I recently had the exciting privilege of attending the Southern Retail Florist Assn. Convention in Concord, NC. SRFA is an organization similar to a State Florist’s Assn., but it encompasses retail florists in the entire southern region. SRFA holds an annual convention in the Charlotte, NC area which gives florists a wide variety of educational, inspirational, and competitive opportunities to help encourage personal and business growth.
Florists from Tennessee to Florida arrived at the Marriott Hotel & Convention Center full of anticipation of the weekend’s events. My florist friend Tammy (owner of The Floral Boutique in Matthews, NC) and I started out at the crack of dawn Saturday morning (the only day we were able to attend) for the hour plus drive to the convention center and were rewarded with being first in line at registration desk. Inspiration was everywhere the moment you stepped through the doors! Gorgeous floral arrangements were perched on every level surface available…coffee tables, side tables, end tables, the reception desk…
After putting on our name tags and looking over our Saturday itinerary, Tammy and I made our way to the Marketplace in the Grand Ballroom. Vendors from all over had set up booths and we were able to get lots of great product info and ideas, as well as sneak peeks at coming trends in florals & containers. The Accent Decor booth really caught our attention…love me some AD! Modern & glitzy, AD’s booth highlighted their newest products in a fab color scheme – silver, purple, white & black! A long, low, mirrored rectangular container filled with purple deco beads & white mums that stretched across the AD table was such an eye catcher! Vying for our attention on the opposite side of the table was an ornate, black candelabra…flaunting crystals and fresh blooms. It was still rather early, so Tammy and I were the only non-vendors in the marketplace at the time. We took advantage of that and started snapping lots of photos. Towards the back of the enormous room is where the stage and chairs were set up for the day’s symposiums.
Lucky for us, the designs from Friday night’s symposium on Fall/Halloween florals were still being displayed on the stage. Needless to say, I was SUPER impressed! The designs covered a “Twilight” wedding theme in a red & purple color scheme, trendy Fall decor, and Halloween designs that actually had an air of creative elegance…not the traditional campy-vampy looking stuff so familiar with that holiday. As we took pictures, the designers, Nelson Simpson of Botanica and Brian Hyde, a freelance designer, approached and we were able to talk with them for a bit about their Friday night’s presentation and creative designs. Just look at the pics and it’s easy to see how inspiration exploded from every design!
Next, we headed to the SRFA Designer of the Year competition. 7 florists from across the south went head to head for this coveted title. I had never watched a design competition in progress before, so this opportunity was extremely exciting! The tension was thick as the designers struggled to create 5 designs from the floral “ingredients” they were given. Everyone was given the same thing, so it was really interesting to see how the designers chose to use the materials. Later that evening we were informed that Andrew Stinson, a young freelancer from my home state of South Carolina, had won the Competition. Needless to say, he was ecstatic (he was grinning from ear to ear, it was so cute!) and happily posed for pictures beside his winning designs.
After grabbing a cup of coffee at the hotel’s coffee shop (the hotel was connected to the convention center. It was quite impressive…it boasted an upscale restaurant & bar, coffee house, and cafeteria. It even had a glass elevator, that was situated in the center of a huge lounge area, which took guests to their rooms…NICE!) we raced across the conference center to attend the luncheon and “Social Media Marketing” presentation. Social media marketing is a MUST for florists…if you don’t have a business page on Facebook…you NEED to create one. During the presentation, I learned the best strategies on how to develop a customer base through Facebook & Twitter. The testimonials we heard from florists who use these strategies was amazing. You definitely CAN increase your customer base using social media marketing.
When the luncheon was over, Tammy and I walked around admiring the designs that lined the hallways, happily drinking in all the incredible floral inspiration! The Harwood Cup competition was taking place in one of the hallways and we watched in awe as the designers worked on their creations. This particular competition was interpretive in nature and really stretched the imagination of both the designer and viewer. If you have never seen this type of design up close, it’s well worth the effort to get to a convention, symposium or competition where interpretive floral design is being displayed. It will give you a greater sense of form & design and it will challenge you to think outside of the “box.”
I’m a HUGE Christmas holiday fan (yep, I’m one of those freaks who could keep my tree up all year long) so the next symposium we attended, “SRFA Panel of Holiday Designs” was pure bliss! Everything about Christmas excites me…the color, the glitter, the sparkle, the greenery, the smells…and the presentation by Jeff Bradshaw, AIFD and Sam Hyder did not disappoint! Jeff created lush, elegant holiday designs using fresh florals and greenery, while Sam showcased the latest in permanent designs, which, to my pleasure, included a LOT of glitter! LOL! Because of the economy, traditional Christmas designs will be popular again this year and Sam informed the audience that red and silver will be a trendy color scheme for the 2010 holiday.
