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     Bob Negen, retail marketing expert, author and president of WhizBang! Training in Grand Haven, Mich., is clear about people who shy away from making sales calls or personal sales contacts: “If that’s the person you are, you have a choice to make. Put somebody else in the front, or go out of business. Great designers win awards; great retailers retire rich.”
     The upcoming holiday season is the perfect time to put your floral business in front of corporate clients. But if you haven’t done that kind of marketing before, it can be nerve-racking. To help you plan your approach to corporate clients, we asked four of the nation’s top marketing authorities to share their advice.

building relationships
     It is never too early to start planning for holiday sales. The key to long-term sales is building relationships with the customers, Mr. Negen advises.
     “There’s a tendency to treat this holiday as a one-shot deal,” he says. “In actuality, your corporate marketing needs to be part of a broader philosophy, which understands that corporate accounts often represent more transactions than individual retail buyers and at more times of the year than just holidays.”
     Establishing corporate relationships means putting yourself where your customers are. Chamber of commerce meetings, networking events, association meetings—all are opportunities to make face-to-face contact. But what do you do at networking events besides hang out near the punch bowl with a bunch of business cards in hand?
     “The new way to do it is to understand the rule of reciprocity, and give something away,” says Mr. Negen. “You’re trying to give them something to establish the relationship. So what could that be? How about something along the lines of, ‘Hey, I would love to send an arrangement in your name to your favorite client.’” Other options would be a $25 or $50 gift certificate. Then follow up by telephone to get the order.
     Mr. Negen cautions against using a first meeting to try to make a big corporate sale. In the beginning, you’re building a relationship, getting them on your mailing list and then sending regularly scheduled e-mails or direct-marketing pieces.
     Bob Phibbs, an award-winning author, speaker and sales trainer who is known internationally as The Retail Doctor, encourages florists to use their talents to find new corporate clients. Take flower arrangements—and the floral manager should take them, not have them delivered—to the largest companies in the area. “Say, ‘I wanted to stop by and introduce myself. Here’s a brochure about my company and a business card. Have a great day,’” he advises.
     Above all, Mr. Phibbs says, be passionate and have fun. “A lot of people will say, ‘Oh, I’m not a salesperson,’” he says. “You’re in gifting, for gosh sakes. You’re not selling roof tar in the middle of summer in Phoenix. It’s fun. You need to make it fun.”

put it in writing
     You’ve got contacts, maybe even a meeting set up. What next? You need a plan, and that plan usually involves written materials. In today’s market, it also means a professional Web site to which you can direct business prospects following your sales calls. (All of our experts caution against randomly sending sales letters, catalogs and/or other printed materials with no personal calls or meetings beforehand because that usually doesn’t work.)
     If you do want a catalog or other printed marketing piece to show to prospects, be sure to present only professionally designed materials. One option is desktop programs that allow you to create your own marketing materials—but only as long as you know what you’re doing and have some sense of good design and layout.
     Another extremely affordable option is Design Solutions, a division of Florists’ Review Enterprises, parent company of Super Floral Retailing. The company’s professional graphic designers can create custom catalogs, brochures, fliers, calendars, posters and much more. Printing services also are available, or stores can contract with local printers to have the pieces produced.
     Other options are available, as well. Contact a local university or vocational-technical program, for example, and discuss having your catalog or brochure designed as a student project. Instructors often require a project like this for course completion, and you can get great designs for free.
     One challenge for floral departments is photos. Arrangement photos need to be professional and high quality. One option is Florists’ Review’s Image Library, a collection of CDs, each of which contains 50 photos that are created for both print and Web-site use. There are two CDs of Christmas designs alone.
     Another option, again, is contacting a local photography student who might give you discounted rates to enhance his or her portfolio. And newspaper photographers often moonlight for projects like this and frequently charge less than photographers who work strictly on advertising or marketing materials.
     In addition, FTD Group, Inc., Teleflora, BloomNet and the Society of American Florists (SAF) offer professionally created marketing materials for their members (SAF has nonmember pricing, as well).
     John Jantsch, a marketing and digital technology coach, award-winning publisher and author, and creator of the Kansas City, Mo.-based Duct Tape Marketing small-business marketing system, suggests using a few basic professionally printed materials and supplementing with materials you produce in-store. For example, one piece could be a professionally designed and printed pocket folder containing materials that you can change seasonally or as needed to meet each client’s needs.

plan whom to talk to and what to say
     So you’ve got an appointment to talk to a prospective customer about your business. What’s next?
     First, make sure you’re talking to the right person. Maribeth Kuzmeski, speaker, author and president of the strategic marketing consulting firm Red Zone Marketing in Libertyville, Ill., emphasizes not wasting your time talking to people who can’t make purchasing decisions.
     Then tailor your talk. Your focus should not be on your products but on what the prospective customer needs. “Know what’s in it for them to do what you suggest,” Ms. Kuzmeski says. “It’s not so much about the deliverables. You can talk about the features, and that you do all sorts of wonderful things to develop your arrangements, but also discuss what it will do for the person sitting across the table. They’re busy, and you need to show them how you can make their lives easier.”
     Ms. Kuzmeski emphasizes that you must know and be able to communicate what the advantages are of working with you. “You’re competing against nationally known online florists, where customers can plug in the names and addresses and never have to talk to anybody, and they can do it at 6 a.m.,” she says. “So you must look at what the competition is doing and how you can provide needed products and services better and more efficiently and conveniently.”
     While you may not have the programming on your Web site to let corporate clients place multiple orders at one time, you can offer customization, a contact person who is readily available and the ease of doing things locally. “We’ll make it easy,” says Ms. Kuzmeski of the message you need to give. “How? We will take your list of people you want to send to, and we will do everything for you—from soup to nuts.”
     And, of course, walk into the meeting with flowers. Know your subject. Give them the benefits of going with one product versus another. Will one last longer? Will one stand out from what their competitors are sending? Does a certain style of arrangement fit with the company’s style? Can you put the company’s logo on or in any way personalize the arrangements? Look for ways to stand out.
     Have a plan. Smile. Be warm and friendly. And remember, it typically takes eight to 10 contacts, of various kinds, before a sale is made.
     Mr. Negen says that no matter what response you receive from a prospect, remember the magic words: “When is a good time to follow up?” If they say May 2009, put that on your calendar, and call back.
     Persistence, organization and determination to grow and make changes will bring rewards. It’s one of the few guarantees in business.

Morgan Chilson is a business writer based in Topeka, Kan. Contact her at

  more great advice

For additional marketing assistance and information, contact the following companies or visit their Web sites.

Duct Tape Marketing
(866) DUC-TAPE (382-8273)

Red Zone Marketing
(847) 367-4066

The Retail Doctor
(562) 260-2266

WhizBang! Training
(800) 842-1660



Super Floral Retailing • Copyright 2008
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.