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July/August 2018



• The Art of Conversational Commerce • Plants 101 • Why YouTube Is Calling Your Name


• Our best-in-class technologies, including our award-winning POS and web-hosting solutions, are built to run your business efficiently – connecting you with consumers and the largest network of florists. • We invest heavily in robust consumer advertising campaigns and develop unique and effective marketing programs and products – all to help you acquire and retain new customers.

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We’ve made all the arrangements so your business can blossom. • We have industry-leading experience and knowledge, and are always available with the support you need – allowing you to stay focused on your business. • With over 80 years of partnership with florists, we are 100% committed to ensuring that every single order in our network goes to a local florist.

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16 features 10 We were in shock as the whole community was, and we did what we all had to do here. We were surrounded by amazing people — volunteers, florists from all over, people even walked in off the street to help. Ruth Brinkman, Humboldt Florist


Flowers Help Heal Humboldt Community Try A Little Tenderness: Working With Bereaved Clients


Let’s Talk About Conversational Commerce


Gaining Goodwill with Grudge Purchases

online Network with florists online

Have your say. Join the new Canadian Florist Facebook Group to share thoughts on florist life in Canada.

26 departments 6

Bloomin’ Biz/ Coast to Coast


Florist Spotlight


The Social Florist


By Design


Jennifer’s Journeys


How to With Heather


Grow with Joe


Ask the SEO


On the Level with Neville

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By Katie Hendrick Vincent


You might expect that, given my profession as a writer, I’d think nothing trumps language in terms of expressing thoughts and ideas. Far from it. Sure, I think novels almost always surpass the films they inspire. But when it comes to responding to someone experiencing heartbreak — be it from the death of a loved one, a bad diagnosis, a divorce, a job loss or a big rejection — I struggle to find appropriate words. I’ve consulted numerous etiquette blogs for advice, which inevitably suggest something succinct, like “my deepest sympathy” or “I’m sorry for your loss.” The sentiments are true, but when offered to someone who’s in pain, they sound awfully hollow.


Thank goodness for flowers! A motto I’ve often heard in the industry goes something like this: Flowers say what words cannot. This is never truer than when the occasion is sympathy. It’s been nearly a decade since my grandmother died, but I still recall the immediate aftermath. While my grandfather, mother, aunts and uncles ran about town running errands for the wake and funeral, I stayed home to accept flower and food deliveries and greet guests. I’ve definitely lost track of the number of arrangements that arrived (A LOT), but I distinctly remember how much they touched me. The roses, lilies, gerberas, and snapdragons literally filled our home with cheery hues and a feeling of lightness my family desperately needed. Furthermore, the gesture itself spoke volumes. Each vase represented someone who knew and loved my grandmother. Seeing our family room transform into a garden showed me the impact her life had. Your flowers help tongue-tied friends and business associates express their feelings. You, however, must navigate the difficult bereavement communications when a customer contacts you for funeral work. These situations require utmost sensitivity and professionalism. In this issue, Jamie BirdwellBranson reached out to a pair of florists experienced in this category who offered their best practices for talking to grieving families and putting them at ease. You’ll also find a heartwarming story about how a community came together in the face of heartbreaking news. Mackenzie Nichols spoke with representatives from Humboldt Florist and Wascana Flower Shoppe about how residents used flowers to comfort the families affected by the tragic bus accident that claimed the lives of 13 youth hockey players, their head coach, and two playby-play announcers. “We sent arrangements to schools, families, banks, head offices, City Hall,” said Ruth Brinkman, a designer at Humboldt Florist. “People were asking to send flowers to anyone and everyone that was connected. We sent every form of flower you could imagine. This will impact us for the rest of our lives.”

Advertising Manager Publisher Ryan Freeman Media Designer Ruby Coles Publication Mail Agreement #42919543 RETURN UNDELIVERABLE CANADIAN ADDRESSES TO Strider Media, 6-6150 Highway 7, Suite 400, Woodbridge, ON L4H 0R6 Printed in Canada ISSN 1700-5043


e-mail: Tel: 800-314-8895 ext 2 Fax: 800-755-7032 Mail: 6-6150 Highway 7, Suite 400 Woodbridge, ON L4H 0R6

Subscription Rates Canada - $30/1 Yr, $48/2 Yrs, $65/3 Yrs + HST USA - $69/1 Yr, $111/2 Yrs, $163/3 Yrs International - $99/1 Yr, $160/2 Yrs, $233/3 Yrs Occasionally, Canadian Florist will mail information on behalf of industry-related groups whose products and services we believe may be of interest to you. If you prefer not to receive this information, please contact our circulation department in any of the four ways listed above. No part of the editorial content of this publication may be reprinted without the publisher’s written permission. ©2018 Strider Media. All rights reserved. Opinions expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of the editor or the publisher. No liability is assumed for errors or omissions. All advertising is subject to the publisher’s approval. Such approval does not imply any endorsement of the products or services advertised. Publisher reserves the right to refuse advertising that does not meet the standards of the publication.

Dedicated to the memory of Bill Martin, and all those who gave of their time and resources to build up our industry.

We hope these stories empower you with a reminder of the profound meaning behind your work.

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©2018 Smithers-Oasis Company. All rights reserved. OASIS® and VERTICAL BAR DESIGN® are registered trademarks of Smithers-Oasis Company.

When Words Fall Short

Vol 113 No. 4 Editor Katie Hendrick Vincent 800-314-8895 ext 106

©2018 Smithers-Oasis Company. All rights reserved. OASIS® and VERTICAL BAR DESIGN® are registered trademarks of Smithers-Oasis Company.

a loving tribute

Some arrangements are deeply personal. “This piece did more that memorialize a close family member, it celebrated his life.” This was an opportunity to create a meaningful, one-of-a-kind arrangement. The base was built in the studio and the set-up occurred on site, prior to the ceremony. The inspiration for sympathy is exceptionally heartfelt when you are able to include thoughtful mementos in your arrangements. Let our featured designers inspire you at

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You too can be featured in the Inspire Design Showcase! Follow us on Facebook for the upcoming themes. July/August 2018 CANADIAN Florist 5

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Weekend of


coast to


As Canadian Florist went to press for our May/June issue, florists across the country gathered in St. Catharines, Ontario, April 20-21, for a packed weekend of education, inspiration, and networking. The annual Canadian Florist Business Forum kicked things off on Saturday. This year’s speakers included some of our most popular contributors — Michelle Brisebois, Tim Huckabee, Jennifer Harvey, and Neville MacKay. Another columnist, Heather de Kok, headlined the Niagara International Association of Florists’ design show the following day. Here are some memories from a great weekend!

Afshin Akhoundpour, founder of Fair Trade Floral, visits with florists during a CFBF coffee break.

Neville MacKay, CAFA, PFCI, hams for the camera before delivering his eye opening (and sidesplitting) presentation, “The Art of Selling.”

Neville MacKay, CAFA, PFCI; Jack VanderMaas, Ontario Flower Growers; Clarke Harvey; Jennifer Harvey, CAFA, CFD; Joseph DeLarge, CAFA, CFD

Michelle Brisebois discusses chat bots, voice automation, Instagram, and more during “Conversational Commerce: Building Connections with Customers.” July/August 2018 | CANADIAN Florist 6

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EVENTS JULY 14-17: Cultivate 18 Columbus, Ohio

NIAF attendees examine Heather de Kok’s greenery-covered plastic container, which she uses to add a fancy touch to funeral arrangements.

