Belknap Landscape Co. (BLC) may not have a large marketing budget. But that hasn’t stopped the $5 million-a-year central New Hampshire land care company from sponsoring environmental education projects, fan appreciation nights, a woodsman’s tournament and even a summer concert series in a park built by BLC.
“We tend to do guerilla marketing and whatever we can to impress or influence civic groups with influential property owners,” says marketing manager Dale Squires.
So when the Historic Belknap Mill Society approached BLC about sponsoring its summer concert series in Laconia Rotary Park, Squires jumped at the chance.
Rotary Park is a riverfront public park funded by the Laconia Rotary and built by BLC owner Hayden McLaughlin in the 1990s.
“I realized there was an opportunity to tell the public a story about a landmark riverfront public park,” Squires says. In addition, BLC recently rebuilt Stewart Park, the city park across the river, so evidence of the company’s work is visible all around the concert venue.
BLC sponsored two nights of this summer’s seven-concert series. “We said we’d not only like to sponsor it, we’d like to bring some bands to the table,” Squires says. But these weren’t just any bands – both had a connection to BLC, too.
The first concert BLC sponsored featured Michael Vincent Band, a blues band in which McLaughlin’s son is bassist and vocalist. The second was Acoustisaurus, an acoustic rock band in which BLC human resources manager Glen Moire serves as bassist and backup vocalist.
“Dale got this crazy idea of having the owner’s son’s band play and my band play since I work for the company,” Moire says. “It’s the first company I’ve worked for that supported something as unique as this. Dale does a great job getting employees involved with marketing the company.”
More than 300 people attended the first BLC-sponsored concert and more than 150 attended the second one.
The success of the concert series has already led to another music-related opportunity: supporting the New Hampshire Lakes Association Hands Across the Water Fundraiser in September.
During the event, BLC will provide a dump truck and equipment trailer on which to stage a band and a tree service crane to hang a kayak over the stage. Squires is hoping the event might also feature the bands the company brought to the stage during the summer concert series.
The New Hampshire Lakes Association is one of a number of nonprofit groups with ties to local waterfront properties that BLC supports. “Lakes and waterways are the economic engine of the area, so there are a number of lakefront property owner associations,” Squires says.
“Many of them look after water quality because it directly effects property values.
We offer on-the-ground support for these kinds of organizations – materials for construction projects and labor to help get work done.”
Engaging the youth. Much of Squires’s time is focused on environmental education of local youth, such as the New Hampshire Lakes Association’s stormwater mitigation projects in which participating youth are hired to build natural barriers to runoff.
“In those instances, we obtain largely donated plant material from suppliers or growers and provide construction material pretty much at cost,” Squires says. Participants dig ditches and fill them with river rock to stem the flow of runoff and help water naturally filter through soil and plant life.
“Some of these projects are pretty big,” Squires says. “You can’t take any machines down to the water without a permit, so the summer youth go down in droves with shovels and make rain gardens.”
Involvement in community activities can also lead to new business for your company. Squires says BLC also orchestrated a volunteer effort, engaging local youth in the removal of invasive plants encroaching on the public walking/biking trail called the WOW Trail, which led to a future job.
“We were paid for the container and hauling, along with a fee for burning the cuttings,” he says. “In turn, non-profit WOW Trail obtained $4,500 in grant money for enhancements and screening along another portion of the trail, giving BLC the work without opening bidding.”
Timing is everything. After four years on the job, Squires has built a rapport with many local organizations and maintains a marketing calendar so he knows the best times to reach out to them.
For instance, he knows that the Swan Lake Association has their annual meeting at the end of July, so he’ll round up plants from BLC’s nursery to set out on reception tables and podiums.
“It sounds like nothing, but that way the influential folks who go to fundraisers and annual events know that Belknap Landscape supports them,” Squires says.
Squires works to keep BLC visible to the community year-round. That’s why Belknap Landscape Tree Services partnered with a local chainsaw retailer to put on the Gilford Woodsman Tournament last August and once again hosted it this year. BLC mills and delivers lumber to the competition site and cuts a climbing tree, which is held up with a tree service crane.
Competitors including the University of New Hampshire woodsman team participate in events such as pole tosses, hatchet throws and pole climbing. “Last year we had over 300 people attend, and it was absolutely incredible,” Squires says.
In addition, each summer for the past four years the company has held a Belknap Landscape Annual Area Appreciation Night at a local Laconia Muskrats game. “I spend some money on that event for advertising because I’m filling the baseball stadium – we had 724 in attendance this July,” Squires says.
Attendees who snagged coupons from the company website or through local newspapers received free parking and admission.
What advice does Squires have for other companies looking to tackle marketing opportunities like BLC does? “You just have to find something that you can speak well to and pursue it in different venues when you can,” Squires says.
“What I do on a shoestring is make sure that Belknap Landscape comes to mind first when services are needed in our area.
That doesn’t mean we always get the jobs, but we do get leads and bid opportunities.”
The author is a freelance writer based in Lincoln, Ill.