August 8-10, 2023 | Wisconsin Center | Milwaukee, WI

Collaboration: The IGC’s Key to Success

No one business can capture every single customer. We all have a niche to fill, and we can coexist. As many small businesses slash marketing budgets, consider joining with other local IGCs to run ads together on a "support local businesses" theme.

It might seem counterintuitive, but your competition can be your best collaborator. While you might be competing for customers with other local IGCs, the fact is that IGC customers, even loyal, repeat customers, frequent multiple shops. They know which IGC carries which products. They know where to go for seasonal decorations and where to go for advice about their tomato plants. And that’s fine. No one business can capture every single customer. We all have a niche to fill, and we can coexist.

We are all in this industry together, and our main competition isn’t the IGC on the other side of town. It’s the big-box store that many consumers turn to by default or the website that is just more convenient than driving to a store. So the next time a customer asks for a product you don’t carry, you could recommend they visit the ICG across town rather than leave them to order it from Amazon or drive to Home Depot.

There is room in just about any market for more than one IGC, and the best we can do is to support one another and thrive together. We can do this by raising awareness together about what IGCs provide and how we differ from those big box stores. As many small businesses slash marketing budgets in the face of inflation and high costs, consider joining with other local IGCs to run ads together on a “support local businesses” theme, highlighting all of the benefits of shopping at a local, independent business.

IGCs can also collaborate by holding workshops for gardening or caring for houseplants together. These kinds of events create a sense of community, cooperation, and goodwill around gardening and can help make each business stronger as you share ideas and customers.

Finally, working with, and not against, other local IGCs allows for greater civic advocacy, whether on behalf of your customers or your industry. You might already be a member of a retail organization, but even coming together informally with other IGCs can make a difference in matters of local government.

Even though it seems like we’re all competing for the same dollar, we can strengthen our business, and our industry as a whole, by coming together as ICGs, educating consumers, and building community. Because education, community, and care for our customers are what set us apart and make us worth shopping at.

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