Designs by NIAF Keynote Speaker Heather de Kok, AAF, AIFD, PFCI

15: SAF 1-Day Profit Blast Green Bay, Wisconsin


During her NIAF presentation, “The Circle of Life,” Heather de Kok, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, talks about personalized sympathy pieces.

12-15: Society of American Florists’ annual convention Rancho Mirage, California

Florists pass around a branch design by Heather de Kok, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, during the Niagara International Association of Florists Design Show.

16-17: Florists’ Supply Fall & Holiday Design Show and Hands On Seminar Saskatoon and Edmonton locations

19-21: Agriflor Quito, Ecuador

23-24: Florists’ Supply Fall & Holiday Design Show and Hands On Seminar Winnipeg location

OCTOBER 7: SAF 1-Day Profit Blast Portland, Oregon

Suzy Caiger mans the Floral Express Wholesale booth during CFBF.

16-18: Wholesale Florists and Florists Supply Association conference Miami, Florida

Want to book more high-end weddings? Use your marketing budget on gala tickets, then go out and mingle, said Jennifer Harvey, CAFA, CFD, during “Book Those MoneyMaker Weddings.”

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24: Petal It Forward Cities Worldwide

Organizing an upcoming event readers should know about? EMAIL

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Seeing the forest for the trees…

er, Flowers


By Christy O’Farrell

After working in the floral industry for about 25 years, Alex Lim wanted her own shop. But she did not want to take on all the responsibility for every aspect of the business, knowing how difficult it is to succeed and find work-life balance in that scenario. She and her partner and co-owner, Rick Vienneau, decided a Forest of Flowers franchise would offer the right blend of calling their own shots while receiving marketing, training, technology, merchandising and other support from the head office. In November 2016, they opened their Forest of Flowers shop in Brantford, Ontario, about halfway between a cluster of FOF shops in London and another group in the Greater Toronto Area. Forest of Flowers has 16 locations, including nine in London. Before opening the store in Brantford, Lim had worked for three years in a shop in Mississauga, where she grew up. Lim and Vienneau met while both worked at a Mississauga floral wholesaler. “We just recently had a growth spurt in the company,” adding five new locations in the last couple years, Lim said. The Brantford shop, converted from a previous florist, is the largest, with about 2,400 square feet, which can be “both a blessing and a curse,” she said. It’s a lot to clean and maintain, but she loves having enough room for a second storage cooler, in addition to the front display cooler, as well as extra work space.

The fact that several of the newest franchisees were designers at other FOF locations is “a good reflection of the brand itself,” Lim said. “We all believe strongly in the brand and in the company. There’s strength in numbers.” Lim saw numerous benefits of going with a franchise versus opening her own independent shop, particularly the company’s marketing. “It was always a thorn in my side to have to wrestle with that,” she said. “Advertising is, number one, very expensive, but also extremely laborious and time-consuming. It was very tedious.” Each franchisee localizes its marketing at the community level through charitable fundraising, business networking or other means. Lim also benefits from Forest of Flowers’ long-standing relationships with both fresh flower and hard goods suppliers. “As a new business owner, that’s a weight lifted off your shoulders,” and a time saver, she said. The company’s website touts its economies of scale: “Our proprietary supply network and purchasing power yield aboveaverage gross profit margins.”

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Still, there are “never enough hours in the day,” Lim said, and she and Rick knew going into it they would have to sacrifice some personal time at the beginning. They have no regrets though. “It’s so worth it,” she said. Forest of Flowers, founded in 1996, has 23 percent of the London regional market, according to its website, with sales 12 percent above the previous year, in the most recent quarter. Lim, who graduated from Ontario College of Art and Design in 1998 with a degree in industrial design, knew she wanted to work in a creative field. Her entrée into floral retail was at three shops owned by her ex-husband’s mother. “That’s where I started learning all aspects of the business, not just floral design,” she said. Working in the wholesale side of the business added to her knowledge base. “I’m proud to have had that little stint of experience,” she said. “Most florists don’t have both sides of the equation. There are a lot of great floral designers who aren’t great at business, and … there are a lot of great business people who aren’t great floral designers. You have to kind of find a happy medium. That definitely has been a recurring theme in my life, find a good balance.” Interested in pursuing her “passion for flowers and serving customers,” Lim hinted to a then FOF vice president, Richard Overbeek, that she would be ready to open another outlet for the chain. Later, Overbeek encouraged her, telling her “you’re meant for bigger things.” “He saw something in me,” Lim said. “He believed in my potential.” Overbeek pitched Brantford to Lim and Vienneau because he had long ago owned a shop there. After research, the city’s demographics and market appealed to the new franchisees. MoneySense, an online personal finance magazine, named Brantford the best city in Canada to buy real estate in its 2018 annual ranking, based on the health of the local economy, cost of renting, and other factors. “Even just in the short time we’ve been open, we’ve seen a change … for the better,” Lim said. “It’s becoming more multicultural.” As the clientele transitions beyond its prior base of seniors to include younger couples and families, Lim sells a mix of traditional and contemporary designs. That wide customer base is ideal for the Forest of Flowers model, Lim said. “We present ourselves as targeting a mainstream audience, not like an independent shop that would maybe target a more high-end boutique store clientele. That’s not what we’re about.” As Forest of Flowers describes it on its website, the company targets the “value-conscious consumer,” offering “field fresh for less.” Forest of Flowers’ focus is fresh flowers and plants, with only some greeting cards and plush toys filling out the inventory. The company deliberately steers away from giftware, which visually differentiates it from other shops. Lim’s shop is on a main road in a shopping plaza that includes a grocery store and ample parking. The shop is “all about” cash and carry, she said. Lim and Vienneau have two full-time employees who worked at the previous shop before it was converted.

The home office dictates a price list for consistency across locations. Each shop has the same website, and follows recipes to have certain arrangements on hand at all times, with some freedom for custom pieces to meet local needs. Sticking primarily to the corporate guidelines ensures franchisees use what’s in their standing orders, maintain fresh product, keep costs low and improve profit margins. To minimize or eliminate waste, FOF has a weekly and seasonal purchasing template, as well as a production template “to ensure stores are buying the correct mix while driving their bottom line,” said Kelly Kailis, Forest of Flowers’ field operations manager. Templates are adjusted using data from the point-of-sale system. The franchisor also tries to “keep in front of industry and economic challenges,” she said. Buying into a Forest of Flowers franchise requires a start-up investment ranging from $125,000 to $210,000, the company’s website says, with annual operating costs estimated at $170,000 to $309,000. Owners pay FOF ongoing royalties of 5 percent of gross sales, and another 2.5 percent of gross sales for advertising. Owners can expect gross profit margins including royalties ranging from 58.5 percent to 60.5 percent, FOF says. Kailis noted that customer count has grown 8.3 percent in the last 12 months. Opening a franchise is less risky than starting a new business, Kailis said. Acknowledging the risk of opening any new business, Lim said feedback and advice from other Forest of Flowers owners bolstered her confidence. “You have the opportunity to go visit these stores, or to see or discuss with the owners how it’s been for them. That’s sort of a comfort before going into it yourself.” Christy O’Farrell is a freelance writer in Alexandria, Virginia.

