From the June 2007 issue of our newsletter, Let's Grow. For a FREE subscription, CLICK HERE.

Competitive Shopping

What You Can Learn From a Shopping Spree

There’s a lot of truth to the saying “there are no new ideas.”  Yet how often do we systematically look for ways to apply old ideas to boost our businesses a notch or two higher?  Every now and then, really study how other related companies are handling their marketing and see what you can adapt to serve your customers better.  Look carefully at elements like these:

Catalog What does their catalog cover look like? How is the content organized? Do the photos show the product well? Are people used in the photos? Do indexes, icons, charts and other techniques make it easy to find what you’re looking for? 

What offers are made that boost the average sale? Do new merchandise categories suggest possibilities that apply to you?  Note the wording of the guarantee, the use of space, and the tone of the catalog.

Web Site.  Is the navigation intuitive?  How are email addresses captured? How are the sections organized? Does rich content help boost search engine rankings? Does the site offer customer reviews, an e-newsletter, or video demonstrations? Are upsells suggested?  Is the shopping cart easy to use?

Ordering and Customer ServiceAsk a few questions and then order, both by phone and on the web.  Are questions answered knowledgeably and courteously?  Is the phone answered quickly? Are emailed questions answered by the next business day? Many companies reduce customer service questions by posting FAQs on their web site.  Keep your eye out for ways like this to streamline your own systems.

Order Acknowledgements.  Most order acknowledgements mechanically regurgitate the order placed.  Some go a step further and, with a friendly tone, build a relationship and make people feel their order is valued.  Still others use the order acknowledgement as an opportunity to invite additional sales by making specific suggestions.  Take a look at the many methods other companies use for ideas that help further your sales goals.

Packaging.  Most companies focus on how well the products or plants are packed, and that’s important.  But there are many more ways your products can foster additional sales. 

Inspect all the literature that comes with each shipment.  Are instructions clear? Is the customer service number prominent? Is a thank you note included? 

One company I know routinely includes two catalogs, specifying that one is for you and one for a friend.  They’ve found their pass-along sales have jumped significantly as a result.

One of my favorite enclosures is a small pad of special offers.  Offers such as “$5 off any shrub on page 26 of the catalog” or “10% off any ground cover” encourage people to revisit the catalog.  The pad includes one or two dozen specials, so it encourages lots of additional browsing.

Take time out to shop from your competitors, and observe what they do carefully. You’ll undoubtedly improve your own business as a result.

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Helpful Articles

For helpful how-to articles from past issues of Let’s Grow, our newsletter of marketing insights for the garden industry, click on the links below.