This year’s Cultivate was full of sessions covering everything from leadership to email campaigns to sustainability. Here are some of the best educational pieces we found during the show.

For full versions of these articles and more coverage of Cultivate’19, click here.

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From forgettable to memorable

Learn how to create a message people will love and understand.

Too boring, too complicated and too irrelevant. Does that sound like the foundation of a great message? Rafael Mael, marketing strategist, public speaker and founder of Maelstrom Marketing, said the message behind most companies are all three of these things. During his educational session at Cultivate’19 in Columbus, Ohio, he gave advice on how to overcome these challenges and create an irresistible message.

“It all comes down to the art of messaging,” Mael said. “You can call it branding, you can call it marketing and more, but they’re all the variation of the same thing, which is the ability to connect and get stuff done.”

From boring to interesting

According to Mael, the biggest way to overcome a boring message is by evoking curiosity. “Somehow, you have to make them curious. You have to make them want to know more about you,” he said. To do this, he advised “wrapping the message.”

Some ways to wrap your message is by using testimonials as teasers. “Testimonials are tremendously underutilized,” Mael said. “A short and sweet testimonial makes people wonder, ‘Why are you so good?’ “Why are they so happy?’” Other ways are showing your company’s impact by stating the number of customers you have and giving them an inside look by sharing your team and origin.

From complicated to clear

“Your job is to figure out what your underlying message is and how you can relay it to consumers,” Mael said. “The amateur move to is spill it all out; the professional move is to say it short and sweet.” By “short and sweet,” Mael referred to the idea that companies must share every service they offer, instead of a shortened overview. “When you simplify a message, when you streamline a message, you don’t lose, you gain,” he said. “When you incorporate more, the message degrades.”

To ensure a clear message, Mael advised to share it with a child between the ages of 7 and 9. “Kids don’t know fancy jargon,” he said. “If they don’t get it, the problem isn’t them, it’s you.” For a clear message, Mael said to “do surgery,” which means to dissect your original message, throw away unnecessary words and keep the important ones. “You have to be really clear about your message,” he said. “Work it until it’s less.”

From irrelevant to relatable

For a relatable message, Mael suggested finding ways to connect with customers. According to him, mentioning partnerships and suppliers will appeal to an already established relationship, and enhance trust and marketability, which is the goal of any business.

By following these three tips, Mael is sure that any message will become unforgettable, worthwhile and long lasting. “We all love stories, but we have a misconception that a great story is a huge story. A great story doesn’t have to be big, it has to valuable, memorable and finally, good enough so they can pass it along,” Mael said. “We must be able to communicate with our customers if we want to retain them and grow our shared wealth.” — Sierra Allen

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E-mailing with A purpose

Try one of these 11 email campaigns to increase profits and consumer activity.

Having trouble thinking of catchy subject lines, promotions or newsletter topics? Leslie Leach, head of marketing and operations at Plantt, an e-commerce solution for garden centers, shared her expertise on email marketing basics and fun campaigns at Cultivate’19 in Columbus, Ohio.

Email basics                   

“First, it’s important to understand the five steps to a great customer email,” Leach said, “which are the subject line, body, CTA (call to action), timing and mobile."

For a strong subject line, she suggested using numbers and avoiding salesy language. For the body, Leach advised focusing on benefits, writing in third person and personalizing the message. For the call to action, Leach said it should be easy to spot and thoughtful and should avoid the overused, “shop now” language. She also advised to send emails any weekday between 10:00 and 11:00 a.m.., and to always test emails on mobile phones to ensure device adaptability.  

According to Leach, open rate is dependent upon how strong your subject line is, but the click through rate is equally important because it shows that consumers are digesting the information. “Click through rate is how well you deliver on what you promised in the subject line,” she said. “You want to bring those two things together for a great email.”                                                                                               

Email campaigns can fall into the welcome, promotional, social, automated, special and newsletter category. Leach suggested using an assortment of campaigns for creativity and personal touch.

Welcome email                 

A welcome email is used when an account is first created. It can incorporate a generic “thank you” to new users or the return policy to establish confidence for online shopping. “Any way to just make people feel comfortable about shopping with you,” Leach said.

Building trust   

Email two is a follow-up that is intended to build trust between the company and consumer. According to Leach, using testimonials is a good way to connect and establish trust. “Sharing what people think of you makes you more credible in their eyes,” she said.

Abandoned cart                                                                                                       

The abandoned cart email is used when potential shoppers move items to their cart, but never finish the checkout process. This email reminds consumers about their items and shows them that you care. “A re-targeting ad is when someone visits a particular item on an e-commerce site and neglects it, but sees reminding ads afterwards,” Leach said. “This is the same but by email.” This is also a good chance to suggest similar items that may complement a purchase, she said.

