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  • My Way: Nourishing Your Image
    By Sam Viviano

    The Retail Florist

    Many business people, who agree that a positive image is a good thing, cannot say exactly what a good image will do for them.

    It's really quite simple. A good image takes your product out of the commodity pricing structure and puts it into the premium pricing structure. You are no longer competing with mass-market sellers on price alone.

    So, how do you get there? Where do you start building an image?

    Your Employees

    Begin by evaluating the image your employees project. I've walked into shops where the salespeople are chewing gum, wearing jeans and tank tops and carrying on gossip sessions while customers are nervously waiting on the other side of the counter.

    To avoid these image-busters, continually train your employees. Make it clear that they project the shop's image because they are the ones talking to the customers.

    Your company's image is formed mainly through the interaction of your employees and your customers. You can have great products and services, but if a customer has to deal with an unprofessional employee, you've probably lost that customer for life.

    On the other hand, if that same customer encounters a friendly employee who is able to solve her problem, she will be likely to forgive the mistake as a one-time occurrence.

    Dressing for Success

    One simple and fairly inexpensive way to promote a professional image is through your employees' dress. I suggest requiring that employees wear an apron or jacket complete with a nametag. I've found that employees are much more conscientious about their appearance and how they talk to customers when they know that they can be identified.

    And remember your drivers and delivery vehicles. Often, drivers are the only connection customers have to your shop. Your trucks act as rolling billboards. Make sure those billboards are always clean and in good repair.

    Proper Packaging

    The packaging of your product is another image-builder. In the past, we packaged flowers mainly to ensure that they reached the recipient in one piece. Packaging is now another form of advertising. It's a great way to enhance the image of your shop.

    Have you ever noticed how much money large corporations spend on the way they package their product? For example, consumers around the world recognize gifts bought at Tiffany and Co. just by the baby-blue box and white ribbon. The gift's packaging adds prestige to what's inside.

    Community Connections

    Your standing in the community is another component of a good image. Do you participate in community service activities through a club or charity? Consumers notice if your shop takes an active role in the community.

    Community activities will help you differentiate yourself from the competition. If you stand for something — the best quality or service — be the best at it in your area. Then, let people know by providing the most original arrangements to the charity ball.

    Once you start building your image in the community, use advertising to reinforce it. Every radio ad, television commercial, flyer or direct-mail piece should contain something about your special quality.

    The general lesson is crystal clear. Your image is a basic reflection of the health of your shop. But this image cannot develop in a vacuum — you've got to spread the word. Then, work hard to protect what you've built. Maintaining your image requires disciplined, long-term policies and commitment from you and your staff.


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