Botanical Brouhaha Expert Discussion Panel: No. 91

Question:

Can you give us some advice on marketing a floral design business? What have you found most helpful? What are your thoughts on marketing locally vs. nationally? Paying for marketing vs. bartering for exposure? Which marketing strategies have turned into actual sales for you? Do national publication features contribute to sales or mostly help with exposure?

Bouquet by Floresie | Ribbon by Fleuropean

Bouquet: Floresie | Ribbon: Fleuropean

Answers:

My best advice around marketing is to get a crystal clear picture of your ideal client, and then focus your marketing for that client. Who is she/he? How does she spend her time? What does she value? Where does she shop and travel to? It’s also important to get crystal clear on who you DON’T want to work with. An example: For my floral design wedding business, I knew I wanted to work with brides that valued locally grown flowers and a particular kind of natural beauty. I didn’t want to work with brides with big budgets if they wanted something really formal or traditional – I just wasn’t going to be the right fit for them. By knowing my ideal client and going to where she is already hanging out – social media, friends of friends, creating styled shoots for publications she might be reading – I’m able to effectively market myself.

I get a lot of word of mouth – so I nurture that – I seek feedback and testimonials and ongoing relationships with my existing clients. I develop good relationships with the venues and planners and photographers whose work best suits my own. That’s been the best way for me to organically build my business.

Clare Day (Clare Day Flowers)

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That’s a very interesting question and after five years of successful operations, I still don’t have an exact formula to tell exactly what works and what doesn’t… One thing for sure is Instagram is the place to be for now (it used to be Facebook, who knows what the next tool will be…). Many customers find me now simply by searching hashtags on Instagram, so you definitely want to have a beautiful profile, full of professional images, just like your portfolio.

Paid marketing have never brought clients, so I stopped doing it. I do invest money in styled shoots as they bring beautiful images for my social media pages and blog, allow me to network and get to know new wedding professionals (really that business is all about networking…), and result in features on leading blogs and magazines which are always good for reputation if not direct sales.

Laetitia Mayor (Floresie)

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If your name is not known in the market or if you are not getting the sales you would like then it’s definitely worth advertising in a wedding magazine. In terms of geography it depends which country you are in but I would say keep if fairly local e.g my company is located in Scotland so in the past we have only advertised in Scottish wedding magazines. It wouldn’t make sense for me to advertise in a UK wide magazine. If you do decide to pay for an advert then it is also worth contacting the magazine to find out if you can provide bouquets to be photographed as part of the editorial content. It is also worth paying to be a recommended supplier on a wedding blog. This time it can make sense to be on a platform that has a bigger geographical reach as they tend to then categorize different florists into geographical regions.

Above and beyond this, networking is the best way to gain referrals from vendors and venues and photographers. They are the people who will be in first contact with the couple.

Nick Priestly (Mood Flowers)

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Our number one marketing platform for our business is Instagram. Many clients tell me they first discovered Love ‘n Fresh Flowers on Instagram and then became loyal followers who couldn’t wait for the day they could use our flowers. If you want to use social media for effective marketing, be sure you are 1) posting frequently but not obsessively, 2) using very high quality photos all the time (never anything blurry!), and 3) coupling great photos with meaningful captions that encourage followers to feel a direct connection to what you are doing. Find hashtags that are pertinent to your target audience (i.e., local brides, people in your neighborhood, etc.) and use those on appropriate photos to get your photos in front of new people who may not be following you yet.

I have never paid for advertising of any kind for my business. Aside from social media, word of mouth/client referrals fuel much of the business. Networking with other wedding vendors (photographers, venues, caterers) makes up the remainder of how we get our clients.

Unless you plan to be a florist that either ships flowers nationally for delivery or does lots of destination weddings, I see absolutely no reason to focus marketing on anything but local sources. We’ve gotten lots of great national press at Love ‘n Fresh Flowers. However, the best press we’ve ever gotten for actual sales was a small story in our local newspaper five years ago. That single story continues to send new business our way even today.

Jennie Love (Love ‘n Fresh Flowers)

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Instagram has by far been my most useful marketing tool. The visual platform and plethora of hashtag (use them! they work!) opportunities provide a perfect outlet for floral designers. Local marketing for me (in rural Belgium) has not been particularly helpful, but that is just my personal experience and most likely the result of my specific region. Exposure is very useful- getting your work out there is key to generating a faithful and supportive following. And community means everything. I’ve found that this usually comes naturally, and natural growth is the healthiest. Collaborating on photoshoots (in a sense bartering exposure in exchange for your materials and time), for example, is a wonderful way to release your creative visions and grow your audience. It is hard to say whether national publication leads directly to sales… I have noticed that certain popular outlets lead to an increase in followers, which potentially leads to an increase in sales? So hard to put a finger on where the sales initially originate.

