My interest in podcasting developed in the middle of the night. If I have insomnia, my mind becomes a dangerous neighborhood. When I wake in the wee hours, my brain spins tales of my inadequacies, old opinions and work that I should be doing. A few years ago, I discovered, however, that donning headphones and listening to podcasts took me away from this circular mind chatter. Once I’ve pressed “play” I will either go back to sleep or, if sleep eludes me, I’ll at least learn something new. Beyond a response to insomnia, I’ve discovered that podcasts could be extremely helpful for many businesspeople. It’s a way to reach unexpected audiences, pose your IGC as the go-to center for plant information and disseminate information that is always available.
Podcasts and IGCs
Podcasts offer garden centers several specific advantages. First of all, a podcast positions you as an expert in your field and region. Best of all, you don’t have to convince a local radio station to give you airtime. The beauty of this media is that there are no gatekeepers; you don’t have to persuade anyone that your information is worth broadcasting and you don’t have to pay a commercial station for airtime. Anyone with a computer, headphones and microphone can develop a podcast and put it out to the world.
A second benefit is that there is no set length or format for podcasting. There are highly successful programs that are three minutes long and others that are several hours long, plus every timespan in between. The length of a podcast is totally up to you. Additionally, the content is evergreen. As long as you keep it on a website and/or podcast host, it’s there when people want to listen. In your garden center newsletter, you can post links to podcasts that deal with seasonal topics that are important to your customers year after year. Podcasts reach a wider audience because unlike written material or videos, they can be consumed as the listener does other things such as walking, driving or cooking. This type of “talk radio” is especially favored by the demographic those in horticulture are always anxious to connect with: people under the age of 50.
The first step in getting your podcast launched is to decide what you want to say, and to determine what is a realistic amount of time to spend on these recordings. Given the nature of our business, it makes sense to begin slowly by recording several episodes in the slower seasons. A podcast makes a good winter project because you’ll need to research recording equipment, hosting platforms and other details. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the process, you’ll be better able to record programs in the spring or summer, but initially, it’s best to schedule the first episodes for your slowest season.
Name your program
Decide on the name of your podcast. To help determine if other programs are already using the name you’re considering, search for it in Apple Podcasts or on other podcasting apps such as Stitcher. For a garden center, the best name might be your company’s name, with a tagline that indicates what your business is all about. It might be “growing beautiful landscapes,” “cultivating Wisconsin gardens” or something similar.
Create a logo
You’ll need a logo for your podcast, and believe it or not, this is an important decision. Apple Podcasts wants logos that are clean, easily understood and specifically formatted. The podcast host Blubrry gives good guidelines here: create.blubrry.com/manual/logos-branding-and-theme/. Logos need to be square and graphically appealing with minimal text.
Record and launch
Once you know the title, the host of the program and the type of information you want to focus on, the next step is to decide how you’ll record your sound. The easiest way is to sign on with one of the podcast companies such as Podbean or Anchor. These companies provide the ability to record on a cell phone and upload the finished program to their servers. Other options for recording include GarageBand for Mac users or Audacity, a free audio editing software for all computers.
There are several articles, websites and Facebook groups to guide beginning podcasters. Take advantage of these but know that sometimes the simplest procedures and most basic equipment are all that is needed. Don’t get distracted by highly-priced microphones or fancy audio paraphernalia.
Finally, decide on how frequently you can realistically record and launch an episode and try to stick with this. Listeners who become loyal to specific shows anxiously await the latest episode so make sure they know when to find it.
An IGC might use a weekly podcast to inform their customers about new plant arrivals, upcoming events or the latest pests or problems in the landscape. You could provide your clients with inside information about problem-solving products or give garden design tips for creating beautiful outdoor living spaces. No matter your topic, podcasts make ongoing connections that will help your business grow.
