When I first was asked to attend the meeting in Atlanta, I was met with a very warm welcome. I was invited to join and help (what I thought was) local florists wanting to join forces to build awareness to the local brand in every city and state across America. A force to build a “GOT MILK” kind of campaign that would bring flowers to top of mind awareness to the consumers. A force that would build local brands that would topple the deceptive marketers and the national flowers-in-a-box programs that include directions to put together arrangements that almost never look like the picture.
After hours of meetings, I saw the conversations being dominated by disgruntled florists against wire services. There was more conversation about what the wire services were doing to them than taking responsibility for their own actions and operations. FTD, Teleflora, and Bloomnet seemed to be the reason these particular florists were struggling.
I tried to move the conversation away from pointing fingers to accepting our industry for what it is and changing and controlling what we can. The answer is simple. The solution would need everyone to take part. The solution could be achieved if this negative energy was turned to a positive reinforcement of a new local brand: A YES WE CAN attitude and a commitment to execution of the demands of today’s consumer. To do this, we must all take the first step together and agree on the solution. The solution is MARKETING.
I have always said, “If every shop marketed to their own delivery area, the force and domination of 1800 would be reduced and we would take back control”.
Furthermore, Teleflora is the only wire service that does not ship flowers in a box and prints a nationwide ad every holiday listing participating florists. My question to any florist is “WHY are you not listed? Why, in my Sarasota market, am I the only one listed, and there are listings from Naples to Saint Petersburg?”
The reason is limited participation. Let’s begin here: It seems to me that Teleflora has stepped up and reserved a space most florists could not afford to secure on their own for us to join a marketing effort, yet there is limited participation. This is a fact. They also give away a $10 coupon that, if a customer redeems at your shop, they reimburse you for. Now ask anyone outside the floral industry, “What do you think about this? What is wrong with this?” If nothing, then why aren’t more flower shops joining this effort?
Now before you start grinding other axes or before you get all excited, let’s just stick to this one point. If we can all agree on this one and only topic for an answer, we can move on to another issue. What happens in these meetings is that all the issues out there facing all small business owners and retail florists are thrown all out on the table at once and it becomes a free for all. If we (or the florists at Florists for Change) can address one topic at a time, we will be able to move on to the next issue.
As far as I am concerned, we need to address marketing first and foremost. We need to increase awareness about sending flowers. We all need to commit to the YES WE CAN approach to our business. The goal is to answer every question with a positive option. NO must be removed from the conversation. Always speak with options. This is what I love talking about. I speak on a local level with businesses, sharing the value of being a YES WE CAN operation.
In our industry, we can do more than a multi-billion dollar company like FEDEX can do; hand deliver across the USA SAME DAY. We are AMAZING in our abilities. We can do what most industries can’t. Why aren’t we proud? Why don’t we stand tall? Why don’t we scream it at the top of our lungs that we are the voice of our customers? We understand in most cases flowers represent a message. We should be the messenger of choice. Our flowers reflect the sincerity of that message. This is the beauty and uniqueness of our industry. I am proud to be a retail florist, ARE YOU?
–Art Conforti, PFCI