You may not realize this, but you probably interact on open marketplaces all the time. If you’ve ever bought a Groupon or sold something on eBay, then yes, you have!
As a buyer considering participating in an online market need only look at his or her current sourcing model. Do any of these statements sound familiar?
Digital sales channels (such as e-commerce websites, amazon, content marketing, affiliate marketing) aren’t new, but because of a variety of factors (time, money, knowledge), you might not have ventured far into exploring solutions for your business. As discussed in last week's post, it can require a huge investment to travel that path on your own. With the right strategy, however, using digital channels for your nursery and landscape supply business can turn into a successful venture.
If you do currently offer online sales, you can attest to the complexity of it. When the channel is something you have to maintain yourself, you find out that it is more complicated than putting photos of products with prices on your website. You also have to consider payment methods and set up merchant accounts. You have to make sure your website is secure. And that’s just the beginning! While there is value in having your own e-commerce site, maintaining your own e-commerce site is not always the most efficient way to do it. Costs and the ability to connect to others in the supply chain limit what you can do on your own.
Advantages of Online Marketplaces Over Individual E-Commerce Efforts
Operating on a marketplace is different than sustaining your own e-commerce market on your own website. On your own, you’d have to foot the bill for the technology and features you need. That’s not all, though.
Joining a Marketplace Allows You to Grow without Massive Investments of Time and Money
Getting your product in front of buyers is actually the hardest part of the whole enterprise. Even if you put together an e-commerce site, you’re limited to your existing buyers and the few new buyers you can attract to your website. Growing your digital audience (and pool of customers) involves sophisticated digital strategy. You can’t just expect to “build it and they will come.”
When you become part of a marketplace, your business automatically reaches more buyers. But, it won’t be your investment in marketing that boosts revenue, but the platform’s investment. This is beneficial because you’re a landscape supplier, not a tech company. When you join a specialized marketplace like LandscapeHub, where the company that created it is a technology company that also has expertise in landscaping, everyone wins, because everyone is working in their area of expertise. You can concentrate on supplying great product and the marketplace can concentrate on growing the customer base.
Benefits of Marketplaces
Well-constructed marketplaces heal broken supply chains, which improves the experience for all stakeholders.
In addition to growing without your own massive investments, marketplaces offer these advantages:Online platforms assist you with delivery. It’s not solely up to you to figure out how to get things. This functionality allows logistics to be much smoother.
You receive data that you can leverage to better respond to the market.
You may learn from your platform transactions that certain plants are in greater demand than others. You might notice trends before others. This information could help you optimize your pricing and influence your product offering, giving you a tremendous competitive edge over those not on the platform.
All buyers are vetted.
A marketplace evaluates the buyers just as they do the sellers. You can be assured that those on the platform are legitimate companies.
Ordering and fulfillment is streamlined.
Quoting, ordering, payments, and delivery managed in one place saves time, which earns you money. If you spend less time chasing e-commerce challenges, you have more time to do important things for the health and growth of your business.
Receive benefits of aggregation and cooperation.
Being a supplier on a marketplace increases your ability to reach more potential buyers, which means more orders.
With all these clear benefits, it’s easy to see why the nursery and landscape supply industry is shifting to online marketplaces. These are the same benefits that successful marketplaces in other industries such as Uber, Airbnb, and Amazon bestow on participants.
An industry-built marketplace like LandscapeHub brings this to the green industry and helps both buyers and sellers.
Tune in next week for part three of our series where we'll be covering marketplace advantages for buyers!
This past fall, we partnered with LandOne Takeoff Service to make project management even easier for LandscapeHub users. The cloud-based software was founded by Josh Martin, who, after years of working in the green industry, wanted to provide a more simple, easy-to-use, cost-effective solution for managing the bid process. He looked around and found nothing, so he built LandOne to make bidding and materials acquisition easier. (Sound familiar?)
You’ve designed the perfect garden, delighted your customers with gorgeous plant recommendations, and received the green light to start your project. As you start gathering materials, two trees and three shrubs are nowhere to be found from your suppliers. Or maybe you’re the supplier, with the challenge of telling your design customer that the plants requested for the job aren’t available. What do you do? You consider your client’s needs and offer substitutions, of course!
How to Satisfy Customers with Substitutions
Whether you’re the garden designer or the supplier, keeping your customer satisfied is your top priority. Let’s be honest: telling your customer that the plants aren’t available isn’t pleasant, but it’s your follow-up that either will impress or disappoint your customers—and we know you refuse to disappoint customers, right?! Instead, offer your customer a well-researched substitution solution before you drop the bad news about a plant.
