Of all the questions I get asked, the one I get asked the most is: How can I get the job even if my price is higher? This month’s column will focus on how you communicate the value you bring to the table.
For starters, it is a big mistake to say, “I lost that job because our price was too high.”
What do you learn if you assume that is the reason you did not get the job? I feel you learn nothing from accepting that as the reason. If you accept that your price was too high and that’s just the way it is, all you can do to improve is lower your price to combat that issue.
Sure, you could figure out a way to be more efficient; you could cut costs by using cheaper materials and the like. To be blunt, there’s not a landscaper in America that can’t find a way to lower their costs and be more competitive.
That should be a daily quest. It should be standard operating procedure to look for new, better and consequently cheaper ways to do business. A better answer to losing a job to price is to say, “I must not have fully communicated the value I bring to the table and that’s why I lost the job.” Smart green industry sales professionals know, first and foremost, clients do business with people they know, like and trust. As I often say, when you make friends, you make sales. But those relationships are kept rock solid by a daily dose of value.
The foundation to winning a job is to deliver exactly what the client wants on your proposal and the only way you can find out what that is would be to ask them what they want at the initial visit. I see many landscapers that really mess this up. When you initially engage someone about your company, you need to ask them the following questions:
1. Where did you hear about us? (The answer to this question lends insight into the mindset of the prospect.)
2. What timeframe do you want to complete this job?
3. And the most important question: What is the process you are going to go through in hiring a contractor?
And then you need to be quiet and listen.
The questions should be asked on the phone call. No appointments should be set up on the phone without this screening. To improve your closing ratio, you have to make sure you are meeting with buyers that fit the definition of your “ideal client.” Just running out to see every person that calls you might be a big part of your problem. Improve your chances for success by meeting with prospects who fit what you are looking for.
The biggest part of being successful in sales is knowing who your ideal client is and then methodically going about finding those people who fit that mold. In the short term, the hardest word for a landscape sales professional to say is “no.”
In the long run, it’s the easiest word to say when you find out how much more successful you will be by spending time with the prospects that best match your criteria. If you find while screening they are a good fit for an appointment, then you set it up but not before then. Hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars are wasted annually by green industry selling professionals who just go out and meet with anyone.
Just the other day I went through my whole process and as I got down to setting up the appointment, I told them our minimum job was $1,500. She replied, “Oh, no way, we only have $1,000 to spend.”
This was after she told me she wanted a paver patio and a fire pit. Now, maybe I scared her off with my minimum, but who in their right state of mind thinks you can get a patio and a fire pit for $1,000? Had I gone on that call, I might have been able to convince them to do more but it was not likely.
To find that out, you must screen the leads you get. The above-mentioned questions will enable you to do just that and to come up with a plan that will touch on what the buyers’ needs are and have a successful transaction.
Read Marty’s column next month where he will prepare you to present irrefutable evidence to every prospect and client that you are the best choice for landscaping.
All the companies on Lawn & Landscape’s 2012 Top 100 list are successful and have made a lasting mark on the industry. But this year, we wanted to feature a few who weren’t just sitting by and hoping for growth, or only making slight moves to grow. In the pages that follow, we’ve highlighted companies going the extra mile with ideas to successfully build on past achievements, and in the process, setting themselves up for great opportunities for years to come. By Kristen Hampshire
Putting people to the test
James River gave managers an Enneagram personality test, and that has changed the working dynamic and allowed for productive personnel change-outs.
By digging deeper into what makes leaders tick, James River Grounds Management has made some dramatic personnel swaps in the last year. A salesperson now works in finance. A landscape designer moved to sales and outside business development. An estimator shifted into the IT department.
The Enneagram Test, a personality testing tool, helped the company put the right people in the right place.
“It helps us identify personality traits and strengths much more easily than trial and error – the old way,” says Maria Candler, CEO of the Glen Allen, Va.-based firm.
“Part of our company culture that is very important to us has been a focus on people and giving them a lot of flexibility in their areas of responsibility,” she says, adding that now, the Enneagram gives James River a supportive tool to make more informed decisions about who does what at the company.
The Enneagram is a journey; it’s a lengthy test that measures personalities on nine different scales. “It’s really about learning what gets in your way with all relationships, professional or personal,” Candler says.
And knowing how one responds in certain situations – a client meeting, a workplace disagreement, in stressful times – has changed the way managers respond and communicate with one another at James River.
