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Sowing the seeds of search engine marketing

  Article , Retail , Success stories

Horticulture retailer Gardener’s Edge grows with Bing Ads

Tools of the trade

A.M. Leonard’s Gardener’s Edge turns grown-up gardeners into little kids in candy stores. Only instead of drooling over lollipops and lemon drops, they get wide-eyed over hand pruners and worm factories.

Those in the know think of the family-owned company’s employees as anything from devoted lovers of horticulture to garden whisperers. “We focus on helping customers find what they want and need,” says Amy Domer, senior e-commerce administrator at A.M. Leonard. “Plus we stand behind our tools. And if we don't have something, we’ll do our best to help them find it.”

That level of customer service comes in large part from A.M. Leonard — the parent company of Gardener’s Edge and one of the world’s oldest horticultural tool and supply businesses for professionals. How old you ask? Ashbel Merrel Leonard opened his small nursery in Piqua, Ohio, in 1885, the same year that the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York Harbor. More than 130 years later, the company continues to thrive with more than 10,000 quality products available through its catalogs and website.

There are a lot of folks who have computers where Bing is their default search engine. So, if we want to meet them where they are, we have to use it. We’ve got to be there.

— Jason Corpus, vice president of marketing, Gardener’s Edge

Two brands, one family

Jason Corpus, vice president of marketing, Gardener’s Edge

Jason Corpus, vice president of marketing, Gardener’s Edge

A.M. Leonard has earned its reputation with gardening pros. With Gardener’s Edge, which began as an old-fashioned retail catalog in 1996 before becoming an online business in 2005, the company focuses on hobbyists who want to clear their minds from the stress of everyday life by getting their hands dirty. “We’d always been a professional tool company,” reveals Jason Corpus, vice president of marketing at A.M. Leonard. “We thought we could bring that same level of craftsmanship to consumers.”

Today, close to 150 people work between the two companies. Although each brand has a different website and identity, the people within view themselves as one family. “We don't have a huge split of operations,” Domer says. "No one says, ‘Okay, you're only focusing on Gardener's Edge and you're only focusing on A.M. Leonard.’ I think, in general, we service both brands really well.”

A real page-turner

While you’d think a hard-copy catalog would have gone the way of the dinosaur and dodo bird, the catalogs for both brands continue to thrive, with more than 2 million copies distributed annually. “There will always be a large group of customers who prefer to order from a book,” Corpus points out. “They like the feel of the paper. They like to be able to turn pages, fold corners and mark down things that they want to buy.”

This may conjure up flashbacks to simpler times, but in reality, the process has evolved. Instead of using catalogs to pick and order products, many people today use them to browse before going online to order. And for those who want the best of both worlds, both sites also offer a popular online catalog.

Demographically Bing Ads has brought us a lot of the exact customers that we really want.

— Jason Corpus, vice president of marketing, Gardener’s Edge

Laying the groundwork for digital

Amy Domer, senior e-commerce administrator, A.M. Leonard.

Amy Domer, senior e-commerce administrator, A.M. Leonard.

As a web business, Gardener’s Edge lives and dies by the searchers that visit and purchase from its site. On average, Gardener’s Edge gets 3,000 visitors a day to its website while A.M. Leonard receives closer to 12,000. Approximately 1,500 people look at the Gardener’s Edge online catalog every month.

The site’s audience derives from several different sources. First come loyal customers who know the brand and visit the site out of familiarity with Gardener’s Edge products. This audience provides the steadiest flow of income.

Second come the people who arrive through an organic search for a particular type of yard or garden tool, piece of outdoor furniture, accent, apparel and so on. Although growing quickly, organic search doesn’t offer the same degree of control and responsiveness enabled by advertising.

This brings us to paid search advertising. As an untapped audience, paid search serves as a primary vehicle that the company depends on for growth.

Gardener’s Edge could have handled paid search and search engine optimization (SEO) marketing on its own, but that would have taken a large chunk out of the day for the staff of five. “We have a smaller marketing team here than probably a lot of places do,” Domer admits. “But I think that's also what makes it fun and challenging.”

So Gardener’s Edge turned to Wheelhouse Digital Marketing Group (DMG), a Seattle-based digital agency. “We consider Wheelhouse DMG to be an extension of our team,” Corpus shares. “We essentially divide and conquer with them. We give them the big strategic themes for the year, which they’re very, very good at translating into a digital marketing strategy.” A large part of that strategy involves Bing Ads.

Nurturing paid search

The Bing Ads figures for Gardener’s Edge

The Bing Ads figures for Gardener’s Edge

“We recommend Bing Ads and Google AdWords for the same reason — to maximize traffic and revenues within the value that each have to offer,” says David Kennedy, vice president of digital advertising at Wheelhouse DMG. “For Gardener’s Edge, we find the traffic driven from Bing to be slightly more valuable than from other engines. Another area of growth really over these past few years has been the implementation of new ad extensions of which we have definitely tried to take advantage.”

When both companies first got together, Wheelhouse DMG walked Gardener’s Edge through the advantages of Bing Ads for its particular situation. “They basically told us that with the people we want to reach, Bing Ads would provide a really good option,” Corpus says.

The target audience for Gardener’s Edge is women age 45 years and over. Older audiences tend to rely more on desktops. With Windows Edge being the default web browser on Windows PCs, having a presence on the Bing Network becomes that much more important. “There are a lot of folks who have computers where Bing is their default search engine,” Corpus says. “So, if we want to meet them where they are, we have to use it. We’ve got to be there.”

A statistical marker that the marketing team uses concerns return on ad spend (ROAS). Bing Ads consistently scores very well in the category. For Gardener’s Edge, this drives the company to add budget to its Bing Ads spend. Whereas many companies budget a certain amount of money each month, Corpus and Domer focus on following the success. “If something’s providing you value, keep going,” Corpus says. “We don’t set hard limits on spending, rather, we focus on the return and value that it is providing."

Growing with Bing Ads

Pushing Corpus even more toward the Bing Network is the growth he’s seen with the platform. “I think that the improvements they've made over the last couple of years have made it way, way better,” Corpus says.

For whatever reason a company chooses to use Bing Ads, Corpus feels that in the end, all that matters is that Bing delivers. “Demographically it’s brought us a lot of the exact customers that we really want,” Corpus says.” Bing Ads gets us out in front of people who may not know us, but to whom we want to reach. I think, honestly, it's kind of a grassroots thing that way.”

To companies thinking about using Bing, Corpus thinks they need to realize the value of the Bing audience. “Your customers are on Bing,” Corpus says. “Trust me, they’re there. Our philosophy is that every search has a value. And that value is then correlated into the success of our company.”

See a summary

Read how horticulture retailer Gardener’s Edge uses ad extensions and the Bing Ads platform for continued growth.

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