I love marketing. I love strategy. Good thing because marketing is all strategy. In the roar of today’s deafening marketplace, you can’t say something just once, or even twice. And never in the same way. Marketing today is a series of actions, taking place consistently over time, over a series of channels. I’m happy to share this marketing case study with you. It’s a great illustration of the ongoing work it takes and the team effort needed between your in-house staff and marketing agency to build your ideal audience and get your message to them!
But First, Coffee!
This is a longer blog than usual. I suggest enjoying it with a cup of coffee. It’s on me!
Print it out or take it into Starbucks on your phone. But hurry, it won’t last long!
Ready? Let’s get to it!
PS All photo credits are at the end of the blog.
Meet Sarah Zahran and Laila Elsherif
Even if you are not a floral designer, the marketing issues that face this mother-daughter team who own XO Bloom are very similar to those that most small, creative entrepreneurs have or will face.
A brick-and-mortar shop, in two years they have dealt with relocating to a completely new area to a business name change, from attracting new business to expanding services to meet client needs. They’ve been intrepid in their marketing efforts and we’ve used all channels available – public relations, social media, advertising and face-to-face opportunities.
With all of this rich soil for marketing, I asked Sarah, a friend and a client, if she was open to my doing a marketing case study blog. She was and here it is! Got your coffee?
The Background …
XO Bloom is a retail flower shop in Westlake Village’s (California) upscale Plaza. Next door is a Mendocino Farms and on the other side, a Dry Bar. Local celebrities often stop in, but because the shop is so far outside of Los Angeles (with its very significant traffic barriers), marketing to a wide clientele has proven difficult, although far from impossible. However, the tony communities of Ventura, Conejo Valley, Calabasas and even Santa Barbara are easily within reach.
Some more background that goes to their marketing structure … When Sarah and Laila moved to this area in 2015 from West Hollywood, the store was under a different name; that of another design firm that Sarah had been part of for the better part of a decade. In 2016, the partnership dissolved and Sarah and Laila changed the name of the business to XO Bloom. At that point, they went through the complete rebranding that goes with a name change and began to market the new company, as well as try to get the word out that Sarah was no longer with the other company.
In addition to event floral design and traditional floral delivery services, the business also features a DIY flower bar. This is a space where people can come in, make their own flowers, learn about flowers and also have flower-making parties. It’s a great way for the store to differentiate itself, introduce its work to new clients, and bring customers into the retail area. And it’s been working beautifully as such. But, of course, marketing the classes is ongoing as is coming up with new ideas for classes to keep it fresh.
To recap, here are the areas that simultaneously need to always be marketing and promoted…
- New name, new geographic location (many people still know Sarah from her past company)
- The retail store
- The DIY flower bar and its classes almost every weekend
- Traditional florist services such as delivery
- Off-premise floral design for weddings and events
The Strategy …
The first question when looking at a multi-pronged marketing case study as this: What brings in the most money?
In this case, the question is also what costs the most for you to run?
Answer: The store has the highest overhead but the greatest potential as a marketing vehicle. So that is where all marketing efforts begin with all others radiating from it.
Marketing the store
This entails the DIY Flower Bar, the retail merchandise, monthly classes at the bar, and traditional services such as delivery.
- Instagram: When we began working with XO Bloom last May, their Instagram had 752 followers. Today they have 3,759. Instagram is a blog onto itself (or several), but basically, growth was a combination of both my team posting and Sarah and her team posting. Before Instagram changed its algorithms my “strategy” was to run at least six photos from an event, walking the follower through an event from the entrance to the final goodbye; showing color palette, flowers, tabletop, and giving back to all the creative partners. But social media is fluid and we change when it changes! Now, we will be choosing five categories — classes, events, weddings, silks, delivery and gift items — and posting about 2-3 photos, each a contained “story.” It’s all about content and the quality of it and how much other people will share it … just like Facebook! (No surprise here now that Facebook owns Instagram.) In the photo above, a random sampling of Instagram posts promoting a seminar, a pop up shop, a celebrity (Mel B… aka Scary Spice) stopping by, and a DIY flower class.
- Instagram Stories from DIY classes and from high-end events for clients such as Tesla and Bentley are done by Sarah onsite, then my team can pick up later when photos come in. Instagram stories enables us to take viewers to not only store events, but weddings, floral delivery and Sarah’s life.
- Facebook: We post separately and don’t the run the same content at the same time as Instagram so it doesn’t bug those who watch the same channels. And it more important, it doesn’t bug Facebook or Instagram! So on Facebook, we run a few more personal touches about Sarah and Laila. We do some “emotion” posts and other posts Facebook likes. Facebook also likes it when you spend money. We have not done much, but we’ve run a few Facebook ads at holiday times to drive traffic to the blog, and to landing pages for contests. Entrants had to sign up with emails allowing us to keep the email list fresh and current.
- Twitter … Used to promote classes and local happenings with hashtags aimed at their immediate surrounding area.
- Note: Flower delivery and arrangements were also promoted on all social media, in addition to some giveaways on Facebook.
- When there is a class on the weekend, emails go out twice a week. The first one on Wednesday for a Saturday class, and then, as most people might be sitting around with family on a Friday night or Saturday morning wondering what to do during the weekend, we send one out those times, alternating from week to week. As you might imagine, we have very good response from those.