For example, Candler identifies herself as a 1 on the Enneagram scale. That’s a “Reformer” who is rational, self-controlled and perfectionistic. “That, in my business life, has served me fairly well because as a result, we are a company that is very focused on continuous improvement because of my natural inclination to work to get better,” Candler says. “But if that behavior doesn’t have a filter and goes unchecked, I can come across as someone who is impossible to please.”
Now that Candler knows where she and other managers fall on the Enneagram, she cracks through communication struggles.
Take a 5 person, The Investigator, who is intense, cerebral, innovative, secretive and isolated. This person tends to overanalyze. “They get stuck,” Candler says. “If you need to move forward with a decision, you have to be aware that you can’t overanalyze everything.”
Candler tells the story of a 5 manager who seemed emotionally detached and “always in his head,” and definitely not interested in chitchat. Pair that 5 with a 2, The Helper, who is caring, demonstrative, people-pleasing and persistent. “The 2 thinks the 5 hates him, but really, the 5 doesn’t know how to respond to this person who always wants to chitchat and be social. So, when they realize, ‘Wait, it’s not me,’ they don’t take situations personally. And that changes their working relationship.”
In another instance, an account manager (a 2) was working to develop a relationship with a client (a 5), and they could never click. The client wanted a quick update on the progress of the account, that’s it. The account manager wanted to make small talk.
“When our employee realized he was approaching every human from his own perspective of what he thought people wanted from him, he realized that was wrong,” Candler says. “Now, he comes in, gives the man the information and interestingly, all of a sudden, they are starting to have a more natural rapport.”
Candler learned about the Enneagram through a consulting firm called Transform, a referral from colleague Scott Jamieson, a vice president at Bartlett Tree Experts. He told Candler about a program that changed how his management team works together, and Candler was interested.
The timing couldn’t have been better. Last year was one of the most important, and difficult years for the business in its history, Candler says, citing challenges pleasing clients who want more service for less money and internal stress: employees’ significant others were being displaced, there was an overriding feeling of uncertainty.
The Enneagram has helped people discover who they are in the midst of all this. And, ensuring that managers are in the best positions where they can perform and succeed, everyone is happier.
Of course, the process takes work and dedication, and Candler gave managers no time limit to finish the test. Some completed it in weeks, others took a year or longer. The company started administering the tests two years ago.
In addition, James River has provided support tools to help employees work through the Enneagram. Regular webinars highlight the personality types. A section on the company intranet features videos of employees talking about their “type,” how they came to realize who they are and what it means in the context of their position with the company.
“An employee can go online and listen to a personal experience that has been helpful,” Candler says. The site also provides links to downloadable audio books about the Enneagram and other resources.
So far, the company has given The Enneagram to managers, starting with the executive team and extending down to branch managers.
Candler would like to roll the test down to the crew level, but that will take time. The company employs about 275 workers year-round, and the Enneagram isn’t a quick quiz that can be filled out during a job interview.
But the way Candler has worked the Enneagram into company training improves the take-away. For example, in a training session on time management, Candler can add, “If you’re a 5, what you need to be careful of is that you tend to get stuck in the information.
“There is a lot of work that needs to be done when you get real about yourself and what gets in your way each day,” Candler says. “But that makes the Enneagram empowering.”
Yellowstone Landscape Group defines the anatomy of a perfect acquisition with the purchase of Cornerstone Solutions Group’s maintenance division.
Culture, strategy, operations and finance – these are the four areas Yellowstone Landscape Group analyzes before it acquires a business. And when a prospect measures up on all of those levels, it’s a perfect fit.
Such was the case for the maintenance division of Cornerstone Solutions Group, a 30-plus year company with a strong reputation in the Tampa Bay, Fla., market. Austin Outdoor, a division of Yellowstone, saw Cornerstone as an opportunity to deepen volume in existing markets it served and expand to a metropolitan area where the brand had no presence.
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So the two joined in 2011, and then began the work of integrating Cornerstone’s maintenance firm with Austin Outdoor, which had grown in the past couple years as Yellowstone integrated its other southeast businesses under the Austin Outdoor brand.
“The acquisition did two things: It opened up the west central Florida market to us, and it added business to two other markets (Jacksonville and Orlando) that were already significant and extremely important to our business in central and northeast Florida,” says William Dellecker, president of Austin Outdoor.
Upon acquiring Cornerstone, its Jacksonville and Orlando branches transitioned to the Austin Outdoor brand name. But the Tampa and Sarasota branches remained Cornerstone Solutions to preserve the brand recognition and assure clients of continued, quality service. “Cornerstone already had an established name in those markets,” Dellecker says, adding that the Austin Outdoor brand brings Cornerstone customers in those areas more resources: design capabilities, technical and horticultural programs, human resources and training.
