How We Bloom

Marketing on a Shoestring with Laura Rich

September 23, 2021 Sharon McGukin AIFD, AAF, PFCI Season 1 Episode 6
How We Bloom
Marketing on a Shoestring with Laura Rich
Show Notes Transcript

"Spoiler Alert! There is no silver bullet for marketing," explains Laura Rich, Marketing Director for Smithers-Oasis North America. "It's a series of small consistent steps that connect you with your customer."  Laura offers practical, actionable tips that you can use to grow your floral business while ‘Marketing on a Shoestring.’

Laura Rich (00:06):

I was going to talk a little bit about small business marketing types. There's two halves of that coin, right? So, there's the really practical stuff and then there’s the more theoretical. You know, who you are, what your brand stands for, all that good stuff. So there's like that half of stuff that you can do, but you don't need to pay a fortune for it.

Sharon McGukin (00:26):

Welcome to How We Bloom a podcast, offering an oasis of flower ideas. I'm your host, Sharon McGukin AIFD, AAF, PFCI, and I believe that every great success story starts with one simple idea. That's why we interview guests who dare to do things differently. People who plant seeds, grow ideas and bloom to their full potential. We listen, learn, grow, and that's How We Bloom

Today's special guest is Laura Rich. Laura is the Marketing Director of Smithers-Oasis North America. I'm a Design Director for Smithers, so we get to work together on projects. You're just going to love Laura and how fun she is and the information she has to give you on “Marketing on a Shoestring.”

Hi Laura. Thank you for joining us.

Laura Rich (01:23):

Hey Sharon, I'm so excited to be here. Thank you for this opportunity to join the podcast. You're doing a lot of really cool things with it, and I'm honored to be a guest today. 

Sharon McGukin (01:33):

Well, thank you so much. I was excited to have you.

Laura Rich (01:35):

As you said before, I'm the Marketing Director for Smithers-Oasis North America. So, on the floral side of the business within Smithers-Oasis not only am I the marketing director, but actually in getting prepared for this podcast - I sat down and added it up and I'm about 16 years working in a professional marketing capacity. Like, I don't know where the time goes. But I have a degree in marketing. I've got my MBA and I've taught plenty of marketing courses at a local university. And, I've helped all sorts of small businesses, freelancers, and entrepreneurs as they kind-of think through marketing and what marketing can mean to them. So, I think I sit in a really unique position here for you today.

Sharon McGukin (02:18):

We are excited that you would share that information with us because we see the results of the things that you do for Smithers. And recently somebody said, “Wow, y'all really have a lot of fun things going on.” So, thanks Laura for leading us there.

Laura Rich (02:32):

Yeah, that's awesome. Thank you. I really appreciate it. And, I would be remiss to say if I wasn't supported by a hugely impressive, great, very knowledgeable team. But, I'm honored to get to spearhead our marketing for our North America floral division - it's fun stuff.

Sharon McGukin (02:48):

Thanks. Now, when you came to Oasis, was the floral industry what you expected?

Laura Rich (02:54):

I've spent much of my career before Smithers-Oasis working a lot in agriculture. So, flowers are agriculture still, but I worked more on like the livestock side, so more on like horses and cows. And then, I got into the crop side of life. But really, I've always spent my career in agriculture. So I will say that part has remained constant, right? So, the same thing that we come up against getting production quality flowers, you know, whether it's genetics and breeding or the variability that comes with weather or harvesting or getting paid for what we're worth. All of those things that come with agriculture are still present here within the floral industry. And I'd like to think that that gives me a really good, solid understanding, a solid baseline for understanding the floral industry. And then couple that with I've always … I don't know who says this … but I've always kind of imagined myself as something, a bit of an artist, right? Not a good one, but a bit of an artist as I've got a creative side to me. And so, I feel like being in the floral industry has allowed me to marry up that interest in creative elements and art. And with that agricultural side, to create a really value-added type of product within the floral industry.

Sharon McGukin (04:13):

That's great because a lot of our listeners come from a rural background or they have small town flower shops. Along with our listeners who are in large cities. I know that you grew up on a farm. I grew up on my grandparents farm, too. So you and I both have that love of the land and love of nature. And I think that that's one of the reasons that your tips will be so valuable to our listeners, because you're just so practical. Because, you had a practical background and take a practical approach to marketing.

Laura Rich (04:44):

Yeah. And I think that you've hit the nail on the head. I think practical is the really important part. So ‘spoiler alert’ and nobody ever wants to hear this. Brace yourself. Sit down, if you need to sit down. There is no ‘silver bullet’ to marketing. There's nothing that you're good with. There's no one single marketing tactic you're going to deploy that is going to take your sales through the roof. Or, there's going to be no single tactic that you're going to deploy that's going to, you know, exponentially increase your brand awareness. It's going to be a bunch of little things, right? Adding it up to being something that's much bigger. So, I do like to look at, you know, my expertise and my advice to people in a more practical perspective, because we can't make big swings every day.