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F lowers help heal

Humboldt Community

By Mackenzie Nichols

On Saturday, April 7th, Saskatchewan residents awoke to the horrific and heartbreaking news that a semi-trailer collided with a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos youth hockey team about 300 kilometres north of Regina, killing 16 people. In the wake of the tragedy, Humboldt Florist received an immediate rush of phone calls and walk-in customers asking how they could help their community and the affected families. Floral designer Ruth Brinkman said the staff worked through their grief, arranging flowers with busy hands as orders poured in by the hundreds. “We were in shock as the whole community was, and we did what we all had to do here,” Brinkman said. “We were surrounded by amazing people—volunteers, florists from all over, people even walked in off the street to help.” Brinkman and her three co-workers, including owner Kathy Poppel, were contacted by international flower growers, florists in neighbouring towns, and even consumers who had never previously patronized the shop, all asking to contribute what they could to help heal the community and send condolences. Companies such as Flowers Direct, Teleflora, and West Coast Floral repeatedly sent boxes of flowers and containers free of charge, assisting the small-town florist as daily shipments were rapidly dispersed to the hands and hearts of grieving recipients. First, orders came in for wreaths and casket pieces for the funerals and memorial services held in remembrance of the 10 hockey players, two Broncos coaches, a radio broadcaster, a stats keeper, and the bus

driver. Then, customers started placing orders to send to any and all establishments in the area. “We sent arrangements to schools, families, banks, head offices, City Hall,” Brinkman said. “People were asking to send flowers to anyone and everyone that was connected. We sent every form of flower you could imagine.” While the staff worked, their neighbours stopped in with coffee, food, and embraces to boost their morale. Despite her sadness, Brinkman marvelled at how her community came together with empathy, consoling one another through the power of flowers. “Our community is so strong. We talk a lot, we cry a lot, and it’s part of the healing. Some of us are also silent, and the silence is okay, too,” Brinkman said. “I couldn’t have had a better crew. This will impact us for the rest of our lives.” A month after the accident, the staff received “the most amazing order,” Brinkman said. A group of women from Canada, the United States, and Finland, whose sons also play on youth hockey teams, banded together through the Twitter hashtag #HockeyMoms4Humboldt to order arrangements from the flower shop for Mother’s Day. The shop made 56 arrangements using the Broncos hockey team colours of yellow and green and sent them to the mothers who had lost their sons.

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“We were surrounded by amazing people volunteers, florists from all over, people even walked in off the street to help.”

“The Broncos boys came from all across Canada, so we sent arrangements as far as Saskatoon and Alberta, and we used yellows and greens to symbolize the team’s colours,” Brinkman said. “The gesture showed them that this was a part of our world, this is healing for us, and we need to be healed.” Nearly 20 florists from neighbouring towns reached out to volunteer and help in their own way. One such florist, Wascana Flower Shoppe in Regina, provided free bouquets to anguished customers. Creative director Tanya Anderson and her mother, Petra, the shop’s owner, brainstormed ways they could help the community and decided to give out yellow carnations, because they tied into the team’s colours. When they called their floral supplier (who wished to remain anonymous) and asked for 300 stems, the supplier said: “what about 900?” For days, customers stopped by the shop, grabbing 15 to 20 bunches of carnations at a time to distribute to people reeling from the tragedy. “A few people even stopped by and took buckets of bunches to the vigil in Regina,” Tanya Anderson said. “It was really humbling to see that, in a time of such grief, people were leaning on each other

and bringing flowers to strangers, using the power of flowers to try and heal.” Anderson recounted a variety of creative ways people in Saskatchewan, Canada, and abroad showed their support for the Humboldt Broncos and their loved ones. Someone initiated a goFundme page, which received more than $15 million in donations for the Humboldt Broncos Memorial Fund, others made t-shirts and stickers, and some even sold lemonade to raise donations. National Hockey League teams also held moments of silence, donated funds, and posted heartfelt condolences. Anderson said that she was “blown away and humbled” by the reactions of her fellow Canadians and strangers throughout the world, and was glad Wascana Flower Shoppe could be a part of the healing process. “Flowers have a love language of their own, and they are a constant reminder to us all of the beauty of life,” Anderson said. “Flowers are a hug, a pat on the back, and a kiss on the cheek without even exchanging a spoken word. When there is nothing left, no words, no tears, no anything, there are still flowers.” Mackenzie Nichols is a freelance writer in New York City

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Your New Best Friend





By Rachel Levy Sarfin

When you hear the term “chatbots,” you might think of something cold, mechanical, and entirely unfriendly. Many florists would probably feel the same way —they’re accustomed to dealing with clients face to face or over the phone. It can be hard to imagine a scenario in which automating these interactions is even remotely good for your business. However, chatbots can actually be a boon. Michelle Brisebois, senior digital marketer and founder of Textrix Consulting and a long-time Canadian Florist contributor, shared her thoughts on why chatbots enhance your flower shop’s website and how they can make doing business easier. WHAT IS A CHATBOT? A chatbot is a computer program that simulates human conversation through text or voice interactions. A user can ask a question or command the chatbot to do something, and it will provide the answer or perform that action. Brisebois noted that the term “chatbot” conjures the image of “Dr. Who” — not exactly the perception you’re trying to create. But, chatbots should neither be feared nor avoided.

WHY USE CHATBOTS? Consider a chatbot to be on the front lines of customer service. “By engaging in a conversational exchange up front, the customer is more likely to feel a connection and to feel the conversation has begun even when you’re not there having it — the technology is,” Brisebois said. “The chatbot replaces the cold, ineffective contact form.” Visitors to your site also don’t have to wait to talk to a chatbot (in contrast to what often happens with in-shop, phone, or email interactions, where a potential customer is at the mercy of your staff’s availability). They can get a response almost immediately, which leads to higher levels of satisfaction, which “results in a more effective sales conversion,” Brisebois said. She has seen her share of resistance for chatbots amongst florists. “Most people think chatbots are too complicated to use or too

expensive,” she said. That’s not the case, though. “I simply show them how the chatbots can actually be easily personalized to offer a nice branded experience and exchange with the customer. Once they see how easy it is, and I engage them in designing the conversation to sound as though they are actually typing the answer to the customer, it’s clear what the advantages are.”

CHATBOT BEST PRACTICES Once you’ve decided to use chatbots, what can you do to ensure that they’ll be effective? “Be clear about the purpose of the chatbot and don’t try to have it take the interaction too far,” (like selecting individual flower varieties or colours) she said. “Just use it to collect upfront information and then send an information packet to the customer, so they have something to look at before you call them to follow up,” Brisebois said. “That could be a portfolio or price list or even a video for them to watch. Leave the exchange by giving them something to noodle on before you call them the next day and by ensuring you know how to reach them.” Moreover, program the bots to use a warm, conversational tone in the manner you would use if speaking to a customer in person or on the phone, she added.

