lock and key

Sign in to your account.

Account Login

Marketing in 2016 — Creating New Opportunities

Marshall Dirks
Marshall Dirks

Follow the trends set by leading companies and you’ll develop new ways to reach younger consumers, while you grow your business.

By Marshall Dirks, Director of Marketing & Public Relations, Proven Winners LLC

At Proven Winners®, we track consumer behaviors and trends so that customers understand and appreciate our message. Reaching younger buyers is challenging, even when you “understand” their perspectives and values.

Younger buyers value the idea of sacrifice and they also value services that save them time, money and effort. By understanding this, you can create new opportunities to attract those buyers with a strong narrative about your organization, and offer the services they’re eager to use.

Reaching Younger Buyers

A few years ago, I shared some marketing trends (see the article here) that are still driving the interest and behavior of younger buyers.

2016 National Combinations
With varieties selected to thrive in each season, the Proven Winners® 2016 National Combinations make it easy for consumers to succeed. From top, they are Evening Breeze (spring), Summer Breeze (summer) and Autumn Breeze (fall).

For instance, buyers are more interested than ever in the origin of products and the process. They want to know what goes into products, where they are made or grown, and whether your company is using sustainable practices or doing something to improve the world.

Major corporations are changing their practices and telling customers why they’re changing. A few examples are: Subway is removing artificial additives; Apple is moving to ethical sourcing of materials; and CVS has stopped selling tobacco products. As these organizations change the way they operate, they’re asking, “How can we help our customers make better decisions?”

We’re starting to see this reflected within our own industry, as container recycling becomes more prevalent, and as growers and retailers take a closer look at the products they use on their plants and in their stores.

If you’ve changed a practice for the better, share the story. It will capture consumers’ attention when it reflects their values. Perhaps even conduct a workshop that helps your staff and customers better understand the issues involved and why change was made. I’ve seen a number of garden centers invite beekeepers to speak, for instance.

Are you working more closely or cooperatively with your employees or vendors? Your organization will benefit directly from their ideas and practices, and this story will resonate with consumers. Choose one local vendor and invite them to tell their story to your customers – pushing local stories is increasingly important.

Check out what these companies are doing to attract millenials and how they weave their message to them.

Brands and Millenials

Sacrifice is BIG

Consumers are also interested to see how companies make meaningful sacrifices for the greater good. According to Forbes, 88% of millennial buyers think companies should try to achieve their business goals while improving society and the environment. For instance, the move away from neonics and towards alternative products and practices is a sacrifice that companies are starting to make. That’s a story worth telling.

Hydrangeas Demystified
Hydrangeas Demystified” is a downloadable educational PDF prepared by Proven Winners®, which can also be a handout for customers.

If you recycle containers and other materials, tell that story. When you improve your employees’ working conditions or offer them new rewards, tell that story. When you share your expertise within the larger industry for the good of the industry, tell that story.

The New Year is a time to reexamine practices that cause internal conflict in your organization or create obstacles for customers. Rewarding employee behavior you want to see or making it easier to buy your products, rewards your organization in the end. Share that story!

New Opportunities for Service

We know the younger generations value their time and efforts differently than their parents, and the trends show many younger people will happily pay for services just to get the results they want more quickly. This is changing the way our industry does business:

  • Growers are growing more combinations and ready-to-go containers for consumers.
  • Proven Winners® now offers Spring, Summer and Fall National Combinations with varieties suited to each season, to increase consumer success. These combinations are selected by consumer popularity voting and are designed to make selecting hanging baskets or uprights an easy decision for growers, retailers and gardeners.
  • Many urban garden centers routinely offer free delivery.
  • Some Christmas tree nurseries offer both free delivery and tree setup (for a fee).
  • Garden centers are starting to offer valet parking and help load cars at checkout.
  • Large big box stores that used to list available contractors’ names now routinely bundle installation services with the products.

Who knew UBER would bring carolers to your home, or your neighbor’s home. How can you exceed your customer’s expectations?

UberWhat about “choose the plants for me?” The number one challenge for the typical garden center shopper is choosing the right plant. Many people don’t know or care if a plant is a geranium or not — they just want something that will look good.

Would a “valet shopper” for a small fee work in your store? Ask your customers. If 10% say “yes,” consider implementing a “pilot-program” and make it invitational only — everyone wants something special.

Learn what customers complain about and what they perceive as difficult, then create an opportunity for yourself. Do you offer an easy-to-buy “grower assortments?” Many fine restaurants have a “chef’s selection” — which tend to surprise the customers with something they probably could not create themselves.

What about a customer guarantee program? Do you offer a service plan? Do you hand out pruning schedules to hydrangea buyers, for instance? Check out our Hydrangeas Demystified handout here.

As garden retailers start to sell online, more opportunities become available. Ask if the ordering process is simple enough. Does that need to be streamlined? Do you offer delivery or in-store pickup options? Can they buy gift certificates or services/maintenance online?

The challenge to marketers is collecting the data to know and help your customers. By looking creatively at ways to bundle products they want with services they’ll buy, you have a better long-term chance at keeping their loyalty in years to come.

Will Home Sales Jump in 2016?

CNBC recently reported that total home sales in 2016 are expected to reach the highest levels since 2006, according to a survey. These sales are expected to grow based on both existing homes and new construction in the more affordable entry-level category.

“What you’ve seen in the last couple of years is that builders have been avoiding that more affordable entry-level price point,” Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke of explained the data to CNBC. “Last week’s report on new home sales showed that the median new home price is finally coming down, and that’s a good sign that builders are positioning … product for a more affordable price.”

Lower new home prices are expected to attract millennials to the housing market. If that happens, expect new opportunities to grow for the horticultural market in upcoming years.

Share your thoughts on this article at or email me directly at

Availability/Ordering | Contact Us | Subscribe to our Newsletter