Laura Rich (05:30):

And the reality of it is that marketing our business and creating that brand awareness and those follow through sales and brand advocates, they're going to come from doing a whole bunch of little things every day, little things that we don't even think about. But yeah, I like to remind people that, that really there is no silver bullet that there's just a whole bunch of you know, little things, practical things that we need to be doing. And so if we're level setting that there's, you know, there's no one thing in marketing that's going to make you wildly successful. It's a bunch of little things. The next thing I like to make sure that everybody understands is that marketing has changed so much over the years and I'm sure this is not new to you, right? Like many of you, on this podcast - our listeners here, you're going to say, “I remember back in the day when I never had to have Facebook and I didn't have a website and marketing was different,” right, Sharon? Do you remember those days.

Sharon McGukin (06:23):

100% you wanted to have the bottom line of marketing costs to be 7% of your gross, because you needed that to bring the business in. You were more reliant on newspapers, publications, and events. You really didn't have the opportunity that we have today to just go online and connect with the customer. 

Laura Rich (06:46):

Yeah. Do you miss those days? Do you think we're in a better place now that we're in a digital space or do you miss the days of newspapers? 

Sharon McGukin (06:52):

I think there was value in both. At the time, I found great value in the ways to connect. Like direct mailing to your particular customers that you knew you were going to rely on you for a holiday. You could go straight to them ahead of time in a personal mailing. There were just a lot of good things then. Today the advantage is, with the market so tight and the percentages of profits kind-of shrinking as we go along, it really is nice that social can be done - If the individual does it for themselves, social can be done for free. And that's just hard to get around.

Laura Rich (07:33):

100%. Because, you know back in the day, when you had your direct mailing you would put a mail piece together and you'd have to pay the printer and the person who laid it out for you. And then the postage. And then you had to sit and anxiously, wait, you know, 45 days, 60 days to see if anything came from it. So, it really has changed quite a bit. But, one thing I'd like to mention. So even though digital has changed our landscape and I cannot underestimate like just how many changes we've had in marketing. More robust data has brought in machine learning and all of those wonderful things that help us to make business decisions. But, at the core marketing has not changed at all. Right? And I know that like kind of blows your mind. The distribution and how people get their marketing has changed. But really at the end of the day, the same way that you tried - the same intention, the same connection points that you tried, to make through your direct mail pieces all those years ago that hasn't changed. Right? It's just the vehicle of how you're doing it. Now we have to learn all of the things, you know, we have to learn. Facebook and whatever, Instagram, and we're all doing tech talks and whatnot. So, it's the deployment that has changed.

 Sharon McGukin (08:45):

And for me, I am not a techie. So there is the problem of changing to those challenges. I've learned a tremendous amount and I learn every day because in challenge lies opportunity. So, I really want to go after that. But I think there are a lot of people like myself who say, I just don't have time to learn all of that. So would it be your advice, Laura, that then we need to pinpoint a few specifics and focus on those instead of trying to learn everything?

Laura Rich (09:18):

100%. I completely agree with that idea. So, when I like to tell people, if they came to me and said, “Laura, I've never done any marketing, I don't know where to start. Please help me figure out where to start.” So, the first thing that I always tell them to do, and you can hire a marketing agency that can charge you a pretty penny and they do have their place. Don't get me wrong, but there are so many things that you can do on your own. Just kind of starting out or really just trying to support your brand. And I always ask people when they're first starting out is to really define who you are as a brand. And then they go and they say things like, “wait, I'm not a brand, I'm a business.” And I go, yeah, yeah, but your business is a brand.

Laura Rich (09:57):

Right? And, people rely on brands like Smithers-Oasis and other brands, that you've all heard of. First and foremost, realize that your business is a brand. And, a brand is comprised of all sorts of good promises that your customers are going to expect out of you. When you're thinking about yourself as a brand, not just as a business, you have to think exactly what your brand, your business, and stand for. What you really believe in. Right? I think that's the most important part. Because so many people, they go out there and just throw some Facebook ads out there. They do their thing when they haven't even stopped to maybe take some time to really articulate who they are. And, this doesn't have to be a long process.

Laura Rich (10:43):

You don't have to say, I need seven months of time to do this. But maybe, you know, spend a little bit of time looking inside yourself. Ask who we are as a business. Why do we do what we do? What do we, as a brand, believe is our story? Write all of that down. Okay? And, then I also encourage everybody when you're going through this process of really knowing who you are. If you run a business that's more than just your individual self, make sure that you're asking other people in your organization, your other stakeholders, your employees if they can define who you are. Because you might be surprised that you think your brand stands for X, Y, and Z. So, for example, I think my brand means that I'm going to give high quality products and I'm going to support with everyday items. Right? Or, everyday floral expressions.

Laura Rich (11:39):

Well, really when I ask my employees, they go “Yeah, no. Our quality has really been slipping and we seem to cater to brides.” Right? So, it's kind of, it's something different that you don't really always realize until you marry your perception up later with your place. So spend some time, this can take you an hour. This can take you two weeks, whatever you think you need. But, really start to articulate exactly what it is that you do. What do you believe in as your brand? What's your story? And then make sure you write it down. Formalize it. Learn it. Share it with anyone that will listen. That is my Step One of “Marketing on a Shoestring.” Know thy self.