“We were telling clients that we will have more resources than ever before and we’ll have the same people, the same name and still be able to provide the same value,” says John Faulkner, owner of Cornerstone and now part of Yellowstone’s leadership team. Austin Outdoor didn’t purchase Faulkner’s other Cornerstone Solutions businesses – general construction and installation. They just didn’t fit into the conglomerate’s service portfolio, which is dominated by maintenance (90 percent).
Another reason maintaining the Cornerstone name in Tampa and Sarasota was important, especially to Faulkner, who wanted his remaining businesses to continue benefitting from maintenance leads – clients who want installation projects completed. “Going forward as the owner of the other companies, I wanted to make sure who I teamed up with understood that we are in those other two businesses and (those businesses) rely on the maintenance company to have success,” Faulkner says. “From my standpoint, I have to work harder than ever to make sure we don’t drop the ball and that we provide good service so it doesn’t have an affect on the company Yellowstone bought or the two companies I still own.”
Cornerstone was the largest acquisition for Yellowstone to date; Cornerstone’s maintenance division would bring 50 percent more revenues, Faulkner says.
So to spread the message of a unified company, and a true, team effort, Yellowstone toured its locations six weeks following the closing of the acquisition. Yellowstone President Ed Schatz, Dellecker and Faulkner delivered a sort of state of the union for the company.
“We talked about where we were as a business, how we are growing and what we are doing, including the Cornerstone locations that are new to us,” Dellecker says. “Our goal from day one was to ensure that there was complete integration in our philosophy and the way we approach things and the way work is carried out for the benefit of clients. Having John Faulkner’s involvement has been critical.”
The cultural fit between Cornerstone and Austin Outdoor is what made the transition go so smoothly, Dellecker and Faulkner say. And operationally, it’s business as usual – except business is more robust.
Faulkner explains that Cornerstone’s maintenance division had grown so fast over the years, the operation was stretched as far as it could go in the resources and equipment categories.
In fact, the company had maintained its 2006 revenues even during the 2011 recession year, “which is kind of unheard of in this business,” Faulkner says. “So what we’re doing is telling people we’ll have more resources than ever before.”
Succeeding in transition
A five-year plan eventually put Ted Hofer in the lead seat as CEO of Spring-Green Lawn Care.
Ted Hofer grew up and around the family business, Spring-Green Lawn Care. But as a young college graduate, he took a different path in the franchise world, choosing instead to purchase a UPS store. But when his father, Tom Hofer, began planning retirement, a solid transition plan and good timing brought Ted back into the business five years ago to see through the succession.
“When Tom got to retirement age, there was uncertainty about what would happen when he retired, and there were franchise owners wondering what would happen to the business and the future of Spring-Green,” says Ted Hofer, who officially took the helm as CEO in July 2010.
Now, that’s progress
After 35 years in business, Spring-Green Lawn Care isn’t tossing confetti or rolling in the band. (They may wait until their 40th for that.) Instead, CEO Ted Hoffer looks at the birthday as an opportunity to remind employees and franchisees that Spring-Green is focused on moving forward.
Marketing and technology are the two areas where the business has drastically progressed in the last decade, and efforts continue. “We feel we can make our biggest differentiation from the competition by our marketing and technological capabilities and our ability to get that out to franchise owners,” Hofer says.
In particular, Hofer speaks of the company’s direct marketing efforts, especially during the spring sales season. Spring-Green has implemented a marketing tool to help franchisees deal with the onslaught of phone calls that result from the company’s mailers.
“Ten to 20 years ago when we did a lot of telemarketing, we had huge phone banks and all the franchisees had someone come in at night to manage their telemarketing,” Hofer says. That’s not the case anymore. “But we do send out all this mail, and we still need people to answer the phones when sales calls come in,” he says. “A lot of our franchisees might not have someone working in their offices.”
To support franchisees during the heavy sales season, when direct mail drives calls to their offices, Spring-Green provides franchisees optional access to a centralized call center. That way, Spring-Green can handle inbound calls for franchisees that are busy out in the field. “Technology is helping us maximize spring sales,” Hofer says.
That’s something to celebrate.
So the planning began in 2004, when Hofer’s father approached him about coming into the family business. “At that point, I was either going to expand my UPS franchises or move on to something else,” Hofer says. The decision was easy. Hofer joined Spring-Green in 2005 on what became a five-year grand tour of the company’s total operations before his father stepped down.