First, Evaluate the Plant’s Features
Whether you’re looking at the big picture design or trying to substitute plants from a list, look first to the predominate plant features. Was the tree chosen for its columnar habit for a narrow space? Is the planned perennial a seedless variety for extended bloom life? Was a native shrub selected based on its region and impact on wildlife? Or was a specified flowering tree chosen for its bloom time?
Looking at the features of the original planned plants informs you about the intent in the landscape, letting you choose substitutions that meet the same needs. If you’re a designer, sometimes it helps to have someone else’s perspective when choosing substitutions, because like any artist—it’s hard to alter your masterpiece. Working closely with your supplier and explaining the intent gives them a chance to hear your goals for the individual plants and offer solutions with good alternatives that meet your design aspirations.
As a supplier, you might not have the luxury to work closely with the designer or landscaper. Instead, look at the requested plant and analyze its key attributes. For instance, perhaps your customer needs Amelanchier, but it’s not available. Knowing that it produces white spring flowers, attractive fruit, and tolerates shade gives you a good start to look for alternatives. While a white flowering crabapple covers the first two attributes, Cornus kousa meets all three criteria. Try to make a substitution recommendation that covers all the bases of the original plant.
Next, Do Your Homework
If your client’s design calls for a stately columnar Blue Spruce that’s not available, look for a tree that offers similar mature size (25’ x 7’) and growth habit. It doesn’t help your customer if you recommend a substitution that’s short and squat or that boasts a pyramidal shape instead of a columnar form. Just as we discussed with upselling, listen to your customers—and offer proactive solutions to meet their needs.
If you’re unfamiliar with the original plant’s characteristics, a quick Google search will give you an overall idea of the plant’s habit. Perhaps you’ll find a fast solution for a substitution, but if not—get a little creative. You might need to recommend a plant outside of the original genus to find a substitution with the right look, but you’re demonstrating to your client that you’re willing to take extra effort to make their job easier.
Make sure to consider growing zones when recommending substitutions. If your design or landscape customer specified a purple flowering tree, such as ‘Purple Robe’ locust that’s hardy in zones 4-8, don’t recommend Jacaranda, which grows in zones 9b-11. You want to impress your customer with your knowledge and assistance—not make their jobs harder. Or maybe the conifer your customer chose is out of stock, but you found a variety with a similar look. While they may share similar shapes, mature heights, and zones, one conifer might tolerate wet feet, while the other needs dry soil and ventilation—or it will drop its needles. Read the details about each plant before you make recommendations for substitutions.
For a resource that provides fantastic, detailed plant information, try Missouri Botanical Garden’s Plant Finder. You’ll find size at maturity, flower color and timing, fruiting, fall color, growing preferences, native regions, and even the history of the plant. If you’re looking for information on specific patented varieties, scroll to the bottom of the plant information page. The last paragraph contains information specific to the cultivar, noting how it may be different from other cultivars or straight species. The information will give you an edge when recommending substitutions to your customers.
Of course, there’s nothing like going old school with Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs. It’s a classic resource filled with valuable information that will help you select great substitutions.
Finally, Ask Us!
If you haven’t found the specified plant on our website and are stumped for a good substitution, contact us. That’s why we’re here! We’ll be delighted to work with you to uncover the perfect alternative to your planting needs. After all, we want you to give your customers great service—and we hope we give you, our customers, great service, too! Give us a call, and we’ll work together to find the perfect substitution to make everyone happy!
We’ve all been there. A cracked screen on your iPhone leads you to your service provider’s store. You specifically tell the customer service rep that you only need a repair—and yet, you leave the store with the latest upgrade, an iPad for your kids, and a new phone case. Driving home, you curse both yourself for the expense and the customer service rep for selling you exactly what you didn’t need.
That type of upselling—and cross-selling—doesn’t win loyalty or build relationships with customers. Instead of listening to the customer’s needs, the rep pushed profits at the expense of creating a mutually beneficial, long-term relationship.
