I recently spoke with another small company that provides an IT product to florists. They were relatively new to the industry, and I encouraged them to get out to some of the great events we're lucky enough to have in the floral business, and also to support some of the amazing associations that serve it.
They were incredulous. In their opinion all that "relationship stuff" was a complete waste of time and money, that in this day and age selling was strictly about data. You run an ad or PPC campaign and watch the traffic to your website. Nothing else matters.
Our philosophy at FloristWare could not be more different. Relationships are tremendously important to us, as is supporting this great industry and all the people in it. That includes florists and all the hardworking volunteers at all the associations.
We don't even consider participating in floral industry conventions and conferences as sales opportunities. It's nice if there is a chance to meet with potential clients, but we have sponsored business content at events when there was no opportunity to sell because it was good for florists and the industry. And we've sent our people to events when there was no selling opportunity (trade fair, vendor showcase) for reasons that had absolutely nothing to do with selling.
Here are the top five reasons we'll send our people to any floral industry event that we can:
At FloristWare we pride ourselves on hiring people with experience in the retail flower business – at least five years, better yet ten or more. If you are going to deal with someone you deserve to deal with someone that understands the floral industry. At Valentine's Day you don't have time to explain a redirect to cheap overseas labor, or a friend/family member that needed a job.
Our people know the flower business, but we can always learn more. And attending events, meeting with successful flower shop owners and listening to the foremost experts in the industry (people like Tim Huckabee, Rick Rivers and Derrick Myers) teaches us more about the industry. About best practices in selling, marketing and accounting.
Any POS vendor that thinks they can't learn from people like that is arrogant to the point of negligence. And if they admit they can learn from people like that, why aren't they trying? There are no other independent POS providers making the effort to attend industry events.
We're able to take what we learn at these events and make our software better for our florist clients. Almost ten years ago FloristWare was the first POS system to incorporate the FloralStrategies order process into our system. We've taken the kind of marketing practices that make a florist like Rick Rivers so successful and baked them in to FloristWare. And we've tried to incorporate current accounting and reporting best practices.
So much of this comes from attending these events and learning, rather than believing that we know it all.
It would be great if all our clients could go to these events but many can't. We try and go in their place, and share as much information with them as we can.
For example at a recent SAF Profit Blast there was a great discussion about Bing Ads, and the amazing opportunity they present to florists interested in PPC right now. Bing Ads currently cost much less than comparable Google AdWords, convert at a much higher rate, and generate bigger sales. This is great information that we're keen to pass along to our flower shops, here on this blog, over the phone, any way we can.
At every industry event we attend we get to meet with existing clients, and this is always a highlight. Yes – it's nice to heard that they are happy with our POS system, but we're accounts receivable more interested in learning what we could do better. What do they not like? How do they feel about our support? What can we do better? Good, bad, ugly... we want to hear it. It's the way we make a better product for them.
This is so important to us that we always try and schedule several shop visits when attending an event. These are not sales calls, we're not visiting shops that we want to sell. These are visits with existing clients, to see how we can serve them better.
We are so lucky to work in this great industry we want to help any way that we can. That includes sponsoring sessions, belonging to associations, participating in conferences and trade shows, etc.
We try and maintain a comprehensive curated guide to floral industry resources here on our website. Please take a look if you are interested in learning more about the many great associations and events for retail florists. We'd love to see you at an event, but if you can't make it we'll be there, learning how we can better help your flower shop succeed.