Butterfield explains this industry phenomenon as "psychological spring"—the period after New Year's when people have recovered enough from the holidays to start looking forward to spring, and consequently start planning their gardens. Lamoglia claims that gardening society memberships and gardening magazine subscriptions fare especially well during this time.
In addition, gardeners' buying patterns vary depending on which type of garden they have. "Perennials buyers buy in a rapid pattern, then decline. If you're an annuals or seeds buyer, you buy all year," says Linda McAleer, executive vice president at Millard Group.
Though the associations and list brokers contacted conclude that straight gardening offers seem to work best with this group, they concede that gardeners are buying more accessories than before. In 2002, 29 percent of mail-order gardeners bought gardening aids, and 27 percent bought gifts or decorative items with a garden theme, according to MGA. Marketers of environmentally-focused products, or those marketers that can produce an environmentally conscious spin on their product, also may fare well with gardeners.
Some list brokers also report success with publishing, credit card, continuity, children's apparel, collectibles and fund-raising offers.
Creative, Plain and Simple
Make offers attractive by appealing to gardeners' sensitivities when designing your mailings and other tools, advises Lamoglia. "Gardening is very emotional; people are doing this as a way to relax, to find some peace," he points out. "I think direct mail that conveys that peace is going to be more successful than those strictly focusing on the offer."
Lamoglia, who coordinates marketing for both the society and its membership magazine, The American Gardener, suggests mailers also keep their creative simple. For example, the society's control piece consists of a four-page letter and a two-color outer envelope.
Copywriter Ken Schneider takes this one step further by approaching mail packages for gardening offers as he would a package for recipe books: He makes the activity seem accessible to anyone. One of his most winning packages for publisher Meredith Corp. was based around the copy line, "Create a Garden Full of Miracles." He believes it appealed to people because of its promise—"Even if you're not good at this, you can make it happen."