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When you’re considering a new technology, it helps to know about other success stories in your own industry. Brisebois used the example of 1-800-Flowers. In 2016, the flower delivery company began using a branded chatbot through Facebook’s Messenger platform. Two months after implementing chatbots, 1-800-Flowers president Chris McCann told reporters that 70% of the company’s chatbot conversations netted new customers. “They are already using the Messenger platform, so it’s been easy to engage them,” he said. “They’re able to place an order in a minute; it gives them that fluidity.” McCann explained that 1-800-Flowers’ chatbot has two functions. The first is to take an order piecemeal, while the second connects the customer to a human customer service representative at the company’s contact centre.

While other companies using Facebook’s chatbot have chosen a freer flow of conversation, 1-800-Flowers stuck with a fairly linear script. It’s akin to answering a multiple-choice test, which McCann believes keeps it simple and user-friendly. Overall, the response has been quite positive. McCann expressed his surprise that users felt more comfortable talking to a chatbot than to a human being. “Customers are clearly spending more and more time in messaging platforms, so we want to position ourselves where they are headed,” he said. Chatbots shouldn’t be a source of fear; rather, they’re a virtual assistant to help you connect better with customers. They augment your existing customer service efforts and even help you boost business.

The chatbot replaces the cold, ineffective contact form.”

Rachel Levy Sarfin is a Toronto-based freelancer who has written about technology for a variety of publications and blogs.

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Try a little tenderness

Working With Bereaved Clients By Jamie Birdwell-Branson

Two years ago, a local pastor walked into VanNoort Florists in Niagara-on-the-Lake and requested a meeting about arranging funeral flowers. Following her bereavement protocol, owner Sharon VanNoort asked the pastor whom the flowers were for. “They haven’t passed away yet,” she said. Puzzled, VanNoort gently pressed again. As it turned out, the funeral flowers were for the pastor; she had been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and only had weeks left to live. “I just looked at her for a minute. Her husband couldn’t even talk,” VanNoort said. “She came in and arranged her own flowers and told me what she liked and what she didn’t like. I kept thinking about how lucky I was that I could sit with this amazing woman and thought about the strength it took for her to walk through those days and talk about her own death — and that we got to do the flowers for her.” Creating arrangements for a funeral is an honour, but it can also involve one of the most delicate and complicated customer interactions. No two people grieve the same, and it’s important to provide them with comfort and expert service.

Flowers have had a presence in funerals for centuries. Initially, flowers served a more utilitarian purpose—to mask odours with their fragrance—but today, they’re symbols of life and beauty. Florists have to learn how to navigate customers’ (understandably high) emotions in addition to creating beautiful arrangements worthy of their loved one. Although you may have the arrangement part down, talking to grieving families may be more difficult. Often, getting better at comforting and speaking with family members is just a matter of practice—the longer you’re in the industry, the easier it may get for you. However, there are a few things that you can keep in mind as you try to sharpen this skill.

CREATE A QUIET, PRIVATE SPACE Expect every single family, and even individuals within families,

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to grieve in a different way. Some families may have had time to prepare emotionally and financially for their loved one’s death, but for others, a death can come as a complete shock or surprise. And even if the family wasn’t surprised by a death, they can still be emotionally unprepared for the finality of it. Because you never know a family’s emotional state when they come into the store to make plans for the funeral, it’s best to have a space set aside for mourners. “Take them to a private area where they can express their emotion through tears without being on your sales floor,” says Jackie Lacey, AIFD, PFCI, director of education and industry relations for the Floriology Institute in Jacksonville, Florida. “It’s much easier for the family to have at least a semi-private area to go to because it gets them out of the public eye.”

LEARN TO LISTEN It’s challenging to know the right things to say to someone who is going through one of the most difficult periods of their life. Death isn’t something most of us are accustomed to thinking about a lot, and sometimes it feels like our words can fall flat. When a family comes into your store to make arrangements for their loved one, it’s always appropriate to say, “I’m sorry for your loss” or “My condolences.” Beyond that, it’s often wise to say nothing at all. “I think as florists we all have our own way of dealing with death. My best advice for any florist is to listen,” VanNoort said. “Talk less and listen more.” Ask the family members questions about their loved one and invite them to share any memories if they feel comfortable. Let them talk as much as they want. Once you actually start discussing flowers, you’ll need to pay close attention to whether or not they need help planning things out or if they already have a specific vision in mind. “Some families I think need a little bit more guidance and others know exactly what they need. The important thing to me is to listen to what they may or may not be saying,” said VanNoort. “What strength did it take for them to come through your doors today? This is their goodbye.” As a florist, you’re going to have to balance between supreme confidence in your capabilities and sensitivity to their wants and needs. Also, it’s always best to fine-tune your approach depending on the situation.

SMOOTH OVER ANY FRICTION When there’s a death in the family, there can be tension between relatives. Although this isn’t always the case, a florist should know the right ways to communicate with families who may be having disagreements on how to handle the arrangements. “There may be five or six people in a consultation, and we may end up getting in the middle of a family situation,” Lacey said.

We have to make ourselves available, even during the times we may be closed” “A lot of times, families don’t agree about much of anything, especially when it comes to making the arrangements. In this situation, you’re not just acting as a professional florist, but you’re also a mediator, a counsellor, and a grief crisis person.” When there are differing opinions, sometimes you can incorporate many of the ideas into one. This is where your design expertise will come in handy: try to find a solution that will work well enough for everyone. Whenever possible, bring the focus back to the loved one who has passed away. Ask the family members what their loved one’s favourite colour was or if they had a favourite flower. You could also ask them if they had a favourite hobby that can be incorporated into the casket spray or in any other arrangements. In situations of conflict, it’s important to be professional and firm, but still comforting.

BE PREPARED AT ALL TIMES FOR A GRIEVING FAMILY Death, unfortunately, knows no bounds. A death can happen while you’re in the midst of planning multiple weddings or during the Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day rush. You won’t be able to predict when a death happens, but you can always be prepared to take on the business of a bereaved family. “We have to make ourselves available, even during the times we may be closed,” Lacey said. “Have a plan for those off-hour calls, either with your local funeral director or by using an after-hours answering service so that you can provide that service anytime.” Not only do you need to be ready to take on a funeral at any time, but you also need to be thinking about ways to make families feel like you’re not throwing things together at the last minute. Being prepared in small ways, like always having bottles of water and tissues available (and maybe even in some cases a glass of wine), helps the family feel more relaxed. Above all, be self-assured in your skills and your service. “I think it’s important that you have that confidence because you want to make them feel comfortable,” Lacey said. Jamie Birdwell-Branson is a freelance writer in Santa Barbara, California. She enjoys antiquing, biking, and binge watching HGTV.

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By Zara Miklenda | Photos by Olive Studio

I’m a second-generation floral designer who has been designing full-time for almost 10 years. I grew up in Oakville, Ontario, where my parents owned a high-end downtown flower shop. At age 19, after heading off to college to study gerontology, I realized that my heart was — and always will be — in floral design. So I gave up one dream to pursue another. I completed my certification at the Canadian Institute of Floral Design and then studied under master designers for several years until I felt comfortable and confident enough to spread my wings and take on the design world on my own terms. I now live in Georgina, Ontario and am the head designer and manager of Keswick Flowers and Gifts. Here are some photos from a favourite wedding I did on June 16, 2017 at Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ontario with the help of my mother, Suzy Caiger. The bride and groom were looking for a vibrant array of flowers that really reflected the dynamic of their relationship. Both the bride (Josie) and the groom (Tim) love adventure, excitement, and embracing all the beauty life has to offer. They wanted their flowers to stand out, to be different than your average white wedding. Both wanted the feeling that flowers were everywhere, without having too many greens.