Sharon McGukin (12:23):

Now, I would add to that when it comes to the brand of your business, if you're the owner - it is the brand of yourself as well, to a degree. And, I think your persona. When you're walking through an airport and someone looks and sees you, what they see is your billboard for that person. The front windows of your business - if you have a brick and mortar walk-in business, the front windows are the billboard of that shop. When you send your designs out, the print information that goes with that design, the cards, flower care materials, that's the billboard of that arrangement. So, I think when you are studying ‘what is the brand of your business?’ you also have to look at your personal brand. What's your billboard?

Laura Rich (13:11):

I love that so much! And, I would even encourage you to look at all of those things that you've put out there. And say, what am I telling people I do, right? Like, as part of this audit. I love this, you know, look at your storefront, look at your arrangement that you've sent out, look at your business cards and say, okay, here it is again. Here's what I believe. Here's what the people that work for me believe that we do. And then what am I saying through my visual communications? What am I saying that we do? I love that, that's brilliant.

Sharon McGukin (13:41):

And, is there a coordination between all of it? One place that that's really important is that your online persona, your brand, and your in-store brand remain the same. Because if someone loves following you online and they come to your shop and it's a disappointment, guess what happens to that follower?

Laura Rich (14:00):

Oh my gosh. Right? We're gone so fast! Yeah. And, the reality of it is like customers are channelists. Right? Like we pop in and out depending where we want to be at the time. Right? It's funny. We, so often we expect brands to be channels for us, right? Like, I want my online experience with my clothing store to be the exact same as when I walk into the little boutique. What it should look like? We forget that other people want that from us, too. Right? And, people just want to kind of hop in and out of the experience you know, depending where it's at. We do have that responsibility to make sure that we are portraying that same branding and those same messages. Whether offline being people that can walk in your store or whether that they're online, you're a hundred percent right

Sharon McGukin (14:53):

Now, we love one, two, threes. Take this step, take that step. And you've just given us Step One. What would you say for Step Two?

Laura Rich (15:01):

Yeah, I love it. So, after people really spend some time ‘knowing thyself’ I like to ask them - all right, now, who do you serve? Who are your customers? Who are the people that are coming through your door? One of the really practical ways that you can do this, if you Google like brand personas, there's all sorts of really awesome little worksheets that you can download. Those worksheets will walk you through questions. What's my customer's motivation? What's their pain point? All those types of things. And, those personas do a really great job of helping you to kind of delineate, write out, and figure out exactly who your customer is. So, I know who I am. I ‘know thy self.’  I know who I serve. Right? And again, this is one of those things that so often we think we serve somebody else until we really sit down and do the legwork. We look at the data. When you look at your services, look at things like are you developing your personas? Make sure you're spending time looking at things like ‘what was your average sale of something?’

Laura Rich (16:04):

Am I really serving a high end market? Or, am I really serving a budget market? Do I have customers that are doing repeat business? Or, am I more of a one-off type of business? Who exactly am I serving within my community? I think that's really important. And again, this is one of those things that help - brand personas, these little worksheets that you can Google. Like seriously right now. Maybe not right now if you're listening and driving or something, but later you know. You can just Google brand persona and you can find all sorts of great worksheets that can walk you through this. And this can be as, as big and as robust as you want, or it could be, a small little project that you commit an afternoon to and write up that type of customer you serve.

Laura Rich (16:47):

I always like to give them fun little names, cause I feel like it. I know that I'm serving Sharon or Laura and it helps me to articulate it better. There's so many ways that you can look at doing this to help you better articulate who it is exactly that you're serving. And, another thing - I think I kind of want to interject this idea, sharing it because I find this so fascinating. Have you ever heard of tribal marketing? Have you ever heard of this term?

Sharon McGukin (17:14):

I have heard of tribal marketing. It makes a lot of sense to me because you are going for a community as opposed to an individual

Laura Rich (17:24):

You are spot on. Okay? So tribal marketing, the official marketing definition is the process of segmenting audiences based on shared beliefs, affinities, and interests. Right? So essentially what this is saying is that when you get to tribal marketing, instead of saying that I cluster my services around demographics, like male, female, age, gender and things like that. Instead, a more practical exercise would be to maybe look at people as demographics. Maybe look at them more from a tribal marketing perspective. There's a thought leader in marketing. His name is Seth Goden. I just absolutely love him. If you guys are looking for like a good, interesting, modern marketing type of blog or podcast to follow Seth is definitely a good one in my book. One I listen to quite a bit. He's got this whole idea that ‘people like us do things like this.’

Laura Rich (18:16):

The whole idea behind it is that really, at the end of the day, people aren't looking for features. They're not looking for benefits. They're merely driven to become a member in a good standing tribe. Right? So, it's this idea that we want to be respected by those we aspire to connect with. We want to know what we need to do so that we're accepted by our tribe. So, when you're thinking through your customers, I really invite you to think in a tribal marketing perspective, instead of focusing on the norms of the mass. Right? Like everybody in the world, who's going to possibly want to be your customer because despite what you think, or despite your belief, not every person, not everybody in your community is your customer. Right. And that's, that's okay. We have to be okay with that.