Late afternoon introduced us to Rick Rivers, who did an excellent job presenting the “Marketing to the Affluent” symposium, and boy was it an eye opener! I took lots of notes on that one! Rick talked about his strategies for attracting the more affluent buyers to his shop, and gave personal examples of how he “courts” the wealthy. Here is one of the stories he told us to prove his point…
Rick shared about how he was out driving around one day and noticed a brand new medical complex in an affluent side of town. Being the outgoing person that he is, Rick marched into the complex and asked to speak to the head of human resources. Not getting much help from the front desk, he left…but with a plan. The next day he sent a nice bouquet of flowers to the front desk receptionist, sans a card. Well, the receptionist called the shop, wanting to know to whom the flowers were sent. Rick, the mastermind that he is, said that they were for her. Surprised and pleased, she became putty in Ricks hand. Rick then asked her for HR and this time he is connected directly to the head of HR. Rick politely compliments the beauty and decor of the reception room but explains that it lacks plants and that he would like to put a vase of flowers at the receptionists desk every week, for free…if they would allow him. Of course the HR lady was thrilled and said “yes.” After sending flowers for about 5 weeks, Rick called the HR lady again and asked for a list of emails to the doctors that worked there. Sure enough, he got what he asked for, and he began sending email “blasts” to the physicians about shop and holiday specials. Working this angle, Rick gained quite a bit of business from the doctors, including a business account with the complex.
Rick informed us that he rides around every couple of months “scouting” for new affluent customers to “court.” He has dramatically increased his business this way. Just think what you could do in YOUR area using Rick’s idea!
Here are a few important nuggets I picked up from Rick…
Advertising and Marketing are NOT the same thing. Advertising won’t bring in the affluent, but a carefully planned marketing strategy will. (Remember Rick’s strategy to gain the trust and business of the doctors…no ad in the Yellow Pages can come close to that)
Know WHO and WHERE the affluent are…do the research. Go frequent the “hang-outs” of the wealthy…art shows, theaters/operas, doctor/lawyer business complexes, etc. Invest time/effort on the affluent.
Spend time planning and executing your marketing campaign.
Invest time ON your business, not just IN your business. Meaning, pay more attention to the marketing/business aspect of your business and not just creating pretty designs. You can be the best designer in the world, but if you aren’t attracting customers, then your designs aren’t benefiting your biz or bottom line.
The affluent like to be “stroked.” Be sure and thank your more affluent customers and remind them that they are one of your “top” or “gold” customers (or whatever you would like to name your top tier clients). This can be done through emails, regular mail, or phone calls. Also, give your more affluent customers “inside” info…like letting them take advantage of upcoming specials before you advertise them…they LOVE this!
Relate marketing to what is culturally “trendy,” “hot,” or to what is popular in movies, t.v. or music.
Sell events…for example, at the end of May, dance recitals take place in most towns and cities. Prepare a marketing campaign to attract customers during this time. Go to the dance studios and make people aware of your flower specials and designs created just for them. Add your own creativity and flair to the floral designs that will make them irisistable…I mean, what little girl wouldn’t love to have a pretty bouquet with sparkly “bling,” flowing ribbons and pretty butterflies? Cha-ching!
The rumbles in our stomachs told Tammy and I that it was time for dinner. After a quick bite to eat, we made our way to the grand ballroom for our last symposium of the day…”Four Ways Down the Aisle” presented by Gerald Toh, AIFD. WOW! Talk about blow your mind spectacular! Gerald showcased some amazing designs for an economy wedding, a simplistic wedding, a trendy wedding, and an elegant wedding. The entire show was so visually stimulating I thought I was going to pop right out of my seat! Gerald emphasized that florists with knowledge of great design and materials can make the simplest, most budget minded wedding into an elegant feast for the eyes. I was truly amazed at how he could use “everyday” budget materials to create beautiful designs that would please just about any bride. Of course, his trendy and elegant wedding designs were over-the-top, Platinum Wedding style spectacular! Too bad the batteries in my camera decided to lose their juice at the start of this symposium
We ended our inspirational day with a swanky dessert and coffee buffet in the main hallway. While enjoying our treats, Tammy and I meandered through the design tables, admiring up close the fantastic design work of the contestants who had participated in the Designer of the Year competition. It was such a thrill to see the designs up close…we even took a peek at the mechanics on a few of them. I couldn’t keep my nose out of the garden roses and Tammy stayed busy taking mental notes on the delicate wire work of the corsages. Somehow, 10:30 pm snuck upon us quicker than we had realized and from the expansive atrium windows, we saw that the thick black night sky had stretched itself like velvet across the city. What a day we had! Totally exhilerated from the rush we had from the floral designs, sugar, and caffeine…Tammy and I left the Marriott feeling incredibly blessed, inspired and in awe!
Check out my Facebook page to see more fantastic floral photos from the convention!