Design/build business is booming again as the economy and the housing market recover, so we headed to Boston for the National Association of Professional Landscapers' symposium covering everything from hiring and retention to green walls and roofs.
Inbound marketing. Tyler Richer, principal implementation specialist at Hub Spot, gave tips on inbound marketing, creating buyer personas and creating the right content to keep them interested.
• The customer now has control of the buying process and researches extensively before making a purchase.
• Create authentic content and personalized interactions throughout the buying process to attract leads and engage with prospects.
• To attract customers, businesses have to provide them with content they love.
• More useful content means better search engine optimization.
In order to know your perfect customer, you have to know who you are trying to sell to and what their wants, needs and personality are. You can do this by identifying certain factors and creating a buyer persona. Here are some of the common factors:
• Common behavior patterns
• Pain points
• Universal goals, wishes and dreams
• General biographic and demographic information
“If you don’t know your buyer personas, every aspect of your inbound marketing will suffer,” Richer said.
The buyer’s journey is the active research process a potential buyer goes through leading up to a purchase. The stages are: awareness, consideration and decision. Once you can identify where they are in the buyer’s process, you can send them the right content.
Awareness: I have a problem or need.
Content: research reports, expert content, case studies, educational content
Consideration: I have a solution.
Content: Live interactions, expert guides, comparison white papers
Decision: I need to buy the solution.
Content: Vender comparisons, costs
Once you know your buyer personas, you can create and optimize content around each keyword phrase they would be searching, but make sure that you aren’t thinking nationally. You want to target locally so that you’re attracting the right people. To help with that, get a Google local listing and get a report from GetListed.org to show you where you’re starting.
Hiring and retention. Alex Pratt, area director of hiring and retention for Omni Hotels and Resorts, gave tips on hiring, training and retaining the right people.
• In order to find the right people, you need to know your market.
• To retain the right people, you need to do repetitious reinforcement. For example, if someone is doing well, tell them every week.
• To build your bench, identify your key players and ask them to help you recruit.
• Hold everyone to the same standard.
• Give those employees who want to move up the opportunity to do it.
“Being known as a company that promotes from within is a major factor in impacting retention,” he said.
Growth and profits. Ken Thomas of Envisor Consulting gave strategies to help contractors grow their businesses to a stable and profitable place. He started out as a small operation and while he knew a lot about landscaping, the business side was a tough lesson. “You can be a great cook, but you might not be able to run a restaurant,” he said.
Thomas said the life cycle of a business is like an S curve starting with startup, moving into growth, then adolescence, maturity and succession and decline. “It takes the intentional actions of leaders and management doing the right things at the right time to make it to maturity,” he said.
He noted that process is key to moving from the adolescent to the ideal phase: maturity. Working harder is not the answer, he said. Here are his tips for moving into maturity:
• Systems produce outcomes and good systems produce predictable outcomes.
• In the absence of a process problem, if something goes wrong, it’s a people problem.
• Divide the duties of sales or you will be stuck working in your business instead of on it.
• Your system is only as good as it performs during a rush.
• Most mistakes happen when you move a job from sold into the work in progress phase.
Green roofs. George Irwin, founder of Green Living Technologies International, went over some of the best practices for creating green roofs and walls, part of a growing niche. “Don’t ever associate green roofs with low maintenance. There’s no such thing,” he said.
• One of the biggest challenges is in the waterproofing. Media will spill out and roots will grow out of the box if it isn’t done properly.
• If you don’t fertilize, the first year will be fine, the next six months will see decline and then it will require a renovation.
• Irwin recommends using 20 percent organics in the soil and topdressing with compost every spring.
• Slow release fertilizer is a bad idea since it will just run off of the roof rather than sinking into the soil.
• Make sure to take water weight into consideration. Irwin’s roofs can retain up for 8 gallons of storm water in 10 square feet.
• Irwin recommends sod over seed to cut down on maintenance.