I belong to and help moderate a business forum. One of the posts we often refer new people to; is a post we call “The Flower Story”
It’s basically a primer on how we, as this forum’s originators, think the Internet should be used as a sales aid.
It’s what you might hear me call “community building”
The idea isn’t flashy, and some would say it’s more passive than pro-active, but I think the story has some merit and some vital lessons that anyone could modify for their own business.
Here’s my summary on how to sell flowers.
I want to open a florist shop. I want to open on the internet instead of a brick and mortar shop. I have two choices of how to offer my beautiful, well priced flowers.
I can build a cool website with a cool flash presentation of a rosebud coming into full bloom and some nice music, and then I can spend thousands advertising my site in order to drive traffic to my shop
Once there, my site visitors will look at my site, and decide to buy or not to buy. I’ll have to constantly upgrade the site, have “sales”, try to get them to opt-in for my promotional newsletter and still they may not buy.
And they may not return.
Then, I’ll most likely spend more money trying to get more advertising to get new people to visit my site.
My other option is to build an online community such as a www.romancecommunity.com
(please don’t click that, I just made it up. Although I’m sure one probably exists or is already owned by someone at GoDaddy)
At that site I can offer dating tips, marriage tips and just overall relationship tips. I’ll invite relationship managers, etiquette experts, and I’ll post personal experiences in the area of romance. I may even get permission to re-print some Dr. Phil articles. By offering this service to folks without the pressure of buying, I create a huge potential base of customers.
Those who are dating and looking for romantic ideas often include flowers in their plans. Should dating lead to marriage, again, flowers are almost always in the plan.
Now, it’s possible for all in the community to network with each other on dating tips, wedding planning, marriage problems, even problems with sex. The community takes on a life of it’s own, as a community should.
Perhaps no one at the community has any desire to buy flowers today, but they do enjoy my community and “see” me there on most days. But maybe in the future, they decide to get married, heck maybe they met someone at MY community. If they need to buy flowers, who do you think they will purchase from? Someone from an internet search? Someone out of the phone book? Or, would they buy from someone they know and trust and have been talking to for months?
What if my community grew to include photographers, tailors, real estate agents, caterers, as well as those interested in romance. And those interested in romance, could be attorneys, teachers, doctors, new car dealers. Everyone getting to know everyone else.
If one of the reasons why people don’t buy online is because they don’t trust a site, or only trust the “big name” sites; don’t you think building a community is a good way to gain that trust?
At the very least, I could participate in a community like this; offering advice and saying “hi” to new people. I don’t even have to mention my business. I can be there just to help out.
I think it’s a perfect way. And, I might be able to sell some “flowers”. I may even find a service I want to purchase from one of my community members.
I think the second way to sell flowers is a much better way. But you gotta admit; that blooming rosebud would have been cool!