Thursday, April 27, 2006

Perfect Weather = No Sales

Okay, not "NO sales" at Towson Gardens Day today - but not exactly worth it for the early wake-up, schlepping all the way out there and back, packing & unpacking, and spending all day there. Most other vendors said the show was "eh" for them as well. It was perfect weather and as good a crowd as the organizers could ever expect size-wise, just nobody interested really in gardening or buying much garden-related material. I will not be doing it again. I'm posting this to remind myself next year when I get the idea in my head of "why not" and wasting my time again.

The event itself is fine for attendees and it is run now by the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland. For garden vendors, it is not so hot - the weekday timing and location pull in the neighboring office workers, folks from their county court, and parents bringing their kids for "take them to work" day. Which means a lot of milling around and enjoying the food offerings and looking at tchochkes, but not much else.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Can't Complain About the Rain

Our booth at the Leesburg Flower & Garden Festival last weekend was almost a complete wash-pout - literally! We arrived early Saturday AM to find our space in the Lightfoot Lot was a pool of water a few inches deep, as the day progressed it only got deeper. Turns out the bank next door had a roof drain directly dumped into our booth - nice.

With both the magazine's inventory being all paper as well as my brother's antique botanical prints, we were pretty concerned. (Unlike other sellers, who we were not in the standing pool, and had inventory of plants and garden items that actually would not mind a bit of wet.)

My brother had set up a sturdy canopy and sides so we perfectly dry - except for our completely soaking feet and socks. All day with wet, cold feet is just not a good time.

I kept asking for the Fairfax Park folks, who the event, to bring push-brooms and they finally showed around Noon to sweep it out. By that point, the rain had petered out and the rest of the day it was gray and a bit chilly with a light drizzle every once in a while, but nothing bad.

On Sunday, we arrived to find it had stormed over night and our canopy ceiling was bulging with accumulated water - which we easily bailed out and got in order. Of course, the ground was just as bad as the first day. This time I learned my lesson though and we had bright our own broom to push the water out as well as water-proof footwear. It started off fairly light and clearing, then stormed around Noon, then cleared for the rest of the day.

Despite all that rain and the dent it made in the overall attendance figures - the magazine did pretty good sales - actually one of our best shows ever as counted by new subscriptions per day! Makes me only wonder if it had been nice how much better we might have done.

Well, I share this experience as an example of the vagaries of going to outdoor garden events. You have to take the good with the bad in stride and really it could've been a lot worse - no real wind or thunderstorm issues - and boy, did that warm shower afterwards feel good!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Google Ads

I'll probably say more on this at another time - but just had to do a short rant on the Google Adwords put on my blog. When I added the Google ad links (above), I suppose I thought: "I'll make a few pennies off this, but that is it." So I said "why not?" Now I see the links are pulled directly from words or things mentioned in my most current post. So when I discussed New York City - I now have ads for NY tourism. When I discussed tradeshows, had lots of links to affiliated services. Wouldn't mind these so much, if some of them weren't downright shysters or shady at the least. Oh well, at least a good percentage of the time the links are to garden folks. I do get to list who I do NOT want to link to - but that is a tedious process and puts the burden on you to know who those folks might be - so the obvious ones like a direct competitor can be barred, but it is the unknown ones that can sneak in there that worry me. I'll keep an eye on it and see if worth the future hassle.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Days Off

I had my first "vacation" this weekend since starting the magazine 16 months ago. Although the two days were not the greatest timing (in the midst of getting the current issue's layout finalized and to the printer), it was a holiday weekend and most folks would have been out of reach in any case. I had promised myself to not do ANY work-related things for 48 hours. That did not happen.

I went with a friend to NY city to see the new "Tarzan" musical. Not only did we discuss the magazine and ideas for promotion, marketing, accounting (he is an accountant), etc. I spent the bus ride up and back catching up on a lot of my reading pile. Now have a pile of clippings to follow-up on. The musical itself contained a sequence about the exotic flora of Africa -- with some amazingly costumed dancers as orchids -- just gorgeous.

I also kept my eye on the flora of NYC. All the tulip plantings around midtown and south looked to have been coordinated -- mostly bright red and yellow tulip combos. In Battery Park there was at least more naturalized and, to my eye, more tasteful bulb displays - along with flowering trees (about 1-2 weeks behind those in our area).

We attempted to go to visit Macy's flower show. Wasn't sure what that actually entailed - flower exhibits? competitions? But on Easter Sunday, Macy's was closed! All the surrounding stores were open - but can't really fault them for doing so, just wish they had put "not open on Easter" in their event ads and promotions!

