The bar has been raised when it comes to website design. Today’s consumers expect to find the answer to just about every question they have, yet they don’t want to spend endless amounts of time hunting for those answers. Consumers also want to feel a connection to the company they are researching.
Developing a winning website today comes down to one word: engaging.
“For starters, it’s really important to establish your brand voice,” says Kelly Dowell, owner of Keldo Digital. “You can be playful, or maybe more serious and even scientific. It all depends on how you want to present your brand.”
Simple and scannable
Whether your brand voice is more informal or academic, you always need to be wary of overwhelming the consumer.
“Websites should have an appropriate amount of simplicity,” says Chad Diller, vice president of Landscape Leadership. To that point, content should be clear and scannable. The information can be broken up into bite-sized sections with headings, as opposed to large walls of text. “Also look for ways to use icons instead of long sentences,” Diller says. For instance, a graphic of a lawn mower or fertilizer spreader with the phrase “get a quote” makes things very clear.
“Most consumers will scroll a few times, but then are looking for something to click,” Diller adds. This is especially true on mobile devices.
A consumer’s willingness to scroll and read can be influenced by what they are buying. For instance, a consumer looking for a routine lawn care service might not be willing to spend as much time online as a consumer looking to spend thousands of dollars on an elaborate outdoor living area.
“What we’re finding from our Google Analytics data is that consumers are willing to spend some time reading content,” says Jack Jostes, president and CEO of Ramblin Jackson. “Our approach is long-form content, which goes against the notion that people have short attention spans. But what we’re finding is that people who have a budget are serious and actually crave more detailed information.”
Tony Ricketts, co-founder and CEO of Lawnline Marketing, says landscapers should post content that answers the questions your customers are asking. “To drive a lasting ROI in this industry, I've seen quality written blogs, project case studies, service pages and area pages move the needle the most,” he says. “This written content becomes supercharged when paired with a relevant video and a solid marketing strategy. Even if you don't do the video aspect, the written content is the most powerful piece that drives new leads and ROI.”
And yes, blogs are still cool.
“But nobody is going to scan your blog pages,” Ricketts says. “For best results, you have to properly promote and distribute your posts, apply them to paid marketing funnels, and much more.”
You should go beyond your work, and your website should give the consumer a glimpse into who you are as a company.
Place a heavy focus on your "About" pages, discuss your vision and mission statements, show your culture and list your people, Ricketts says. “Build a careers section and create a page for each position that you're hiring for,” he adds.
In an effort to create a seamless website experience, Diller says it’s important to eliminate website clutter. Page design elements like accordions, a menu of vertically stacked headers that reveal more details when clicked, help do that. It’s also important to take a look at navigation bars because too many choices can overwhelm the consumer.
Dowell says a good approach is to think about services that logically fit together. For instance, do you need separate pages for spring cleanup and mulching, or can they be presented together since most customers don’t buy one without the other?
Website forms can also be decluttered. Dowell likes to keep them brief, just asking for the basic information like name, address, phone and email, along with a comments box. Then, after the customer submits that information, a thank you page could invite additional information by linking to another form. This can be helpful for design/build prospects.
That second, optional form could ask more questions about the customer’s style and color preferences, features they are interested in, budget, etc. “Hitting a prospect with this big 50-question survey just to qualify a lead can turn people away,” Dowell says.
When organizing site navigation and building things like landing pages and forms, Diller says it’s helpful to always think about the customer’s journey. The right content at the right time is what helps create a seamless and favorable user experience.
“When a consumer lands on your home page, what are the three or four things they are going to want to do?” Diller asks. At the same time, what do you want them to do? “If you’re going to have a link to ‘lawn care pricing,’ do you want the consumer to jump right there, or would you rather they first jump to a page explaining your services and value? Those are the types of things to think about when developing a website today. It isn’t an exact science but does require planning.”
Speaking of pricing, Jostes says landscape companies shouldn’t shy away from talking about it on their websites.
“We like to incorporate a pricing guide, which we refer to as bracketing,” Jostes says. “We like to present price ranges. For example, one design/build company we work with presents a Tier 1 bracket of $10,000 to $20,000, along with a photo and brief description of what that bracket might entail. Tier 2 is $20,000 to $75,000 and Tier 3 is $75,000 to $150,000. This way, the landscape company is the consumer’s first source of pricing information. This creates a sense of trust, and quickly.”
