Pond partners

Features - Marketing

Cross merchandise pond products with plants to generate sales

February 23, 2011
Paula Biles

“Sell the sizzle, not the steak.”
In tough economic times it’s crucial to utilize smart marketing—to sell benefits, not features. In fact, the “sizzle” quote is from Elmer Wheeler, who formulated his sales strategy during that “other” Depression. Today, selling “sizzle” is just as relevant for pond liner as it is for automobiles.

Aquatic plants and colorful fish sell liner—not listings of chemical properties or boring black rolls in the back of a garden center. Cross merchandising aquatic plants with pond hard-goods is essential to demonstrate the benefits and joys of pond ownership. Plants are the reason why people have water gardens, so use them to show the product benefits found in those boring boxes, bottles and fittings that lurk in a not-particularly-attractive area of your store.

Appeal to senses and emotions
No matter how sexy you think a bottle of water clarifier is, it can’t attract customers like a pond with sparkling water, beautiful lilies and darting goldfish. Even a small display pond or tank with plants can appeal to the senses and attract more buyers. Showing the ultimate benefits of pond chemicals is what will help you clinch the sale. A water garden display can also help sell pond liner, pumps, filters and recommended maintenance supplies. Plus, providing aquatic sights and sounds will sell plants while attracting potential new customers for both living and inanimate pond products.

Aquatic plants appeal to the senses in a big way. They are colorful, and many have variegated foliage that puts on a show even when they are not blooming. A lush water garden display encourages customers to linger and imagine the pond in their own backyard, which is not something that happens while viewing a shelf of pumps. Terrestrial plants can even be creatively and effectively used to show off pond hard-goods.

Integrate goods with plants
Create display ponds in prominent locations to showcase products and plants. Be sure to include attractive, easily readable signage with details about the pumps, filters and other accessories used to create the relaxing retreats.

Getting customers from the hard-good shelves to the display tanks and ponds is important. Use signage and banners to direct them, making use of gorgeous photos of ponds and their inhabitants. Some stores even use floor labels and footsteps to direct buyers toward displays where they can see the products in action. Training your checkout personnel and staff is also crucial; they have the perfect cross merchandising opportunities. Devise the correct phrases for them to use and have them practice in different scenarios.

Learn and adapt from supermarkets, which have finally learned to sell the benefits of boring grocery products with recipe cards, tasting stations and chefs creating actual recipes in the store. In essence, grocery stores are attracting buyers through their senses and emotions. Follow your new strategies on-site and in all your advertising.

Cross selling plants with hard goods does more than sell additional hard goods. Plant sales will increase in both the short and long term, since plant folks always want to add to their gardens and try something new. Aquatic stuff (plants and fish) generates sales of ponds, from small container water-gardens to larger installations. And surveys show that people who have ponds often want another pond, almost always larger than the first.

The serenity of a water garden, complete with plants and fish will attract people. It will make your garden center a destination, not just a pit stop to buy unloved pond hardware. The display will also serve as a reward for all your customers, providing a relaxing experience amidst the shopping bustle. And on a different level, plants appeal to Generation X and Y customers who want to be environmentally responsible. They are “green,” figuratively and literally.

Freelance contributor Paula Biles is a speaker, photographer, award-winning co-author of “The Lotus: Know it and Grow it” and former executive director of the International Waterlily & Water Gardening Society. Contact her at pbee@aol.com.