But that’s not how you run your business. When done properly, upselling actually improves relationships with your customers, while enhancing your bottom line. So, how do we get rid of the used-car salesman (or mobile phone rep) stigma of upselling? Focus on a win-win philosophy when selling your services to your clients. Here’s how:
First, Listen to Your Customers’ Needs
Your client may want your help designing and installing a relaxing backyard escape that’s low maintenance, pet friendly, child friendly, but also elegant for entertaining. That’s what your client says. But what are they really telling you underneath that directive? If they have kids and pets—they’re busy and time-pressed, and kids and pets don’t necessarily equate to “elegant” outdoor entertaining. This is your chance to ask leading questions: how old are the kids? Will the space need additional security or fencing around a pool? How much time does your client have to maintain the landscape? After all, they mentioned a “low maintenance, relaxing escape”—do they like puttering in the garden, or is this an opportunity for you to handle ongoing maintenance?
Asking questions and really listening to your customers’ needs and wants helps form trusting, mutually beneficial relationships. Take a look at this article from Entrepreneur that elevates listening to an art—and also provides a good list of questions to ask your customers so you understand their expectations from your services. Probing questions help you uncover how to make life easier for your customers by providing additional services, recommending the latest innovations in pest- and disease-resistant plants, or creating a design that achieves the goal of meshing family-friendly with entertaining-worthy. Listening is key--make notes, ask open-ended questions, and consider how your ideas and designs enhance the quality of life for your client.
Create Benefits for Your Customers—and Increased Sales for You
We all know basic business marketing: it’s easier to sell to existing customers than convert new prospects into sales. In fact, it can cost five times as much to attract new customers than to retain existing ones. In his book, Marketing Metrics, author Paul W. Farris states that the likelihood of selling to new prospects is between 5 to 20 percent. But the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 to 70 percent. You already have a relationship. Now, how do you deepen that relationship to benefit both you and your customer?
Perhaps you finished a commercial landscape installation. Your customer, delighted with your work, shook your hand, paid the bill, and said she’d be happy to write a glowing review. End of story, right?
Your client is thrilled with your work, and now’s the time to mention that you’d love to continue the relationship, helping your customer keep the property looking picture-perfect. Suggest an ongoing maintenance schedule for mowing and pruning as a first step. Your customer invested in the landscape, so it makes sense that she wants to keep it looking fabulous. While your crew can handle normal maintenance, make sure you stop by personally once a month (or more, if possible) to take a look at the property. You may see opportunities that your crew doesn’t, like an overgrown shrub obscuring a sign or a less-than-healthy tree that needs attention. By investing your time—and an opportunity for more one-on-one scheduled interactions with your client—you’re gaining additional trust that you’re looking out for her best interests.
As your relationship strengthens, you can start suggesting more services. But don’t upsell too soon! Let your relationship evolve so that your client sees that you’re providing value—keeping the property pristine, solving issues before they become problems, and handling details so that she can focus on her business, not the landscape. You’ll become an invaluable, trusted partner.
Now, you can start upselling! As part of your monthly visit, remind your client that your company can provide seasonal containers to brighten the entranceway, remove snow to keep employees safe, or even interiorscape the office, if that’s a service you offer. Talk to your client, find out concerns and needs, and offer a service that meets those needs—make a proposal. (But don’t try to sell all of your services in one big swoop. That might undo all of your relationship building efforts.)
Let’s say that your client agrees to add containers. Once you’ve created a gorgeous display and arranged it to your client’s delight, then mention your subscription service—a benefit that helps your client keep the containers looking their best, with new plantings each season. Or maybe your client mentions her wish to improve employee morale. Consider recommending a design for an outdoor seating area where employees can gather, eat lunch, and relax during a break. (Maybe even add foodscaping elements into the design, like blueberry bushes.)
Upselling products and services to a delighted, happy customer is much easier when you focus on their needs. It’s not just a quick boost to your bottom line that you’re after—you want to provide value that ensures a long, profitable relationship for you both.
Help Your Customers Get More Value from Your Business
Upselling doesn’t only apply to landscape and design professionals. Suppliers can also use the same tactics when upselling customers. Establish a trusted relationship with your customers by using your product knowledge to ensure your customers make the best choices for plants, hardscaping, and even soils and mulches. Once they know to turn to you for the best information and plants, suggest complementary products that benefit your customer’s projects—and also your bottom line.
