A mentor and competitor in the nursery industry, whom I hold in great respect, called just after I became the manager of Bremo Trees.
“All right,” he said. “What is the plan?”
“Well,” I mumbled, feeling unprepared for the question. “I am going to grow relationships one at a time.” It was an off-the-cuff remark.
There was a pause in the conversation.
“You just scared the heck out of me,” he replied.
Within his comment I uncovered what would become our core value and most important marketing strategy at Bremo Trees. A goal was set to seek to be genuinely nice and friendly in all interactions, often more so than our competitors. The best way we can develop loyalty among our customers is to develop genuine and lasting relationships with them.
It is an across-the-board strategy, which should exclude very few and include anyone and everyone, from potential and current customers both large and small, to vendors, truckers, industry groups, civic organizations, places of learning and society at large. Basically, what comes around goes around. Good energy that is put forth is more often than not rewarded with a positive outcome.
In practical terms, we embrace our fellow nurserymen and support their operations whenever possible. We post lists in our office of who grows what and refer potential buyers to others when we can’t meet their needs. It is impossible for any single nursery to provide the diversity of trees needed to meet current demand. Our willingness to share information is often returned in the form of lasting loyalty from both our customers and the vendors whom we have referred to others.
The single most effective way to maintain customer loyalty is to cultivate a genuine friendship with those you service. This should not done for calculated or selfish reasons, but because it is natural and the right thing to do. You do not focus this friendship only upon those who have the potential to spend the most money or write the checks, but upon everyone in an organization, from the receptionist on the phone to the mechanic and shipping coordinator. Customers both small and large, from those that buy a thousand trees per year, to those that buy ten, should be coveted and offered our loyalty. It will be argued that too much time and energy is wasted upon those with limited buying potential, but good deeds of little significance at the time have a way in returning in the form of dollars spent in the future.
Before becoming manager of Bremo Trees, I spent a number of years performing the duties of a plant buyer for a residential landscape company. The company’s needs were diverse and I typically bought from over sixty different nurseries per year. Over time I developed a core group of vendors of whom I preferred and focused my purchases upon them whenever possible. I continually justified this by extolling their virtues in terms of horticultural expertise, quality, customer service, etc. I now realize that more than any other factor, I bought plants from the people that treated me the best and that I liked and trusted the most. It came down to something that simple. Friendship.
It is our desire at Bremo Trees to be transparent, honest and upfront at all times. It is clear that nothing is gained by selling and shipping trees today that will reflect poorly upon us tomorrow. We make every effort to cultivate and shape each tree in a way that will maximize its value to the customer, but admittedly nature has a mind of its own. We always welcome buyers who would like to tag their own trees and are also happy to send photos when requested. It is all part of an open, honest and candid communication process.
While it is clear that the process of learning and adapting will never stop at Bremo Trees, we can be confident in the fact that we have settled upon a time-tested marketing model. It is based simply upon respect, understanding and friendship. We are literally growing relationships one at a time.