Emily Avenson (Fleuropean)

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Over the years I have tried both online and print advertising. As much as I love wedding magazines, online marketing has been much more effective in driving traffic to my website than print. Online features of my work used to create lots of buzz but with the overwhelming amount of wedding blogs and more people using social media it doesn’t have the same draw that it used to. I have most recently been trying Google ads which I find to be very effective as well as Pinterest and Facebook advertising. Most of my clients come from local referrals from past clients as well as other wedding vendors such as wedding coordinators, photographers, dress shops, venues, etc.. Since starting my business I have given complimentary bouquets and small arrangements to local wedding dress boutiques when they have trunk shows and events. When I first started I also sent letters with my business cards introducing myself to local venues, caterers, etc.. This was a great cost effective way to bring attention to your business without the high cost of advertising.  I find now that Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook are some of the biggest traffic drivers to my site, which is great because it’s a free outlet to plug my business.

Beth Zemetis (Blush Floral Design)

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I fully believe in blogging and know that my time writing The Full Bouquet was time well spent. My blogging gave our studio incredible SEO and industry recognition. I honestly know that this is a useful and necessary business tool. Not only is it a wonderful way to record the successes and even failures of your business, but it is also  great way to categorize imagery making it easy to find during a consult. I regret deeply that I let go of blogging and hope to return someday.

As far as marketing goes, nothing markets your business like social media. This is the easiest and most cost effective way to market your business. I also invest greatly in photo shoots. These shoots allow me an opportunity to practice my craft and submit for publication. Realize that the photographer you choose is extremely crucial, so chose carefully and find one you believe is top-notch. No ad can compare with a feature story. National publication lifts up your brand, provides recognition and often results in sales. I would have to say that local publications bring in more clients as they are region specific. Instagram and Facebook remain very important for our studio and result in new bookings for sure and they are the easiest forms of social media to use effectively.

Holly Chapple (Holly Heider Chapple Flowers)

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I love this subject!  I look at marketing as a puzzle to be figured out.  I’ve tried many avenues- national blogs, regional magazines, paid listings, and national and international publications. I have 3 arms to my business: an Etsy shop where I sell living jewelry, a wedding design studio, and a teaching arm- focusing on floral design for professionals.

For the online Etsy shop,to get the word out, I reached out to stylists, bloggers, craft and floral design publications- anyone I could think of who may be interested. A few magazines and blogs wrote stories on my jewelry, then there was a long pause.  About 8 months later, Buzzfeed ran a story on my jewelry, then came an onslaught of features- Bored Panda, MyModernMet, Country Living, Cosmopolitan, SELF, House Beautiful, and Mental Floss. My Etsy shop went crazy!  Those features directly impacted my business, generating more business than I could handle!  That did calm down, but since those features ran, orders have been coming in more regularly.  It seemed that reaching out to all of those people early on ultimately caused this flurry of exposure that has helped my shop stand out on Etsy, helped my overall SEO, and has given me a traction in the industry.

As for weddings!  In my experience, the paid listings and national blog features are great for SEO and building credibility, but I have seen little return when it comes to booking actual clients. I ask each new inquiry how they heard about me, and 90% come from referrals. The other 10% come from random online searches, and from seeing my work in regional wedding magazines like The Knot Michigan. Building strong relationships with planners, photographers, venues, cake designers, rental companies, etc. is extremely beneficial, and directly increases opportunities.

As for the last arm of my business- teaching- I have yet to really start to market this!  I plan to reach out to floral blogs, trade magazines, and “industry influencers” to get the word out about my one-on-one classes and upcoming online tutorials.

The common thread, and practice that I’ve been conscious about throughout my journey is to regularly document my activities through social media. Instagram and Facebook have been incredibly beneficial platforms for sharing my work. Many students have come from social media, and many jewelry customers have found me from these platforms. I’ve taken care to show my work regularly, and to share professional or high quality images as much as possible. My feeds aren’t carefully curated like some in the industry, but they are chock full of designs, and useful ( I hear ) tidbits. These efforts have paid off, allowing me to increase my following. Of course, a large following does not directly translate into business, but I do think it lends credibility- especially if you’re in a warehouse like me, and not in a beautiful storefront! I hope my findings help some of you out there.  I try to look at marketing with playful curiosity with a healthy dash of audacity- put yourself out there, and see what you can generate!!

Susan McLeary (Passionflower)

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