Laura Rich (19:05):

Right? And that's so hard because when you ask people who is your customer, they say things like, “Well, everybody. Anybody in town is my customer,” and that's probably not really true. So instead of focusing on that whole mass collective you know, let's hone in and let's focus on people who look like the tribe that we're going after. To take it a little bit, a step further on this. On what I mean, when I say tribal marketing. One of the things I like to tell people to really articulate this idea of tribal marketing is to make a list of items that you've purchased within the last week or whatever. I'm not talking about “I purchased food and so I can eat.” Right? But, make a list of some of those items that you purchased that maybe you didn't absolutely have to have - like a roof over your head and food in your belly. Really dive into why you purchased them.

Laura Rich (20:02):

So for example, I bought a purse last week. Yay, good job, Laura! You bought a purse. You have a million of them.  Not only did I buy a purse. Right? You could say, “All right. Yeah. No. She purchased a purse.” Like, that's fine. But really when you dig into it you could say things, and you could really understand it and say, all right. Well, if we were to dive into why I made those purchases, I made the purchase because people like me would do things like this. So how do I define myself? I might define my marketing self as like a fancy business lady who needs a luxury purse. Right? But, not only do I need a luxury purse, but I’m a little younger, like, I think I'm a little cooler …  even as I say it, I don't really know that it's true. But, Kate Spade just tends to do a little bit younger or they've got a little bit more modern of a design compared to something like Coach or Michael Kors.

Laura Rich (20:59):

Right? So, at the end of the day, when I purchased my black Kate Spade purse, I wasn't just buying a purse. Right? I was buying something that makes the rest of my collective of fancy business ladies stop and say, “she belongs here, she's trendy. She's got luxury sheets. She has this nice designer purse. She belongs at this table.” Right? And the same as we can probably go through this on everything that you’ve purchased. Right? From getting a salad at a restaurant, when you really want a cheeseburger. But, people like me don't get cheeseburgers. We get salads. Whatever. Whatever it looks like or even down to things like let's say - I sent flowers to my mother for Mother's Day, which we should all do. You could say I sent flowers to my mom for Mother's Day because my mom deserves to be appreciated.

Laura Rich (21:51):

But really at the end of the day, you could say, well, because people like me do things like that.’ Right? Good daughters appreciate their mother on Mother's Day. Right? And so really when you get down into it at the end of the day, the issue is, it has really come back to when people like me do things like this. Right? And so, I think that's important as you're looking at your customer to understand that everybody who comes through your door is looking for more than just flowers. We talk a lot about floral expressions and helping people to be able to express emotions through flowers. And that's no different. And really at the end of the day, they're all looking for your service to be able to meet a more psychological need so that they fit in with their tribes.

Laura Rich (22:36):

I think that's an important thing. And, I think some of that comes from doing these personas. I'm really understanding. I'm asking some questions of the people that come in and doing a little bit more work on understanding who exactly we're servicing. So after, you know, thyself know who you serve, right? Then my third step is again, and I keep saying, write it down. But, write it down. Right? And formalize it. And share it with everyone that you know. And expect other people to share it with them too. Right? For example, if you're going to write it down then you can say, I am a sustainable floral shop, or a high end floral shop, or a budget friendly every day shop, whatever. Right? And I'm here to serve the bride or everyday businesses, or sympathy work. Whatever it is, whatever it needs to be.

Laura Rich (23:26):

Right? Once you've established who you are and who you serve, write it down. And then here's the important part, stick to the same story unless you get proof that it isn't working. One of the things they tell marketers over and over in marketing - don't get creative, get consistent. And I know that like rocks our world because we like to do creative things. But, at the end of the day we need to get consistent, right? We need to start to show people what they can expect from us because we spend a whole heck of a lot more time on our messages than they do. If we change them every time they see them we're going to miss out, right? We're definitely going to miss out a bit. And we're asking people to put these connection points together, over and over and over again.

Laura Rich (24:08):

Whereas, if we introduce ourselves with something in a message, keep it so that the next time you see it, they go “Oh yeah, I think I remember seeing this.” And then, the third time they go “definitely remember seeing this.” And so on down the road. So, get creative or no … get consistent and drop this whole idea of being overly creative. That's kind of the three soft and fluffy things I could probably say on some marketing tips and none of these things have to cost you a fortune, right? These are all things that you can spend an afternoon, a couple of days, or a period of six months to really think about. And you can definitely hire great marketing agencies that can walk you through much of what I just said. Right? And that's fine. Those people are very good at what they do and helping you articulate yourself. But there is absolutely no reason that starting out you couldn't also just spend the time to articulate those things yourself to keep moving on more practical, tactical things, which I think Sharon you'd like to maybe get into next.

