Friday, October 24, 2014

Features

Bullseye

Marketing

Connect with your commercial customers with the right marketing strategies.

October 9, 2014

The way you provide your lawn and landscaping services to a commercial property is probably a bit different than how you would perform those same services for a residential property. This is one reason many companies focus on one or the other, and are often much more successful (read: profitable) doing so compared to companies who try to serve both audiences.

For proof, look to Lawn & Landscape’s annual Top 100 List where you’ll find the top 20 spots dominated by companies laser-focused on either the residential or commercial market.

Whether your business is B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer), as it relates to marketing, it is always P2P: person to person.

Because of this there are many similarities in how you would market your services to either the business or homeowner crowd. That said, there are many subtle differences that you should be aware of when developing a marketing strategy.

For one, the sales cycle of a B2B company can be much longer than that of a B2C company. According to Jacqueline Zenn of The Agency Post, this is because “B2C buys tend to satisfy immediate needs, while B2B decisions are meant to complete long-term goals.”

There are also more decision-makers involved in the B2B process. Homeowners can conduct research and typically move forward without approval from others, often making decisions based on emotions. In contrast to that, “the B2B purchase process tends to be rationally and logically driven,” according to Zenn, and “B2B marketers have a much longer chain of command to deal with since procurement, accounting and their superiors often need to approve purchases.”

To get a better understanding of this topic, let’s dive into the fundamentals of an effective B2B marketing strategy, highlighting three of the best practices that separate B2B from B2C marketing.
 

Understand your audience.

If your marketing message is going to hit the mark, it is critical that you understand where you’re aiming. In other words, know your audience.

This process begins by developing what are called buyer personas. According to HubSpot, an inbound marketing and sales software company, “A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”

Sound complicated? It doesn’t need to be. We suggest starting with very basic buyer personas. Here are two examples:

CEO Jim. Jim is the CEO or owner of a $6 million commercial landscaping company. The company is a leader in its market, innovative and always ahead of its competitors. Jim has an annual marketing budget and also has experience working with outside agencies and consultants.

Overwhelmed Allison. Allison is the marketing director for a $2 million residential landscape design/build company. She is also involved with sales and has other responsibilities within the company that stretch her thin. She needs more help and support, either in house or from outside the company.

As you see, this is an attempt to clarify and paint a picture of exactly who we are trying to reach.

After you create buyer personas you can develop a strategy to reach each of them. This is where segmentation comes into play. Segmenting your prospects and customers by buyer persona allows you to create content for the right people at the right time, whether that’s via email or a blog post.

To illustrate this point, take a look at these two recent blog post topics, the first from Schill Grounds Management in Ohio and the second from HighGrove Partners in Atlanta (disclosure: both are clients of Landscape Leadership):

  • Snow Removal Musts for Your North East Ohio Retail Property
  • 5 Landscape Enhancements for Atlanta Hospitals and Assisted Living Facilities
     

Each of these blog posts is clearly targeting a very specific audience: retail properties in Northeast Ohio and hospitals and assisted living facilities in the Atlanta area.
 

Content marketing and leadership.

Thought leadership and expertise are more valued in the B2B space. Remember, there are property managers (and others) responsible for making decisions on how to spend other people’s money and are being held accountable for this spend.

This is a lot different than a homeowner making a quick, emotional decision. As Zenn explains, “They often want to look like the workplace rock stars or heroes thanks to their excellent decisions.”

If you’re selling in the B2B space, you have to arm these buyers with in-depth information they need to make informed decisions. This starts with your website.

Build out in-depth “About Us” pages showcasing your key employees, answer frequently asked questions in greater detail and cover topics on your blog that appeal to your unique buyer personas. Supply your audience with real data and insights on trends. This is the type of content and information they need to make a confident buying decision.
 

Social selling.

Unlike the B2C audience, “The B2B crowd wants the ability to build a close relationship with brands,” says Zenn. Social media, especially networks like LinkedIn and Twitter, offer the chance to connect with your B2B audience in a more meaningful way than you could with homeowners.

These social networks are great for prospecting and gathering leads. It’s extremely easy to find and engage with influencers and potential customers on these networks.

Marketing and sales is always a P2P endeavor, so there will always be similarities in how we promote our services whether B2B or B2C. For the B2B crowd, focus on more clearly defining your target audience through buyer personas, building your thought leadership through more in-depth, insightful content and using the social platforms available to reach and engage with your B2B audience.

 


The author is the founder of Landscape Leadership, a digital marketing agency for green industry companies. He’s a former landscape designer and frequent contributor to Lawn & Landscape.


Check out our February issue for “Moving on Up,” a special report on what commercial property managers think about landscapers, and what they want from you.

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