Getting to know each working part of the business was critical to running the business, and Hofer began in the area where he was most experienced: franchise development. He worked for two years starting up and supporting a new franchise – the company now has 75 across the country.
Having worked on the franchisee side at UPS, Hofer brought that perspective to his role of helping those new Spring-Green upstarts get rooted. But he learned a lot along the way. “My personal experience had been that you start up a new business and you put 100 percent into it, and that’s your life,” he says, noting that he was in his mid-twenties when he bought his UPS franchise. He was single. He had the luxury of time that was all his.
“With a lot of our franchisees, they have families and other things in life,” Hofer says. “And watching them start up a new business while maintaining a certain lifestyle and trying to accomplish their goals and dreams from a support standpoint was an interesting challenge that I hadn’t really thought about that much because my personal experience had been so different.”
Next, Hofer went on to work at Spring-Green’s company-owned franchises in Chicago – multi-million dollar operations that run quite differently than the one-man startups. “That got me a better idea of what it takes to manage a team,” he says.
All the while, Hofer and his father met – about twice each year – and discussed their progress on the transition plan. “This is one timeline we felt comfortable with, and each year I was getting the experience I needed,” Hofer says of the five-year goal.
And his father stuck to his side of the bargain: As Ted Hofer gained more responsibility, Tom stepped back. Hofer admits he was skeptical that his father would be able to separate from the business, even gradually. “I thought, ‘You’re not going to be able to do this,’” he says, adding that the business was his father’s whole life. “But he committed full-force.”
Gradually, Hofer worked his way through the company operations, including franchise development, marketing and accounting. By year five, he was managing day-to-day operations. “When it got to the point where the transition happened, we had lunch that day, but there was nothing really different in the daily operations, and that has continued,” Hofer says.
His father, serving as chairman, visits the office periodically. “He has certainly taken a step back, and is thinking of the business more from the perspective of a shareholder,” Hofer says. “He looks at the financials and asks questions when he needs to, but his actual physical presence in the building is rare. He is stepping back and really enjoying life.”
Owning up to responsibility
The Greenery’s employee-owned business model drives morale, quality and customer retention.
Employees at The Greenery in Hilton Head, S.C., think like owners, because they are. All team members, from supervisors to field workers, benefit financially when the company performs well and earns profits. That’s because six years ago, The Greenery moved toward an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) so the longtime owner could retire and give the company back to the people who helped him grow it.
“We feel that if you are going to keep good people, you have to provide them with opportunities,” says Lee Edwards, CEO. “We have always grown the business in order to keep good people – not necessarily because we want to be the biggest, but in order to be the best, you have to keep good people.”
The Greenery began investigating ways to continue rewarding its people for their dedication and service to the company. The ESOP made sense because the business could hold on to its brand integrity and keep its people.
Edwards’ father, who founded the company, remained president of the company during the transition to ESOP, and brought on a consultant to help implement the plan. The first step was creating a trust – a trust that “borrowed” money and bought out the owners’ stock (Edwards’ parents) in the business. “Over time, the profits of the company are used to pay into that trust to pay the note on the loan,” Edwards says. Stock is distributed to employees as the loan is paid down. “No employee had to come to the table with a check to buy out the company, and that would be especially difficult, if not impossible, when you have several hundred employees,” Edwards says. The firm employs 390 people.
The Greenery’s sweet spot is resort and high-end commercial properties, but there was a missing piece the company wasn’t capturing – military bases.
“Rather than going out and learning to start the process of getting that business on our own, we figured it would make more sense to bring someone on board who was experienced in that,” says Lee Edwards, CEO.
So in 2011, The Greenery acquired a small company in its market that shared The Greenery’s employee-centric philosophies and already had deep relationships with military clients. The owner continues to work at The Greenery. “The owner and I have known each other for years, and have been competitors in some areas,” Edwards says.
Meanwhile, that company’s employees have stayed on board. “The way he said it to his employees was that by bringing his company into our company, he can offer them more of a career rather than just a job,” Edwards says.
Stock ownership distributions are weighted according to the pay scale, so an employee that gets paid $50,000 per year will get twice the dividends as someone who makes $25,000. But everyone gets a kick-back, and employees can begin participating within 18-24 months of joining the company. After working there for four years, they are fully vested in the stock plan, which essentially works like a retirement vehicle.
“Over time, as the company becomes more valuable and profitable, those stock certificates become more valuable, and the idea is that when someone reaches retirement, they can start taking distributions,” Edwards says, adding that an employee who leaves the company can allow their stock to grow or roll it into another type of retirement account.