Make good use of visuals
The nice thing is, the landscape industry is very photogenic. The key for a landscape company is making the most of the resources they have to capture great imagery — emphasis on the word great.
“If you want to post smartphone pictures and videos on social media, that’s just fine,” Dowell says. “But for your website, don’t be afraid to splurge. Hire a professional to take some great photos, and maybe even some drone photography and videos.”
“I always tell our clients, if you invest some money in a couple two-day photo shoots each year for a couple of years, you’re going to capture a lot of great images,” Diller adds. “And most of those images are evergreen, so they can be used over and over. It’s a good investment to hire someone who actually knows what they are doing and can make you look 10 times the company you are.”
Using anything but original photos can be a bad look.
“Companies that use all stock photos on their website make me cringe,” Ricketts says. “It's so easy to get real photos, so there’s really no excuse.”
Design/build companies should put more of a focus on photos.
“If you do design/build work, create project case studies for each project and publish them in a Projects section,” Ricketts says.
Diller says a landscape company’s marketing dollar can stretch a bit further with photos than videos. But that’s not to say videos shouldn’t play a role in website development. The budget-conscious landscape company just needs to know where to focus.
“I don’t think you need a video on every single page,” Diller says. “But a company branding video is a great idea. A video talking about your ideal customers and properties can also be compelling.”
Dowell adds one word of caution when it comes to videos. “Keep it to shorter snippets of maybe 15-20 seconds. You don’t want huge videos that end up restricting page speed,” Dowell says.
Along those same lines, Dowell says today’s consumers generally don’t like it when sound turns on automatically. So, if you’re going to utilize a video that plays automatically, make sure the default setting is mute.
Make a connection
In today’s digital world, consumers expect to see high-quality content that is unique.
“We’re now entering an age where the floor has been elevated because AI (artificial intelligence) will soon be able to generate better content than the novice website marketer,” Diller says. “Landscape companies need engaging headings and copy. They need fresh ways to present information and stand out. You can’t just talk about the usual things like your experience and awards. Connecting with consumers today is more about engaging copy and visuals.”
Making connections is also about changing the level of communication.
For example, why would a customer want to build the ultimate backyard retreat? Do they want to create moments with friends and family? Show that in the photos on your site. “Rather than just showing the firepit, show two parents and their two kids toasting s’mores. That is engaging content,” Diller says.
Engaging content also needs to be more diverse today. Consumers are looking for multiple forms of content as they do their research, including photo galleries, testimonials and case studies. And again, consumers don’t want to spend endless amounts of time looking for it.
Ricketts says you should stay away from generic, fluffy content.
“If you write about ‘getting your weekends back’ and ‘having the best yard on the block,’ you’re wasting your time” Ricketts says. “Write detailed and informative content. Hire a professional writer if needed.”
“I always tell our clients, if you invest some money in a couple two-day photo shoots each year for a couple of years, you’re going to capture a lot of great images.”
— Chad Diller, vice president, Landscape Leadership
Diller says landscape companies should make good use of search bars and filters on their websites. For example, different content assets could be classified by landscape feature, property type, etc.
“Your website might have 200 amazing photos, but the individual consumer just wants to see the handful that are important to them,” Diller says. “Think about how you’re going to make it easy for that consumer to find those images, testimonials, etc.”
That concept plays into another web development trend that has been coming on for several years. Personalization tailors the online experience to specific things an individual consumer is interested in.
Dowell says many landscape companies are utilizing sales/marketing platforms like HubSpot to help in this regard. But even smaller companies with limited marketing budgets can enhance the personalization of their websites.
A practical technique is to create personalized landing pages where traffic from online ads, social media posts and marketing emails are sent to.
“You can personalize by demographic,” Dowell says. “The page could showcase a smaller house or maybe one of your really large properties, depending on who you’re trying to appeal to. You could also personalize by location. You can do these types of things on a smaller budget.”
The secret to a winning landscape company website does not have to be tied to a monster marketing budget or elaborate marketing software. Those things can help, but they don’t mean much without a willingness to do what it takes to resonate with today’s consumers.
That means spending a lot less time talking about you and more about them, and doing so in a voice that’s unique, engaging and representative of your overall brand.
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