Sharon McGukin (25:10):

Are you wondering, who's partnering with me in bringing practical solutions to you. This podcast is brought to you by Smithers-Oasis North America. Why is Smithers Oasis investing in your business? Helping you to meet challenge with change? Smithers-Oasis North America understands that you need fresh ideas to inspire new growth. Oasis carefully plants the seeds of your success by offering a balance of traditional and on-trend products that enhance your designs. Simply visit your wholesale supplier for your favorite Oasis products. Or, view the online selection of direct-delivered-to-you products and seasonal inspiration now available from While you're on the website, check out our blog. Scroll down to the featured posts section and enjoy the collection of design tips and flower ideas for weddings, holidays, in store or online business, and lots more. After you enjoy each blog or podcast episode, please share them with your flower friends.

Sharon McGukin (26:22):

One thing I was going to say relating to tribal marketing - the age-old marketing axiom was that ‘people like people like themselves.’ So, when you take the extra effort to connect with the customer, then they feel like they've connected with someone like themselves. One of the major ways to do that, and I know your mom probably told you not to mimic people, but one of the major ways to do that is to mimic the customer. When the customer comes to you, you mimic their energy. If they're reserved, you're very reserved in the way you deliver the information to them. If they're energetic, then you're energetic in delivering it. If they're dramatic, you get dramatic with the information and the details and how wonderful it's going to be, but you can't do that big picture, how wonderful it is, drama with a reserved customer and have them feel a connection. So, one of the main things, when you are reaching out to a tribe is to analyze the customer and connect with the energy they themselves give out.

Laura Rich (27:28):

That's absolutely brilliant. You know, Sharon, you and I are good-natured. We're high energy individuals. Right? And I believe that you and I have never, in our minds, we've never met somebody that didn't like us, right? Like, we're friends second that we meet.

Speaker 3 (27:42):

We have met people that didn't like us, but if something went wrong, they wanted us on their team.

Laura Rich (27:47):

Exactly. And by the way, I don't know who wouldn't love us. I just putting it out there, but wait, you're exactly right. So not everybody is somebody who wants to throw their hand out and be your best friend. And, you know, have this level of energy. You are a hundred percent, right? So it's about making those people feel comfortable in your tribe. Right? Letting them know that ‘you're welcome here and you belong here.’ Right? Exactly. And you authentically meet them where they're at. Even though sometimes  it might be hard to match that level of intensity or whatever it needs to be. But, it will pay dividends on the back end. And you were so right.

Sharon McGukin (28:27):

If you can find something that is a connection to them, I do believe connecting with the customer is the best way to develop ‘relationship selling.’

Laura Rich (28:38):

Yeah. I love it. And when you think about it, those connections can happen at all sorts of levels. One of the things I like to remind people when we talk about marketing is that marketing happens at every level of the organization. From the person that picks up the phone, that sends follow up emails, that drops the product off, that makes the product right. It's all marketing. And so, for example, I've got a colleague that he's got a bit of a side hustle and he does DJ work. Right? And he's a pretty successful local wedding DJ. And I think that's cool. I said to him aa I was preparing for this lovely podcast, I said, so why do you think you are a successful DJ? And he said, “because I returned people's emails in a timely amount of time, or I call them back within a timely matter of time.”

Laura Rich (29:26):

And I was like - it just blew my mind. I was like, yeah, no, you're spot on. You're exactly right on that. Because he realizes that if the sole part of marketing is so that people know about your business. It fills your funnel for more orders later on. Then, we have to understand that follow-up and communication is indeed part of marketing. Right? And it seems to me that by just returning an email or maybe calling somebody back might be your easiest, quickest way to get more orders. Right? Look, marketing - mind blown. There you go!

Sharon McGukin (30:03):

At Smithers-Oasis North America, we like to share big ideas of innovation and inspiration. Today, Sharon’s Shout-out goes to a book. In this podcast, Laura Rich gave us helpful hints for the organizing, planning, and scheduling of your Shoestring Marketing. Joyce Mason-Monheim AIFD once shared a book with me that she discovered, filled with helpful tips for getting things done. Now, I want to share that opportunity with you. If you're ready to schedule positive change in your flower business, I recommend that you read.’ Eat That Frog, by Brian Tracy. This little book offers ‘21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in less time.’ Again, that's Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy. Check out the time-saving tips on his website.

If you have a favorite, ‘let's do this’ book that you'd like to share with our community of flower friends - DM me the title at Sharon McGukin, that's M C G U K I N. 

Sometimes I think ‘know thy competition.’ And, I'm not just talking about your flower competition. I'm talking about the online catalogs, the websites, the catalogs that come in the mail, anyone that might sell in your area, to your customer, an item other than your flowers, that is your competition. Do you think that's important, Laura?

Laura Rich (31:36):

I do. From the perspective of you have to know what the market is offering, what’s in, where your competition is, price points, and product offerings. Things like that. That is very, very, very important. However, that should not be the sole decision on your decision making. Right? Definitely keep your competition in your mirrors. But, your foreground should definitely be your customer and what you can bring to the table. Because really you can't control a lot about what your customer is going to do. Right? But, you need to know who they are. So that's important. But, really spend more time focusing on exactly where you're headed. And just as you said, you're competing for wallet-share with good heavens … everybody. Right? Even think about like, Valentine's Day. We're competing against the restaurant down the street for … are you going to give roses or a nice dinner? Right? So, it's important to understand where all of these entities are positioning themselves. And especially in things like Valentine's Day, right? Which is also near and dear to all of our hearts. So, it's definitely an important thing to understand what your competition is doing. But, I would make sure that your primary focus is on your customers and where you're headed for your brand.