If your customer plans an installation for a shady residential space, for instance, and wants to incorporate impatiens into the design—but worries about the recent issues with downy mildew—encourage them to try the new disease-resistant cultivar, Beacon impatiens. Or maybe your customer plans a wildlife-friendly installation for a community park. By working with your customer to ensure that your inventory includes native pollinator plants, bird-friendly berry bushes, and trees that benefit wildlife while still looking lovely in a park setting, you’re saving time and resources for your customer by giving him what he needs—in one place. Stay on top of the latest cultivars available and communicate their benefits to your customers, so they appreciate your knowledge and consider you a valuable resource. And, when your customer is delighted with the service and advice you provide, then you can consider recommending additional products that might align with his wildlife park project: bat boxes, bird feeders, or blue bird houses, if appropriate. Or maybe the addition of landscape lighting will help create a safe, aesthetically pleasing ambiance to the park. Focus on your customers’ needs, and only offer additional products that might enhance his project and make him look good to his customer!
Keep Your Customers’ Best Interests in the Forefront of Your Relationship
Upselling provides an outstanding opportunity to increase your business—if done with your customers’ best interests in mind. After all, you want a successful, mutually beneficial, long-lasting relationship with your customer where you both find value in working together. There’s no reason to push a quick sale when you can invest in your customer’s needs--and cultivate a relationship that grows both of your businesses.
At LandscapeHub, we work to make your needs our priority. Whether you require logistics support or financing assistance, we want to make your experience a pleasure.
As a green industry professional, your clients look to you for the best advice, whether creating an outdoor living room or installing seasonal containers. And, when you're well-versed on the latest horticultural trends, it's easy to leverage your expertise to increase sales and expand your customer base. After all, understanding trends help you select plants, products, or services your customers desire—whether they realize it yet or not! Even focusing on a few specific trends helps show your clients that you're knowledgeable and prepared to keep their landscapes and installations fresh and trend-setting. And, if you're a supplier, understanding the latest trends ensures that you'll stock the "it" plants and products to meet your customers' demands.
But where do you begin? How do you know which trends have legs—and which become the "pet rock" of 2020? We have a couple of ideas to get you started...
Trend: Urban Greening
More than half of the world's population lives in cities—and by 2050, that number is expected to climb to 70 percent. But city-dwellers long for nature: tranquil, plant-filled spaces to relax, meet friends, entertain the kids, and post to Instagram. "Green Recreational Districts" and green infrastructure continues to grow as a priority. In fact, America in Bloom launched "Growing Vibrant Communities"—a program that measures a community's commitment and progress toward creating green, environmentally friendly spaces filled with flowers, urban trees, and vibrant landscapes. That's where you come in.
By understanding the rise in urban greening, you can focus proposals on urban-specific designs, city-appropriate plants, and green space hardscape elements to wow your prospective clients. As a supplier, you'll know to boost your inventory of plants appropriate for cityscapes. Trees under 30-feet tall, such as Acer campestre (Hedge Maple), Cercis canadensis (Eastern Redbud), and Amelanchier spp. (Serviceberry) work beautifully in urban environments under low utility lines or restricted spaces, for instance. Well-placed and well-managed urban-appropriate trees control stormwater runoff, sequester carbon, and reduce energy consumption—shading buildings during hot summers and reducing cold winds in winter. But trees aren't the only green needs. Gorgeous grasses, pretty perennials, and low-maintenance shrubs—choosing the best varieties for an urban setting gives you an advantage over the competition when you can sell the benefits of this trend to your clients. When a city issues an RFP for greenscape designs, you'll be ready, because you understand the needs for urban greening.
Or perhaps creating green roofscapes is your forte. Use the trend of urban greening to encourage your commercial clients to develop green escapes—above the city. By sharing your knowledge with developers and showing how green roofs will attract buyers or renters, your clients will look to you as a knowledgeable green partner. And, if you're a supplier, you can be ready for an increased demand for plant material that withstands elevated temperatures, wind exposure, and intense sunlight.
Trend: Plant Parenting
As you create proposals for urban greening, don't forget another trend: plant parenting. You've most likely seen the slew of books and social media accounts geared toward plant parents—millennials who pay top dollar for unique houseplants. However, why not extend the houseplant-love trend by marketing a growing "family" of plants—a green balcony oasis for houseplant parents! Creating small-space designs that utilize containers on an apartment or condo balcony gives an urban dweller a private green escape. Small-statured evergreens that provide continuous, year-round color married with seasonal tropical plants, annuals, and perennials look cohesive and refreshing when designed and installed by you. Consider suggesting a subscription service for ongoing maintenance, allowing your green balcony clients to enjoy the space without the stress.
