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Strolling the botanical gardens at Alnwick Castle, it’s easy to let the mind drift away and imagine a different time, with knights, dragons, kaleidoscope skies and fairies swirling around your head.

Wait, that didn’t happen… you probably just sniffed pollen from a datura plant growing along the path and succumbed to it’s LSD-like effects.

attraction marketing

Yes, Alnwick Castle–Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films and the backdrop to a Downton Abbey episode–has a Poison Garden, and it gets 800,000 visitors a year.

Talk about being different…

This Is Serious Organic Traffic

Britons have always been fascinated with gardens. A recent survey found that British homeowners will plunk down £30,000 for their garden over the course of their lifetime.

That’s a lot of money.

And with Britons willing to spend that kind of money on a garden, it’s easy to understand how a recent estimate of the number of tourists visiting English gardens puts the number at 11.1 million people per year.

There are literally hundreds of botanical gardens in the UK, all competing for some of that massive tourist volume.

So with that much competition, how does a single garden capture more than 7% of the “garden traffic” all by itself?

Standing Out In A Crowded Room

Poison Garden using attraction marketing

The Duchess of Northumberland markets her garden by making its attractions fatal to her visitors… Now that’s marketing against the grain! Photo by Steve F – Modified to fit page – Licensed under Creative Commons

The garden’s creator, Jane Percy, the Duchess of Northumberland, was inspired by the Medici family’s poison garden in Padua, and decided that something similar was needed as one of her famous castle’s attractions.

She told the Smithsonian, “One of the things I hate in this day and age is the standardisation of everything. I thought, ‘Let’s try and do something really different’.”

Think about that. To be different, the Duchess decided to plant a garden full of plants that could seriously impair or kill each of its visitors. And decided that would be a good business decision.

It worked.

That against-the-grain thinking brings her garden 800,000 visitors per year… with ticket prices ranging between £10.45-£12.10 for adult visitors… All to view plants that can kill every guest.

The Poison Garden isn’t like any of the other hundreds of botanical gardens in the UK…

  • It’s different…
  • It’s beautiful…
  • It can kill you…

Methinks there’s something to be learned from this.

What Can You Do To Separate Yourself From Your Competition?

If you think about it, the Poison Garden is just another garden– with toxic plants.

Competition is fierce and the prize is large… (if all 800,000 visitors paid the lower end of the price range, the garden would be grossing over £8.3 million per year).

There are literally hundreds of competitors in her geographic area, all vying for the same traffic.

The Duchess just went about it in a different way.

I can’t remember who said it, but the saying goes that the secret to success is observing where the herd is going, then moving in the opposite direction.

It doesn’t get any more common than a garden. And if the Duchess can come up with a unique garden offer, there has to be an angle you can take with your own business.

This doesn’t mean you need to be your local market’s Mattress King, or some other gimmicky angle… But there has to be something unique about what you do.

Let’s Come Up With Some Ideas…

Are you a dentist in Nashville?

Well, perhaps your angle is that you create smiles for country music royalty… smiles that are perfect for the red carpet, the Grand Ole Opry, or the front of US Weekly.

If you create an experience that hyper-successful entertainers appreciate and enjoy–would that make a difference in your business?

Do you think other people would be interested in getting the “star treatment”?

I think so… and you could raise your prices accordingly.

Do you run an office cleaning service in San Francisco?

Maybe you become the green, sustainable office cleaning service: only using natural cleaning products… adding essential oils to carpet powder before vacuuming to produce a pleasant, aromatherapy-like experience for the office-dwellers…

In that market, you know sustainability is a big deal… If you offered sustainable cleaning services that also add a therapeutic element to it, I’m thinking you could create a loyal, happy following of long-term clients.

Wrapping Up

Those are just a few ideas off the top of my head, but the point is to be different.

Be unique.

Be good, of course, but don’t be like everybody else.

Now go!

And be sure to let me know of any unique angles you come up with for your business. I’d love to hear about it!



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