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The bridal bouquet was a cascade featuring deep, rich, pink phalaenopsis orchids, sweet ‘Juliet’ garden roses, soft blush peonies, orange spray roses and dark pink spray roses (to add a pop of colour), ‘Cool Water’ roses, and a few stems of white lisianthus. We included a touch of Italian ruscus to add movement without taking away from the overflow of orchids. We also added a wire cage and handle to give an extra level of texture.

The centrepieces were two-tiered arrangements arranged on candelabras that were connected by a winding vine of Italian ruscus and phalaenopsis orchids. They featured both white and green hydrangeas, soft pink peonies, ‘Juliet’ garden roses, orange and hot pink spray roses, hot pink dianthus, and ‘Cool Water’ roses. They were enhanced with New Zealand pittosporum and Italian ruscus.

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We made the top part of the arrangement on Lomey dishes and the bottom part on wreath rings. At the end of the evening, we separated the tops and bottoms so two guests from each table got to take home a beautiful arrangement. (It was important to Josie and Tim that each person went home with more than just a favour.) We also had a feature piece in the entryway of the reception that was not only a beautiful display, but also a great giveaway at the end of the night for a guest who didn’t get one of the two centrepieces.

The ceremony took place under an outdoor pergola that backed onto the beautiful gardens of Langdon Hall. We really wanted to create some depth at the altar that almost felt like a passageway into what would become the setting for the cocktail hour. The altar was dressed with varying levels of arrangements, two blossoming cherry trees, and two wrought iron gates that we installed right into the ground –those were decorated with Italian ruscus, roses, and orchids. We used thin gauge design wire that was strong enough to secure the floral pieces but thin enough that it wasn’t visible to guests.

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The head table was a delight to create! We did a half sweetheart, half king’s table to create a two-tiered t-shaped head table featuring a table runner centrepiece that flowed over the edge of the table. They were made in “Never Wilt” spray bars filled with hydrangeas, roses, garden roses, orchids, and peonies.

For more examples of our work, check us out on Instagram @keswickflowers199.

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Let’s Talk About

Conversational Commerce By Michelle Brisebois

While using his grandmother’s computer a few years ago, a young man noticed something peculiar when he opened her web browser that made him double over laughing. She was typing questions into Google followed by “please and thank you.” He asked his Nan why she was so formal. Her explanation? “I thought a real person saw the questions and answered them.” This story appeared around the world after the young man tweeted about it. But the grandmother appears to be having the last laugh. While just years ago, we searched using single words, now we use small phrases and, increasingly, questions. With the advent of voice-activated speakers that are connected to the Internet, we’re not typing words or even questions into the search bar anymore …we’re using our voices. Conversational commerce is changing the way we interact with customers online. In the near future, a person will yell across the kitchen, “Help me order flowers for my girlfriend.” A virtual assistant will then locate a flower shop nearby and might even recommend he order yellow flowers because his girlfriend recently had purchased several yellow items from other online stores and, thus, seems fond of the shade. With the amount of data available to guide the purchase decision, it’s a matter of when not if this situation happens. It’s tempting to pull the covers over your head and assume you can’t keep pace, but don’t


Tips For Success be intimidated by the wizard behind the mirror. These speakers are simply pulling from information that is easily found on the Internet, and companies that practice good digital hygiene (more on this soon) stand to win the race because they’ll be more visible.

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Tip 1


When people search for your business, they’re often looking for fairly basic information such as your hours of operation, your phone number, and location. If you move or change your hours, all of your online touch points need to be updated immediately. You might think that closing early one night because you have to be somewhere else isn’t worth announcing, but a customer met with a locked door after checking online to see if you’d be open could feel the urge to vent on their Twitter feed or Facebook page.

Tip 2


In the past, Google indexed websites and ranked them based on keywords and meta tags embedded in the website coding. Those days are long gone. Google wants people to continue to be delighted with the content it serves them, so Google rewards websites that appear more appealing than other sites. The content must be “engaging,” which means people will want to linger over it, click on it, and comment on it. This takes more effort than simply stuffing a keyword into the coding. Vanity metrics, such as the number of website visitors or “likes” on Facebook or Instagram matter less than the number of pages viewed, length of time on site, and even bounce rate.

Tip 3


Start by developing a profile for the archetype of your ideal customer. Make this user as real as possible by giving them a name and identifying what a typical day might look like for them — their hopes, fears, comfort with technology, etc, — and, most important, what problems they might be trying to solve. For instance, your perfect wedding client might be a woman in her late twenties who works full time in an office. She uses Facebook to keep in touch with old friends but loves Instagram to showcase her favourite visual moments. A user persona helps your marketing director know what language to use and what social media channels to focus on, and it can even inspire you to create new products and services.

Tip 4


Don’t try to be everywhere. It’s better to focus on the places where your goods and services will find a robust and interested audience. Twitter and YouTube skew slightly more male. Facebook appeals to a wide range of ages and genders but may be better for celebration of life messaging than Instagram, which appeals to young females of marrying age. A good marketing advisor will understand what best fits with your strategy. Posting on numerous sites leads to an overwhelming maintenance schedule, and if you end up letting a channel (or two or three) go dormant, it doesn’t look good to customers.

Tip 5


Technology allows us to track so many details with more accuracy than ever. Your website should use Google Analytics while your Point Of Sale system captures transactions, timing, average sale, and number of items per transaction. Set up one spreadsheet that lets you see it all together so you can understand how one data point affects the rest. Weather, for instance, can have an impact. A harsh winter with a late spring can cause a spike in the purchase of fresh cut flowers. (Hint: if the same weather pattern happens next year, launch a campaign to promote treating yourself with flowers.)

Tip 6


Facebook is a very powerful marketing tool, as it gives small business owners the ability to target ads to very specific demographics. You can take your email list of existing customers, import it into a tool that Facebook provides, and it sends back an audience of people who match the profile of your existing customers. You can create ads that will appear on the timelines of people with similar tastes, wants, and needs and people who already shop with you.

Tip 7


If you’re posting on social media, think about what you want to happen after people see your posts. For instance, if you post about a workshop you’re offering, make sure you include a link that says, “sign up here.” The link should point directly to the landing page on your website that has the workshop registration, so customers don’t have to hunt for it. Think of social media as a venue that should always lead back to your store.

Tip 8


People want their information quickly —the fewer clicks to get the answer, the better. Broken links or pages that require people “click on all the pictures that include a vehicle” or perform a math calculation to prove they are human may be advised by your web developer for security, but these tests create a barrier between you and the customer. Challenge your web developer to come up with ways to protect your site that don’t put the onus on the customer.

Tip 9


Your landing page functions much like a traffic cop. It directs customers to the information they want. Use language that’s clear and concise. Keep important information at the top of the landing page and have buttons that connect to specific segments such as, weddings, bereavement, gifting, workshops. Under each category, you can post product photos and descriptions, blog posts, etc.

