Improving customer relations through relationship marketing – How can Greenheart Plants improve its relationships with customers to create a competitive advantage? 1. 0 Points of Departure In this section I will present the reasons for choosing the topic. An introduction to the garden nursery industry and the case company, finally the research problem, purpose and its limitations, followed by an outline of the thesis. 1. 1 Areas of Interest In deciding a topic for my dissertation an important factor was that I would enjoy the subject, and be interested in it.
After enjoying the level two “Services Marketing” module, specifically the ‘Relationship Marketing’ topic, I thought it would be a challenging area of subject, one I could succeed in and enjoy enough to dedicate my time to. Horticulture and more specifically the garden centre/nursery has been of importance to me because I have worked part-time, for five years in such a nursery. The concept of relationship marketing is beginning to be major aspect of many businesses; however I had noted that it had not really been introduced into horticulture. This sparked an idea of combining those areas for my thesis.
I talked to the owners of the nursery and found that they wanted to introduce a marketing scheme and afterwards agreed to give me all the information needed to assist me in the project, in return for deciding on a relationship marketing strategy that would be successful for the nursery. Gardening is one of the most enduring of leisure interests for the British. In common with other leisure pursuits, gardening as a hobby is linked to the various life-stages that consumers go through. It usually reaches full fruition among those who are recently retired from full-time work and have all the time necessary to cultivate the soil and grow plants.
However, the trends to ‘leisure gardening’ and the media coverage (consumers have been attracted to the ‘sexy’ Charlie Dimmock and the makeovers and knowledge of Alan Titchmarsh) have certainly broadened out the market, bringing in a younger generation of consumers showing an interest in garden ‘makeovers’. This new market along with the traditional gardener’s base has to be kept happy. This makes it vital to investigate what the situation currently looks like, compare it to how it used to look, and try to imagine how it will come to look in the future.
1. 3 The Case Company – Greenheart Plants The case company Greenheart Plants is a grower and supplier of horticultural plants and garden accessories. Located in Hopton, Stafford. Greenheart Plant was formed in 1993 when the owners Stewart and Maxine Pawley purchased a derelict garden nursery and opened it as a specialist grower of shrubs and annual summer bedding and winter pansies and polyanthus. Their aim is to offer the highest quality plants for the lowest possible price within the region.
Increased custom has led business to respond, and there is increased competition in the gardening world (from Wyevale the leading Garden Centre with 151 nurseries to a man selling home-grown plants at his local car-boot sale). Greenheart Plants is aware that, with increased choice in the wholesale and commercial areas, valuable consumers may go elsewhere. The owners have decided to respond to this threat. The intention is to improve relationships with customers – wholesale and retail – by bringing them extra value through adapting the marketing and product to their needs.
By having a customer relationship focus the company aims to help satisfy existing customers, as well as creating new business relationships through the competitive advantage they hope it will create. 1. 4 Research Problem The garden industry has lagged behind in marketing terms, most not bothering at all. Crocombe, Enright and Porter, (1991), stated: “Traditionally agricultural producers have produced and operated with little regard to the needs of others Marketing approaches by agribusinesses (if they are done at all) are aimed at creating brand awareness among end consumers.
Little research has been carried out on the development of competitive advantages through developing relationships”. Many garden nurseries are unprofessional, mainly family businesses relying on old principles and gardening knowledge not business terminology and practice, not seizing competitive advantage through areas such as relationship marketing and not in return enjoying loyal customers who become advocates of them. This regard to marketing must change, and Greenheart realise this.
To date, Greenheart has been successful with a very limited marketing plan, mainly advertising in local newspapers, and relying on referral marketing to bring in new custom. However, as the industry grows, management feels that there is a need to evaluate the marketing strategy and establish a strategy that is deliberately planned and intended with specific attention to the customer. Addressing this issue is the research problem. 1. 5 Purpose and Objectives
The purpose of this thesis is to establish a relationship marketing strategy for Greenheart Plants, helping to create a competitive advantage over competing firms in the gardening market. In order to achieve this, I will aim to satisfy the following objectives: 1. To establish what relationship marketing is, and why a company which is focused to the needs of its customers (and which maintains close personal relationships with them) can be increasingly successful.
2. To identify and assess the methods of relationship marketing which the owners of the company would feel effective to them in the gardening market. To identify possible improvements which could be made within the company, to attract new customers from the wide market for their products and service 3. To determine the marketing strategy of competitors to Greenheart Plants, their product and services, and whether their existence compromises Greenheart 4. To analyse the external environment of Greenheart in order to find opportunities for future profitability and success for the company
5. To determine the views of current customers, both in the wholesale and commercial markets, to determine their needs and how Greenheart Plants could satisfy those needs 6. To segment and critically analyse the customer base of the company and decide which of these segments the company should prioritise for the customer relationship marketing plan 7. To establish a focused customer relationship recommendation plan for the company, from which they can implement the recommendations into their business