Marketing the extras

How to sell your less popular services.

June 22, 2011
Kristen Hampshire
Industry News

When your main course is steak, how do you sell the vegetarian special?

In the case of Pike Nurseries, the core business is its retail garden centers and the bounty of perennials, annuals and gardenware that fill each large store. But the company also offers design/ build and pick-a-plant services for customers who want a turn-key landscape solution. Design/build isn’t the bread and butter at Pike Nurseries, but it’s a seven-crew operation that has grown in recent years as the company has cross-marketed the service and introduced itself as a one-stop-shop to clients who want to focus on sipping wine on the patio rather than actually building it themselves.

Mike Kunce, CEO of Pike Nurseries, says the secret to selling the “sides” is to train associates to ask questions and offer suggestions. Here are some ways Pike Nurseries sells its landscape design/build services.

Mixing messages. Pike Nursery spends 3 percent of its overall budget on advertising, and this includes marketing in newspapers and magazines, on television and radio and during home and garden shows. These are opportunities for the nursery to tout its design/build services, as well. “Most [landscape] companies can’t afford to advertise like we can,” says Kunce, noting that even though landscaping isn’t the largest service the company offers, this division can ride off of the rich coattails of the core retail garden center business.

Selling yourself. Associates at Pike Nurseries are trained to solve problems. It’s all part of the company’s “gardening without guesswork” theme, and associates are rewarded when they sell one of Pike’s extras, such as the pick-a-plant service. “We train associates to recognize the need [for landscape services], and when they capture the lead and refer the customer to our landscape construction department, they get a small reward for the service,” Kunce says. These rewards are paid out monthly and can average $50 to $75. Kunce says the reward is a per-referral fee and a percentage of the sale.

Teaching the trade. The focus on associate education kicks off in early spring at Pike Nurseries with its annual product knowledge fair for employees. More than 100 vendors set up booths and seminars take place during the two-day event. (Employees are split into two groups and attend on their assigned day.)

“Every associate goes to every booth and finds out what is new this year,” Kunce says. “That way, they will have the product knowledge to make the customer’s experience successful.” Beyond the annual event, the nursery holds Saturday morning training. Employees arrive to work an hour early each week for a program – sometimes a vendor will visit to speak.

This story is one of three that appeared in Lawn & Landscape’s Business Builder e-newsletter. To continue reading about Pike Nurseries:

Planting good ideas:
Creative marketing at Pike Nurseries keeps customers engaged and encourages them to try the company’s landscape services.

Rewarding regulars: Pike Nurseries Play in the Dirt Club builds brand loyalty for the company.