- Then we send a newsletter once a month giving entertaining tips, promoting a creative partner or showcasing photos from events.
- Print advertising was important in the beginning to build relationships, get email lists and editorial stories. XO Bloom placed ads in wedding magazines that are known for their partnership abilities. In addition, they forged relationships with the chamber and local chapters of groups such as Association of Bridal Consultants, Tuesday’s Together/Rising Tide and WIPA.
- Note: We didn’t do Google ad words as we wanted to rank higher in organic content. We concentrated more on creating content links with blogs and articles in the print magazines. However, this may change as XO Bloom decided to forgo a blog when they redid their website. That decision is still being considered and we’ll evaluate it in six months.
PR / Media Outreach
- This piece is more about marketing than PR (a blog on the difference between the two is coming soon!) but PR, or media outreach, is part of any campaign. Weddings, photos shoots, trend stories, business stories,, all were sent to appropriate press with great results thanks to the beautiful photos. And of course, media coverage is then marketed through social media channels and email marketing.
Promotional Parties — Face to Face Opportunities with Community / Clients
- An opening party with California Wedding Day, a media partner, gave Sarah and Laila a lot of great photos and coverage.
- Months later, when the business was renamed, XO Bloom had a launch party with the Chamber of Commerce. This was a different audience and did very well with local tie ins to different businesses such as Bentley.
- Flowers with XO Bloom’s card in them are placed weekly in select stores in the plaza.
- When Soul Cycle, the ultra hip spin studio, opened around the corner from the shop, they offered a spin event for clients and XO Bloom friends. Sarah and Laila took them up on it, inviting everyone and providing floral jewelry — bracelets and hairbands that everyone wore. PS they did very well in the heat! A final photo with everyone was perfect for social media to show another side of XO Bloom and its connection to the community.
- Several vendors and Sarah have created day-long pop up shops. They were advertised through Instagram and Facebook.
- An invitation to dinners in the store to best customers have been held sporadically but would be nice to increase. Everyone loves dinner in a unique setting!
- When Soolip, a well-known lifestyle brand and stationer, opened in Westlake Village, the owner Wanda Wen, and Sarah struck up a friendship that led to XO Bloom carrying a series of her cards in the store. Creating partnerships is vital, as is creating a presence and name recognition with Soolip’s LA clientele and the friendship has been a nice one.
- An idea floated out there and still on the table is to partner with a high-end Westlake hotel for an overnight “familiarization” or “fam” trip with prospective clients in the corporate and wedding markets. This would show off the area and its amenities (the hotel and spa, XO Bloom for classes and flowers, wine tasting, etc.) This is definitely something of interest, but the right time hasn’t come up. In the meantime, XO Bloom does flowers for their events and both give shout outs on social media. It’s important with marketing ideas such as these to continually revisit them. The time might not be right today, but perfect tomorrow! Never say never.
Other Marketing Efforts
Video Opportunities :: Sarah was approached by a local realtor who does videos of stores and people who help her sell the area to new clients. They are working on a wine and flower making video this month. Once it’s finishes the realtor will market to her audience and we’ll market it to Sarah’s.
DIY flower bar and classes :: An old-fashioned blackboard outside the shop promotes “Happy hour at the flower bar” with happy hour prices and specials (above). And, to switch it up, Sarah tried a cake decorating class that did really well.
In store Seminars :: A series of in-store seminars was designed to attract different audiences. An example that worked really well for the wedding and event marketing was an “Up Close and Personal;” seminar with Nikki Khan, owner of Exquisite Events, who imparted her lessons of high-end wedding planning to an intimate audience. Another was a romance seminar designed for a local audience. This really worked for walk-in customers as well! There are a lot of restaurants in the plazas so being open and having an event at night was great exposure to new clients.
At this point, you might be asking about ROI in terms of dollars. As many of you know, ROI is not easy to track with things like press, promotional events, newsletters and community outreach. Numbers are important, but they can’t always be captured. Certainly we do this with targeted campaigns and social media, and we take the numbers seriously. However, my approach to marketing is what I call Brand Therapy — that marketing and PR are holistic components of business that are part of the day-to-day thoughts and actions, like making coffee! Plus, every business has its own objectives, goals, and style and these could even change during the course of time based on clientele or shifts in focus from the business owners.
Bottom line … marketing gives back an ROI — I call “return on intention” — that can be powerful. When everyone involved (and it is a team effort!) has clear, strong intentions that all work towards the same goal, the results are cumulative and very effective.
I hope you enjoyed this blog and a coffee on me! Feel free to reach out with any questions you have on any of the campaigns we’ve been doing with XO Bloom. I always love chatting about all things marketing!
- The store. Gloria Mesa Photography
- Flower bar at XO Bloom mixed with birthday party at the flower bar. Gloria Mesa Photography, Embracing Life Photography
- Photo shoot at the Bel Air Bay Club. Photography: Katrina Jayne Photography
- Instagram, variety of photos from Exquisite Events, and others by XO Bloom
- Charley Bluebell wedding, Photos: Embracing Life Photography
- Photo shoot at Westlake Village Four Seasons. Photos: Gloria Mesa Photography
- All others courtesy of XO Bloom