The 2022 Nursery Management Conference kicked off with a discussion on market relevance led by Lloyd Traven, who founded Peace Tree Farm with his wife Candy in 1983.
In his talk at the Forth Worth, Texas, event, Traven shared his frank observations about the green industry’s need to stay relevant in order to maintain the success of the past two years.
For years, there has been a discussion about a national marketing campaign for horticulture – something along the lines of “got milk?” or “the incredible edible egg.” Much time was spent on this issue, but the industry could never agree on a plan and never pulled the trigger. Traven said the whole issue was moot as none of those national plans ever truly worked. They did not increase the sales of the targeted products. And when we weren’t even trying, a new 16 million gardeners showed up ready to buy.
“Consumers have never been listening,” he said. “We never needed to have that message sent out, because when COVID hit and we all thought life as we knew it was over, the consumer found us. It wasn’t our brilliance that got them into the stores. It had nothing to do with us. They came to us in spite of us.”
Now that consumers have shown their interest, the conversation has shifted to what the industry can do to keep that interest. How do we stay relevant?
The old mission statement was “Differentiate or die,” Traven said. But he considers this a bad mantra now, and not good enough anymore. Relevance is the key word and that’s the starting point for growers.
For many businesses, they start with the question, “What’s new?” But Traven thinks we can improve that.
“‘What’s better’ is better,” he said. “Or ‘What’s different?’”
Those are the questions you should be aiming to answer with your own marketing.
Three vital questions the consumer asks are: What does it do for me? How does it make me feel? How easy is it to find? The new, improved mission statement he suggests: Leverage passion.
Growers and retailers need to help the consumer overcome their fear of failure and meet their definition of success – the only definition that counts. And we have to do it on their terms. Whether it’s text messages or online shopping, we have to be willing to adapt if we want their business.
“We have the product they want,” Traven said. “We just have to listen to how they want to find us. Because I want your business, so text, online, you tell me. How do you want to engage?”
Watch for more highlights from the 2022 Nursery Management Conference.