By Debra Prinzing
I’ve been riding a holiday high since the Fourth of July, and it’s not because of the fantastic fireworks displays. It is because when I logged into Keyhole, the social media tracking program I use, and checked the numbers for #americanflowersweek, I discovered that the hashtag had generated more than 1.3 million impressions in a 30-day period – all but a few hundred thousand of which appeared during the seven-day span of my Slowflowers.com campaign “American Flowers Week.” I’m pretty right-brained, but sometimes it’s nice that the metrics verify one’s “feelings” of success.
What began as the title of a book, Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Locally Grown Bouquets from the Garden, Meadow and Farm, has become a moneymaking “platform” and my “brand.” No one is more surprised by this turn of events than me. American Flowers Week, a social media and advocacy campaign coinciding with Independence Day, is one of three channels that I’ve begun to monetize. The other two include the Slow Flowers Podcast (launched in July 2013 at debraprinzing.com) and Slowflowers.com, the free nationwide directory of American (and now Canadian) flowers and the florists, farms, and studios who supply those blooms.
All this began with Slow Flowers and its predecessor, The 50 Mile Bouquet. These two books pivoted my attention from home and garden features writing and lured me down the rabbit hole of flower farming and floral design. A love of growing and designing cut flowers combined with my 10-year background as a business reporter has transformed me into the champion of the Slow Flowers Movement.
While racing around the country to interview flower farmers and floral designers with small and large operations I’ve become a bit of an expert on the renaissance of the domestic floral industry. The storytelling opportunities are endless and appealing. Other speaking and writing projects continue, but most are focused on the subject of flowers.
My company Slow Flowers, LLC provides me numerous ways to connect audiences with sponsors. In planning for 2016, I began the shift from self-funding to partial sponsor support. Four sponsors underwrite my trio of web sites, each paying $1500 annually. Those who want to cherry-pick pay $600 per channel. In total, my 2016 sponsor revenue to date has reached about $7,500. As I demonstrate the success of these channels and use tracking tools to document audience engagement, I expect revenue to double in 2017.
The “Slow Flowers Podcast with Debra Prinzing” is the only floral industry podcast of its kind. Each Wednesday for three years, listeners download or stream my conversations with leading voices in the Slow Flowers Movement. The show averages 5,000 downloads monthly and has 26 five-star ratings on ITunes. Each episode is accompanied by “show notes” (essentially a blog post with photos, videos, links and other resources relating to the topic or guest).
My podcast journey has been highly rewarding, allowing me to recognize emerging and established voices in the domestic floral community. In the process I’ve found out something interesting about podcasting. While blog readership has plummeted, my audience is happy to put on ear buds and listen to me and my guests for a 30 to 60 minute episode. The result of this intimate experience has been amazing. It has created an engaged “tribe” that has fully embraced all of my other channels.
With 700 members, the online directory Slowflowers.com features flower farmers and floral designers who pledge transparency about their sourcing practices. This growing directory has received national attention from Associated Press, New York Times, Wall St. Journal, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Diego Union Tribune, Chicago Times, Dallas Morning News, and many other major dailies. Magazines and online publications ranging from Country Gardens and Modern Farmer to Martha Stewart and Garden Design have also featured Slowflowers.com as a free consumer resource.
Slowflowers.com enjoys advertising support from my underwriting sponsors but its true monetary power is in the recurring subscriptions from members. Much like the model of public radio supporters contributing small amounts on a monthly basis, Slowflowers.com members invest between $5 and $20 monthly for their listing. With 700 members, one can do the math and realize the potential for recurring income. About 50 percent of those members joined in 2014-15 when we offered a “free” listing option much like a small classified ad (with business name, address, phone, email, and website). Those nonpaying members served a valuable purpose in the first two years by creating a critical mass of participants. I felt certain that the media would pay more attention to Slowflowers.com if I had participation in all 50 states and across all channels of the flower farming-floral design industry. Basically, I gained credibility for Slowflowers.com with numbers.
It took a scolding from Jim Peterson, publisher of Garden Design magazine, to help me change my strategy for 2016. “Get rid of FREE,” he admonished me. “People don’t value FREE.” As it turns out, Jim was 100 percent correct. On January 1, 2016, we turned “off” the free option and converted the Standard listing to a $50 annual rate. My goal was to convert previous nonpaying members to this affordable Standard level. I’m pleased to say there has been little resistance to that modest pricing increase. The Premium level, $200 annually (or $20/month), appeals to about 25 percent of members who enjoy multiple additional features. These are my core “tribe” members who view Slowflowers.com not as an advertising vehicle, but as a platform for their own brand differentiation.
Creating a community where like-minded people can connect and do business has turned many of my members into brand ambassadors. By deploying passionate Slow Flowers members to use the #slowflowers hash tag, link to the Slow Flowers Community Page on Facebook and use SlowFlowers badges and graphics in their own marketing, the message is shared exponentially.
While I own the trademark to Slow Flowers, I don’t discourage its use. In fact, the term is now in the everyday floral industry vernacular. It’s not as commonly used as “Slow Food” is in the restaurant industry, but it does serve as shorthand to mean domestic and locally-grown flowers, sustainable flower farming, seasonal sourcing, and eco-friendly floral design techniques. To me, that’s priceless.
My Slow Flowers project has taken me far beyond what I ever expected, yet there is so much more potential. I’ll keep you posted in the future. In the meantime, if you do need to buy or send flowers, check us out!