Comms case study: Tech-focused marketer helps garden center grow

by | Aug 18, 2017 | Analysis, Public Relations

You probably think of plants, dirt and fertilizer when you think of a garden center. While Apple Valley, Minn.-based Pahl’s Market has those things, they also offer a lot more, such as locally grown produce and landscaping services.

To help them tell their story, they enlisted the help of Jason Kocina, president of Burnsville, Minn.-based Checkerboard Strategic Web Development. Kocina has a passion for all things digital, so he took a high-tech approach to this farm-focused business. And using his family’s storytelling roots, he helped Pahl’s boost their sales without losing their down-home charm.

You can’t care for your entire yard with a single shovel, nor can you promote a garden center with a single tool. Successful marketing campaigns need more than just a few, well-designed ads. That’s why Kocina took an integrated approach to marketing this family-owned business. He used Pahl’s website, social media channels and email list, and also implemented publicity and digital advertising campaigns. His goals were to increase store traffic and boost sales of Pahl’s Community Supported Agriculture program.

One strategy was to turn their website into a trusted resource. He worked with the Pahl’s team to develop an online plant library with more than 1,500 listings and dozens of informative blogs on gardening topics. Kocina then used multiple techniques to drive people to this resource and join the Pahl’s network. For example, he used search engine optimization techniques to make sure the website earned top spots on web searches. He also conducted a targeted digital advertising campaign to reach people who would be most interested in Pahl’s products and services. Over a six-month period Kocina and his team ran hundreds of ads, continually fine tuning until they found the most effective and budget-friendly promotions.

Kocina believes that ads work more effectively when paired with authentic content. He should know—his parents own Burnsville-based Media Relations Agency, a marketing agency known internationally for their unique storytelling campaigns. Kocina called on his family’s expertise to help the Pahl’s share their family story. This resulted in a social media campaign that featured heart-warming pictures of the Pahl’s Golden Retriever Chex alongside invitations to events, links to resources and tactfully worded sales pitches. Another campaign regularly placed Pahl’s experts on local TV sharing their gardening know-how.

As a result of these initiatives, the Pahl’s network grew exponentially. Their email list blossomed from 7,000 to more than 25,000 subscribers, and their Facebook page grew by more than 9,000 followers. Traffic to their website skyrocketed.

This resulted in a 350 percent increase sales over the previous year, shattering the market’s goal. “The work completed by Checkerboard was amazing,” said Jason Himmel Wright, Pahl’s Nursery/Landscape manager. Kocina’s team has now helped Pahl’s Market meet their sales goals for three years straight. Himmel Wright explains, “We are impressed with their level of service and commitment to helping us achieve our goals.”

Soft-spoken and curious, Kocina has always had an interest in technology. In 1995, he began working in the family business, helping many businesses create their first websites. “I’ve always been fascinated by the internet,” he says. “I look at it as being akin to the Gutenberg press. This 15th century invention was revolutionary. It enabled printed information to be produced inexpensively and quickly. It forever changed mass communication. The internet is doing that today. It spreads information far and wide, and more efficiently than ever before. It has put unbelievable amounts of information at our fingertips. The world will never be the same.”

Through the years, Kocina has maintained his excitement for all things digital, turning Checkerboard into an award-winning digital marketing company. He assembled a team of equally tech-savvy, inquisitive professionals to help implement digital marketing campaigns and build WordPress-based websites. Most of all, Kocina enjoys keeping up with the rapid-fire changes in digital marketing and showing clients how the latest advancements can help them meet their business needs. “I love showing clients the technological possibilities. Regardless of the industry, there’s a digital tool which can help them reach more customers. I never get tired of finding ways to bridge business with technology.”

The Checkerboard website features a more detailed case study about their work with Pahl’s Market.

Heather Champine
Heather Champine is Partner and Vice President of Media Production at Media Relations Agency. She thrives on pursuing creative ways to educate consumers about clients’ products, and ultimately inspiring them to buy.