2012 AMS Conference

January 27, 2012

Jan 22nd – 24th and even through today, what a week! There was a wide variety of topics discussed and some great ideas brought to the table by our Members. Being an AMS Member is special and by invitation only. Advanced Marketing Solutions (AMS) sums it up. This is a forward moving and forward thinking group of retail florists that have been invited to use and share technology developed by Sarasota based web solutions developers, GravityFree. Started back in 2001 when Beneva Flowers was the first retail florist website developed together by Art Conforti and Scott Heaps of GravityFree, it has grown to over 50 users today using industry leading technology called FlowerManager.

The week started off with a sunset welcome cruise, followed by a gathering at Café Epicure to watch the Giants advance to the Super Bowl. Monday we had an overview of the week ahead and discussed the industry, and Tuesday we were joined by the GravityFree team to discuss all the new enhancements to the web technology as users shared individual uses of their websites. All users have exclusivity in their local area. The form is very open and, since there are no competing markets, the discussions were wide open.

The GravityFree team shared information about maximizing email campaigns, SEO tips, and so much more, while they also reviewed all the new features being added to the website and future enhancements.

Art also shared reports from his phone system that validated his marketing efforts with the use of telephone reporting on every sale (as Art sees it, every retailer that does any marketing needs this phone system). The system is developed by another local company called IPitomy, owned by Nick Branica. This too is an exclusive offering from Conforti for retailers. Tracking the phone numbers takes all the guesswork out of sales and marketing efforts. As Art says, “How can you spend money on marketing and not track your results?” While many do it the old fashioned way with coupons, most companies use tracking URL’s. The technology used on these GravityFree websites allow you to use tracking phone numbers along with URL’s to register every phone call and order placed.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Art. Having local relationships with GravityFree for web technology, IPitomy for telephony solutions, and another local company who developed floralapp® for the floral industry, Sarasota may become “Silicon Sarasota” before too long for the floral industry. Voted #1 beaches in the world, it looks like technology development has also found a home in Sarasota.

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Valentine’s Day Thoughts…

January 22, 2012

2 things to keep in mind:

  • exceptional service/product
  • prompt delivery

More shops need to figure out logistics before the holiday hits.  Do you know how many orders you can deliver per hour?  Can you make timed delivery requests?  Asking these questions is a good place to start.  Too many shops take more orders than they can fill in the time frame allowed.  Let’s face it, Valentine’s Day is over, for most, at 4:00 p.m.  People want the recognition more than the flowers.

Offering an exceptional service and product is #1, and delivering timely is just as important. Most of the time, Valentine’s Day “competition” is taking place amongst customers in offices, while florists are competing with other florists.  All of our red roses are 70 and 80 cm, and other colors are 60 cm.  We want people to experience the Beneva difference. We are confident that our product stands above the rest.

Valentine’s Day can be a dangerous holiday.  Look for Paul Goodman’s story in the upcoming Flowers& Magazine about a lesson we learned 10 years ago.  It woke us up.

Remember, there are two types of experiences people never forget:     1- exceptional and 2- horrible.  Use your experience and knowledge to be a smart operator.  Be sure everyone has an exceptional experience when they order from YOU, the local flower shop!


What a Success!

January 19, 2012

It was a great night at Nordlie’s in Warren, MI speaking with local flower shop owners about the state of our industry and where it is going for those stepping up.

Last night, customers of Nordlie were fortunate enough to get an invitation to get together and not only hear the presentation I had to offer, but to share ideas and solutions for improving the experience at their shops. I always say, “If knowledge is power, reports are priceless.” I shared a simple illustration that was good and yet bad. What was good was there were 4.2 MILLION unique visitors shopping for flowers in the last year. The bad news was they were all on FTD.com, 1-800-Flowers, Teleflora.com and Pro Flowers. Why? This was the question that we answered, as well as HOW to bring customers BACK to shopping LOCAL. Yes we can all do it and I feel confident, from the discussions that went on after my presentation, these shops have revamped and are ready to evolve into the future.

We gave away a FREE floralapp® to Dave and Jay at Charvat the Florist. Dave shared some comments on why he was so excited to win as he was buying one anyway. His comments about where shopping is headed were very accurate. It is clear the shops that attended last night will be moving ahead of their competition with the technology enhancements they have acquired. Thanks to Nordlie, there will be over a dozen more floralapp® users in this market, and more to come.

floralapp® is the only shared app in the industry. We have made it affordable for EVERY florist to have this technology. FTD and MAS have also made it affordable to use with a $0.00 per order fee to use their technology to receive the orders. As Dave said, “Why wait till everyone else has it and play catch-up?” As they say, the early bird gets the worm. Tim from Norton’s also added some very useful comments and tips on how he is maximizing his floralapp® which he purchased through Florists for Change.