Sharon McGukin (32:53):

You mentioned Valentine's Day and we all know we have to prepare for it in advance. Now with more supply chain issues, it's being suggested that we try even farther in advance to prepare for the holiday. Do you have any suggestions of how our audience might market to customers starting now with a message that might grow in intensity toward the holiday?

Laura Rich (33:21):

Yeah, that's a great question. So you're right. As we are, the COVID just continues on just forever. Right? And, I often wonder ‘what was life like pre-COVID?’ But you're exactly right. You know, we are experiencing major supply constraints. How are we making sure that we have offerings that people want? Not necessarily being stuck into one specific supply item or whatnot? Obviously, preparing early and often is definitely a good thing to look at. And I think when you're looking at your marketing efforts, even though we are experiencing shortages, we need to articulate that to people. For example, it is September 14th when I'm recording this podcast. I don't know what's actually going to go live, but it's September 14th.

Laura Rich (34:13):

And, I just read an article yesterday that said something about how you need to have all of your Christmas shopping done by October 15th this year. Because you need to be able to give six to eight weeks to make sure your special little toy or your widget or whatever you're giving to your family member arrives here before Christmas. Which that's insane to have to be done on like October 15th. I haven't started. So, with that being said, I think our industry kind of doesn't look that different either. Encouraging people to place orders early, doing some of those follow-up phone calls to key customers that might place Valentine's Day orders with you every year. Right? Take that extra level of effort to say, Hey, you know, just like everything with COVID, there's so many back orders and shipping issues.

Laura Rich (35:02):

And I want to make sure that you can make your significant other’s special day, even more special. How about I go ahead and I take that order down for you? We write that down, that way I'm sure to make sure that I can take care of you. Right? That really proactive approach would be a really great opportunity. An opportunity to also say, oh yeah, okay, well, we're going to go ahead and take care of this. And, you're all set for Christmas then? Right? Like, you have that centerpiece you need? Okay, cool. Right?

Sharon McGukin (35:29):

I know florists who are doing that now for fall and holiday events. And, they're just explaining. They're calling up the customer and saying, we usually do a holiday event for you. And we're really having issues getting flowers at this point in time. We want to get those orders in early. Could we go ahead and get that event on the calendar and plan it? And the customer is very excited that you've put them on your priority list of people you will serve. I think that's a great idea for all of us, not only for Valentine's Day, but for the Fall and Christmas holidays as well.

Laura Rich (36:06):

Yeah. And I love that because when you throw an annual party, like there are a million details and you already have to think about. Like probably all of my costs for everything for my party have gone up. To have somebody proactively reach out and say hey, I did your floral last year. Can I go ahead and get you on the books this year? I want to make sure we don't miss your dates. And I can get everything that you're looking for. Let's meet now, right? That is a lifesaver. That's a very valuable tool. And I love that.

Sharon McGukin (36:34):

So, when Laura suggested that she had some great ideas for ‘Marketing on a Shoestring,’ I was like, this is the perfect time for this message. Because, we're all having to be a little closer to the wallet. Not only to save money and reach a greater audience, but to do what can be scheduled so it can work into our daily schedules, as well. Laura, do you suggest that they do a yearly schedule?

Laura Rich (36:59):

So first of all the experience of putting a marketing goal on the calendar and not meeting it has never been something in my experience. Okay. That's not true. You're exactly right. If we write it down, it becomes more real. And the reality of it is it's just like all of our businesses, there's like certain cadences. Like we even have that at Smithers-Oasis. So we kind of unofficially recognize about eight different holidays or eight different seasons within our business. And so it's helpful that we do keep those calendars, right? Like, things can change and things can move. But the reality of it is, let's be honest. every year kind of looks like the year before in some capacity. Now this pandemic has all thrown us for a loop. So, I'm not saying it's a carbon copy, but still at the end of the day, you still have these major things that you need to adhere to.

Laura Rich (37:49):

And I think it's important - if you put it on a calendar, it'll also help you to be able to develop the right amount of time for you to schedule getting it done. Right? I'm not insinuating that to anybody here that's listening to us, I get it, you know, floral, you're a floral professional. You might not be a marketer. Or, some of those other ancillary items that are so important, like finance or accounting or whatever. You make floral designs and floral expressions that wow your customers, that's what you do. Right? And so that's the stuff that comes more naturally. Everything else that doesn't come natural, natural to us, we probably need to write down and put on a calendar and schedule it. ‘Cause if not, I don't know about you, Sharon. I probably won't do it. I'm totally not going to do it.

Sharon McGukin (38:31):

And, I also think it's important that you know your strengths and weaknesses. If marketing or social, if any of those things fall in the wayside, because it's not your strength, wouldn't you think Laura, it would be wiser for our audience, to hire someone to do those things? In a shorter amount of time and more effectively than trying to drag along through it ourselves?

