Lawn & Landscape connected with three digital marketing professionals – Pam Haskell, owner of Chili Pepper Design; Jake Hundley, CEO and digital strategist at Evergrow Marketing; and Jack Jostes, president and CEO of Ramblin Jackson – to get the lowdown on how to approach online marketing in 2019.
1. What’s the first step a landscaper can take to improve their online presence on their own?
Editor’s note: All three said “claim your Google My Business listing,” so this answer has been edited to avoid some redundancy.
PH: If you’re not familiar with what (Google My Business) is, it’s the business listings that show up on the right-hand side of Google’s search results.
Claiming your company’s listing takes minimal time and effort, but it has so many benefits for people searching for businesses like yours. By registering, you’ll probably see an increase in your website’s ranking with Google (this is unconfirmed with Google, but we’ve seen it happen for a lot of our customers).
Google My Business listings also do wonders for local search traffic. When someone searches ‘landscaping company near me,’ you’ll be listed.
The best part of these listings? They’re completely free. You can also add as many photos, videos and updates as you like (the more, the better). All of this is something you can do yourself – it’s basically like free advertising that you have complete control over.
JH: It places you on the map at the top of search results which accounts for almost 35 percent of all clicks. Do the same thing for Bing and as many other directory websites out there, but stick to the free ones.
The keywords you want to rank for typically include “near me” or “in/near (your city).” The more signals you can give Google and Bing that you service a specific area and have taken the time to add your business listing to multiple sites, the more likely Google will think you’re one of the most reputable landscapers in your area.
Just be sure to have all of your listings consistent. If your business name is Joe’s Landscaping on one site, don’t use Joe’s Landscaping LLC on another. If your address is 1804 Tremont Street on one, don’t use 1804 Tremont St. on another. Inconsistency produces a lack of credibility with search engines.
JJ: It’s free at google.com/business. Your Google My Business listing is what helps you show up on the Map results when potential customers – or employees – Google you. Selling landscaping is very visual, so show your customers what they want to see by uploading quality photographs. In addition to professional photographs of your landscape design projects, also upload photos of you and your team in uniform and photos of your branded vehicles and signage.
Remember, even referrals and potential employees will Google you before they contact you, so put your best photos forward. Be sure to prune your listing. If you don’t offer a service anymore, or don’t want a certain type of project anymore, remove that from your listing.
After you’ve claimed and verified your Google My Business listing, hustle to get at least 10 reviews from your best clients. Having a strong review average on your Google listing not only helps you rank higher on Google when people search “best landscapers near me,” they also help seal the deal for referrals.
2. What’s the most effective way to use social media as a marketing tool?
PH: You can really grow your business with social media by increasing customer trust and confidence. Social media is a fantastic marketing tool that really helps you connect with potential customers – it feels completely one-on-one from their perspective.
Social media marketing can be split into two categories: paid and free. Under the free category, you want to update your profiles every day (or every other day) with relevant and engaging content. You can network with potential partners, suppliers and local events profiles to gain more exposure for your brand. One of the most important factors for social media success is to reply to people that comment on your updates.
We always recommend people invest in retargeted social media advertising. Retargeted advertising is incredibly effective. Basically, when someone visits your website, they’re then shown your ads when they’re browsing the sites you’ve paid for retargeting on.
JH: As a teaching tool for your customers. Social media isn’t meant to close sales, it’s meant to create a community around your business. Give people a reason to follow your Facebook or Instagram page. Nobody wants a sales pitch on these platforms.
Show helpful tips on how to care for your new sod installation or how to spot tree diseases. This will keep people interested in what you have to say while keeping your brand name top-of-mind.
Don’t be afraid to do DIY videos. If people are going to do it themselves, they’re going to learn how to do it. They might as well learn it from you. Don’t let them learn it from someone else. When they come across a task that’s out of their wheelhouse, you’ll be the first person they call. You can also just take videos of your crew working hard on a property. Green Again Lawn out of Olathe, Kansas, does a great job sharing videos like this as well as DIY videos on their Facebook page.
JJ: The most effective way for landscaping companies to use social media as a marketing tool is to have your employees help produce Instagram video and photo content on their smartphones during projects.
Making short, smartphone videos, Instagram stories and photos along the way – a little bit every day – can make a big impact online. It’s really easy to kill two birds with one stone by syncing your Instagram with your Facebook so your posts show up in both places.
Landscapers with a slow winter can make the most of the offseason by producing social media content that will be shared later.
Winkler Lawn and Landscape (IG:@winklerslandscape) in Platte City, Missouri, takes advantage of the winter time by recording videos for an “Ask A Landscaper” series. Common landscaping questions are answered by the owner and lead staff in short, one-minute video clips that are then posted to YouTube and scheduled to go out months later in the spring using a program called Later.
When using Instagram, use hashtags for your ideal customers neighborhoods, suburbs and cities. For example, if you target Houston, you could add the hashtag #houston to your posts.
3. What’s a common mistake you see landscapers make when it comes to online marketing?
PH: We see a lot of landscapers running into the same issue – pumping money into online marketing but then neglecting their website.
If someone that’s interested in hiring you sees this amazing marketing campaign, they’ll go and look you up. If your website hasn’t been updated in the last five years, they’re not going to follow up with you. The only thing worse than an old, outdated website is not having a website at all.
Companies need to present a professional, cohesive brand experience. You need to be showing that you care, from your website to your aftercare service. This is a detail-oriented industry and customers expect a modern, mobile-ready website that answers all their questions for them.
JH: They don’t commit. They might try it once, not see good results, then swear it doesn’t work.
Online marketing sees better response rates than door hangers. Door hangers typically have less than a 1 percent response rate while digital marketing hovers around the 5 percent range with completely optimized strategies being able to hit the 20 percent range.
If your brand doesn’t have much of a presence online, then you’re not going to get much better response rates. Online campaigns aren’t created, they’re optimized, which requires commitment and a willingness to learn and improve.
Traditional marketing results are based on the individual campaign. Digital results are based on continuous optimization and more refined targeting.
You may consider word-of-mouth having the best return, but that’s also what Google reviews are for.
If you decide to hire an agency or freelancer to help you, be sure to familiarize yourself with the terminology and understand important KPIs for you. Clicks to your site are not as important as form fills, emails and tracked phone calls.
JJ: The most common online marketing mistake I see landscapers make is simply not doing any online marketing at all.
“I can’t hire anyone to do the work… so I don’t need to do any online marketing” or “90 percent of my business comes from referrals, so I don’t need to do any online marketing” are things I hear many landscapers say, often during a conversation about how they’re not making enough profit or attracting the right types of clients.
What many landscapers don’t realize is that potential employees are looking for landscaping jobs online, and part of the reason you could be having trouble hiring is because your online presence is seedy.
If the only thing you’re doing for marketing is waiting for word-of-mouth and you don’t have the sales or the type of leads you want, it’s time to invest in online marketing.