Tip 10


There are several tools that let you identify the key search terms that your customers use the most often. Google Adwords can help, as can serpstat. com. Once you identify the words, cleverly weave them into your website copy online so you’ll be more easily found.

Tip 11


Chatbots are replacing the impersonal contact form on websites. They’re easy to set up, and you can use them to connect with people immediately. A chatbot can collect customer information so you can call them back at your earliest convenience. Customers feel as though the conversation with you has already begun and they’re more likely to buy.

Tip 12


Google is the bouncer at the bar. It controls the search engine world, so you need to stay on top of the ever-changing algorithms it creates. If you can’t “speak Google,” find a resource who has the time to stay up-to-date. Searchengineland. com is an excellent resource for updates about changes impacting digital search.

Conversations can happen between people and, increasingly, between people and computers. The key to being heard is to first be found.

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Gaining Goodwill

with Grudge Purchases 4 strategies for dealing with reluctant customers

By Jeff Mowatt

How do you think your customers would prefer to spend $1,000: a) towards a vacation of their choice or b) towards purchasing your products and services? If you hesitate because some customers might indeed opt for your company’s offerings over the vacation, then ignore the rest of this article. It means you sell fun stuff or experiences customers actually enjoy buying. Maybe you provide spa services, or sell luxury cars or upscale clothing. If on the other hand, you sell products and services that people buy because they have to; supplies for their business, winter tires, flowers for the mother-in-law’s big birthday celebration, sympathy work for the funeral no one wants to attend, braces for their kids, etc., then read on. After over 25 years of advising companies that deal primarily with reluctant customers, I’ve developed these 4 strategies for helping customers feel better about spending money on grudge purchases.

1. FOCUS ON TASK OVER MOOD If you sense your customers are rushed or frustrated, don’t ask them how they are. That question just reminds them that they’re not having a good experience. Instead, ask, “What can I do to make your day go a little better?” It helps keep the conversation positive while indicating you’re aware that they have other things they’d rather be doing. Speaking of better word choices, avoid asking reluctant customers what they want or what they’d like.

Frankly they don’t want to be there at all. Instead, phrase your questions along the lines of, “Would it be useful...?” “Would it make sense...?” “Would it be helpful...?” In general, we get better results with task oriented questions that focus on resolving the customer’s problem, than with questions that encourage customers to think about their mood.

2. ACKNOWLEDGE DELAYS A couple enjoying an appetizer at a fancy restaurant may not mind waiting if the main course is slightly delayed. On the other hand, a parent kept waiting past appointment time with a fidgety child in a crowed dental office needs an explanation. The dentist shouldn’t just ignore being late. She should start with, “Thanks for your patience today. A previous patient had a serious condition I needed to spend a little more time with. Rest assured we’ll take all the time we need to take care of you. Before I do, how’s your time - are we OK?” When customers agree to proceed they feel less taken for granted, more like they’ve regained control, and become more receptive to your service.

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When customers agree to proceed they feel less taken for granted, more like they’ve regained control, and become more receptive to your service 3. SHARE YOUR STRATEGIC INTENT Let begrudging customers know that you understand what they really want. An employee at a license plate registry office would do well to tell a customer who’s obviously running errands during lunchtime, “Let’s take care of this quickly so you can hopefully get a chance to eat.” A plumber replacing a hot water tank mentions, “At least now when you leave the house you’ll know that you won’t come home to a flood.” Customers may be focused on the immediate painful purchase. You need to remind them of the more positive strategic outcome.

4. OFFER PRICING PERSPECTIVE By definition, people don’t enjoy spending money on grudge purchases. So with big ticket purchases it’s helpful to break the price down into something that sounds less daunting. So, rather than saying to a customer, “The new roof will be ten thousand dollars,” Instead say, “The new roof will be 10k.” Then compare that figure with their overall investment. “Keep in mind the new roof is protecting your seven hundred thousand dollar home investment. Whatever

you invest in the roof is likely to increase the value of your home by at least that amount. Plus, of course you don’t have to worry about a hidden leak causing mold damage in your walls that can run into staggering costs and cause health issues.”

BOTTOM LINE - Too often, service providers fail to

realize just how much customers don’t want to be there. That’s when employees appear to customers to be oblivious and uncaring. Meanwhile, these same employees wonder why customers are so demanding and grouchy. The good news is with a little training, employees can come across as wonderfully astute and empathetic. That makes for a more pleasant experience for everyone. Most importantly for your bottom line - customers become less resentful about sending their dollars your way.

This article is based on the bestselling book, Influence with Ease by Hall of Fame motivational speaker, Jeff Mowatt. To obtain your own copy of his book or to inquire about engaging Jeff for your team, visit

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Joe With

By Joseph DeLarge, CAFA, CFD

Indoor plants are all the rage these days, especially among the younger crowd. A good selection of plants will keep these customers coming back. Plants are much less perishable than — and a great complement to — fresh flowers. Many florists choose not to stock potted plants, and that’s a mistake in my books. Plants can clean the air; improve our physical and mental health; increase creativity, productivity, and concentration; and provide natural beauty to any space. Most houseplants are tropical plants, kept because they are easy to care for and fare well in a typical indoor setting.

Bringing plants into the flower shop can seem daunting if you don’t know where to start. If you’re new to indoor plants, there are some easy ways to become comfortable caring and merchandising them. There are lots of great tropical plant suppliers across Canada. Plants are typically sold from lists without any visuals. The suppliers can help guide you in the right direction, offer easy care suggestions, and get you started with plants. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Take some time and sit down with a plant list and Google the plants you are unfamiliar with, learn what they look like and the care they require. Choose the ones that best suit your skill level and your shop’s aesthetic. Consider the lighting you have and where each plant will fit into the displays based on that. Sun-loving plants should be near the front by the windows; place shade-loving plants farther back in your displays. When the plants arrive, make it a point to share the care needs with the staff. It should be everyone’s job to learn about those plants so they’re able to sell them confidently and accurately. For example, a sun-loving plant should never be sold for a shady spot; that’s a guaranteed bad experience associated with your shop. Here are some great pointers when dealing with plants: CHOOSE WISELY: If you are ordering it, learn about it! Learn the care requirements, as well as the common and botanical names of each plant you bring in. Challenge

yourself with one unique plant each order. PROPER CARE: All plants need water and sunlight in varying amounts throughout the year. Some are quite adaptable; others are not. Too much — or not enough — light or water can kill. Typically, plants require more water in the summer and less throughout the winter. Don’t equate water with love, though. Too much water can often be a killer. DON’T PESTER THEM: Most plants like to be left alone. Don’t touch or move them too often. Most tropical plants will show signs of stress after transportation. It will take a little while for them to adapt to the unique light and humidity levels of your space. GROUP PLANTS WITH SIMILAR CARE NEEDS: Some tropical plants like to share humidity while others like it dry. It is wise to mist them, place containers of open water under them, or invest in a humidifier, especially in the winter. Others, like cacti and succulents, can go without all the extra attention as long as they have lots of sun.

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ACCEPT LOSS: Many seasonal plants die at the end of their associated season or aren’t interesting after the bloom dies. Otherwise, death is an opportunity to learn what you’ve done wrong.

