Great Exscape

A robust marketing strategy is driving business forward for this Ohio design/build firm.

January 19, 2012
Kristen Hampshire
Industry News

The way Bill Dysert describes his website is like this: “We had a nice, clean 2009 Chevy Malibu with 30-40 percent tire life left on it,” he says, referring a major overhaul that will result in a brand-new site launch in March 2012. “It was clean, presentable. But not cutting edge – not that Ferrari we wanted.”

Faster, smarter, more attractive – Dysert wants the best for his Chardon, Ohio-based company, Exscape Designs. What owner of a small business doesn’t strive to present that image of class and luxury, especially in a business dedicated to creating outdoor spaces that deliver that vacation-at-home feel?

“Part of my character is that I always want to work with the best and have the best technology,” Dysert says, relating how his high standards and limited bank account to spend on website and Internet marketing momentarily red-lighted his plans when he initially chose a firm that catered to companies with that Ferrari budget.

He just couldn’t foot the bill. But more importantly, he recognized that he needed to partner with a marketing expert that could relate to his small business and deliver a practical, workable strategy.

Ultimately, Dysert needed to reset his search for a marketing consultant and focus on finding a firm that matched his business size and scope. “The (other firm) was very talented, but I felt like there was no way I could financially make it work,” Dysert says.

Test-driving an alternative resulted in a happy union, a robust marketing strategy, an e-newsletter that reels in business and a website that has double the traffic it did before. Now, Exscape Designs is poised for future growth and preparing to use its website as a real business driver and lead generator.

“The need to make a good first impression online is critical because 65 percent of individuals under the age of 35 will search on Google and look for a company’s brand long before they pick up the phone or go into a storefront,” says Christian Klein, president of Company 119, the firm Dysert partnered with to refresh and reinvent Exscape Designs’ marketing strategy.

A marketing match
Dysert went into his search for a marketing firm with the notion that he needed a brand-new website to boost traffic and get the results he was seeking. He figured his current site just wasn’t cutting it.

But that’s not the feedback he got from Klein, who took a careful inventory of Exscape Designs’ existing marketing efforts and resources and analyzed how each component was working to drive traffic and, ultimately, convert those “hits” into customers.

“We evaluated the site and we thought it wasn’t embarrassing the brand, and it was helping him out,” Klein says. Company 119 recommended that Dysert wait a year before investing dollars in a total site rebuild. Instead, Klein suggested that Dysert invest in photography so the existing website could be spruced up with compelling images of completed projects.

“We took a different approach than what (other marketing firms) were telling him at the time,” Klein says, noting that a good firm will focus on matching a business’s budget and sales goals with a program rather than pushing a company into expensive marketing projects, such as building a new site, that might not deliver the type of return on investment the company needs to see.

So Dysert’s website got a refresh, and an e-newsletter was launched with great success. Company 119 holds a conference call with Dysert monthly to discuss the newsletter content so the firm can produce the editorial. Exscape Designs maintains the email list – specifically, the office manager is responsible for logging new customers and prospects, people Dysert meets at networking events, into the computer system.

The e-newsletter paid off on the first round. Within one hour of sending it out, someone from the local chamber of commerce Exscape Designs is involved with called for information. “That resulted in a nice backyard patio project,” Dysert says. 

Aside from the newsletter, Exscape Designs invested in pay-per-click advertising to draw people to the site. “It’s hard to tell how much traffic we got because (customers) forget how they found you exactly,” Dysert says. But all of these marketing efforts work together.

And some efforts don’t work so well anymore, such as direct mail. In the past, Exscape Designs sent postcards to a list of potential clients. “The last few years, the results we were driving from were very poor,” Dysert says. “We got very small projects, a very small return on investment. We were lucky to cover our cost with the amount of work we sold.”

On the other hand, the work his e-newsletter is raking in will justify the expense of the new website, currently in progress. “Quite a bit of work was generated right off the bat from email marketing,” Klein says.

While Klein is an Internet marketing strategist, he emphasizes the importance of a 360-degree program that includes traditional media – that may be print advertising in magazines and newspapers, an area where Exscape Designs readily spends each year. And that can also mean that some “cutting edge” methods are not a fit, such as social media. “It’s not for everyone,” Klein says. Though businesses like Dysert’s do benefit from using tools like Facebook as a way to show off completed projects by posting photos.

Dysert’s take on social media: post purposefully.

“I have found social media to be a good resource, but it’s more the quality of people in the network rather than the quantity,” he says.

Working the plan
The marketing mechanicals that make Dysert’s program work, from the website to the robust e-newsletter, are improving the company’s visibility. But Dysert works on this the old fashioned way, too. Networking in the community is and has always been a key business development activity for Exscape Designs.

“Networking is huge – getting face to face with people so they can get to know the real you, who you are, what your business is all about, your core values,” Dysert says.

Dysert is involved with his area chamber of commerce, and he serves on the board for Leadership Geauga County, a nonprofit organization focused on peer development through learning about the county’s various sectors, from education to heritage.

He continues to build a loyal customer base this way, and new contacts are logged into the computer system at Exscape Designs so they can receive the company’s e-newsletter and other communications.    

Keeping up with the company’s stronger marketing efforts has not required hiring personnel, but Dysert says he increased his office manager’s time because she oversees the facilitation of the marketing plan, from getting approval for advertisements to pushing out e-newsletters. 

With a comprehensive marketing plan in place and plans to launch the new site in March, Dysert is looking forward to a growth year in 2012. “We have some new ideas up and coming for 2012 and a lot of that (marketing) will springboard off of the website or direct people back to our site,” he says. “We want to draw people in and get them to act – to request more information.”

This is one of three stories that ran in Lawn & Landscape's Business Builder e-newsletter. To continue reading about Exscape Designs:

Find a firm that fits: While vetting a consultant, consider these points.

Leading edge: Exscape Designs grows business and leaders through community connections.