The definition of "local" is changing

A person come in yesterday with tomatoes that looked as if they had a virus. In my attempt to find out what was going on I asked her where she bought them. They were from three different stores, none from us. I guess when things go wrong we are the place to get the answers.

I remember when this would have upset me. They buy the plants elsewhere, have problems then come to us for answers. I even know of a nursery nearby that closed because the owners just got tired of answering questions and then watching the people go to Home Depot, a block away to buy the remedy. Another nursery nearby won’t even answer those questions unless you bought the plants there.

I am no longer bothered by these types of events. We figure that if they think we are the “answer place” that’s at least a step in getting them to be customers. The way in which we answer those questions, without criticizing them for buying them elsewhere is what sets us apart.

We get questions from all over the world concerning gardening. A recent one was from Spain concerning a tree that was lifting the roots of an old villa. Why would I take the time to answer questions from someone who will most likely never shop “in” our store?

We post the questions and then the answers in our e-news in a section brilliantly titled Q & A. Since we are able to measure what sections are read most we have found it has turned into the most popular section of the e-news. I just had someone e-mail me saying that they changed the type of trees they were going to plant based on the Q & A section.

I also like answering these questions because it makes our small nursery much bigger than its physical size. Who in our industry could have dreamed that a small garden center in northern California, or anywhere else would be receiving and answering questions from all over the world? We are turning into an international business.

The other reason to answer these questions is that these people may become customers someday. Who is to say that next year we might be selling online, sending products and information all over the globe? As a matter of fact we are headed in that direction. More on that later.

Just because a nursery is small in physical size does not mean its influence cannot be huge. Why limit our reach to the local clientèle. The world is out there looking for places to trust and spend their money. With the internet we can reach these people and let them know about our unique business. The "locals" will still be the bread and butter of our business, but the definition of local is changing. People who share the same beliefs or interests are becoming members of groups or tribes that are international in reach yet very personable on an individual basis. You may be a resident of your local town but now you can be a resident of of a larger "town" of shared interests or beliefs.