Publisher's Note: Bucking the Trend

Departments - Business Management

February 18, 2009
kevin gilbride

As I talk with suppliers around our industry about the importance of staying top of mind with you – their customers – even when marketing dollars are harder to come by, it occurs to me that there are striking similarities between our sales efforts and yours.

Sure, it’s different on the surface. At Lawn & Landscape, we’re selling those manufacturers print and online advertising to help them reach out to you. On the other hand, you’re reaching out to residential and commercial customers to sell them a variety of landscaping and lawn care services. It’s a different type of sale and a different outcome, but our goal is largely the same: to create value that customers are willing to pay for.

How can you accomplish this goal during challenging economic times? You, like many businesspeople, are probably sitting in your office thinking, “How can I afford to spend money on marketing right now?” At the risk of sounding like someone who sells advertising for a living, my question back to you is, “How can you NOT afford to invest in marketing right now?”

If you knew that investing a little in marketing now could generate topline growth of nearly 300 percent as the market recovers, would you bite the bullet and do it?

Lots of companies have done it in the past and it’s paid huge dividends for them. During the last significant downturn, Kraft salad dressings and Jif peanut butter both raised marketing budgets and increased sales by 70 percent and 57 percent, respectively. Pizza Hut grew sales by 61 percent and Taco Bell jumped 40 percent. And, those amazing market share gains didn’t go away – the companies held them and continued to build incrementally on them for years afterward. But, most importantly, they recognized the truth of the old Chinese proverb that opportunity springs from a crisis.

You’ll note from the relative “fatness” of this Lawn & Landscape issue that we’ve practiced what we’ve preached and marketed hard to make sure that we’re still our advertisers’ No. 1 choice in the industry. I think that’s primarily due to the fact that we produce a quality product and we have great relationships within the industry. But, we also aggressively marketed our magazine and made sure that our customers – your suppliers – clearly understood that we are the best platform for them to get their message across to you even during tough times. The fact that you’re reading this right now is further evidence of that.

I urge you to think about how you can do the same thing for your business. What’s your unique selling proposition? What sets you apart from the crowd? What messages can you send to make sure that you retain and grow your business this year?

In that vein, our cover story this month is required reading – essentially Landscape Marketing 101 – for all of you who agree that there’s never been a better time to be totally focused on growing your business. The story gives you the basic motivations and “hot buttons” that drive customers to hire professionals to manage their properties and, hopefully, shows you how you can incorporate those concepts into your sales efforts.

I know we’re also bucking the trend by constantly investing in a better publication and better electronic media to serve your needs and the needs of our advertising partners. As management legend Stephen R. Covey once wrote: “If you’re proactive, you don’t have to wait for circumstances or other people to create perspective-expanding experiences. You can consciously create your own.” I hope (once, of course, you finish reading the magazine cover-to-cover) you take that advice to heart and recommit yourself to expanding your perspectives and bucking the trend.