DEPARTMENTS


Herding cats



Capturing the gardening public's attention sometimes can be a little like, ok ... I'll use the term ... herding cats. Demographic information can help - and believe me, it's fascinating - but it's kind of a trap to rely too much on numbers that say 57 percent of women like the color red. Yes, I made that up. I have no idea how many women like red.

It's not the information itself, but what you do with it that counts. That's a given. And what you do with it is try to tailor your outreach - your advertising, your promotional efforts, your marketing and branding - as closely as possible to those customers and clients you've identified as your kind of people. In general? Homeowners, a bit of disposable income (the more, the merrier), somewhat experienced with hands in the dirt, eager to make their home homier.

Lots of time and effort are spent on campaigns to get your message across, and with a good plan and a good product, they're reasonably successful. Advertising in print and online, and sometimes on the air, is tried and true, no question about it. Exhibiting at trade shows reaches your wholesale customers, and exhibiting at home improvement expos, or at flower and garden shows, can reach untold thousands of potential customers who've already expressed an interest.

What about those other opportunities? Those not-so-obvious ones? You don't have the time to go chasing after each and every potential client, each and every cat who saunters by, nose and tail in the air. They're busy, too, and they're usually running in a thousand different directions. Good luck teaching a cat to come on command, much less to stay.

But take a look at what a landscape design/build company in Illinois' Fox Valley is doing. (Their story is on page 29.) Plandscape Inc. has been successful in herding those cats by thinking of a different way to capture their attention. Each July, the company dresses up an intersection in the middle of a respected art fair. The 25,000+ visitors who stroll through and past their displays aren't there to shop for plants; they're there for the art.

When you think about it, a well-designed and executed landscape is art, isn't it? As Jim Haugen, the company's landscape architect, points out, it's a natural fit. Their kind of client is there: someone who'll spend on art probably is a homeowner, probably has disposable income, probably is interested in aesthetic improvements. And Plandscape has the sales to prove that their efforts have paid off.

It's a gamble, yes. Choosing the appropriate venue is critical, and that's where your experience - and your community network - tell you what to do. A farmers' market? Good choice. An auto show? Maybe not. But out-of-the-mainstream events can present a new herd of cats to capture.

Toss a little catmint in an unexpected place, and the cats just might come to you.

Cats, herded and exhausted.