By encouraging millennials' love of houseplants and showing urban dwellers how to extend plant parenting to balcony gardening, you've created new gardening customers. (The industry thanks you!)
Trend: Small-Space Edibles
There's nothing as delicious as a homegrown tomato—and growing food continues to surge in popularity. In the past, urban gardeners and apartment dwellers lamented their lack of space to grow tomatoes, melons, berries, and squash—all well-known space hogs. However, plant breeders listened—and new, compact fruit and vegetable varieties give small-space gardeners the perfect garden-to-table solution!
Introduce your clients to small-space edibles. Dwarf plants like Jelly Bean® Blueberry, Raspberry Shortcake®, or Baby Cakes™ Blackberry grow beautifully in containers on a porch or balcony. For a client with a small space garden, select a dwarf apple tree appropriate for the zone and espalier it along a wall.
Help your customers create a veggie container garden with new varieties appropriate for small spaces. Tomato varieties like 'Little Napoli' Compact Roma tomato, which grows just 2-3 feet tall, or Red Robin Cherry, which grows only 8-12 inches high, are perfect solutions for limited space. Likewise, 'Astia' French bush zucchini, bred for small space and container gardens, looks gorgeous on a balcony. And, if your client craves the sweet taste of watermelon but thinks growing it in a small space is impossible, introduce them to Sugar Pot—a watermelon that produces 8-10 pound fruit on vines only 18-20 inches long.
Whether you're a garden coach, designer, or installer, your knowledge of small space edibles will wow your clients, convincing them that yes—they can enjoy a "mini-farm" on the balcony, patio, or small backyard!
Trend: Wildlife Sensitive Environments
The reports of climate change—from the steep decline of North American birds in the past 50 years to wildfires, flooding, and melting Arctic ice—makes ecological, kinder, more "gentle" gardening top the trends list.
It's a good trend for the green industry to promote and practice.
Wildlife sensitive environments use fewer chemicals, focus on soil health, and include tough plants that are naturally pest and disease resistant. Savvy home gardeners and environmentally responsible companies embrace the trend, planting for pollinators and avoiding high maintenance shrubs, trees, and flowers that require chemicals for best performance.
Part of creating a wildlife sensitive environment includes incorporating plants your clients love—but selecting the most environmentally friendly, low maintenance cultivars. For instance, if your client adores roses, consider incorporating Earth-Kind roses or other cultivars with high pest- and disease-resistance to avoid chemical use. If your client requests a backyard wildlife habitat installation, include natives, like American beech, flowering dogwood, trumpet honeysuckle, goldenrod, viburnum, and spicebush in your designs. By giving your client a gorgeous design based on sound environmental practices, it's a win-win: you've created a happy client and protected the environment.
Trend: Water-wise Gardening
Along with the move towards environmental sustainability, water-wise plants and landscapes increase in popularity each year. Sales of succulents continue to grow, representing the most significant proportion of houseplants sold—and the trend expands into landscapes. With the increased awareness of climate change, xeric designs, and water-saving plants, top trends lists—and it's not going away.
Why should it? With so many stunning drought-tolerant, water-wise plants, your imagination can run wild, creating fabulous installations for clients. Plus, your clients will adore you for creating low-maintenance, lovely landscapes that will look great for years—while helping them feel good about their low environmental impact.
As a supplier, make sure to keep water-wise plants well stocked. This trend will continue to grow.
Trend: Pantone Color of the Year
Do you know that 2020 is the year of "Classic Blue"? For the past two decades, global color guru Pantone® proclaimed a "Color of the Year"—and trend followers everywhere quickly updated their wardrobes and interior décor with splashes of the anointed "it" color. By leveraging the Classic Blue trend, you can help your clients refresh their gardens with a bright burst of on-trend color with "Classic Blue" blooms!
Give your container subscription clients a stylish refresh with fabulous flowers like Geranium Rozanne. Add Eryngium' Big Blue' into your design plans, both for its on-trend color appeal as well as its multi-season interest. Source Classic Blue containers and cushions for outdoor living spaces. And brighten shady beds with the perfect blue flowers and variegated foliage of Polemonium Brise d'Anjou. Using "Classic Blue" to update beds, borders, and containers give your clients a fun, trendy refresh—and increased business for you!
Knowing the Color of the Year also benefits you as a supplier. Make sure to keep Classic Blue plants in inventory.
Whether you embrace one or all of the latest gardening trends, it's always fun to be on top of trends—especially when they can benefit both your business—and your clients!