C.L. Fornari is a speaker, writer and radio/podcast host who has worked at Hyannis Country Garden, an IGC on Cape Cod, for more than 20 years. She has her audiences convinced that C.L. stands for “Compost Lover.” Learn more at www.GardenLady.com
Can we talk about photography for a second? Because I think we need to. When it comes to leveraging your strengths for effective marketing, great photographs are fundamental. Yet, taking and cataloging good photographs of plants, facilities, merchandising, installations and people gets pushed to the back burner by many garden centers. All this beauty at your fingertips, yet many of you aren’t putting it to work.
Working with many businesses across the green industry, getting and using photographs is an ongoing primary struggle. Good photos are always at the top of my request list, but I’m usually met with the response, “We’re just too busy to take pictures.” But busy will never stop; so just like anything else in your business, you must choose to carve out time for photography. It’s tough to do a great job at marketing when you don’t have great visuals to communicate to your customers.
There’s no doubt that without decent photographs, social media efforts can fall totally flat. Print ads rely on well-composed high-resolution images. Poor photos on your website will have visitors bailing on you as quickly as they arrived.
The beauty of today’s smartphones is that most function as incredibly good digital cameras. You can take beautiful and professional looking images with the phone you walk around with all day. So, there’s really no excuse to getting a few good images on a regular basis. Just as with any good digital camera, there are some handy smartphone setting tips that will help you — as a non-professional photographer — get the best photos you can. I’ll focus on the iPhone because that’s what I use, along with most professionals I work with. If you have a different type of smartphone, use these guidelines to find the corresponding settings.
• First: Switch on High Dynamic Range (HDR) for the best exposure.
Go into Settings and select Camera. Make sure that AUTO HDR is turned OFF. On some phones this setting is called Smart HDR. It’s probably on by default on your phone, so go ahead and switch it off. Leave the Keep Normal Photo switched ON.
• Next: Open your iPhone camera app.
You’ll see HDR at the top and it may have a bar crossed through it to signify it is off. Tap HDR to remove the bar and turn it on. On some phones, you may need to tap ON. Now your phone camera will take images in HDR mode.
Composition & focal points
A good photograph, whether you’re taking it for Instagram or your website, relies on good composition. To help you achieve better composition, think about how professional photographers set up landscape shots (and artists compose paintings). Using the rule of thirds, you’ll align your image. If you’re taking a landscape shot, you usually want the sky portion to take up the top 2/3rds of the frame.
Focal points are usually located at one of the four central points on a grid. A grid, which divides up a frame into these sections will help you position your main subject as a good focal point, as well as position a “horizon” for your image.
• First: Go back to Settings and Camera. Turn ON the Grid setting.
• Next: Go back to your camera app and now you’ll see grid lines running through your screen. Use these grid lines to compose your image before you snap it.
Taking a photo of a plant, product or scene straight on is what most of us usually do. But getting a new perspective can set your image up with a much better composition. Try squatting down when you take your photo. Often, by squatting down, you’ll get a better perspective on the shot and be better able to align a more pleasing composition.
It’s no secret that bad lighting will ruin a good photo. No matter how beautiful your subject, light that is too bright or too dark leaves you with a poor representation. Many of us in the garden center world take a lot of photos outdoors. Bright sunlight will overexpose your image and leave it blurry. Avoid the midday sun when taking your outdoor photos.
While most photos used on Instagram get squared up anyway, it’s still a good idea to take most images (and video) using a landscape orientation — that means turning your phone sideways. Portrait shots — taken with your phone oriented up and down — are sometimes useful, and again, can often be cropped on Instagram. That said, most websites and social media platforms will display landscape orientated photos better and you’ll find them easiest to use.
Make sure to play around with some of the cool extra camera features on your smartphone. The iPhone Panoramic shots are a great way to get a wide shot of your garden center or merchandised setup. Just make sure to follow all of the previous guidelines when you’re taking them and keep a steady hand. The Portrait feature also makes your photos look much more professional by creating the appearance of an aperture change and depth.
Just as important as taking the photos is organizing the photos — or else you’ll never use them. Decide on where you and your staff will upload and store company photos, and how you’ll organize them by folders. Set a schedule for how often to upload photos so they don’t get lost in the smartphone void.
