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Converting lookers into buyers

October 27, 2009  By John Stanley

lookersintobuyersOct. 27, 2009 – Retailing is about converting lookers into buyers, and horticultural retailing is no different.

Retailing is about converting lookers into buyers, and horticultural retailing is no different. There are three specific segments of lookers that need to convert into buyers. The first group are lookers who have never ventured to your garden centre before, the second group are those that do come to your garden centre, but you would like them to come more often and finally there are the lookers who are buying already, but you would like them to buy more on this buying excursion.

The first group and the one I will focus on in this article are the lookers who are not as yet venturing into your garden centre. They may be in the market for what you sell, but it has not registered in their mind that you can provide what they are searching for.
The most common means of getting the message across to those people is called interruption marketing; the term comes from the fact that you have to interrupt their thought pattern to get your name across to them. Traditionally the most common way that this has been achieved is via newspaper advertising, TV commercials, roadside bill boards and radio commercials. The list of how to communicate with these prospective buyers can be a long one.
According to research in the USA, 25 per cent of Yellow Page Directories, an example of interruption marketing, are never unwrapped when delivered. Seattle is the first major city in the world that cannot support a newspaper; some of the traditional techniques to get the message across are becoming less effective.
The techniques you use to get your message across to prospective buyers will depend on how you understand those buyers and how they receive messages on new shopping venues. This will often vary with consumers’ age. The computer is becoming a more important tool with the younger consumer and traditional media becoming more important with your older clientele.
In an article of this length I can only offer a few examples of what I believe are more effective marketing techniques that are worth trying to grow your business. This is my top ten marketing tips to generate sales from new buyers.


Get your existing customers to do your marketing

Your customers have friends who have not visited your garden centre. Why not put a promotion together where your customers do your marketing for you. For example, I am aware of one business that has a coffee shop next door to their business. Their promotion is to encourage existing customers to bring a friend who has not been to their business before and they will buy their shopper a cup of coffee. When the two people come into the store, the team member offers one coffee token to the regular customer and then joins them later on and offers the same deal to their friend if they come back and bring a friend with them on their next visit. This has proved to be a very successful marketing campaign to build business with new clientele.

Build a picture on the radio

I like the radio as a media to promote your business as it can be used to paint a picture in the customers’ eyes, that picture becomes unique to them. Radio allows you to tell a story on how the consumer can use your product in their world. Paint a picture for them and the picture will become memorable.

Create a fun promotion that keeps people on their toes

Buyers love a competition where they feel they are part of the action. One of the most memorable for me was one on the radio where a person’s first name was mentioned at the start of every day and if that was your name and you could get to the shop by a specific time there was a prize waiting for you. This had everyone in the catchment area tuned in to see if there name was going to be the name mentioned that day.

Billboards outside you business work

I know billboards on wheels outside your business are nothing new, but my local garden centre puts a joke or amusing comment on their billboard and changes it every day. This creates awareness and conversation in the community. If people are talking about your business then you are top of their mind which is where you want to be.

Adverts with a message

Take a look at your competition’s newspaper advertisements and then do not copy the style or approach. I bet that most of the adverts have a similar style to them, telling the consumer what they have and how much they will sell them for. The consumer in the meantime is looking for someone they can trust who will help them with solutions and ideas, most advertisements do not get that message across. Introduce an element of trust and ideas into your adverts so that they stand out from the crowd. Put a team member in the advert offering ideas and don’t just sell specials on price.

Become the expert in local newspapers

Although our market is reading less of the national or daily newspapers, local community newspapers are being read more. One reason for this is that the local papers tend to tell good news stories while the nationals can often be doom and gloom articles. You need to be seen as the local expert at what you do in your local community and one way of getting that message across is via a weekly or monthly column in your local community newspaper. The key is that you need to take the high ground in your specialist area.

Get into tipster marketing

Who are the tipsters in your community that the community listens to? Is it the hairdresser? Local chair of the Chamber of Commerce? Find out who are the people that spread the good word, invite them to your garden centre and show them around. They have a big influence in the local market place.

Network with other retailers

Are their opportunities to network with other retailers? I have a client who sells barbeques, when he sells one he also provides a voucher for meat at the local butcher. The two businesses have created a partnership that works for both parties and the consumer.

Build a display in the local library

Some libraries may love to work with you others may not, but it is worth asking the question. If roughly half the community belong to the library it is an excellent point of contact. Ask if the library would like to promote books on what you do as a display for a month and would they be interested in props from your business on the understanding that you can promote the business in the library on the display. You may also want to offer to give a talk on what you do at the library.

Involve schools

The school is an ideal location to promote your business. This may be with career talks or your business helping provide materials for school project or even you becoming a consultant to the school in their kitchen garden. Kids are future customers and their parents may be today’s customers for your business.
Not all the above ideas will work to attract new customers to your garden centre, but some may. There are others I have not mentioned which you may want to brainstorm with your team.

John Stanley is an internationally acclaimed conference speaker and retail consultant.  The author of  several  books including the best seller “Just About Everything a Retail Manager Needs to Know”, he  has a Master of Science (Horticulture0 and taught  perishable retailing in the UK, before launching his consultancy business.  His focus is on turning stock and maximising return per square metre, he has a global perspective and  provides high-value low-cost solutions to grow your business.  Contact him at or at

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