Endless garden niches

It would appear that the DIY Network has canceled the series Fresh from the Garden with host Joe Lamp'l. Joe say's, "Each episode featured one or two different vegetables while demonstrating everything you needed to know to grow that particular plant, from seed to harvest in a single 30-minute episode. Never before or after have I seen such a series. We completed 52 informative and comprehensive episodes, covering just about every vegetable you could possibly grow over three years of taping the series around Atlanta, Georgia". Apparently the shows are done and ready to be aired, yet DIY network has canceled the show for, "a much more edgy style these days."So in the face of a huge growth of interest in vegetables the show is canceled. Television as we know it is dying. While I do feel for Joe, what has happened was not unexpected. The networks just don't have the advertising coming in to keep these shows going. In their desperation they want to come up with something more "edgy", as if that will bring back all the lost viewers. Reading the comments after Joe's post at Garden Rant, many feel the solution would be to get Oprah, or some other big star to have Joe on. This would magically get everyone interested in gardening, because once your on Oprah you have it made. Not! Things have changed.

Gardening is made up of a hundreds of niches now.  Hydroponic growers, indoor growers, herb growers, organic vegetable growers, non-organic vegetable growers, native plant enthusiasts, locovores, lawn enthusiasts, anti-lawn enthusiasts, poison gardens, etc., etc., etc. Pick your niche and there is a web site or group built around it. As a garden center owner our job is to pick the niches we want to service and then really service them. We choose to focus on the organic vegetable grower, and as such we don't sell synthetic fertilizers like Miracle-Gro. That doesn't mean there isn't a huge niche that want's Miracle-Gro, it's just not our focus. Let the competition have that niche, as we don't have time to give our best to both groups. When you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.

This is the problem for networks like DIY. They have to please their sponsors. As sponsors find it harder and harder to interrupt us with their message, they turn to "more edgy" programing which really pleases no one. And the downward spiral continues for these networks. Why do I want to watch TV, when I can interact and learn so much more right here? Thus the conundrum now facing TV, Magazines, and the other Big Boys in the Horticultural world. As the market fragments into millions of different niches and interests, how do you get our attention? By calling me constantly during business hours, or e-mailing everyday even after I have unsubscribed a hundred times form something I never subscribed to? (Thanks a lot AARP, who does this everyday to me. I will never belong to a group that uses such tactics.) Watching TV now you don't even have to watch the ads, (TIVO anyone?) Why would sponsors want to sponsor shows where we just fast forward through the ads?

None of us know where this is headed.  I do know where we want to focus our energies, and that's on the people who already show an interest in gardening, and want to learn more. The person who comes in and asks how our prices compare to Home Depot is not our target market. They are of course welcome to shop with us, and maybe they will see the difference is about more than price. Yet, I cannot get upset if they leave and don't come back. I have people that want to shop with us, and I need to focus on them. My advertising is almost exclusively e-news oriented. It is sent to people who have signed up to receive it, and therefore more apt to respond to our message.

I have never thought that the majority of Americans would embrace gardening. When I say "we need to get ourselves back to the garden" I am talking about the people that "get it". Driving down a typical suburban neighborhood around here I would expect if 1 in 10 homes converted their lawn to a garden we would be having amazing success. I don't think those other 9 homes will change much. Most people just find gardening too much work. That's o.k. from a small garden centers standpoint. I don't need the majority of people to come into my store, just the 10% or 20% that are committed, and loyal. Let them spread the word both verbally, and through the internet. Maybe if enough people post about Joe and his show, DIY might bring it back. I just don't think the network has a sustainable model in the long run. Joe might want to market his ideas on his own network, via the internet. It wont reach quite as many people as DIY network, but it will reach those who truly want to hear the message.

The power of advertising is now within us all. Your blog might be small, not read by many people. However, every time you write a post it becomes a part of the history of the net. The tail just gets longer and longer. So you had a bad experience at a store, or got great service at another, then write about it! Promote those people and places that you like. Link to them. It will make a difference in this new world where word of mouth will rule, and can be amplified via the net. That's the really scary part for the advertisers. You have the power now. Their products or service will have to actually be endorsed by real people who have used the products.

I think this new paradigm will benefit the smaller operations who for so long couldn't afford interruption marketing in the past. We need to give our customers something to "write home about", except now when they write it's not just to home, but the world. Spread the word...