Finally, we stumbled on another garden-related event - the Easter Parade on 5th Avenue! Not really a formal parade or event as such, but the authorities shut down about 6 blocks of the avenue around St. Patrick's Cathedral and folks come out in their Sunday best or in period costumes or dressed as flower arrangements, rabbits, bee hives, etc. Most of the crowd were like us, tourists who just stumbled on it, or locals just there to take photos and gawk. I did get lots of ideas for fun hats to make and wear at future garden parties. Will come in handy for the upcoming Baltimore FlowerMart (http://www.flowermart.org/) hat competition.

Well, you can take the gardener out of the garden, but you can't take the garden out of the gardener...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Almost Breaking Even

I'm in the midst of layout for our May/June issue so am swamped with work - on top of that I have the monthly enewsletter to get out on Friday and a weekend trip to NY city (what was I thinking when I booked those broadway tickets months ago!). Feeling pretty good though. Have some fantastic article submissions going in on the 'Natives Plants' theme and in addition, we have sold enough advertising to almost cover the printing cost for this issue. That fact alone is a milestone for me and a definite reason to celebrate. Woo-hoo!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Free Trees! Can't Even Give Them Away...

Okay, so today's Arbor Day event in Takoma Park was a bit low-key due to the dreary weather and having to move indoors. Still a good turn-out and got to talk to lots of folks. It never is the best-attended event and for the life of me I can't figure out why. Maybe people think it is for TP residents only? Have to educate them about that then. But otherwise, why not stop by for a few minutes for free trees, free plant advice, free publications on just about every local environmental issue, and of course, kid's activities. (One little tike had on a red hoodie that made him look just like a living garden gnome - what a cutie!)

My biggest disappointment today was in the no-show from Woodsy the Owl. Apparently his booking was old info from previous year's Arbor Day promotions and he was never to have been at this one, so I suppose I should not be too upset. I did get a Woodsy bumper sticker - and with no car I guess it will go onto one of my steamer storage trunks. Still I was looking forward to reliving a bit of childhood nostalgia with him. I think if you are Gen X like me and were way into Schoolhouse Rock, Hong Kong Fooey, Zoom, and the like -- then you also have a soft-spot for Woodsy. Ahh, the memories... How easily I was indoctrinated into the "hippie" causes and liberal-leaning teachings of those public service messages. At the time I didn't know why exactly I was supposed to "give a hoot, don't pollute" - but I certainly did as I was told and loved that big owl - and still do.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Small World - Getting Smaller

Last night I attended the new Metropolitan Washington Garden Club, formerly the Men's Garden Club of Montgomery County, now open to females and folks from all over the DC area. Yes, we are now in the 21st Century and there still do exist men-only garden clubs in progressive, liberal parts of the country! They were welcoming and I had a good time. Mostly was a treat to finally meet Susan Tamulevich as we had been exchanging emails and phone calls last year. Had no idea she was to be the evening's speaker until that afternoon. Susan is a former DC-area resident and is the author of Dumbarton Oaks: Garden Into Art. Her current project is a traveling exhibit on the History of Flowerpots. Sounds a bit dry, I know. But once you think about it, the subject is really fascinating and she does a good job brining it to life. Here is her web site: http://aplacetotakeroot.com/. Susan brought a friend who was publisher of the now gone Chesapeake Home & Garden magazine. Hoping to follow up on that and see some of those back issues. Also at the meeting were a few Washington Gardener magazine subscribers who I had signed up at the Washington Home & Garden Show in February. They gave me a few good story ideas - which I'm always grateful to hear.
Then this morning came an email from a subscriber who just bought a gift sub for her brother-in-law, who it turns out is on the mat next to mine at my weekly yoga class! Been doing asanas next to him for months, when I should've been talking up the magazine I suppose. Shows you how really inter-connected our lives really are and the power of personal relationships (networking) is the real bottom-line for marketing.

Monday, April 03, 2006

TV Worth It?

I did my third appearance on local CBS affiliate - WUSA-TV9 - yesterday morning. Not only do I have to get up at the crack of dawn, but this week was daylight-savings so lost another hour sleep. Worrying over not getting up on time or the reset clocks not working, I don't think I got any sleep. What is amazing is - not only was I on time, fully prepared and energetic - but it all went smoothly and well. My only gripe is not being able to mention our web address (they only want theirs put in and than redirect to yours) or squeeze more about the magazine itself.

Maybe it is the lack of sleep - but I'm questioning whether it is worth it to do these TV segments. The first appearance I was able to see an immediate impact in magazine subscription orders via our web site - but did not see an immediate result from the latter two appearances. That doesn't mean there were no orders as a result - just none that can be positively attributed to them and not from any other sources.

My time investment is about 6 hours per monthly appearance which is a great deal from my strapped schedule - but my costs are low - below $25 for props and plants. And I'm all about the free publicity and anything that gets our name out there just one more time is great to me. I certainly could not afford a 4-minute television commercial at this point. I'll continue to cheerfully do the segments for now, but will keep my eye on the future "cost-benefit ratio."