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Marketing in landscaping is all about belonging

When customers see themselves in a landscaper’s marketing program, they feel a sense of belonging to the business


March 18, 2019
By Mike Jiggens


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Marketing in the landscaping industry is about belonging, the owner of a Waterloo-based marketing firm says. Belonging isn’t “touchy-feely” but equates to revenue.

Alyssa Light of The Profitable Innovator, speaking in January at Landscape Ontario’s Congress in Toronto, said there is a way to create marketing that becomes self-propelling.

“The No. 1 thing that people want to feel is belonging,” she said.

According to a study, belonging is the primary emotion people want to feel and is also the No. 1 emotion they don’t feel. When customers see themselves in a landscaper’s marketing program, they feel a sense of belonging to the business.

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“There is an opportunity here for you to connect with your audience.”

Light said landscape contractors could hold up a sieve and have prospects fall through it, thereby retaining the best quality clients. She said contractors first have to know how to position themselves, suggesting each time they create a positioning statement, the objective is to let potential customers know what the company offers in a way that the customer says, “That’s me.” It’s their wish to say, “I want to be a part of that.”

Positioning statements should be simplified so that they make sense, and the fewer words the better, she said, adding that if only three words describing a company could be printed on a business card with no logo and no other information, would the three words be able to identify the individual?

“If we took away everything else on your business card except for one sentence or two sentences about what you do, would we know who you are?”

Light exhibited a “superpower” she has that enables her to come up with marketing slogans on the spot. An audience member who owns a kitchen and bathroom outfitting business was the first to test Light’s unique ability. Learning that the business caters mainly to customers in the Burlington and Oakville lakeshore area – or a “keeping up with the Joneses” neighbourhood – Light came up with the slogan, “We create kitchens your neighbours want to have dinner in.”

The slogan addressed the marketing world’s NEWS compass points: name, explain, simplify and why. The “why,” she said, was “to keep up with the Joneses.”

Although Light’s audience members belonged to the landscaping industry in general, she challenged them to think about what industry they were “really in,” suggesting it would be a game changer for their marketing.

“Are you in the industry of creating safe backyards for new families? Are you in the industry of growing gardens in people’s backyards so they can eat fresh, even though they don’t have the time to garden? Are you in the industry of keeping seniors in their homes when they become widowed? You maintain the outside of their properties so they can stay in their homes. What industry are you actually in?”

Start with a question
A positioning statement is about starting a conversation, Light said, adding a good way to begin is by asking a question. Questions can include, “Do you ever feel like….?” or “Have you ever thought about….?”

When marketing to pre-qualified leads, “you should be able to close at least 30 to 50 per cent of those sales.”

The first element toward successful marketing, she said, is to be clever because that’s what will get people’s attention. She said a positioning statement should be thought of as a sieve. Leads are poured into it, but only the qualified leads go through, and it is those leads that are targeted for marketing.

“When you blanket market, you don’t get anywhere,” Light said, adding the average callback in blanket marketing is only one to two per cent.

A strategy that has proven effective in a direct mail campaign is to hand-write the customer’s name on the envelope and purposely affix the stamp crooked. It gets people’s attention and “you get a 30 per cent higher open rate.”

Whether or not direct mail is utilized, Light suggested even the letters inside the envelope be hand written, acknowledging that it’s time-consuming and can lead to cramped hands, “but it pays off all the time.”

Another effective touch, she said, is to work with Canada Post to create a custom stamp that showcases a landscaper’s brand. It will cost a little more, but existing customers will feel attached to the brand’s depiction and it’s a way of promoting the brand to potential new customers.

Light talked about marketing boxes and how they can give customers a sense of belonging. She said qualified leads could be mailed small boxes containing dictionaries, for example, with a note that reads, “Do you feel you need this to talk to your landscaper?”

Marketing box strategies
“If you’re going to create something like this, what you don’t want to do is put a year on it unless it’s a special thing you’re doing just for that year because people remember stuff like this. Only put a time on it if it’s necessary.”

The objective behind marketing boxes is to have people stop what they’re doing and be amazed at what has been created for them and the sense of belonging inside the creation, Light said.

An expense is attached to the boxes, but the return on investment can potentially be high. The cost of the box and its contents (whether it’s a dictionary or another item) needs to be calculated along with staffing costs and then multiplied by the number of boxes mailed out. That number can then be compared with the number of new clients multiplied by the company’s average lifetime client value.

“That means if you have a client who pays you $100 a year for 20 years, they are a $2,000 lifetime value. If you have a client who pays you $5,000 a year for five years, they are $25,000 lifetime value. You have to figure out how long they stay with you and how much they spend.”

If the box costs $25 and staffing costs are $10 and the quantity of boxes is 50, total spending is $1,750. If five people reply with a “yes” and their average client lifetime value is $5,000, the company has just made $25,000 from a $1,750 investment.

“By putting $1 into your marketing, you made $14.”

At 20 per cent of the box recipients responding with a “yes,” a $50,000 return is realized.

“You just made a one-to-28 ROI. At 50 per cent, it’s a one-to-71 ROI on qualified leads. You can make serious money when people find belonging in your marketing because they get that you get them.”

Light said a company that sends out boxes containing two different plants – one healthy and one dying – to leads’ homes, a note tucked inside could read, “One of these plants is well cared for, just like we’re going to care for your garden.”

Light said a landscaping company should want to stand out and be the one that customers go to for assistance so that they stand out and “keep up with the Joneses.”

If a company leaves would-be customers confused, those individuals will always say “no,” she said.

“To do something different than what your competitors are doing takes a lot. It’s a little bit scary to do what other people aren’t doing, but it’s also how you get noticed.”

The key is to be tenacious, Light said, noting tenacity takes both nerve and determination.