Plants can clean the air; improve our physical and mental health; increase creativity, productivity, and concentration; and provide natural beauty to any space. INSPECT REGULARLY: If you don’t find a pest or disease quickly, you risk losing a plant and having it spread the infection to other plants in your store. An infection caught early is easier to treat. Sometimes the green bin is the best option to cut your losses if it’s beyond control. KNOW WHEN TO POT OR REPOT: Keeping plants in their plastic pot and setting them into decorative pots is best. Most plants like to be a little bit snug in their pots. When repotting, don’t plant into a pot much larger than the original. Replanting is best during the spring so the plant can recover more quickly during the active growing season.

ALWAYS BE LEARNING: Invest in a comprehensive plant book to keep at your shop for quick reference. My favourite is “The House Plant Expert” by Dr. D.G. Hessayon. We reference it almost every day. Google is your friend, too. Plants can be a unique part of your product offering. Consider offering a selection of terrariums, terrarium supplies for the DIY type, or even workshops — if you feel your knowledge is solid enough to teach others. Animal lovers come in daily with requests for plants that won’t harm their pets. Be prepared to guide them. The ASPCA website is the best resource I’ve found for information on plant toxicity with cats and dogs. Many common houseplants act as great natural air purifiers and people love to keep them for that purpose. NASA has a top ten list of the best air cleaning plants; look it up. This is a great marketing angle that helps sell plants. Plants can really help your bottom line. Start small but think big for the future. Consider offering an outdoor seasonal planter service, in-home plant consultations, plant subscriptions, or standing orders. Plant supplies and accessories like decorative pottery, mosses, watering cans, soil, and fertilizers complement the plants themselves. Soon enough, plants will become a mainstay in your shop and customers will know to come to you for a beautiful selection.

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The Greatest Honour

By Jennifer Harvey, CAFA, CFD

As florists, we are privileged to create meaningful arrangements for the biggest moments in our clients’ lives. Funeral rites in every community, culture, and generation are packed with emotional charges that must resonate throughout our designs. It’s a blessing to be a part of these profound life moments, but when the orders come in, it can feel a bit like a curse. For starters, funeral work is always unexpected and usually the turn over is quick. It can be a headache to sort out what we have in containers and floral product and to determine what we can get in the store before the funeral. It’s tough to convince staff to stay late on a Saturday night after a long week to create 26 pieces for a funeral that need to be delivered the following morning. It can also be trying if 15 people come in to order the funeral arrangements and you need to play therapist, judge, and jury with the always complicated family dynamics that occur when a loved one is gone. It’s a fine line to walk in assuring a client in mourning that her arrangement will have the same look and feel as her brother’s and sister’s but will also have an individual flavor like her mother’s love for each of her children.

SO WHY DO WE WANT THIS KIND OF WORK? On a business level, there are obvious advantages of funeral pieces. They have higher price points and they clear out product in the cooler. Older product that can’t be sold because of diminished vase life — but still looks spectacular — gets to go to a oneday funeral (think: wide open roses and lilies and bits and pieces leftover from a wedding). When I work with new designers in our industry, I hear grumbling about this. They think we are selling half dead product to funeral celebrations. I want to set this straight. Over the years, new recruits scowl as owners ask them to use last week’s product, thinking they are ripping off the client. This is not what is happening but no one talks about this, so I want to let you know what’s up. Owners ask this of us knowing that it’s a one-day celebration. They expect you NOT to use the moldy, broken flowers but rather to use the gorgeous, full-blooming product that will let the client enjoy the flowers at their showiest moment. Older product smells better in bloom, has deeper tones, and is at the peak of its existence. Usually, with older product, you get to use extra stems, knowing that if these blooms don’t get used up, they will be thrown out. This allows you to create incredible designs. The floral product, too, is at the end of its life. It seems fitting that it’s used to celebrate a life well lived while it celebrates its last big show.

Another reason why funeral orders should be welcomed is for your designers. Day in and day out, your designers struggle through another «bloomin’ bonanza» order sent through a wire service. The lack of original designs can stifle them. Creating large, personalized pieces with thought, emotion, and beautiful product breaks up the monotony of everyday arrangements and allows for a flow of new ideas. Funeral work can bring a charge of purpose with its underlying intention of love and remembrance. Telling designers the story of the person they are memorializing will allow for special touches that will manifest a statement for the dearly departed’s loved ones. Some shops turn away from this work. Why? Some communities have funeral homes that have gouged shops with a 20 to 30% finder’s fee or that have favoured one shop over others. These tales of the middleman cutting into profit margins and steering long-time clients into the arms of the competition can leave a bad taste in your mouth. I have seen shops wipe their hands clean of funeral work, but I say NO! Funerals and memorials are a part of what a full-service shop must offer. No, I don’t want you to make underhanded deals with funeral homes or start advertising at old age homes to get a jump on the business. But when you build your customer base, I do want you to tell them you’re here to help celebrate their life — all of it! That means when Peggy gets engaged, then married, and has babies (in whatever order that happens…) you got her. Her divorce party (complete with wine and Botox!)? You got her! And when something happens to one of her loved ones, you are also there. Let her know that every celebration, be it joyful or bittersweet, has your love and understanding attached. The flower shops and studios that survive the test of time will tell you stories of the generations of families they have proudly served. When you nurture a community and the members within them, you become a staple. Your blooms mark their tests through time. For designers, it’s the ultimate honour. Embrace it. Jennifer Harvey is a freelance designer, television and radio personality, consultant, writer, speaker, teacher, and president-elect of the Canadian Academy of Floral Art.

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Stretching Your Limits

How To With


By Heather de Kok, AAF, AIFD, PFCI

So, you want to use your creative juices? Let’s face it, in a typical week’s work, we are usually busy creating items the customer sees on a website. That is just the way of the floral world now. That is okay, but what about us? What about our need to create unique things?! What I would suggest is that you look into any and all opportunities that come your way — or create your own! Let’s talk about Fleurs de Villes, which just finished its tour through Canada. What an amazing opportunity to showcase floral talent! Not only do you get to create something fabulous for your own sanity and love of flowers, but you get to inspire the public with what florists can create with flowers. Then there is the added bonus of getting to know other florists in your community. This is one of my favourite parts about teaching and putting on events for the industry. I have made some amazing friends that have helped me out and vice versa. We support each other. We empathize with each other. No one understands what you are going through like another florist does.

Now you could be thinking, I don’t live in an area that attracts the Fleurs de Villes series; what can I do? Create your own, I say! Yes, it will take gumption. Yes, it may require an investment. But if you collaborate with another company, anything is possible. We all enjoy watching Art in Bloom throughout the United States. Why not create one in your area with local artists, a farmers’ market, art gallery, museum, etc.? Get out there and knock on doors and ask people. Keep asking until someone says, “let’s do it!” Your passion will translate and you will be showing off your talents in no time!

Heather de Kok, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, is the owner of Heather de Kok Floral Design and Grower Direct in Edmonton, Alberta. She also founded The Maple Leaf Cup.

