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Consumer Education Establishing Credibility, Earning Trust

 

Tips for becoming the knowledgeable advisor and go-to resource for floral consumers in your marketplace.

How do you sell to consumers who have grown media savvy and sales weary? You don’t – at least not right away. Instead, you educate them first. As clothing store baron Sy Syms famously said, “An educated consumer is our best customer.” It was true in the 1970s, and it is especially true in an age when the internet beams that education directly to consumers’ mobile devices.

BUSINESS-TO-CONSUMER DISCONNECT

Marketing messages and consumer needs are often at odds at the beginning of the purchase process. Consumers may not yet fully understand their needs nor the ways that a product may satisfy them. But instead of helpful information that brings the picture into focus, all they hear is a sales pitch. Where can consumers find the answers they need, stated plainly and with no strings attached? Why not from you? Consumer education provides the answers and checks a crucial box in the marketing checklist: establishing your credibility and earning consumers’ trust.

CONSUMERS CRAVE SIMPLICITY

We are encouraged to focus on a particular consumer: the “sticky” consumer, one who follows through with purchase decisions, makes repeat purchases and makes recommendations. “Stickies” respond to one thing above all: decision simplicity, the kind that education-based marketing provides.

Of course, to provide answers, you must first know your consumers. What burning questions do they need answered in order to simplify their decision-making? What products are they looking for?

You probably know cut-flower consumers better than any market researcher ever could. You probably already have a few of their burning questions in mind. Or maybe complaints that, you are certain, derive from a lack of flower knowledge. For example, you know that varieties differ. Not all roses enjoy the same vase life. Your customers typically have no clue, but you know the consequences of buying the “wrong” flowers that fail to meet expectations: unhappy customers, loss of business and negative word-of-mouth.

So, just as you have learned the characteristics of the flowers you offer, take the next step and educate your customers, as well. Vase life, seasonal flower availability, proper care and handling, varietal differences – you can probably think of several topics with ease. If not, you might head over to the place where folks (like Stickies) gather, compare notes and complain: social media.

THE MEDIA IS THE MESSAGE

Social media is where you can find your questions and read between the lines. It is also where you can provide the answers. “Conversation-starting” and “thought leadership” are the guiding principles of business-to-consumer social channels. You are probably already engaging in the conversation to one degree or another; however, if you are using Facebook merely to announce your special offers or holiday hours, you are missing the boat.

Instead, make use of the different audiences, personalities and capabilities of the various social media channels.

• Produce an inexpensive cellphone video explaining how to unwrap flowers at home, and post it on YouTube.
• Write a short care-and-handling article about properly mixing flower-food solution, and post it on your blog.
• Share interesting floral articles from the web on your Facebook page and Twitter feed.
• Take photos of your latest floral designs and pin them on your Instagram wall.

This means, of course, you will need to start a blog, YouTube channel, Twitter page and so on!

Before you know it, you are engaging in Content Marketing: creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience, and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action (Content Marketing Institute; contentmarketinginstitute.com). If you have been using social media and have asked yourself why, that is your answer. That, and the fact that 74 percent of purchase decisions are affected by information consumers find on social media!

ADDITIONAL EDUCATIONAL CHANNELS

Social media is a powerful tool for consumer education, but it’s not the only one in your tool belt. Any customer-facing interaction can be an opportunity to educate.

• Start a print newsletter or send email blasts to your mailing list.
• Teach a flower-arranging class on Tuesday nights.
• Write an extensive FAQ page for your website.
• Program fun trivia onto your sales receipts.
• Create new educational “Did You Know?” signage and point-of-purchase displays for your sales floor.
• Develop special informative, engaging packaging to provide customer education on flower facts, care-and-handling tips, floral traditions, and more!

Beyond educating, if you take the time to present this information consistently across various media – using the same slogans, colors, fonts and graphics – you will further your brand. You will create a business personality and identity that is interesting and fun, one to which consumers will be drawn.

CREDIBILITY AND TRUST MAKE THE SALE

Fun, serious or both, consumer education starts the conversation in a nonthreatening, non-irritating manner – unlike a sales pitch. When you educate your customers, you reach them early in their process, you simplify their decision-making and you earn their trust. Then, when Valentine’s Day, Easter or (fingers crossed) that big June wedding rolls around, you will be the go-to floral resource!

Floralife, a division of Smithers-Oasis Company, is a worldwide leader in postharvest flower care and handling. Inventors of the first cut flower food in 1938, Floralife has developed products to feed, hydrate, nourish and protect cut flowers at every level in the distribution chain. To learn more about cut flower care and handling, visit floralife.com.

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