Segmented emails 

Segmentation is sending the right email to the right person at the right time. Some e-commerce behaviors that can be segmented are average order value, purchase frequency, previous purchases, products browsed, geographic location and personality.


Personalized emails

Personalized emails can also fall into the segmented category by separating consumers into potential customers, website shoppers and repeat shoppers. For potential shoppers, you can offer first-time only coupons, suggest products based off previous purchases for website shoppers and offer loyalty coupons and request product reviews from repeat shoppers.


Product promotion  

Promotional emails are good for announcing new products and services or highlighting on-sale items. According to Leach, purchase rates are higher when a “click here” link is included.

Category Sale                                                                                                                              

The category sale email focuses on one department and includes a set time frame of when the sale begins and ends. According to Leach, this campaign can be fun by leveraging psychology. By using FOMO inducing language, or the fear of missing out verbiage such as “limited time only” or “just a few days left,” Leach said consumers are more likely to purchase items they think they cannot get any other time. Flipping language is another way to leverage psychology. “Instead of saying ‘$10 off,’ say they have $10 to spend to make it sound more like a gift or credit, rather than a percentage off,” Leach said.

Website-only offer

These campaigns are ideal for getting rid of leftover or excess items. They’re also a good way to get consumers to shop online and browse extra items they may be inspired to purchase.

Special occasions                                                                                                                 

Special occasion emails are great for capitalizing from birthdays, holidays and seasons, Leach said. Birthday emails can suggest personalized items, while holiday and seasonal emails can suggest themed gifts that are contingent upon on the time. Leach suggested building a 12-month calendar to stay organized.

Social engagement

“This is something you can do to strengthen your social media presence and following,” Leach said. “You can ask consumers to invite friends to sign up, take a photo with success stories and use special hashtags for your garden center.”

Educational emails

Educational campaigns can be a mixture of curated and written content to inspire purchases and share knowledge. “It’s a much lush way of educating and encouraging them to buy something,” Leach said. She suggested doing an email round-up of information that’s helpful to certain regions, seasons and popular purchases.

While Leach suggested using the campaigns that work for you, she advised using a mixture of emails, like these 11 campaigns, to keep consumers enthused, involved and looking for more. — Sierra Allen

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Rack ‘em up

Consider racks instead of boxes, as well as consolidation to cut down on shipping costs.

Supply chain waste can drive up prices and cut into profit margins. But by considering some changes to shipping, you could find a way to keep those costs down. “If you’ve got air in a trailer, you’re wasting money,” said AJ Lambert, director of sales and account management at Container Centralen, at Cultivate’19 in Columbus, Ohio.

Some of the biggest problems simply come from the labor associated with shipping. If you’re using corrugated boxes, there’s a lot of handling, from putting boxes together to loading, unloading and breaking down boxes.

By simply making a switch to racks, growers can save on labor, but that conversion isn’t going to give you the same payload.

By considering a central distributor, growers can consolidate materials into one semi-truck. A localized box truck can pick up products at various stops and bring them to a distribution center where they’re packed on a semi-truck and shipped out.

“Then the trailer is fully loaded and on its way, whereas drivers in the previous process are spending two hours at each location,” Lambert said.

Transportation regulations

Gary Cortes, founding partner at Flowvision, said growers are also facing issues with touch loads, especially when using deck or California stacking. “The quality of plant is going down when you do that,” he said.

He said that many growers are moving away from touch loads to rack loads because of new ELD laws, which limit drivers to 11 hours of driving and 14 hours of work. “There’s a lot of rules and regulations on it,” Cortes said.

“Transportation regulations forced carriers to reconsider current operating practices,” Lambert said, noting that multi-stop linehaul runs with two- to four-hour load times at each pickup and four hours of unload times meant increasing costs for customers.

“Many carriers stopped this service offering altogether without a dock-to-dock pickup and delivery,” he said. “Having a central spot will save the shipper and the driver a ton of time loading the racks and unloading the racks. Then the driver can turn faster and get that load. That typically equates to lower prices.”

Here are a few solutions the pair offered for shipping:

1. Convert from corrugated to racks. It eliminates multiple touches and the need for boxing

2. Decrease overall transportation spend. Smaller growers can blend their products with other growers. A full truckload means less cost per plant being shipped for every grower involved

3. Drivers have more drive time due to dock-to-dock moves. “If you can drive the cost of transportation down, your profit margins with skyrocket,” Lambert said.

4. Greater load and rack optimization means less labor. It’s less handling by the shipper, the driver and the receiver of the product. — Kate Spirgen