Laura Rich (38:56):

100%. If somebody ever asked me to be an accountant, I could spend all of my time in the world learning how to be an accountant, but I'm still not sure I can add. So, at the end of the day I would need to definitely farm those services out. Right? So, I think you're right. I think you're right. But I think there's so many things in marketing that ‘don't knock it till you try it.’ For example, like we talked a little bit about all these other these fluffier, fuzzier things of knowing who you are and who you're communicating with. But then the other thing that becomes really important to understand. We always hear the expression that ‘copy is king ‘and all that good stuff, and it totally is. And that ‘content matters’ and you, Sharon, more than anybody should know this.

Laura Rich (39:38):

But visual communications, they matter so much. Okay? Before you outsource it, I would encourage you to try it. Because, here's the thing that I've learned about working with floral professionals within our industry. So much of our industry is comprised of artists. Right? And so, what I found is that as an industry we have a natural propensity to understand visual communications. Better than other areas that I’ve worked with. Like I said, I came from livestock and equine. Try to get an equine person to understand color theory and principles and elements of design. They're just not going to get it, but our industry has that. Right? So, before you throw the baby out with the bath water, I'd say test your skills and see if this is something that maybe you do have a little bit of an aptitude for. Just being able to draw from what you do in your everyday life. And maybe utilize resources like when it comes to creating, visual elements. Whether it be for Facebook posts, flyers, email blasts, or whatever you're doing I could not be a bigger fan of Canva.

Laura Rich (40:48):

Have you ever used Canva before Sharon?

Sharon McGukin (40:50):

Kelly mentioned it to me and I have not used it yet, but I have it on my horizon to look into. She said she really likes it. Kelly Mace.

Laura Rich (40:58):

Yes. I have long been a convert of Canva. I have some Adobe InDesign and Adobe Creative Suite skills. And they're great. They're fantastic. But, I have found very few things that I can't just replicate in Canva and Canva costs, I don't know, $10 a month? The user experience is a lot better. Everything is drag and drop. They've got templates upon templates of things that have already been created.  I can change my colors to my brand colors and my font. And then I can use just scads of templates that they already have for everything under the sun, from social posts to email blasts, they've got a great stock photography section. There's really no end to the things that you can create in Canva. 

Laura Rich (41:49):

It's funny, aside from creating probably big, giant wide format graphics. Like big, giant, I don’t know, eight-foot signs. I can probably create everything in Canva. Which really racks people's minds because you think we always have to have a graphic designer, right? Like if I'm going to put together a flyer for my business or business cards, an email blast, or a social host, we think we have to hire a graphic designer. Somebody out-of-house to do all those things. That is definitely not the case. So, if you deploy a resource like Canva - and there are so many great tutorials out there and I just think it probably continues to grow, but I think it's the best bang for any marketer's buck. It'll make you look really great with a very low cost investment. And people are always surprised to know that big, you know, larger brands like Smithers-Oasis North America we use Canva, right? Like, that's crazy.

Laura Rich (42:38):

We also use InDesign and we've got some more purest on that. But a lot of the things that we create that you guys see every day are created in Canva for $9 a month. And, you know, it becomes a lot easier. 

Sharon McGukin

And Laura, that’s Is that correct? 

Laura Rich

Correct. Yeah. And then and just kind of another good of the order thing, ‘cause this is what also here. So, I'll be talking to a graphic professional and they'll say things like, yeah, Canva is good, but you can't get vector images. Sharon, do you know what a vector image is? 

Sharon McGukin

No. I do not know what a vector image is.  

Laura Rich

Man. You've got mad apple skills. I figured you did. So essentially what a vector image is. You know that when we see normal images a lot of times on our computer, they might be like JPEGs, .JPG or .PNG files.

Laura Rich (43:25):

Right? So, a vector image usually has extensions like .EPS or .AI. And essentially what those images do is they … it's a whole bunch of math that I don't even want to say I understand, because I don't. But essentially a vector image allows you to retain smooth lines with no pixilation, no matter what size that the image is in. Right? So, if your image is two inches or if it's two feet, it still looks just as crisp and that comes through vector files. Right? But what's really great is you can take your low-cost thing that you made in Canva and you can throw it into a vectorization program, which I recommend Okay? And that's important because there's a lot of spammy ones out there. And I would not just upload your image to anybody.

Laura Rich (44:22):

So, is the main one. Yes. Nobody wants a virus around here. When you upload those normal JPEGs or whatever, they'll give you your vector images and then you can send it to your printer. You can send it to Vista Print to get low quantity branded materials and all of those things. People will always say “well to run your business and do your marketing you need a vector file” and you go, “Oh, I don't have one of those. I guess I should get a graphic designer.”  You don't need to, right? You don't need to. No. Also - is a good like for logo products.

Sharon McGukin (44:56):

Laura. Here's a question that the audience loves. Are you ready?

Laura Rich (45:00):

I love it. Bring it on.

Sharon McGukin (45:02):

What is your super power?

Laura Rich (45:06):

What is my superpower, I think …  I know it seems like I talk a lot and I do. But, I think my superpower is the power to empathize with people and understand where they are and where they're coming from.

