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What business lessons can be learnt from The Chelsea Flower Show?



From the 24th through to the 28th May 2016, 157,000 people will stream through the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea enjoying the delights of the annual RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Since 1862, this iconic event has grown in stature becoming the UK’s and possibly the world’s most famous flower show.

But what makes generation after generation fall in love with the show and how does the RHS ensure tickets are sold out way in advance?

Are there any business lessons that can be learnt from the show regardless of what industry you work within and what clever strategies does the RHS employ to ensure they remain ‘best in show’ for years to come?


Cross-pollination helps build partnerships and allows you to grow

There is no doubting the symbiotic business relationship that has developed over the years within the show. Vast corporate budgets are now spent as big business targets the captive audiences who are happy to pay over £60 a ticket per day to admire the 11 acres of flowers and foliage.

Since 2010, M&G Investments has been title sponsors of the show and their current contract runs until 2017. Jacqui Haskins, M&G’s Marketing Director, explains why sponsoring the show is a natural fit for their company:

“Working with the RHS over the last seven years as the exclusive sponsor of the world’s greatest flower show and charity gala has been a great success for both parties. There are some strong similarities in the work we do at M&G and the work of the RHS, and this has only enhanced our partnership together. At M&G, we pride ourselves on nurturing talent and taking a long-term view – both key components that can be applied to horticulture and garden design.”

When it comes to your business, look for partnerships and complementary businesses within your industry. Look at how you can help other brands grow, whilst also boosting your own client list, credibility and profits in the process.


Don’t be a shrinking violet when it comes to social media

One of the reasons the Chelsea Flower Show is still a resounding success is due to their ability to move with the times. As the social media industry has developed so has the show’s ability to use each social media platform to its advantage.

The RHS has a Facebook company page, a Twitter account, a g+ company page, a YouTube channel, a Pinterest account and an Instagram one. Each one can and is used in different ways to pre-promote the event, offering sneak peaks that build momentum for the show, whilst also hosting more general advice. They are active every day and offer a wide range of content.

By using the RHS social media platforms the event is able to access an already engaged audience. However, it also works hard at increasing its reach by posting wider ranging content. It has its own #RHSChelsea hashtag which is being used prolifically by other users to help spread the word. It is also actively promoting other content through retweeting and sharing of content.


Be topical, relevant and reactive

Every year the show exhibits gardens that tap into topical issues and subjects that people feel passionate about. This year is no exception with one such garden tackling the controversial subject of modern-day slavery. Juliet Sargent is making her Chelsea debut in The Fresh Gardens and is aiming to raise awareness of the 13,000 slaves currently living in the UK today, as well as the 27 million worldwide. She will represent the struggle with two contrasting atmospheres: empty, lifeless and black inside; colourful and open on the outside. The open doors and path will represent the way to freedom for modern slaves.

On a lighter note, this year the RHS patron, HM the Queen, is celebrating her 90th birthday. The show will mark the occasion by including photographic exhibits and a floral arch.

By offering exhibits that are relevant to the world around us the Chelsea Flower Show retains its appeal and helps make them newsworthy. This is something we can all learn from – if you listen to what your industry and customers are saying to you, you prove you understand their needs and concerns.


Don’t be afraid of a cross-sell opportunity

If you go onto the RHS website there are numerous ways you can part with more money. Whether you want to buy a mug, tea towel, tea tray, bag, t-shirt, fridge magnet or postcard every purchase increases revenue for the RHS.

And when you’re at the show, there are even more ways to spend, spend, spend. It is impossible not to be inspired when walking around the exhibits so the RHS are more than happy to tempt you to buy plants for your own garden. After all, you’re a fairly captive audience.

But they don’t just stop at the obvious; the RHS cross-sell their other events as well as offering membership to the RHS itself.

Have you explored your own cross-sell strategy this comprehensively?

So, has this inspired you to look at the way you conduct your business? Surely all of us can take something away from this prestigious and remarkable event, whilst also enjoying pretty flowers and gorgeous gardens.

We’re interested to know what you think. Have you been to the Chelsea Flower Show before? Did any business lessons strike you whilst you were there? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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