With warmer weather approaching, U.S. homeowners and building managers are beginning to think about getting their green spaces in shape once more. Is your landscape business ready for the season? How’s your pipeline looking? Will last year’s customers come back? What are you doing now to retain and win new business this year? Have you got sufficient capital to fund your seasonal push?
Below are some tips for staying on top of marketing for your landscaping business.
1. Beat your landscaping competitors by focusing on your USP
In the landscaping industry, competition is rife. Few barriers to entry means that newcomers are popping up all the time—and without a track record, they often bid low to win business.
Underbidding is not a sustainable business practice by any means. Bidding low can be hit and miss and can quickly undermine profits, especially if the business owner is new to the industry and doesn’t yet have a grasp of your true overheads.
To beat the competition, you need to focus less on price and instead find your unique selling proposition (USP). This could be your experience, customer service, use of innovative technology or green products, the convenience of your maintenance/service contracts, etc.
Before you start marketing your business, spend some time thinking about what your brand means to you and your customers and how it differentiates you from the rest of the marketplace.
2. Have a customer service strategy that does the selling for you
Imagine if you didn’t have to do any sales or marketing to promote your business! That’s the power of referrals.
Whether it’s neighbor to neighbor, via community forums like NextDoor, or on social media, customer relationships are your most valuable asset. Unfortunately, they are often ignored or downplayed in favor of price wars.
Consider how you can build your existing customer relationships with referrals and repeat business (more tips on this below) in mind before they take their business elsewhere.
3. Target your marketing efforts
Look for ways to find the best opportunities for your business. Some jobs may be more profitable than others such as lawn care jobs that demand higher pricing such as organic treatments or landscape installations. What about upselling to existing clients? It could be as simple as reminding customers of the full range of services you offer or turning one-off jobs into maintenance jobs.
Or perhaps you may decide that it makes more sense to invest your marketing dollars in high-density routes such as a 20-mile neighborhood radius to maximize revenues and decrease the time and cost spent traveling between jobs.
4. Timing is everything
Just as important as targeting is timing. Plan ahead. Time your marketing so that you reach customers before they make their buying decisions.
Instead of waiting until the season arrives, market your business and stay on touch with customers year-round. Develop a plan to release flyers and email marketing that coincide with seasonal needs – lawn prep, mulching, and pruning in the spring; irrigation needs in late spring; maintenance throughout the summer; etc. Use social media to showcase successful jobs and happy clients.
5. Manage online reviews
Online reviews really do matter. In 2017, 97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, with 12% looking for a local business online every day. Plus, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Make sure you’re monitoring and managing online reviews of your business.
Start by proactively requesting feedback every time you complete a job (frequency of reviews shows that your business is popular). The two most important outlets are likely to be your Facebook page (make sure you activate the review tab) and Google Business Listing (if you don’t have one, create one, it’s free). Always respond to reviews, even if they’re negative.
6. Become a trusted expert
One way to ensure your landscape business is visible and of service to your customers year-round is to offer regular information, tips, and useful content that helps position you as a trusted authority or thought leader on all things landscaping. Look for ways to offer useful online content so that your business will shine and generate quality leads early in the sales cycle. Consider the following:
Develop your content strategy – Where should you focus time and effort for the best return? Take your time. It’s ok to try and test a few tactics such as blogging, how-to videos taken with your smartphone, and so on. Check out these tips for identifying which content generates the best leads.
Stay active on social media – Promote your content, share photos of your projects, respond to questions and feedback regularly. Read The Best Ways to Promote your Local Contracting Business on Social Media. [CB1]
Send a monthly or bi-monthly newsletter – Promote your content as well as your latest services and projects.
For more tips, read How to be a Content Marketing Pro in Just a Few Hours Each Week.
7. Offer many ways to pay
It’s critical that you get a return on your marketing investment ASAP, so it pays to get your invoice in front of customers immediately after the job is complete and offer them convenient ways to pay. In addition to check or credit card, consider an online payment service such as Apple Pay, Square, PayPal, Authorize.net, WePay, and Google Pay. Read more about using automation to ease the pain of invoicing and payment tasks.
If you specialize in large projects such as patio or irrigation installations, consider offering credit, such as extending your payment terms to 60 or 90 days, to attract more customers and offer a competitive edge.
Credit costs money and should be considered carefully in the context of your cash flow forecast and your ability to enforce payment. Past payment history, credit data, and your judge of character can help you gauge whether to extend credit.
Of course, in extending credit you’ve already paid for the materials and labor, so you may need to replace that cash elsewhere. Consider the benefits of invoice financing to support cash flow while waiting on payments.
8. Finance your seasonal push
Getting ready for the season can be costly. In addition to marketing, you need to hire workers, purchase supplies and equipment, and so on. Each of these investments can have a significant impact on cash flow, especially since the expenses are incurred before cash comes into your business.
Enter working capital loans and a plethora of choices. Some small business financing options promise instant relief, others require a multitude of paperwork, personal guarantee, credit check, and more.
A useful option for landscaping businesses is a business line of credit since it gives you the flexibility to draw on cash when you need it, and repay back when you don’t. Fundbox Direct Draw, for example, you can draw funds from your available credit anytime you want. There is no paperwork and no personal credit investigation to get started. If you don’t need the money, don’t use it. If you do need it, access your Fundbox business line of credit with just a few clicks.
Learn all about what’s involved to get funds for growing your business in our 2018 Small Business Guide to Lines of Credit.
9. Get help when you need it
If you can’t take this on yourself, consider working with a marketing consultant or freelance writer. They can work on-demand when you need them, and they also bring instant experience to the table.
This article can get you started: Where to Find Freelancers for your Company.