As the last of the leaves fall and temperatures in many parts of the country drop, we thought it would be nice to highlight a business that can make anywhere feel like the middle of summer. Maas Nursery has been in the Maas family since 1951, when Cristina Batz’s grandparents first founded the business. The nursery is located in the Houston area, but is well outside of the city. So, while Maas Nursery is recognized as one of the top residential landscaping services in the region, Cristina admits that even beauty needs a little bit of marketing.
“We don’t get a lot of drive-by traffic, so we had to make an environment that’s worth visiting,” Cristina explains. “People will drive two hours to see our garden.”
The nursery sports a beautiful, 15-acre landscape of rare flowers studded with fountains and antiques, making a visit to the store a unique and memorable experience. For the past few years, Cristina has worked hard to further improve that experience by marketing things online. She says that going digital has helped Maas Nursery power through tough times. Last year, sales grew by 30% and have remained strong ever since.
The key, Cristina believes, is to make the nursery not just a business, but a gathering spot, a community, and a resource for veteran landscapers and amateur gardeners alike, whether they’re at the store or at home.
A Flowering Online Strategy
It all started with an email newsletter. “When I first got pregnant, I kept telling my parents that they really needed a newsletter. So, I researched the options,” Cristina says. She chose Constant Contact’s email marketing tool and uploaded the nursery’s 200 contacts, sending out the first issue in July 2009. From there, she started asking customers if they wanted to be included on the list.
“If you want to grow your newsletter, you have to always remember to ask customers in the store if they want to be emailed,” she says. The simple strategy seems to have worked — Maas Nursery’s mailing list has grown to nearly 2,500 subscribers.
The popularity may be because the monthly newsletter contains much more than just colorful coupons. In addition to pictures of some of the nursery’s latest blossoms, each issue features in-depth articles about organic gardening, seasonal news, watering and landscaping, and even the occasional Q&A section. Cristina says the nursery also sends out emails whenever there’s a severe ice storm or hurricane that could damage plants, with advice on how to protect them.
The overarching goal is to give subscribers not just one, but many reasons to open each issue. Nearly 50% of subscribers do so each month, a rate that speaks volumes about the nursery’s dedicated customers and the value that each mailing offers.
One look at the newsletter’s table of contents shows that there’s something for everyone.
Keeping Sales Blooming through Workshops
Sales at Maas Nursery are strong, but the nursery faces a lot of competition. And in this economy, no growth is certain. The email newsletters proved to be a success, but one big question remained: How could Cristina keep people coming to the store itself? One way was to use social media; she created a Facebook Page that now has more than 625 Likes, and a Twitter handle.
Then, in January, Cristina decided to start hosting regular gardening classes, and to use Constant Contact’s Event Marketing tool too. “We wanted to create a real gardening community for both our customers and people who have never been to the nursery before,” she explains.
The registration page for one of Maas Nursery’s popular gardening classes.
The topics of each workshop are diverse, with classes about everything from herbs to roses to cacti and lawn care — with some sessions attracting upwards of 50 people. Each class costs $40, and Cristina says that attendees receive around $60 worth of gardening supplies. At first glance, those numbers may not seem to add up too favorably for the nursery, but it’s part of a bigger strategy.
“When people get into the nursery and know how to use everything, they’re more likely to buy from us while they’re there,” Cristina says. “In fact, sales go up by a third every weekend we have a gardening class.”
In just two years, Maas Nursery has gone from a nursery with little marketing and no online presence to a tech-savvy business where customers have become members of a community. And, with so many more people learning about gardening this year, next spring is sure to be a beautiful season.
What creative steps have you taken to grab customer attention online? Let us know here or on our Facebook Page.