year to keep a person solidly in your camp or in your
While I was teaching at the Tennessee State Florist
Association convention in August, one florist came up to me and said,
“There’s no way I can reach all of my customers that many times.” As we
began to talk about the issue, she was already at the 12 to 14 touches
per year mark, so she’s more than half way there. She left understanding
how the touches must come, the frequency of the touches and the accuracy
of them. Knowledge is power for any retail business. All of our
businesses are alike; some just sell different products and go about the
manufacturing of those products a little differently.
Florists have had 10 rough years, but times are about
to change or can change with proper systems in place for marketing.
Everything you do should have a marketing result. An employee of Bradley
Florist, in Cleveland, Tenn., won the “Designer of the Year” award at
Tennessee State, and they wasted no time in plastering it on Facebook
and Twitter, sending a press release to the local newspaper and so on.
They talked about it on Facebook every day for a week, so I know that
everyone knew, and some of my customers called and asked me about it.
When you’re viral, you’re everywhere, and your customers see it. This is
all part of the touches that must happen to our base.
Next, by having a list in our hands that is segmented
by buying pattern, amount and frequency, it allows us to make the
decisions that we need to and properly spend the dollars. All
point-of-sale systems should be able to do this for you. If yours can’t,
then put it in a box, set it outside and call the vendor to come and get
his/her piece of junk. Then search for a new vendor that can help you
market your business by giving you the information you need.
The third element of the fence is the follow-up. All
florists should follow up with a percentage of their customers and
simply ask how the flowers were, the delivery, etc. This provides
valuable feedback on your products, services, employees and pricing. I
even go so far as to ask the customer for the address or e-mail address
of the sender so we can plug him/her into our marketing funnel. I walk
away with a “lead” about 20 percent of the time. If it’s a
florist-to-florist order, I do not do that, but any others are fair
The last thing for building your fence is to know the
event you are selling. In my travels, I hear so many florists complain
about sales and this holiday is no good anymore, etc. I always ask, “How
much did you market for that holiday?” The vast majority say, “not much”
or “none.” I’ll give you one example of this.
Two years ago, while watching Dancing with the Stars
(my wife makes me watch), I thought about how poorly I’ve marketed to
dance studios in my area. The next day, I did some research and found
out that in my delivery area alone, there were more than 30 recitals in
the late part of May and June. So my campaign read like this: “While
watching Dancing with the Stars the other night, I realized that we have
some great dancers of our very own in this area.” I took a picture of me
in a tutu (many are still in therapy) and then sent the dance studios my
offer of a discount on the second bouquet and allowed it to be a “a
family” discount. That ensured I would get more business than just the
mom or dad.
That postcard generated more than $2,000 in sales for a
cost of $225. That means it cost me about 11 cents for every dollar of
product sold, so my return on investment was there. Last year, I did not
send out that photo again, but one of a real cute dancer instead, and I
got even more sales.
It always amazes me how florists are so focused on
incoming wire-service orders that cost them 30 cents of every dollar or
more, when local sales bring better cash flow. When you do all of these
things, you can put a fence around your pond and a sign in the middle of
your pond that says “Keep out.”
Rivers has owned A Floral Boutique Florist in Ormond Beach, Fla.,
with his wife Susan for 26 years. He is the author of the new book No
Fishing in My Pond, which inspired this article. He also is the
author of Blooming at the Top: 12 Strategies to Double Your Sales.
Mr. Rivers is the founder and lead instructor of Florist Bootcamp
seminars, the next one of which will take place Oct. 16-17 in Boston,
Mass. Learn more at