Once employees saw the dollars adding up behind the scenes, they immediately bought into the plan. “When a guy who is working on a crew looks at a stock certificate at the end of the year and sees that he has $5-7,000, as far as he is concerned, that is found money,” Edwards says.
Meanwhile, the ESOP gives The Greenery a competitive edge. The company logo and literature remind people that of the “employee owned” status. The firm’s tagline is: Employee Satisfaction = Customer Satisfaction. “We are big believers in that,” Edwards says.
When the company is facing a big week with deadlines to meet, Edwards says the team pulls together. “People have a better work ethic, and we have a better safety record,” Edwards says. “That leads to being more efficient and profitable. All of those things make us a better company.”
And customers notice. “They see it,” Edwards says. “Happy employees do better work.”
2011 Optimax Blower Line
The pitch: Little Wonder’s 2011 Optimax Blower line features enhanced capabilities, timesaving new features and an extended model lineup.
- Features a large discharge chute opening that can be up to 25 sq. in.
- New Remote Split-Stream Air Deflector Control offers instant on-the-fly one hand adjustment of split-stream airflow direction right from the operator’s handle.
- Low Air Discharge Chute is positioned 2 in. off the ground to provide leveled airflow right out of the chute for immediate dispersal of debris and maintains high volume airflow over farther distances.
For more information: www.littlewonder.com
The pitch: Husqvarna’s 580BTS is a powerful commercial back pack blower designed for demanding tasks.
- Large air flow and high air speed are provided by a effective fan design together with the powerful X-Torq engine.
- Commercial grade air filter gives long operating time, and the harness has wide shoulder straps.
- Other features include air injection, air purge adjustable handles and cruise control.
For more information: www.husqvarna.com
4-stroke back pack blower
The pitch: The DOLMAR back pack blower PB-7601.4 features the power of a true OHV 4-stroke low-emission, fuel-efficient engine with hi-volume air-flow, in an emission-friendly package.
- Includes a 75.6c c engine for air-volume of 720 CFM and velocity of195 MPH.
- Large-volume commercial-duty top-mounted air filter with 243 sq. in. surface area, ergonomic-angled control handles and de-compression mechanism built into the cam gear.
- With a fuel consumption rate far below a half of a gallon per hour.
For more information: www.dolmarpowerproducts.com
Magnum BR 600
The pitch: The STIHL Magnum BR 600 offers proven fuel efficiency and a host of new enhancements.
- The STIHL Magnum BR 600 has an improved engine design for increased durability and improved operational life, an enhanced nozzle with extended wear area for longer life, and a new nylon harness for higher wear resistance.
- The blower is 69 percent cleaner than current EPA requirements.
- Blowing performance is 102 mph at the nozzle.
For more information: www.stihl.com
SA 2700 BP
The pitch: The SA 2700 BP Backpack blower from efco is a light and powerful backpack blower designed for jobs around residential properties.
- Featuring a 1.2 hp/30.5 cc engine.
- Comes with the throttle control ergonomically positioned directly on the discharge tube.
- Equipped with a silenced muffler and max air speed of 145 mph.
For more information: www.efcopower.com
Grasshopper Turbine Blower
The pitch: The blower attaches in place of the out-front mower deck to retain zero-turn maneuvering, and with a nozzle that rotates a full 360 degrees, operators can move the large debris piles.
- Optional joystick control mounted to the mower steering lever allows for nozzle rotation while maneuvering the power unit for precise air flow control.
- Attaches in place of the mowing deck on Grasshopper 700 and 900 Series True Zero-Turn FrontMount mowers.
- QuikConverter allows switching from the Turbine Blower to other implements in minutes without tools.
For more information: www.grasshoppermower.com
A number of years ago, a $1 million commercial lawn maintenance contractor in Colorado called me. He was interested in possibly selling his business. His net profit margin after all bills and a reasonable salary to him were paid was 10 percent. I gave him a ballpark value of around $0.75 per revenue dollar – $750,000.
This figure included his equipment, inventory at fair market value (FMV) but no real estate. He then told me that his CPA, using various evaluation models, told him he should get around $2 million for his business. “Gee!” I said to him, “This makes me look stupid, doesn’t it?” However, I then went on to tell him that he had better get all of his money, the entire $2 million, up front. Otherwise, he’d never see it, but I’ll get to that later.
