Several times a week, I’m asked by people from our industry, mostly landscapers, if I have any suggestions for how they might go about attracting new clients to their business.
Most, if not all of them are interested in appealing to wealthy clients.
Up until that time, typical courses of action to make this happen are along the lines of upgrading their website, paying to target keywords through google advertising, paying for an advertorial in a magazine along with various attempts at sharing, “What’s been happening at [insert name] Landscapes” with their target market through social media.
As you already know, getting new clients requires a multi-pronged approach. All these strategies will certainly work to some degree, but my feeling is that none of them really take into account the shifts in consumer behaviour that we’ve seen emerge over the past decade.
My feeling is also that because landscapers are typically really busy people, the vast majority of you either don’t have (or more realistically, don’t “make”) the time to research and re-educate yourselves about the changing face of the market, not just in our industry, but right across the board.
From the conversations I’ve had it would seem that despite the cosmic volume of free information available online, many landscapers still believe that if they “throw more money” at the problem via one of the channels I just mentioned, it should resolve itself. To further externalize the blame many might add that seeing as they don’t have endless reserves of money to spend on “marketing”, that’s why the clients they really want aren’t beating a path to their door ie they can’t afford to get the clients they want?
If that sounds like you, I’m here to say that your current approach and logic simply don’t apply anymore, at least not to the degree that they might have a decade or so ago.
I’m also here to let you know that, in the first instance, people don’t care about what your business has been doing lately, which awards you’ve won, or that you just finished spraying the pool in someone else’s backyard. These are all great ways of making you and your team feel valued, which is definitely important, but don’t expect a huge return on investment for sharing it publicly.
People, yourself included, care about themselves. In our consumer driven society this is increasingly the case. What that means is, for you to appeal to more clients and attract them to your business, you first need to demonstrate that you care about them and the challenges, needs and desires they’re dealing with so you can help them feel valued.
In the case of your Facebook post about the pool you’ve just sprayed, you’d be much better off giving them free information about how much a pool costs, what the costly mistakes they should try to avoid are, and rate and review three pool builders in your local area that you recommend. Can you see the difference?
In short, you’ve got to give before you get.
Particularly for services, people need and expect to get value up front. There are so many landscapers to choose from, almost all of them offering more or less exactly the same promise.
Of the hundreds of landscapers I’ve spoken to, those who are winning now are the ones who’ve already found a way to develop a relationship with their future clients (and as a bi-product of that, their network) long before they’re approached for the job. They rarely need to ask for the job because they’ve been giving so much value already that people are trying to find a way to pay them back.
Those who are going to keep winning (what I really want to say is “absolutely killing it”) long into the future are the ones who’ll develop a systematic approach to continually initiate and nurture new relationships every single day.
There are ways to do this both online and offline, some will cost you money, some will cost you time, all of them will involve you sharing what you do and your experience for the benefit of others.
When I started writing this article I was going to call it something like “How to find and attract affluent clients” but after I distilled what I really wanted to say, my opinion is that the strategies I’m suggesting will work no matter which sector (low/mid/high-end) you are intending to appeal to.
So let’s get down to business.
In order to start generating a flow of new leads to your business, you need to offer value to the market you want to work with. If that’s high-end, then take these strategies and apply it to high-end circles. If you’re after volume, the same applies but focus on the needs, values, fears and desires of budget conscious home owners and the market places they interact with.
Here are half a dozen suggestions for you to consider right away. I’m just going to brainstorm this whole section with you. If you’d like to discuss any in particular in more detail, by all means leave a comment or send me an email.
#1 Strategic relationships – Suppliers
Strategic relationships have been an incredible source of new work for me.
Start by writing down ten (or more) suppliers that are highly likely to come into contact with the clients you’re targeting. Generally, though not necessarily, these will be other businesses that service the landscape industry. Some examples: European tile supplier, glass fencing installer, furniture suppliers, lighting suppliers, cabinet makers, swimming pool builders, automated louvre and shade canopy suppliers.
Every time you or your business interacts with the other businesses on that list, you’re going to be the most helpful, giving, generous, consistently awesome person they’ve ever met that always takes an interest in what they’re doing and helping them to reach their goals in any way you can.
How you could offer them value – Can you send more work their way? Can you offer to specify their products exclusively? Can you offer them the chance to meet your clients to pitch their products directly? Can you maintain the street frontage of their showroom? Can you devise some sort of joint promotional event or a development of a new product?
#2 Strategic relationships – Design (and other) professionals
This is an absolute goldmine that I believe very few contractors take the time to consider seriously enough. I think it has something to do with their historically long and tumultuous relationship with designers, which is ridiculous because we could make a lot more money together if we only gave each other a chance (why don’t we like each other again?).
Architects, interior designers and landscape architects can serve you projects on an endless conveyor belt lined with silver and gold. Accountants, solicitors, real estate agents, bank managers and anyone else involved in the paperwork side of the construction industry are all fantastic opportunities too.
How you could offer them value – Could you be an on-call problem solver “Ask me anything” and give them advice about construction issues/restraints/possibilities? Could you initiate reciprocal arrangements to share in profits for referred work? Could you offer a low cost inspection service (like builders do) to identify potential issues before they start designing? Could you offer to make a monthly presentation to help them learn new things or avoid common mistakes you see them making from a construction perspective?
