Retail Rules of the Road:

“Never before in the history of marketing has something so important been done so poorly by so many, that is so easily improved. Welcome to world of garden center enewsletters.”

I receive dozens of business, marketing and garden center generated enews each week. The ones I open are ones I know always provide value (interesting content) in exchange for my time. Others may receive a quick glance depending on my schedule and others have proven over time to offer little value or interest (content) so are ignored and eventually unsubscribed.

I’m guessing you follow a similar approach with every enewsletter you receive. As with all marketing initiatives, to the receiver, a compelling interest is the ultimate measure of value. When it comes to enewsletters, interest resides in content.

Any topic can be chosen… any topic can be covered. “Words on a page” is not a definition of good content… it’s merely subject matter which could be done well or done poorly. Unfortunately, from my perspective (based on training I’ve received from people with really big brains when it comes to proper enewsletters) most garden center enews fall into the done poorly category.

But this doesn’t have to be the case.

Most garden center enews I see fall into one of three categories…

1. Self-serving promotion (blatant or poorly disguised ‘sale’ focused that are really just bad newspaper ads)

2. Blah, blah blah… (a boring, product focused, fact heavy, you-can-find-this-information-online waste of time)

3. Enews light… (not enough valuable content to bother, boring with no personality)

The best enews, from garden centers or others, are those where the personality of the sender is wrapped around a message of interest and valuable content.

Proper enews components are:

– a consistent look, layout, format, color, etc in a font size that’s easy to read

– a personal message that allows the personality of the sender to shine

– a few new and interesting products with links to additional information for people who want to dig deeper

– timely tips, event schedule, etc

– a place for an offer/coupon/announcement/invitation, etc called CTA… Call To Action

After all, we do want people to come shop, not just read.

A biggest problem is that garden centers seem to worry more about the design, colors, offers and sales than providing a real content based communication. The right templates will help provide control. Without them, senders often use new colors, a new style each time… the first sign of an amateur marketer… and worry more about how the enews will look rather than what the enews provides.

Simplifying the design process allows people to focus more on providing valuable content and less on trying to grab people’s attention with loud colors and unbelievable offers each time the ‘send’ button is pushed. Here are two major reasons why proper enewsletter templates are so important:


Several years ago, the number of emails opened on mobile devices surpassed those opened on desktop computers. This means the traditional two column enewsletter format many garden centers currently use need to be converted to single column, mobile friendly templates. If you’re a Constant Contact customer, there are a number of mobile friendly templates that position content blocks horizontally for computers but when opened on a mobile device automatically convert to a vertical format for easier reading.


I believe well constructed enews communication should happen weekly or at least twice a month. If producing the proper full-length enewsletter is difficult for you, the alternative is to schedule one full-length enewsletter a month, followed by what I call an enews postcard. The enewsletter can be a first of the month edition, followed by a one topic, easy to create yet valuable enews postcard. This is a schedule any garden center should be able to follow… would be easy to produce… and makes the most of each selling season. Just make sure the delivery day and time never vary.

Enews Sign-Ups

Here’s my take on the topic of enews sign ups… if you have to bribe someone to want to be connected with your company through enewsletters, there’s either a trust issue in the way or what you’re offering isn’t perceived to have much value. The goal isn’t to have a lot of email addresses. The goal is to have a lot of interested individuals happy to provide their email address. The kind of people a business wants as enews subscribers don’t need silly contests to get them connected. The kind of people signing up for silly contests aren’t those a business should want on their list.


– you’re still in the crowd that thinks that enews is just a cheap form of advertising. It isn’t. At least it’s not supposed to be.

– you believe that the more names the better regardless as to the person’s intent. If that’s the case, you just converted a personal form of communication to interested parties into an electronic form of mass mailing.


– make it easy to voluntarily sign up for your enews
On your website or at a small desk in the store with enews samples and a sign asking people to provide their email address is usually sufficient.

– have a sample of your enews posted at each register so people know what they’re missing

– remind people in all marketing messages to go to your website so they’ll see how easy and valuable it is to receive enews from their favorite garden center

The enews world thinks an open rate of 26% for retailers is admirable. But that means 74% don’t find enough value to even see what’s being sent. Or maybe that 74% didn’t want the thing in the first place.

Who cares… sending email is cheap, right? But there’s a huge cost and lost benefits of going about it the wrong way.