As the owner of a small lawn care or landscaping business, you always want to grow. More likely than not, you’ve grown primarily via word of mouth. While that is the best way to grow long-term, sometimes it’s just not quick enough.
In other words, you need to market your business.
For residential lawn and landscaping businesses, this can seem daunting. Typically contract sizes aren’t large enough to warrant having a dedicated salesperson for door-to-door marketing. Also, you don’t just want any new client – you want new clients within your service radius. And most advertising options are either expensive, complicated or both.
The good news is you don’t need to be a marketing expert to grow your client base. Here are a few tips that we’ve seen residential landscapers use to grow their businesses that don’t require much effort or expertise on your part to take your business to the next level.
1. Invest in online reviews
Have you polished up your online review profiles yet? If not, that’s the first thing you should do. Many business owners make the mistake of thinking a review site is what a customer checks out after they hear about your business. This isn’t true – review sites can generate brand new customers.
In fact, if you’ve been around for a long time, it’s likely that you’re already getting customers from your reviews. We work with thousands of lawn care providers here at LawnStarter, and I can’t tell you how many times a business owner thinks they’re getting most of their business via pure word of mouth. However, they learn that they’re at the top of Yelp, which is where their calls are coming from.
There are a lot of review platforms available for landscaping businesses, but you should invest first and foremost in the ones that will give you free customers. Those include Yelp, Google and Houzz (only invest in Houzz if you do landscaping projects). Other sites such as Thumbtack and Homeadvisor are pay-to-play, require capital and take more time to manage.
Look at your competition on these sites and see how many reviews your competitors have, and try to get more. Make sure to respond cordially to any negative reviews – we all get them.
2. Make a professional website
In this day and age, you really need to have a website. You don’t necessarily need to do search engine optimization (SEO) or Google AdWords, but you should let people who find you on review sites know that you’re professional and modern enough to have a website.
With a website comes additional ways to create leads. Having a lead form on your website will allow you to collect leads with phone numbers and emails, which you might miss out on if you rely on inbound phone calls for new clients.
Consumers these days can be lazy, so don’t make them dig for information. Ensure that your website looks professional, is mobile-responsive and has all the information a prospective client might want to see on the home page.
This means prominently displaying a high-quality picture of yourself, the areas you service (a map works great here), a list of services you offer and your hours of operation. To add icing on the cake, put pictures of your past work, testimonials from clients and review ratings from other sites on your page.
Make sure it’s easy for prospective clients to get in touch with you. Your phone number and lead form link should be the first thing a user sees when they land on the page, and it should also be on the navigation bar.
Following these best practices will put you ahead of most of your competition.
3. Show your clients’ neighbors you’re around
Your dream is to have lots of recurring clients in the same neighborhoods, as it reduces your drive time and increases your capacity. Every consumer's dream is to hire someone their friends already trust and like working with.
Why aren’t your clients’ neighbors your customer already? They might not know who you are. Sure, if neighbor A asks neighbor B for a recommendation, your name might come up, but that conversation only happens so often.
In his book Contagious, researcher Jonah Berger shares six ways for businesses to accelerate word-of-mouth marketing. In my opinion, the one most applicable is to “make private behavior public.”
Your clients’ neighbors don’t know who they pay to mow their lawn – that’s private. They do know the lawn is tidy and looks good.
Truck magnets and uniforms that prominently display your company name and logo are a great start. They aren’t expensive and you want to make sure they look professional.
You can also ask your customers’ permission, perhaps even by offering a discount, to put a sign in their yard. A passerby probably won’t call you after they see the sign, but over time, as they see multiple signs in that neighborhood, they may start to recall your company as the one that services that neighborhood.
4. Give existing clients the extra treatment
According to marketing agency Web Profits, customer advocacy is a marketing tactic that “identifies and leverages a company’s most enthusiastic customers with the aim of driving new business.”
In other words, it’s not about trying to go out and find new clients. It’s about recognizing your biggest fans (or creating more of them) and investing in your relationship with them to drive referrals.
The key here is taking a good service, which presumably you already offer, and turning it into one that truly wows your customers.
It’s not that difficult to do. Sadly, the fact of the matter is that standards for service based businesses are low. This includes offering great customer service, as Zappos did to build its brand. For example, making it a goal to respond to emails in under 15 minutes, no matter what. You can also surprise your customers, whether it be a handwritten note, complimentary flowers or spraying weeds in the sidewalk cracks without being asked.
It’s this type of additional treatment that drives referrals.
Finally, when you do get a referral from a customer, proactively follow up with them thanking them and offering them something, whether it’s a discount, a T-shirt or a handwritten note. Not only is it the right thing to do, it is positively reinforcing the behavior you want.
5. Simple email marketing
If you do a Google search for “email marketing,” you’ll find more information than you can shake a stick at. Ignore it all, for now.
For the purposes of a small landscaping business, email marketing is about two things: re-engaging past customers and upselling current customers.
First, you need to get every customer’s email, if you haven’t already.
Then, you need to setup a series of emails – called a campaign – via a free tool such as Mailchimp. Do not blindly attempt to sell your services in every email. This will simply make your customers mad and click the “unsubscribe” button.
You should send a mix of informative emails, updates on the company (clients want to get to know you) and sales emails.
Remember, just because an email is a sales email, doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. Reminding clients that it’s time for a seasonal service adds value to them. To learn more, check out this guide to email marketing for small businesses.
Ryan Farley is co-founder and head of marketing for LawnStarter Lawn Care, an online and mobile platform that connects homeowners with lawn care professionals for care-free and efficient services.
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