You’ve put a lot of time, money and effort into building your nursery. You believe in this business with your heart and soul. And you believe that you can help every budding gardener start their dream garden. If only you can share that belief with the rest of the community.
This month’s article is a little different. Rather than discussing technology,we are going to look at branding and then examine internet-based services that can help you refine and present your brand.
Enter: branding. A brand is something that sums up your business. It is what you stand for and what you offer your customers. Branding is important because it is a promise to patrons that you will deliver the same unique love and care that you put into your nursery business. And branding matters. Look at the most successful retailer nurseries or specialists and they all have a strong, memorable brand.
However, each nursery is unique. The question you have to ask is: what makes you unique? What separates you from the others? It may be that you offer consultancy services. It may be that you offer organic, earth-friendly products. You may even house the most comprehensive collection of rare plants. Or specialise in just a few species. The challenge is to play up this uniqueness. The challenge is to be able to take your business’ core services and package them neatly into a recognisable message - a brand - that customers can recognize as something aligned with their needs.
Brand: it’s who you are for your customers!
You can only build a brand when you know yourself. So the first thing you need to do is to find your identity. Who are you as a business? Are you a family friendly establishment? Are you a staunch supporter of all organic products? Are you a chic, high-quality, premium priced nursery? Are you a low-cost, high-value, commercial option? You cannot be everything to everyone, so think about what your brand is about and keep focused.
Next, imagine who your customers should be.. not just who they are today. Think about age groups, housing types, garden styles, occupations, distances they travel to your nursery, work, shopping, services and entertainment, etc. This is called your market demographics. Once you’ve put together a customer profile, imagine what your customer’s lifestyle aspirations are. Are they beginners or experienced gardeners? Are they gardening newbies who can come to you for advice and starter kits? Are they hobbyist or collectors who are drawn to your nursery because of your extensive collection of rare plants and unique hybrids? Are they green urbanites who come in for your eco-friendly, organic products? Are they farmers who come to you for industrial grade products or established gardeners who come to you for large scale plant orders? Answering these questions can help you create a customer profile - one that’ll help you imagine who your target market is, what their needs are, and how you can give them an excellent retail experience.
Lastly, you need to find your voice. What do you want to say? Are you a staunch believer in supporting local? Are you an all organic nursery? Are you one of the community leaders in supporting Ma and Pa businesses? Do you support an advocacy?
As mentioned earlier, a brand is a promise. Your brand grows from knowing your customers well, and then making a stand for something they care about. If you develop the right brand, customers will keep coming back to you. And if you are consistent in delivering on your brand promise they will spread the word about your services.
Making your brand tangible
The chances are, you already have something like a brand: a logo, a tagline for your business, etc. If you do not, then it’s about time you looked at developing these, and even if you do, consider if these still resonate with your target market.
In the past, getting a designer to work on your company branding was expensive and often time-consuming… which is why only the larger nurseries invested heavily in branding. The good news is, the internet has fundamentally changed how you can get branding. Rather than engage a marketing consultancy, a small business owner can now communicate directly with hundreds of designers who specialise is taking people’s branding ideas and turning them into reality, complete with logos and styles-guides. Services such as www.elance.com and www.freelance.com.au allow you to post a request to designers. You need to be clear about what you are looking for, outlining the nature of your business, who your target audience is (the demographics) and what you stand for. Designers from all over the world will see this request and send you quotes, along with links to samples of their work. This means you get a lot of choice in deciding who to hand your design work to. It is also a lot cheaper to hire designers this way: you are paying just for their skills and time, not for the overheads of a large marketing agency. In addition to hiring through online job brokering services, there are also new services where you put out your request and many designers ‘compete’ to give you the very best branding designs logos. One such service is 99designs.com.au, which turns your brand design brief into a competition for designers. Unlike elance, where designers quote, with 99designs, you set the price and designers submit their ideas. The winner of the design competition is the one that gets your business!
When you do engage with the above services, you need to be very clear about what you want. Here is a good check list:
Who You Are
Describe your business
Outline what makes you different
Detail what business stand for
Provide your business tag line if you have one
Describe your customers
What You Need from the Designer
Logo in color and / or black and white
Branding style guide
business cards design
letter head design
email header / footer design
invoice / statement letterhead
labelling / pot tags design
Other marketing collateral designs
You may not need all of the above, or you may wish to have a lot more included. Having worked with designers before, my suggestion is start with just a single, small job - say their development of a new logo and a letterhead - then see how well the job goes. If you like the designer’s initial work, you can then issue a string of additional design jobs… or even place them up onto the web for other designers to bid for.
In summary, branding is more important now than ever before: especially with the rise of the mega-stores. You need to develop a clear message that your customers will remember, and reasons why they would want to buy from you again. The good news is, it is easy to get your branding executed by harnessing the huge scope of the internet.