The Greatest Marketing Campaign There Never Was


This little springtime marketing story is actually borrowed from a long-term client of mine. She has a large, beautiful garden that requires a lot of love and care, and it’s a huge time commitment for someone like her who is not only a professor; she also runs a small business in her free time. (You can tell why she and I get along well!) To help things run smoothly she employs a gardener to help with the general garden maintenance.

She told me this story about how a few years before I joined her company, she had found a beautiful chrysanthemum plant that had been left on her porch, along with a card wishing her happy spring. Obviously, she was touched at the gift but there was one problem- the card that arrived with the plant hadn’t been signed.

My client has a good relationship with many of her neighbors on the street so she asked around, thinking that one of them had dropped off the plant as a neighborly gift. It was a nice idea, but no such luck: none of them had left the plant, and no one had received a similar gift either.

It was spring and getting to be that time of year when the ground was warm enough to start cleaning up the yard. Normally the local gardening company she had employed for years would contact her to arrange a date for the annual clean-up. However, a few weeks went by and she had yet to hear from them, so my client took initiative and called them herself, hoping that they hadn’t gone out of business.

When asked why they hadn’t called her to schedule a date, the manager of the company responded, “Didn’t you get our card?”

“What card?” my client asked.

“The card we left with the plant on your porch.”

My client and her gardener had a good laugh once my client explained to her that they hadn’t signed the card, and the gardener admitted that it was a honest mistake to assume that my client would have known that the flowers had come from their company.

It’s a funny story but also a great lesson about making sure you’ve got all of the details of your marketing campaign managed before you execute it. The initial idea is great: for the price of leaving a glossy, impersonal calling card to drum up repeat business, the business owners chose instead to leave a unique, personalized gift as a way of thanking previous customers. But without leaving a call-to-action or a means of contacting them (let alone identify who they were), customers were left wondering whether or not they still had a gardener and whether or not they had a secret admirer on their hands.

The moral of the story? Great ideas are the way to getting people’s attention and standing out from the competition, but they’re not worth executing if you don’t get all of the details down first.

But maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe they just got carried away with all of the beauty of spring. Who could blame them?

KBwB-BFlower-50Do you have a marketing fail that you’d like to share about something that happened to a friend of yours that was most definitely not you? (Wink, wink). Comment below or send me an email at I promise I won’t name names.

For other thoughts about marketing and running a small business, click here. I’m constantly full of new stories to share!

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