This industry has become very fragmented. Florists working with us at Beneva Solutions have one main goal in common, improving their local business. It was great to meet so many shops last night who I had only known by name. Those who were able to attend improved their business and hopefully have a new strategy for marketing that will clearly show them that the light at the end of this tunnel is not an oncoming train.

A big thanks to Bill Schodowski for visiting and  Frank Mancuso for showing me around Detroit as well as visiting his shop and his staff. Another true, YES WE CAN florist with the right can do attitude.


Come Join Art Today at Nordlie’s in Warren, MI

January 18, 2012

Nothing beats working in an industry with people being on the same page. We need to increase exposure, decrease expenses and improve profitability, but the very first step is connecting with our customers! Tonight we will be discussing just how EASY this is to do. We all need to “GET OUT OF THE BOX” with our thinking process.

We are no longer able to count on doing business as we once did for profit. Where at one time wire orders originated from all parts of the country, many today are originating in your own town. Just watch the card messages at Valentine’s Day… Do you really think orders incoming from 1-800-Flowers, WESTBURY, NY are all just happening to send to your town? Then you see the card message to read, “Happy Valentine’s Day see you tonight.” Think about it. In many cases, customers IN YOUR TOWN are calling 800 numbers and/or other companies to order Valentine’s Day for these reasons:

1) Easy to find

2) Easy to order

3) Lower price

4) Technology

So what do we do? Here are some suggestions:

1) Easy to find: Are you in your local newspaper or radio stations the week before Valentine’s Day? They are!

2) Easy to order: Is it easy to order at your shop? Pull out all the stops. Make it easy. If you don’t support and direct your sales team to take orders making it easy, they won’t!

3) Lower price: You don’t have to be the cheapest. Educate. Here is what we say when someone asks why we can’t sell roses for $29.99, ” Mr. Customer Name, we would never take short stem roses, put them in a box and ship it to your Valentine. Imagine what it really will look like after your Valentine attempts to put them all together. With us, you can expect a quality delivery that truly shows your sentiments, hand delivered and guaranteed. Best of all, no assembly required! By the time you pay the additional fees and shipping, how much will you really save?”

This is not a big deal, is very simple, and IT WORKS. If you want to capture this sale, you must educate and you only have a few seconds to do it. Use this script, modify it, but most important, think about it now and do it! You will see more sales and it does not cost you anything to do it.

4) Technology: Today I still see shops with websites that require people to call to order. This is not a good model. You need to be accessible. From a toll free phone number to an enterprise website and an app, this is how people choose to order, are you ready?

Here is an interesting stat, in September 2011, 2 out of 3 people placed ORDERS using SMARTPHONES! It can’t be any clearer, people expect you to be technologically prepared for their business.

Also, after hours. FTD and Teleflora offer these services to every member. There is no excuse for not being available 24/7 in today’s market. Answering machines are like FAX machines and gift certificates. It makes us look like we are behind.

These are points to think about and some of the topics of discussion tonight. Best of all, there ARE solutions and opportunities.

Come join in the discussion and let’s GET OUT OF THE BOX”!

6:30pm at Nordlie

25300 Guenther, Warren, MI 48091

After spending last week with Brad at Allen’s Flowers, it is great to see shops prospering in an economy like this. Brad upgraded his website and put into action marketing strategies that will surely keep him ahead of any competition with a focus on customer retention and LTV (Lifetime Value). Check out our LTV calculator here.


Welcome to Flower Manager, Allen’s Flowers!

January 12, 2012

We just finished setting up the newest member to our web user group FLOWER MANAGER, Brad Levy of Allen’s Flowers. This company has operated 3 locations in this area. From downtown Market Street to La Mesa and El Cajon, Allen’s Flowers provides service from San Diego up to Oceanside.

Brad and his father Max are at the shops daily, and mom Marilyn handles weddings and special events. Allen’s is clearly a quality driven florist and pays great attention to every detail. They are a true YES WE CAN florist. Max started the business in 1982 selling flowers out of his trunk, and WOW, what an accomplishment today as Brad (over the last 15 years) has been moving the company more towards technology and is now prepared to increase his exposure to all of San Diego, La Jolla, and up through Oceanside.

Brad will be maximizing rewarding his customers with our Rewards Points, targeting recipients of his deliveries with Lucky Stems, and plans on loading floralapp® on every walk in customer (and boy do they have a strong walk in business with the locations)! Max and Brad strategically set up these shops to cover this wide area.

