One of the garden center trade magazines interviewed me a month ago for an upcoming article on gardening blogs. The consensus from the "garden center consultants" was that blogs were unimportant, and nothing for the industry to think about. Well, naturally I disagree and hence the reason for interviewing me. The following is the interview.
Q: Do you think independent garden centers are even aware of blogs? (I'd say the answer is no based on your recent Plant-trafficker (link no longer works) entry. If not, should they be? Why?
A: No, I think most independent garden centers are not aware of blogs, or at least garden blogs. Should they be? Yes! We are told over and over again by the same industry consultants that say blogs are irrelevant, that we need to court generations x,y,and z. Were told that they are the future of gardening. Appeal to the younger crowd. Where do you think the younger crowd is talking and getting its information? The web, chat rooms and blogs! If you want to get a pulse on the audience you are trying to reach then use the same medium they are using.
Q: Do you think garden centers should consider starting a blog? If so, what kind of content should it include?
A: Garden centers should only be willing to do a blog if they enjoy doing it. You start a relationship with the readers, and it takes time to communicate with them. If you look upon it as a chore, you won't update it regularly. Blogs need to be updated weekly or more often. The younger generation, and actually I think all generations, can sniff out phoniness and won''t tolerate a blog that seems to be pandering to them. One type of content to avoid is the sales pitch. Blogs that are nothing more than sales pitches for some new pottery that's arrived, or a plant sale they are having, in my opinion, just are not effective. That doesn't mean you shouldn't tell people about a new product that would be a benefit, just don't do it for every little thing you want to sell.
I want to tell a story about The Golden Gecko Garden Center and the life of a nurseryman. I want to read comments on my blog that I would never hear from customers in my store, customer panels, or surveys. People are much more open and less intimidated by me on their blogs than they are at the nursery, and tend to be more honest or expressive. I think people like having someone in the industry listen to them. Honest feedback from the consumer, who in business wouldn't want that?
I use my blog as a listening post as well as a way to bounce ideas off a very willing audience of gardeners. These are people who shop at nurseries all around the world, and have something to say.
Q: Do you think garden centers should start monitoring blogs to stay on top of customer perceptions or comments? A: I don't think you need to monitor blogs. Just "Google" your name or the company name and see what comes up. You may be surprised! Be aware that your customers are using the internet, including blogs.