#3 Industry “Insight nights” and meetups
Outside of LinkedIn, people in our industry rarely help each other. You can take a stand! Be the one that actually does something, you’d be different and you’d stand out, not to mention kill multiple birds (#1 & #2 above) with one stone! This could range from organising an event through Meetup.com and inviting your network (and their network) to working with the landscape association or even directly with other interested suppliers and contractors to organize an event.
Check out Creative Mornings, they do an amazing job of this. Sure, only three people will attend your first one, but it won’t take long to snowball if you approach it sincerely and offer great value.
How you could offer them value – Organise a presentation about issues that everyone is facing and present possible solutions to help them. Could you offer people who attend some sort of discount or additional value and invite others to do the same for each other (kind of like Free Masons)? Could you mix it up and organise social nights that are also informative?
#3 Sponsor a sports team
My fiance’s younger brothers play for the Old Brighton Grammar Football Club and her parents are sponsors and regular volunteers. I can’t tell you the volume of work that passes through that club, it’s practically a contractor recruitment agency. The range of trades and professions amongst the boys that form the various grades in the club is phenomenal and then there’s the parents and relatives of the players, their wives and girlfriends.
Through my indirect relationship to that club alone, I could get a whole house built, wired and plumbed, financed and insured by people I know I can trust without even having to jump on the internet. If you’re not doing this already, seriously consider it. Sponsoring a local team gets your name in front of potential customers every week.
How you could offer them value – Besides the money to support the team, what would all the parents think of you if you organised a night to show the younger players a career path in landscape? How about teaching them how to install irrigation or install lighting at home? Could you offer complimentary design consultations? Could you repair or improve the quality of the playing field?
#4 Get involved in schools and community groups
You know that really nice lady, Leslie, who’s the mother of one of the other kids in your daughter’s class? She’s always volunteering her time to work in the canteen, she’s the one who helped set up for the school fete remember? She stayed with your daughter after school when you were running late. Supposing she owned one of the two bakeries down the road and sold decent bread at a reasonable price, which of the two bakeries would you buy from?
Exactly. Schools and local community groups are huge pools of opportunity for your business and what’s more, if you think carefully, they don’t cost money to get involved, usually just your time.
How you could offer them value – Could you invite parents to a genuinely informative evening to help them understand how to add value to their homes through landscaping and avoid overcapitalising, Could you teach parents how to design and build a garden that involved their children in the process? Could you donate maintenance or design packages to be raffled off? Could you donate your time to install trees or new plants on the grounds?
#5 Knowledge sharing online and offline
Do you know where your target market does all the research for their project online and offline? (hint: it’s NOT the right hand side of google). If you’re going to feature in a landscape and swimming pool magazine, post something to Houzz.com or Instagram, will you persist in glorifying yourself? No! Share what you know so that it might help someone else.
You have so much to share through your experience, so much knowledge from all the mistakes you’ve made and the solutions you’ve developed! Even when you’re advertising, every time you interact with the world through digital or traditional media, ask yourself, “Is this helping my potential clients or really just helping me?”.
How you could offer them value – Every time you post a photo of your project, could you use it as an opportunity to educate and share information with others? Could you write articles for the local newspaper helping people to prepare their garden for the sale of a house? (Imagine the exposure you’d get in the property section!) Could you jump on a radio show to share incredible stories of “how the other half live”? Instead of talking about how unreal you are at everything you do, could you offer advice or knowledge to those that find your awesome project photo advertorial in Pool & Landscape Magazine?
#6 Helpful “call to action” on signage
I have a few others to add but I like this one because I’ve helped a friend do this before. When you win a project in the neighbourhood you want to get more work in, if you’re not already putting signage out the front to announce that it was you doing this project, make that happen. It works.
This strategy is to take that a step further and put a “call to action” on that sign. A call to action is what you want the person who sees the sign to do next. Most businesses put their logo and contact details on the sign, great start, but how about using it as an opportunity to reel someone closer to you?
How you could offer them value – Could you offer them 5 free tips to increase property value by heading to www.yourcompany.com/value? Could you offer a maintenance package and discount for mentioning the code they see on this sign? Could you make it humurous? “Want good looking men like this in your yard too? Come in and ask us how” (you’ve got to take the good with the bad with brainstorming sometimes!). OK here’s a better one, what about “Get your free landscape design and valuation pack HERE, ask any team member on site to claim”. You could keep a bundle of pre-printed information that gives people helpful information, along with your logo and contact details, home with them.
The long and the short of it.
The higher up the value ladder you want to climb in this industry, the more value you’re going to have to give to your target market up front. Sure, some of these strategies will ultimately still have costs involved, including your time. What I’ve tried to explain is that, as busy as you are, as tired and frustrated as you feel, you can’t just throw money at the problem to make it go away.
To me, the real takeaway I’m hoping you might get from this article is that getting new clients, the ones you really want to be working with, takes not only a different approach, but a different kind of energy. Those who continue to use their energy to beat their chest the loudest will find themselves standing on the margins of an empty forest.
The energy you need to cultivate to be engaging and stay relevant requires you in the first instance to be empathetic, to be sensitive to, and understand the needs of other people and in the second instance to take massive action. That action will undoubtedly push you out of your comfort zone; a lot of the suggestions I’ve made are dead simple, I didn’t say they were easy.
Anyway, enough said for now, over to you.
What value do you think you can offer to your target market up front? Why not leave a comment and let’s talk about your ideas?
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