Sharon McGukin (45:22):

I think that's one of the most valuable things you can have.

Laura Rich (45:26):

Yeah. Sometimes it makes me feel all of the, all of the feelings. But yeah, no, it's definitely … I would say it served me well and it served me well in a marketing career because it's made me be able to sometimes take away the fluff and really understand where somebody's coming from.

Sharon McGukin (45:43):

And just get back-to-basics with them.

Laura Rich (45:45):

Yeah, exactly.

Sharon McGukin (45:47):

You have given us fantastic advice, but if you had to sum it up and say your one best piece of advice for ‘Marketing on a Shoestring,’ what would that be?

Laura Rich (46:00):

The biggest piece of advice is to understand that the buying journey starts online, right? And we’ve said a few times that the buying journey starts online, but that doesn't mean that's necessarily where they're going to purchase. Right? But that means we have a responsibility to make sure and understand that often the first interaction a customer is going to have with us is online, right? Whether they're checking your hours. So that probably means your Google business listing needs to be up to date with your right hours. I can't tell you how many things during COVID now are not correct, and drive me insane. Get your Google business listings up-to-date. Understand that you need a nice, workable website. Have an opportunity for people to either buy online or buy in-store because some people never want to call you. Some people only want to purchase things over the internet, right?

Laura Rich (46:46):

So we have to be able to give people these opportunities. And one thing we didn't really talk about, but it kind of fits in with making sure that the buying journey is supported online is … I can't say enough about having a decent website. A nice website! Decent is not even, you know, you need a nice one now. And, I really recommend that if you're looking for an e-commerce platform, I'm a big fan of Shopify. I think Shopify again is very low cost website option platform. I think plans start around like $30 a month. And they're a great way for you to showcase your business, user experience applications that go with it. And it'll give you the opportunity to take credit cards and sell, you know, right over a website. And honestly you could be up and running your digital storefront in an hour. If you wanted to.

Laura Rich (47:33):

It's just that easy and you don't need anyone with all sorts of great experience. You don't need a developer, you don't need somebody that's extremely tech-y. You just kind of follow the prompts. So, I can't say enough about working with platforms like Shopify, to be able to give your customers a great digital experience. Where you can sell things and they can purchase, you know, technical. If we understand that the buying journey starts online and we need people to have accurate information about us, our Google business listings are good. Our websites look nice. It's, you know, they're up-to-date and all that. The other thing I wanted to hit on just real quick is the social media end of things. So social media is time intensive and it's a lot, right? And there were a lot of people that it just isn't their thing.

Laura Rich (48:13):

And while in this day and age, it kind of, I don't want to say has to be your thing, but you have to at least understand that you need some sort of social presence. Because, just like I said, people want to find you. If your Google listing isn't right, or you don't have a website or whatever, people will go over to your social to get more information about how they can do business with you. So, whether that means they want to understand your store hours or see some designs that you've done or see testimonials of happy customers, right? You still need to populate your social platforms and make sure that they can see who you are and what you're doing. And I can't express that enough because so many people just don't do any of that posting. I'm not saying you need to post every day.

Laura Rich (48:50):

You need to, if you have the ability, to really engage with people and your customers and all that good stuff. But, just table stakes bare minimum, at least you've got to make sure that you've got your profiles filled out and you're posting regularly of designs you've done and specials and things that you've got because people want that information. So, I guess that's my one other big piece of advice is the buying journey starts online. Make sure that if they're meeting you first online, make sure that that's the impression that you want them to have of you.

Sharon McGukin (49:20):

What you've just done Laura, I think, is you've brought us full circle. We're trying to connect with the customer and build a tribe for our community. The more they see images of you and your daily life in your business, and what's happening in your business, the more they think they know you and they know your business. And, people like to buy from people they know.

Laura Rich (49:44):

I completely agree. I love it. It's perfect. 

Sharon McGukin (49:47):

Well, you have just been fantastic. I knew you would be every time I'm with Laura. She just is so full of information. And so cheerfully shares it. We appreciate that you've given us this opportunity today, Laura. Thank you so much. You're a busy lady. I appreciate you sharing time with us.

Laura Rich (50:05):

Awesome. Thank you again. I'm so grateful to be here. And I love talking marketing. So, if anybody's got any follow-up questions or anything you can find me at Oasis. I'd love to talk more. Just direct message us. We'll get right back to you.

Sharon McGukin (50:19):

Well, thank you so much, Laura. We appreciate you today.

Laura Rich (50:22):

Awesome. Thank you again. I love this podcast. You're doing really awesome things and you're sharing a lot of cool stuff.

Sharon McGukin (50:33):

In closing Smithers-Oasis North America and I want to thank you for joining us today. If you've enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend and be sure to hit subscribe. You don't want to miss the inspired solutions. Our upcoming guests will share for your personal or business growth. Until next time - I'm Sharon McGukin, reminding you that like the unfurling pedals of a flower, we grow by changing form, soaking inspiration in like rain drops, absorbing energy from others like warmth from the sun. This growth opens us up to new ideas and that's How We Bloom!