Each November, we present the findings of our exclusive State of the Industry research. This year’s continued labor shortage presented challenges for growers of all sizes. And the market is still figuring out how to handle the mergers and acquisitions that took place this year. Please peruse the research, which begins on page 18.

There are lessons to be learned from some of the responses.

When asked, “What has your nursery added to its marketing strategy in 2018?” almost half (49%) of those surveyed selected “nothing.”

Beth Comstock, author of Imagine it Forward says, “You can’t sell anything if you can’t tell anything.”

But 25% said they’ve added to their social media presence; 24% are sending out email newsletters; and 17% are using new or improved tags to help with marketing.

There was an “other” selection, and one grower said they are adding “personal contact” to their marketing strategy. Think about it. How many emails are you sending instead of a phone call or a personal visit. I love email – it makes my life so much easier. But after spending 2 days in person with a group of growers in Tennessee, I was energized. I learned more. I connected. You must do the same with your customers and potential buyers.

Speaking of social media, we asked which social media platforms growers are using, and Facebook took the lead at 51%, while Instagram and LinkedIn tied for second at 24%. Only 12% said they use Twitter, which really surprised me. I’m personally not a big fan of Twitter, but I thought it would get more votes, so to speak. But 46% said they don’t use any social media channels. You may not be selling your product directly to your customers on social media, but the end consumer is hungry for information. Sharing information on plants and how they’re produced helps the entire industry.

Adding automation ranked No. 2 in “what three aspects of your business would you like to improve?” Make sure to read the cover story on Willowbend Nurseries (page 8) to learn how the Ohio-based grower uses automation to combat the labor shortage.

When it comes to hiring the next generation, it seems most of the responders are stuck. More than half of those surveyed (53%) said they weren’t making any strategic recruiting efforts to hire the next generation. I’m not sure if it’s because they don’t see the value; there are no young people nearby to reach; or they’re unsure how to accomplish that task.

But for those that are looking to staff their nursery with the industry’s future leaders, they are sponsoring university visits, offering internships and searching out help at trade shows.

If you’d like to share some of your successes from 2018 or your concerns for 2019, please let me know. I’d enjoy hearing from you!

krodda@gie.net