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Marketing works (and doesn't)

Features - Business Management

7 1/2 simple advertising options for landscape professionals.

Mark Grunkemeyer | September 17, 2010

Have you ever noticed that every year when we review our marketing and advertising efforts, we become disenchanted? Welcome to the D Club.

Twenty-five years ago, life was so simple. The company with the largest, most colorful and comprehensive Yellow Pages ad generated the most leads. While I still believe a “yellow book” presence is important, we have many more tools at our disposal than we had in 1985. A second option would be to become a professional mind reader. Carefully select a geographical service area, choose your target market audience, and then find a way to read their minds and deliver a customized proposal to their door every spring.

Before we jump into my 7½ marketing and advertising opportunities, let’s first explore your commitment to growth. Expert brands such as Colgate, Bud Light and Dell devote 5 to 8 percent of their annual sales dollars to enhancing their brands and maintaining market share. Are you prepared for that financial investment?

Research also shows that it takes seven exposures to your company name, logo or contact information for a potential customer to react. Do you have the time and expertise to explore these options and then measure them annually?

If you do, and you’re ready to dedicate yourself to this enterprise, let’s begin.

1.  Word of Mouth.
Easier said than done. Every job you quote goes exactly as planned. The client is perfectly satisfied and willing to pass your name and phone number onto one or two more prospects. When you get this figured out, please e-mail me your secret recipe.

2.  The Books.

Some of the larger markets have 2-3 “yellow book” companies and some markets are only covered by a regional “sister” book. Your contact information, phone number and website must be easy to locate for potential clients to call or e-mail your company. The hard copies and online Yellow Pages are still used as a last resort to contact your offices, so having that presence still makes sense.

3. Print Media.
Coupon books, postcards and newspaper inserts are just a few options we have to convey our message to a broad range of potential customers. The options are many and it seems every year a new concept is developed. Print can be used to market add-on products and services quickly and inexpensively.

4. The Internet.
No doubt the most popular and easiest way to convey your message to the largest audience. Most professionals today can access the web, send and receive e-mails from their mobile devices, and stay connected 24/7. Companies who have embraced the Internet can market, advertise, educate and, most importantly, communicate their specific message efficiently.

5. Social Networking.
Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin are essentially free to any person or company that chooses to be connected. Once you have made the commitment to any one or all of the sites, you need to devote a knowledgeable staff person to maintain constant correspondence. Social networking is very popular right now and should be approached cautiously.

6. Community Efforts.
Project Evergreen’s GreenCare for Troops, local sports team sponsorships, church bulletins and charitable endeavors. Remember the goal is to have your company name in front of potential clients seven times. The truth is, we can’t read minds, so we need to make positive impressions every chance we can.

7.  Media Advertising.
Radio and TV advertising are expensive and difficult to measure, but reach a very large audience fast. Media could be a wonderful tool if used in conjunction with the other pieces of your puzzle. A local garden center here in our city uses radio advertising exclusively and he outsells the big box stores every spring.

7.5. Do Nothing.
I had to include this because we have all seen many lawn care and landscape companies come and go. Gaining market share through organic growth as opposed to acquisition can be very rewarding, but requires a large investment in time and money. You will only get out of your advertising and marketing efforts what you put into them. Doing nothing will get you exactly that.

CONCLUSION.  The 7 (and a half) marketing and advertising tools mentioned here all work some of the time. Flexibility, creativity and a willingness to adjust your campaign annually will keep you one step ahead of the competition.
If you have a budget line item for marketing, and systems in place to measure your efforts, think of it like legalized gambling. As you work on your strategic plan for 2011, make the financial commitment to grow your company, and don’t second-guess yourself. You know how much you are willing to risk. A calculated, measurable gamble (or investment) on the future is something entrepreneurs do every year.

The author is president of Buckeye Ecocare, Centerville, Ohio.