The point is that mergers and acquisitions take a lot of work, but can also be a great boost to your bottom line. Many companies in the U.S. and Canada are growing their revenue in the current economy by means of mergers and acquisitions. You get M.A.D. when you add sellers to this equation (divestitures). Donald Trump’s 2004 best seller, The Art of the Deal, recognizes an important aspect of a deal. It is as much art as it is arithmetic.
The current trend in such deals focuses primarily on the somewhat constant revenue streams of the maintenance and service sectors. M.A.D. transactions involving construction revenue streams are not common, but do happen. The buyer is betting that future revenue streams and profits generated from the purchased book of business will more than offset its price. This is often the case but even the big boys, the large consolidators, get burned now and then.
The process. You need to assemble a team of professionals to assist you in any transaction. First, you need a good attorney, who specializes in such matters. This person should review correspondence; contracts; non-compete, confidentiality and non-disclosure documents; to name a few.
Second, you need a certified public accountant (CPA) who is familiar with buying and selling companies. He or she will evaluate the tax and financial implications of a deal. A business broker may also be involved but beware, such a broker is often a real estate broker who “brokers” businesses – any business.
Green industry businesses have their unique aspects and a generic evaluation approach can be detrimental. You may want to involve a consultant who is familiar with such deals within the green industry. While not a broker, this person can coach you through the M.A.D. process.
While value, like beauty, may be somewhat in the eye of the beholder, there are limits. FMV is what a willing buyer will pay a willing seller in a free market. How much a willing buyer will pay is often anybody’s guess.
On the other hand, evaluation models, trends and industry benchmarks can be helpful, but they must be considered within the greater context of what motivates the buyer or seller to pursue such a deal.
Without doing so, you could miss an opportunity or leave a lot of cash on the table.
Except for highly profitable companies, ones with net profit margins (NPM) exceeding 15 percent, the EBIDTA evaluation results are very similar to the GPM model.
There’s nothing left to pay off the principal. This deal simply will not work. This is not Monopoly. There are parameters for these deals.
A highly profitable maintenance company (NPM over 20 percent for many years) with annual revenues exceeding $7 million, calculated a value for his business of about $2.45 million using the GPM model.
I recommended that he and his CPA use the EBIDTA method. Using it, the value calculated to be roughly $5 million, double the GPM amount. In the final analysis, he used the EBIDTA model and sold his business for over $5 million.
Remember, before you attempt to do a deal, assemble a M.A.D. team that will provide essential counsel regarding any transaction. Going M.A.D. can be a tool to help you grow.
Or, if pursued rashly, it can result in a “shotgun wedding” where you spend what seems like an eternity with Roseanne Barr as a mother-in-law. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.
JIM HUSTON runs J.R. Huston Consulting, a green industry consulting firm. See www.jrhuston.biz; mail email@example.com.
A few years ago, my wife and I bought our first house. During the sales process, we went through what felt like hundreds of houses. Due to my inherent thrift, we started our search at what some would call the low end of the market. As such, we toured a lot of houses that were vacant, foreclosed, spider-infested and at least one with only three walls.
As we moved up market, we went through an older home (with all its walls) that had a relic of the past anchored to the kitchen wall. In a steel box at shoulder height, next to the telephone, sat a 1960s edition of the Yellow Pages.
A few weeks later, we found a house we liked (it had all four walls and no vermin). On the counter, along with all the spare keys and the code to the garage door opener, the previous owners left us a stack of a dozen phone books, many published more than 10 years ago.
The first thing I did was toss that stack of phone books in the recycling bin.
Now, if you still advertise in the Yellow Pages or similar books, and you get a tangible return on that investment, then by all means don’t stop. But, if you can’t readily articulate what you get back in dollars and cents for an ad in the phone book, take a look at this month’s cover story on page 40.
According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, out of adults who say they sought out information on local businesses, 47 percent rely most on the internet, and 22 percent rely most on word of mouth from family and friends.
Homeowners, HOAs and property managers still need and want landscapers. But the process from that initial thought – “I think we should hire a landscaper” – to you shaking their hand at a walk-around has changed dramatically in the past 10 years.
These days, chances are pretty good that homeowner or board president will first ask his friends or colleagues for recommendations and then go to Google to find out more about those top picks.
So if you're not showing up where your prospects are looking, where are you? Missing out. The tools we give you this month will help you show up.
Just like buying a big ad in the Yellow Pages makes you stand out, having good SEO and a solid online presence makes you stand out, too. The message to customers and your ultimate goals are the same – the medium has just changed.
So put yourself in front of your new customers. They’re out there looking for you. Will you be there for them to find?