Surviving the Election Season By David Edenfield

Not long ago, I was in a spirited conversation with my wife about the attributes, qualities and our individual concerns regarding both presidential candidates. While neither of us has made up our mind completely, one thing is for sure: We will both vote — or already have, depending on when you read this. Voting is a privilege that we enjoy as American citizens.

But as the election season draws to a close, I am also reminded that our bedding plant consumers vote every time they think about purchasing one of our products. What are we doing to win the election and, ultimately, the vote for our products?

The candidates in this election can be both direct and elusive.

The Issues at Hand

Free time to garden. Every survey we have seen in the past several years suggests that not having adequate time to garden is the No. 1 reason for not participating. I have to wonder whether we have made our products easy enough to use as well as understandable for the consumer to use.

Success with our vote. When we do vote, we all want to vote for the winner. When our customers "vote" (with their wallets), they want some assurance that the product will work for them, that they will be provided with long-term enjoyment. They want to ensure their vote was not wasted or taken for granted. What are we doing to give that consumer the confidence that they have made a great purchase?

Presentation. I know this sounds a little shallow, but I think that we all are influenced by the presentation of the candidates. Do they look and sound presidential as they deliver their speeches? As I walked big box stores this fall, we certainly did not put our best foot forward. That is not to say that there weren't some great products, but the good ones seemed overshadowed by leftovers. When are we going to realize that poor, dying material is not going to sell at any price?

Focusing on the issues. In the end, I try to pick the candidate based on the issues of the day that I believe are important to my community, state and country. But other issues are also important to me: A balanced budget, world peace, immigration reform laws, environmental issues, annuals guaranteed to bloom all summer, perennials that really come back year to year, fast-growing trees, plants that perform well in low-light areas. My point is that we need to understand and address the needs of "voters" and make the changes necessary to drive our industry forward.

Economics. As I think about selecting the right candidate, I look at their position on balancing the budget but also who is going to give me the most value for my tax money. Unfortunately, I don't get to choose whether I pay taxes, so I want to be sure my tax dollars are being spent appropriately. Consumers look at our products exactly the same way: While we know price is not the deciding factor in making a purchase, we do know that they want to be assured that the investment will yield a good return.

Impulse. When all the speeches have been given, and my favorite football game is finished being bombarded by political ads, I will have to make a decision. It will most likely be influenced by a conversation with a close friend, a nonpartisan review of each candidate, opinions from a close relative — or my gut feeling. That gut feeling can also be defined as an impulse purchase. Do our products offer that desire to purchase and, ultimately, cast a vote for a certain plant? While some of our products clearly project that impulse desire, we certainly have a long way to go.

Your Platform

It's that time of year again: You are all reviewing last year's production plans. What sold well, and what did you not have enough of or too much of? More importantly, what are you planning for 2009? Do you have the best variety, container and tag to help the consumer make a good decision?

As I get off my political stump, let's keep the basics in mind: We have to win the confidence of the consumer, or we will lose the election.

David Edenfield

David Edenfield is president of Visions Group LLC, a solutions group providing marketing, management and production assistance to the green industry. He can be reached at (440) 319-2458 or [email protected]

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