“When I joined, Bing Ads was a very small piece of the pie. Since then, the growth has been really quite remarkable.” — Vice President of Marketing Michael Sabia, From You Flowers
When Michael Sabia arrived at From You Flowers in 2011, the mandate was clear. “Grow the business, essentially,” he remembers with a laugh.
The vice president of marketing was one of many new hires at that time, brought into the parent company Tenth Avenue Commerce and set up in a new Manhattan office. From You Flowers had been founded a decade earlier by CEO Michael Chapin, but between the acquisition that spurred the mandate and the floral industry’s rapidly evolving online embrace, Sabia had his work cut out for him.
“Mike Chapin had built a sturdy foundation that I knew was ripe for growth,” Sabia recalls, and with a paid search background in the agency realm, he knew that a search program can only be as good as the business it promotes. “All this company needed was dedication to growth efforts, leading with the direct marketing channels that drive most of the floral industry growth — which is paid search marketing.”
Building a young (at 34, Sabia is an elder statesman), smart, analytical-minded team, the company cultivated a startup feel while maximizing efficiency and effectiveness. The result, Sabia says, is a job he loves with a company that works hard and plays hard.
“We have a ping-pong table and a shuffleboard table in the office,” beams Sabia. “Our CEO has outings with us and takes us out on a boat. We have potlucks. Personal time requests are not met with a whole lot of resistance — the company wants you to do what you need to do to live the life you want to live.
“And oh yeah,” he laughs. “We also have mandatory fun.”
More about that innovative concept later, but first Sabia needs to address the victories that make possible such spoils.
“While integrating insightful business intelligence and analytics practices, our customer relationship management, organic marketing, email marketing, back of business and operational systems that go into fulfilling orders all began to become more sophisticated,” he says with pride. “Adding to this was growing momentum, triggered by growth through our business acquisitions.”
“Things started to add up: momentum, dollars, orders, revenue, brand experience, brand recognition,” he marvels. “The snowball continued to grow, to a point where now here we are in 2016 having grown substantially year over year for four-and-a-half consecutive years — we're talking 40, 50, up to 60 percent growth year over year since 2011.”
Parallel to the rapid growth of From You Flowers has been the company’s relationship with Bing Ads. “When I joined, Bing Ads was a very small piece of the pie,” Sabia recalls. “Since then, the growth has been really quite remarkable.”
The numbers, as shared by the company, tell the story:
Using Bing Shopping Campaigns, From You Flowers has been able to easily manage, prioritize and ultimately monetize its campaigns. “I put it to everybody like this when I talk about PPC and flowers,” Sabia explains. “Prior to the Internet, people went to a phonebook; some ad or some callout just caught their attention.”
Nowadays, when it comes to marketing the floral industry, the more things have changed, the more they’ve stayed the same. “In the 21st century, that phonebook is Bing and Google,” he reasons. “So, what we do is try to catch the eye of that phonebook mindset. Users are looking for very specific information, which is hopefully going to trigger them to select you as being the first advertiser, the first vendor that they're going to try to interact with to see if you're viable. “
“In Bing Ads, the click-through rate is such a strong indicator of success with Bing Shopping Campaigns — users are literally voting on an image of a product and a price that will suit them,” Sabia continues. “So, what we attempt to do is find the products that resonate with the largest market.”
Once that wide-net approach has reeled in a prospective buyer, the company’s analytics take over. “For instance, a user that is going to buy flowers for a multitude of reasons will search on a keyword or term ‘flower delivery,’” he says, giving an example. “In that bucket, you have a sympathy buyer, you have a birthday purchaser, you have an anniversary guy. You have a huge group of people that are purchasing for different reasons and want different products. But we can't predictively know that based on their search query, because they only searched on ‘flower delivery.’”
At this point, Sitelink Extensions also come into play. Sitelink Extensions allow Sabia and the team to display various occasions, promotions and holiday specials that are key to the floral industry — then facilitate direct user navigation.
With Bing Shopping Campaigns, such broad searches can be used to their advantage. “What we do is analyze which products fit in all of those buckets and are being sold for all those different reasons, and those are the ones we promote through Bing Shopping Campaigns,” he explains, praising the trial-and-error approach facilitated by Bing’s ease of use. “Those products, in turn, are the ones we know will drive the highest click-through rate.”
Once you’ve got those clicks, Sabia explains, it’s just a matter of making sure that your business can deliver — in the case of a florist, quite literally.
“We hang our hat on being the best-value florist; we're going to give you the best quality for the lowest price, and we're going to do it in a way that if you have any trouble whatsoever, we're going to make sure that you're happy,” he says of the company. “We're extremely attentive to our customer experience and make sure that we do the absolute best we can; consumers want an efficient, economically friendly vendor to fulfill their floral orders. We give them that.”
Such growth and success leave Sabia and the rest of the young, hard-working crew with a much-needed opportunity to blow off steam. If you’re a friend or relative during the “Super Bowl” holidays of the floral industry — Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day — don’t expect to get a prompt return phone call. The company typically creates a “war room” environment, where everyone moves into a conference room for a week or longer, working around the clock.
“Valentine's Day is a gigantic monkey wrench in every system that you can think of; it is a tense, anxious, stressful, unpredictable holiday,” he explains. “We have a Sonos system in the war room, and we all contribute to the music that gets played. We’ll play celebratory music when we cross certain milestones of orders per hour, orders in the day, orders for the year, orders for the month, that type of thing.”
When these big holidays go well, you can bet that the music is playing loud at From You Flowers. “The best feeling is after a strong Mother's Day, when you have the summer coming, it's a sigh of relief,” he explains of such moments, when the ping-pong table can be dusted off and the company’s “mandatory fun” concept can be embraced.
“You know, when I tell people what I do, they ask me if I’m a florist,” he adds. “No, I say, it’s about marketing, e-commerce, a part of the new millennial lifestyle. You don't think about these things on the surface — but if you were to interact with a few of our team members, you'd be left feeling like we’re a pretty unique story.”