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Putting the ‘You’ in YouTube Marketing Ask The SEO

BY: Ryan Freeman

Earlier this year I took a big leap. I purchased a camera designed primarily for video streaming and sharing on social media. If you’re wondering why this is a big deal, just remember that I’m a 41 year old guy who has tried to find my supposed “good sides” with cameras from every angle. Let’s not even start on what cameras so graciously “add” to their subject! So why would a marketing obsessed introvert who is more at home behind a keyboard than in front of people make an investment in special camera technology? Simply put, video is where it’s at. If I want to expand my audience, and help my clients expand theirs, it’s time to take video seriously. With that in mind, here are four tips that I hope will help you (and me!) grow your online audience and boost sales this year and the coming ones. BE RELATABLE When you think of a personality made for TV, our own Neville MacKay comes immediately to mind. But even Neville will tell you his first on-camera experience didn’t quite go according

to plan. Nonetheless, he rescued the situation by relying on his personality and charm, and parlayed that appearance into fame (and fortune?). What makes personalities like Neville, Heather De Kok, and Jennifer Harvey such great presenters? Behind all the energy and charisma, they are telling stories from the stage or the screen that their audience can connect with. Sometimes, it’s by saying out loud what others will only say in their heads. People connect with shared thoughts and shared experiences. We are repelled by dry, bland, emotionless presentations of facts and data. When you are working on creating videos for your brand, be sure to include some of your personality in the mix and your audience will grow. ANSWER HOW-TO QUESTIONS How-to videos are still among the most popular searches on YouTube and other sites. By creating video tutorials addressing popular queries, you will get to demonstrate your expertise and grow your brand exposure. Start making a list of all the questions customers have asked more than once. Maybe you’ve already done this for your blog, and now you can use that written material as the starting point for your videos! Be sure to include the words “How To” in the title and description so people are clear that it’s an informative answer video. If you run out of questions to answer you can look to popular

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People connect with shared thoughts and shared experiences. resources, such as Answer the Public, HARO (Help A Reporter Out), Quora, or even Google’s “people also ask” and “related searches” features. DEBUT NEW PRODUCTS AND SERVICES Video is a great way to demonstrate a new product or service. You can talk about your new Rush Delivery Service while handing off an arrangement to a deliveryman and then cut to footage of the happy (and speedy!) delivery. If your local competition (or a certain drop shipper) carries an inferior quality of rose you can use video to compare flowers side by side and see their performance over the course of time. Depending on how often you have newsworthy new items, you could make a monthly feature to show off your latest additions. With consistent publishing, people will learn to look forward to your upcoming videos. They also make great content for blog posts and newsletters! PRESENTATIONS AND EXPERIENCES Do you ever get the chance to speak in front of an audience about your work? Don’t let that guest presentation spot be a one-hit wonder! You can use video of your presentations on your website, in blogs and newsletters, and to pitch organizations for other speaking opportunities. Recently, I was presenting a business session at the Great Lakes Floral & Event Expo in Michigan. My second presentation was nearly foiled by problems with the projector, but thankfully I had my Mevo camera running. I was able to promise the attendees that not only would they receive the slides afterwards, they would (video quality permitting) be able to access the video and play back the entire presentation along with the slide deck. Imagine recording the process of setting up for a big event. You could do a time-lapse video that shows you and your team scurrying around at high speed, converting a desolate space into a fabulous event venue. Or maybe you just assemble a few clips together to show some of the detail work that happens on-site. Behind the scenes footage is very popular, as evidenced by all the

reality shows featuring restaurants, renovations, weddings, and so on. Video doesn’t have to be daunting. But it does require a small leap into what may at first be an uncomfortable place. When you embrace the challenge and have some fun with it, you may just find there’s a growing online audience that’s having fun along with you! Ryan Freeman is president of Strider Inc., founder of Florist 2.0, and publisher of Canadian Florist.

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on THE

LEVEL with



I have been writing for Canadian Florist magazine for a lot of years, sharing stories, thoughts, and— hopefully—a bit of inspiration to all the incredible people in my floral family around the world. I have written about weddings, funerals, holiday seasons, and well, pretty much everything that goes on in our beautiful industry. So, I have decided to start putting some of what I have seen and done in a book. In fact, my first is out now, and I am working on my second…but I’ll tell you more about that and how I want your input in a little bit! Over the years I have witnessed many breathtaking moments because of what I do in my life. I remember seeing the look on a man’s face when he first saw his new daughter, while he held flowers I brought him to give to his wife. That was something else—let me tell you. I was working one day at the store and saw two old ladies having a poke about outside, inspecting the plants we had on offer. One lady was pointing at the hibiscus bloom with her cane, so I was curious (and a little annoyed, to be truthful) and went out to get the scoop. Well, apparently this lady had lived in Italy, and outside her home there was a hibiscus bush. This was during World War II, and every day a man from the Canadian Army would walk by, pick a flower, and give it to her. (People were so much more romantic then!) Well, after a bit of courtship they got wed and moved to Canada. He had died many years before, but after her telling me this story, I, of course, picked each lady a flower, and with a tear or two, away they went. Fast-forward several years: I got a note in the mail from a lady who said her mum had passed and wanted to thank me. While looking through her things, she found a pressed hibiscus in her Bible with a note about the day a man named “Neville” gave it to her in Halifax. I am still humbled by how this little gesture made her feel. I think of certain people when I see a flower—Sylvia, for instance, when I see an orchid because, years ago, few had one of these precious treasures, and she did. It was like seeing magic. I think of my dad when I see cosmos, because he grew them at the fire tower where he worked. We didn’t have them at home in the

garden, but when he would bring a bouquet home to my mum, I knew what love truly was. Mrs. Smith, a dear old soul I met in Edmonton, was such an inspiration to me as a young florist, who wound up teaching me so much about a flower’s true power. She was blind and would always say hello as I passed her door in our apartment building. I brought her a lovely red rose one night, and when she got it, I was appalled as she rubbed it across her face and eventually tore it apart like a cat smothering itself in fresh catnip. When I asked why she destroyed it, she explained that she could “see” this flower in other ways and the touch and smell reminded her of when she did have sight. She did ask that the next time I brought her one, would I please remember to leave the thorns on the stem? That was a turning point in my life, for sure. Now here’s where you come in. We all have a memory when we see certain flowers, don’t we? By now, I am sure you are starting to think of a flower story or two that is either funny, beautiful, or nasty. I want to hear it! I am writing another book all about flower stories, and I would love to include yours! Get your thinking cap on and send me a note (20-200 words, please) and I will try to fit it in the book! I really want to see as many different interesting stories as possible from around the world. But please understand that if you write and say, “I like carnations because they last long,” (YAWN), it won’t make the cut. Oh, and for now, have a look for “Neville on the Level” on Amazon! (Read: buy a copy.) Let’s all share LOVE through the beauty of flowers! Neville MacKay, CAFA, PFCI, WFC, is owner of My Mother’s

Bloomers in Halifax, Novia Scotia and a design director with Smithers-Oasis North America. He designed flowers for the 1988 Winter Olympics, as well as a long list of celebrities including Glen Close, Sir Elton John, and members of the British Royal Family. MacKay appears regularly on Canadian TV and travels internationally, giving presentations about the impact of flowers.

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Canadian Florist - July 2018 - The Sympathy Issue  

Try a little tenderness during your funeral consultations; How the Humboldt Community united through tradegy; Talking about Conversational C...

Canadian Florist - July 2018 - The Sympathy Issue  

Try a little tenderness during your funeral consultations; How the Humboldt Community united through tradegy; Talking about Conversational C...