May 23, 2005
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by Anne Holland, President
Although I live in a fairly small town on a not-so-big island, every day as I drive to work on the mainland, I pass signs for eight different garden centers.
Obviously it's a garden-crazed community that I live in. But even so, with eight garden centers duking it out on the main road (not to mention the ones off it), the competition for marketshare is ferocious.
It's also tremendous fun for those of us commuters who pass the various competitor's signs each day. (Reminds me of email marketing competition to consumer's inboxes.)
I've noticed three rules of thumb:
Rule #1. Change your sign frequently
The more notably successful garden centers (based on my eyeball count of cars in parking lots) tend to update their road signs at least weekly.
Rule #2. Only easy-to-reach signs get updated
DeCastro's sign requires a ladder to reach, and who wants to drag out a ladder once a week? So they content themselves with monthly sign changes and just swap out buckets of display plants clustered at the base of the sign weekly.
Chaves' has a sign anyone over 5'7" could change the letters on, so they update weekly. I look forward to seeing what the new sign says as an addictive form of drive-time entertainment. Convenience for the sign-guy equals better marketing for the center.
(Tell that to the committee who are debating allowing you a content management software budget to change your Web marketing pages by yourself without waiting in line for the IT or Web department.)
Potting Shed goes even lower with a waist-high chalkboard sign that's so easy to update that they change it several times a week.
Rule #3. Specificity works best for copy
Every time a sign has made me pull in to shop, it's been the most specific ones. "Hundreds of perennials" didn't work, but "pink and yellow-throated daylilies" got me. If you change your sign weekly or even daily, you can continually change the very specific item and pull in some of the people some of the time.
It's better than being so generically bland that you pull in none of the people all of the time.
But I have to admit the best signs of all are the ones with humor. Chaves' Valentine's Day countdown (each day a different chastising message for the typical husband who hasn't gotten around to ordering roses yet) was priceless.
However, Potting Shed won this weekend's roadside battle with their latest sign:
"Your husband called. He says to stop and buy whatever you want."
Even though I knew it was "just marketing" and my better half thinks the last thing we need is more shrubs, I pulled in. After all, I could blame the sign and make him laugh instead of mad.