If you’re going to invest in a premium print piece, such as a catalog or a high-dollar print ad, then I recommend you go pro. Hiring a photographer for a one-day or half-day session to get a handful of amazing high resolution photographs will set you apart from the crowd.
Leslie (CPH) owns Halleck Horticultural, LLC, through which she provides horticultural consulting, business and marketing strategy, product development and branding, and content creation for green industry companies. lesliehalleck.com
Multimedia | Video
A century of success
In an age where we see some garden centers deciding to close their doors, it’s good to hear the stories of IGCs that have withstood the test of time. Bloomington Garden Center in Bloomington, Minnesota, recently celebrated 100 years in business. Eric and Barb Pederson share what they’ve done through the years to stay relevant and customers share why the business stands out.
What's trending on Facebook
With summer in full swing, Garden Centers of America’s Summer Tour gave industry members a chance to check out some of the top garden centers in Nashville, Tennessee. It’s no surprise that posts from the tour garnered so much attention on our social media feeds! Head on over to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to see all our coverage from the 2019 GCA Summer tour.
See it here: Search #GCASummerTour
Garden Center Trivia
THIS MONTH’S QUESTION:
What are the two main types of roots?
Check back next month in this space for the answer!
Last month’s question: What are the five sub-fields of horticulture? Answer: Floriculture, landscape horticulture, olericulture, pomology and post-harvest physiology.
5 stories in brief
TOP INDUSTRY NEWS FROM OUR WEBSITE
Sudden oak death in Indiana
More than 88 stores in Indiana received infected varieties of rhododendrons. To read, click here.
Get involved with horticultural therapy
Registered Horticultural Therapist Patricia Cassidy explains what horticultural therapy is and how IGCs can get involved. To read, click here.
Gaining ground on rose rosette
Texas A&M AgriLife researchers tracked the disease across the U.S., developed new diagnostic tools and expedited breeding with hundreds of new molecular markers. To read, click here.
Launching mail-order services
Cait Khosla of Botany Box shares her pointers to launch your own mail-order plant delivery service. To read, click here.
Donzell’s Flower and Garden Center closing
After 66 years in business, the business closed, citing poor summer and fall performance and minimal growth in the area’s new housing market. To read, click here.
Getting customers in the door is hard enough for any retail outlet, and once they have a bad experience, they’re likely to be gone forever. And what’s worse, they’ll tell their friends. You can have the most amazing products, but if the service doesn’t match, you’re going to be in trouble.
During the Garden Centers of America Summer Tour, I had the opportunity to visit quite a few garden centers in the Nashville area and I’ve got to say, I’ve never met so many happy employees. These businesses really knew how to make visitors feel welcome.
Almost every single garden center we visited had an amazing, friendly and knowledgeable staff. You couldn’t pass by anyone without a “Hello” or a “How are you?” And I suspect that wasn’t just southern hospitality.
However, there were a couple of stores where the employees didn’t seem thrilled about being at work. And I get it — the heat and humidity weren’t ideal for hanging around outdoors. But regardless of the weather, that’s not what you’d want a potential customer to see when they walk into your garden center, especially if they’ve never been there before.
It reminds of this little Mexican restaurant people in my town raved about. “You have to go! The margaritas are amazing! The tacos are to die for!” So I stopped by one day to check it out. The tacos were amazing and so were the drinks, but the owner was incredibly rude and the staff was nowhere to be found.
So, while the quality of their product was absolutely amazing, I never went back since that first visit. And when the topic came up, I always told people that the food lives up to the hype, but I’d never recommend it. That restaurant went out of business a few years ago when it stopped turning a profit. The owner blamed dwindling sales and I can’t help but wonder if poor service had something to do with that drop in patronage.
Having a helpful staff around when someone has questions is a great way to make a recurring customer, whether they’re just starting out in the garden, trying something new or need some help with a pest or disease. Even just a friendly greeting when customers walk in the door can help.
This month’s issue is chock-full of ways garden centers can educate, reach out and problem-solve with their customers to become a one-stop plant shop, no matter what they might need. If you can help them succeed, you just might be able to turn them into life-long patron.