We are proud to have Allen’s and the Levy family sharing technology. Mary got floralapp® set up last night as Brad pulled it up for the first time on his iPad2 pictured here.

We met with local newspapers and discussed many online strategies. Allen’s is set up with all the tools and tracking they need to ensure you won’t miss them the next time you visit the areas where he has a retail shop. Allen’s is a quality flower shop with the finest flowers brought in fresh from the markets every day. The designs he is preparing to showcase on his website are like no other in the industry as the event work they create is as creative as any you will find.
Open 365 days a year, Allen’s is, in my opinion, the best choice when anyone should need to send flowers to San Diego, La Jolla, La Mesa, or anywhere up through Oceanside.

There is no wonder why this company continues to increase sales. As Brad stated, “Customers continue to expect more when placing an order and we are now prepared to maximize the experience and never let them forget Allen’s when sending flowers across town or the entire USA.”


Join Arthur Conforti at Nordlie’s in Warren, MI

January 2, 2012

Retailing will be going MOBILE in 2012 like never before! (Are you ready to capture your customers?)

January 2, 2012

Good evening, and I hope you are all ready to take your business out of the box and into the future in 2012. Take a look around for just a moment and pay close attention to what is really there and not what you want to see. What do I mean by that? 

If you open your mind to accept what is happening you will see that retailing has changed more in the past year than in the last 5. Years ago, people looked for coupons and deals here and there. The combination of a recession, which very few of my generation ever experienced, and companies like Groupon created a monster consumer. Today, if there is no additional value to shop with a retailer, people will move on until they find one. Is it just discounting? No. It’s about service and convenience, too. I have found that in today’s consumer, they want

  1. good value
  2. great service
  3. convenience 

So, there you have it. If you are revamping your business to conform to 2012 shopping, then this is the model you need to create to attract sales.

Let’s look at convenience. How easy is it to shop at your store?  Are you computerized? Do you provide lists of previous purchases and reminders?  Do you have a website? Toll free number? Mobile app?

I don’t believe a savvy retailer can afford not to have any of these.  When the world wide web became available for all to use, florists have said…

  • “My customer won’t shop from a computer. It’s impersonal.” 
  • “My area isn’t into online shopping, we are more traditional.”
  • “It’s a fad… it’s not for selling flowers”

They chose not to see what was coming. Look where retailing is today.  Let’s fast forward to 2012… 

MOBILE- MOBILE- MOBILE

 Guess what? I have heard EVERY one of those excuses from florists again. Not all florists. There are many who have floralapp and are now seeing business from the downloads. But yes, some shops actually say this. Can you imagine?

Look around you, go walk a mall, and you will notice that everyone has their head down looking at their phones!  Now look at this article stating that 2/3 of all smartphone users have made purchases using smartphones. Read for yourself.  These are facts. 

I still can’t understand anyone who refuses to accept change, and that not only are people changing, retailing is changing. There once was a time that it was expected for a retailer to have a toll free phone number. Why wait until everyone has captured customers with apps when you can have one for the price of a toll free phone number?

To think, once you purchase a custom app, the cost to offer it to your customer costs the same as a toll free phone number, and you never pay an order fee, and you get free updates! What could you be waiting for?

Yes, I do believe that 2012 will be the year of mobile retailing.

There are several shops seeing floralapp orders everyday. Apps are very complicated programs to create, build and maintain, especially considering two platforms (iPhone and Android), various operating systems, devices, etc.  But you don’t have to worry about that!  We have and will continue to do this.

The easy, affordable ability to create your own mobile apps will not become easily available any time soon. Remember, you must get approved by Apple and Android and get your app on the marketplace. Imagine thousands of flower shops to choose from? It won’t happen. Apple is not a search engine. Floralapp is an approved platform that all florists can use and once someone downloads floralapp with your shop, you are with them as long as they have the phone! They cannot type someone else’s URL into an address bar and leave. You have your customer.

 Now that you are aware of the realities, let us help you execute. Take advantage of technology available to you, make improvements on your websites and be sure to look for ways to improve your print marketing and offers for your ads. Remember, marketing is not to just create an order, it is to develop a relationship and built into the LTV (lifetime value) of the customer. To do this, be sure you have more than one reason to shop with you.

Call 1-800-560-0501 or email us and let’s develop a custom program for you!

 Happy New Year! 

Arthur F. Conforti

Beneva Flowers | President

6980 Beneva Road | Sarasota, FL 34238

941-308-3117 | www.beneva.com

Take us with you…download our FREE floralapp today

at www.beneva.com/floralapp (keyword:BENEVA) and see

just how easy ordering flowers and gifts anywhere can be!