How do you use the potentially slow time between December through February? If you have a snow removal service, you’re busy with the white side of your lawn care and landscape business. But, if you’re not busy with snow services (or even if you are) remember to spend the time to work on your marketing plan for your company’s green side come Spring.
Between December and February, the post-holiday period is a great time to sit down and review your marketing budget to see what types of marketing has reaped the most rewards for you. If you have a team to discuss your marketing plans with, the new year is an ideal time to do so.
Kelly Dowell, founder of green industry marketing and consulting agency Keldo Digital in St. Louis, MO, points out that you should not start planning your marketing for the new year in the spring when everyone is already busy with yard cleanups and other landscaping services.
“The Spring is not the time to be planning. Starting now is the most effective. If you don’t have someone on the team who can come up with a content plan or a marketing calendar, then hire a consultant to go through that with you,” Dowell explains.
She points out that you’ll at least have a plan going into the new year, and then you can execute it with your team at the appropriate time.
Jay Worth, marketing manager for Tomlinson Bomberger Lawn Care and Landscape in Lancaster, PA, uses print ads as well as digital advertising for getting the word out about Spring lawn services. “Each year, I do an exercise where I look at every single channel that we spent money on, and I weigh that against the sales and see how many leads we got from that channel,” he says.
Worth explains that the people who answer the company’s phones always ask why the sales prospects called. As he puts it, “They could have found Tomlinson Bomberger’s phone number anywhere—the Yellow Pages, the side of our trucks, or a lawn sign. We want to know why they called us when they had so many choices—that helps us know what’s working as far as our advertising is concerned.”
For Worth, the reason for calling gets to the heart of why folks choose Tomlinson Bomberger over the competition.
“So, every year, I sit down, and I look to see what I spent on magazine ads. What did I get out of it? This is what I spent on Google Ads. What did I get out of it?” he says.
Conversely, Wayne Volz, owner of Wayne’s Lawn Service, Inc., as well as his Profits Unlimited consulting business, in Louisville, KY, emphasizes that commercial lawn care and landscaping companies should start by defining their long- and short-term goals for their business. “A contractor needs to have a plan,” he says. “It’s like getting into a car and driving. We can’t drive without a steering wheel. To decide what we’re going to do with marketing in the Spring, we need to think about the goal that we want to accomplish with our marketing.”
Jack Jostes, President and CEO of the Ramblin Jackson landscape marketing firm based in Boulder, CO and author of the Amazon best-selling book, Get FOUND Online: The Local Business Owner’s Guide to Digital Marketing, also suggests taking a fresh look at the photos on your website.
Jostes says, “Lawn and landscape companies can prepare for Spring by doing a ‘fall cleanup’ of the photos that are on their website and also Google, Facebook, Yelp, and Houzz listings.”
He suggests that you cull photos of small jobs and services you don’t provide anymore. Says Jostes, “Remove those old photos and replace them with more current photographs of the types of projects you actually want.”
While most green industry companies had their advertising and marketing in place for 2020, COVID-19 hit right before the Spring growing season.
While some homeowners lost their jobs, everyone was stuck at home in quarantine and browsing the Internet.
Volz needed to change how he sold his lawn care and landscaping services from March through June 2020. Typically, his sales team uses cold calling and meeting clients in person to discuss their lawn care and landscaping needs.
“From a sales perspective, we no longer were cold calling our commercial clients. We just had to stop. We gave our commercial clients the courtesy of not doing any in-person meetings, which for us, being in business for 41 years, was quite a change,” recalls Volz.
Meanwhile, Worth recognized that most people were online, streaming TV shows, or using their DVR to record their favorite television programs. Any TV ads that Tomlinson Bomberger invested in for the Spring ended up being a wash.
Jostes, from Ramblin Jackson, believes that the marketing lessons from last Spring should motivate owners to market their green industry companies in 2021. Jostes notes that the green industry should expect to continue to see demand in the new year.
“The government shutdowns of the economy have increased the amount of time people will spend at home while decreasing travel, so homeowners will continue to invest in their homes and gardens to create a more desirable place to live,” Jostes explains.
Dowell of Keldo Digital encourages lawn care and landscape businesses to focus on branding in 2021 through LinkedIn and Facebook. “For a lot of my clients, they developed their personal brand on LinkedIn, and it’s been extremely successful.”
Dowell recommends spending less time on your company’s LinkedIn page and more time developing your brand on the social media channel. “Develop yourself as a thought leader and the leader of your company. People like to know more about people; not more about your company necessarily,” she explains.
As to Facebook, Dowell encourages investment in Facebook ads—they still work. She also recommends “A” versus “B” testing with your Facebook messaging. Put up two different marketing messages and see which one gets the best response or generates the most leads. “You can run marketing campaigns for a shorter time to see how they fare, tweak either the content or the media, and then rerun it,” she explains.
“Facebook is a great place to experiment, but I’m not sold on it if you have a very small marketing budget. So, it’s a case-by-case basis on its success,” says Dowell. She recommends Google AdWords, that while still pricey, provides good leads. And, professional photos and videos are a must-have for 2021. Dowell says to find a professional that can regularly visit your business, say once a month, to take photos or make a video.
Volz of Wayne’s Lawn Service, Inc. and Profits Unlimited, encourages investment in technology in 2021, such as design software. Companies that still use pen and paper should avoid that practice and use technology for efficiency and professionalism.
“There are things that we can do from a technology standpoint, and we’re doing quite a bit, but there’s always another level,” he says. “We need to get out of our comfort zone and trust technology.”
Jostes says websites can be transformed into an online salesperson. “Write out longer-form content and produce video content to help your customers understand how they can buy from you. Sharing information like your pricing, process, timelines, and FAQs online will not only help your customer feel more informed and trusting, but also free up time for your staff to deal with the increase in demand,” he says.
Worth of Tomlinson Bomberger plans to continue digital marketing and make a concerted effort to have staff visit customers’ properties to determine other of benefit. “It increases our sales numbers and helps with retention. It’s easier to keep an old client than to find a new one,” he says. “Last year, we couldn’t get out to people’s properties because of COVID—we didn’t want to freak out our customers with strangers showing up on their properties checking for things.”
Ongoing COVID vaccination means more people will be going back to work. Clients will need your services to keep their properties looking their best.
Take stock, set a marketing budget, and create a content plan for 2021. Get working on it now during the Winter months before the Spring growing season begins.
Komancheck has a passion for helping small- to medium-size green industry companies succeed. She writes blogs and web copy for garden design, landscape maintenance, and lawn care companies. You can learn more about her here.
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