GIE Expo 2014 Planet Green Industry Conference

Our speaker today Andrew Pototschnik is the founder of Lawn Care Marketing Expert, a leading marketing agency serving lawn care and landscaping companies exclusively. Over the past seventeen years he’s built a reputation as the go-to expert on helping lawn care and landscaping professionals increase sales, attract new clients and grow a more successful business with easy proven marketing strategies.
Lawn care Marketing Expert serves clients throughout the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK and is co-founder of Service Autopilot Academy, the official academy for lawn care entrepreneurs looking to multiply their profits, their business, their happiness without wasting time and doing wrong things. Please welcome Andrew.

Thank you, it’s good to be back here I always enjoy speaking at GIE+Expo. I find PLANET members in particular are doing things that your average lawn care and landscaping company don’t. Being a marketer, having an agency to focus specifically on lawn care and landscaping companies, it’s put me in a very unique position that me more than most of the other people that you might run into is that I see what the majority of lawn care and landscaping companies are doing.
I see what’s working, I see what’s not working and because of this I’m going to share some stories with you, some experiences that I’ve had in ways that you can improve your business and increase your profits in of the opportunities that you have in your market that competitors aren’t taking advantage of.
When I work with like your business owners, the first thing that I always do is I look at what market you’re doing, what markets working, what’s not and we dig into their customer life cycle. If you look at your client’s life cycle as a lawn care business owner there’s five key areas that you really use marketing to increase your profits.
It’s building a professional brand image, how you look, sound and act to the consumer to the market place before they’ve even had experience with your service, before they’re using you, before they even give you a chance. It’s generating leads; and this of course this is what everybody thinks of when they think of marketing. They think marketing is just regeneration but it’s much more than that and we can apply marketing to everything that we do with our clients and in our business.
Marketing is also part of closing sales. We’re going to dig into this quite a bit. This is a very important area. A lot of people focus all of their effort on generating leads and then they don’t put any effort into actually closing that lead. If you put as much effort into closing your leads as you generate those leads your cost per customer acquisition is going to go way down.
The other area that we’re going to talk about is in marketing is nurturing client relationships. Our clients are our greatest source of current and new revenue. If we market to them we can sell them more, we can keep them longer, we can increase their customer lifetime value. Finally we can of course use marketing to reclaim our lost clients and keep our reputation positive on-line.
We’re going to dig in each of these a little bit and along the way I’m going to share some real stories with you with people who have called me, asking to work with my company or companies that I’ve run across. We’re going to make some suggestions on things that you can do to improve your business and integrate marketing into your process.
Your brand image, this is the impression in the consumer’s mind of your company’s real and imaginary qualities and short comings. Imaginary is the key word there. We’re giving an impression to the market place by doing nothing and we’re giving an impression to the market place by implementing marketing to make us look like somebody that they want to do business with.
Brand image is developed over time by using [inaudible 00:04:32] with the consistent theme. It authenticated by the consumer’s direct experience with you. If you have a poor brand image, if you have a bad reputation, if you look unprofessional you’re going to have a hard time getting people to the direct experience portion.
Your brand image, it’s everything that’s visible to a potential customer before the sale. Now I’m willing to bet that most of you out there would all say you do great work, who have excellent service but if the consumer isn’t attracted to how your company looks or they don’t know that you exist that doesn’t matter. It’s one of the reasons why we need to invest in our brand image, we need to care about how we look, we need to care about how we sound, we need to care about how we act.
This is everything from your advertising, your direct mail pieces, your web site, your trucks, how your employees act on the job, how they dress on the job, how they appear in the neighbors’ property, how they appear and perform on the clients property.
Most companies, they don’t put a long of find out at sea and we’re going to go over a couple of examples of this. Their marketing budget goes completely towards traditional advertising, they’ll spend their tight budget on direct mail or SCO or paper click but they want to avoid doing anything that can make their website a little more professional, they avoid to do anything to make their experience with the customer, when they first call the company more professional.
They want to just get leads, they want to skip steps one, two and three which is building professional brand image and skip right to “We want to service you, give us your money, become a client” but you can’t skip the first three steps and still have a very effective marketing program. You’re going to have a much higher cost per acquisition when you skip the brand image and it’s going to be hard to close sales.
Now this is an example, this is a gentleman who contacted me, it was about three weeks ago, and this is not a unique example of a typical lawn care landscaper website, this is probably the norm in our industry unfortunately. This gentleman contacted me; he wanted to sign up for a marketing program. He didn’t want to invest in his website and ultimately we didn’t do business with him, because he wants to skip building the brand image, looking professional, doing anything that you need to do to convince the customer that you’re credible and trustworthy.
Let’s think about this website quickly for a moment. What if you’re a consumer, what does this intentionally tell a consumer in your market? Well if I’m honest with you the first thing that I think is it’s your first year of business, you’re probably not doing very well because you haven’t invested in a professional website, three are you still in business because there’s no phone number on the website whatsoever? This is an average lawn care website.
Now there’s vary [instances 00:08:00] of this and some of you guys probably have great websites, that in verbally well but this is the average state of affairs and this is what you’re dealing with. This is the first impression often times that you leave in your market place. You need to be aware of what you’re projective, how you look, how you sound and how you act. That’s what will dictate how much you can charge in your market.
If you look like this there’s no way you’re going to be the most expensive company in the market. You’re going to be competing on price if you look like this. It doesn’t look like you’re a very professional company. Now this is a common one and I know this is probably the case for a lot of you guys in here but if I see another twenty year old or a lawn care owner buy a [gravy 00:08:50] truck, spend all the [inaudible 00:08:53] on the truck and then twenty five dollars for a magnet signs, I’m going to put a gun in my mouth.
Your trucks are some of the best forms of advertising that you can have in your market, they’re all over the market, wrap your trucks. If you wrap your trucks you’re going to pay for that brand new truck that you can’t afford a whole lot longer. I had a gentleman call me; this was about two years ago. Gentleman called me, wanted to speak to me specifically, he’d been watching my videos on You Tube for three years and I was on the other line, I couldn’t speak to him.
I called him back and as soon as I called him back … I called him on his company phone number. Excuse me, on his company phone number and I was greeted with Little Wayne rapping completely uncensored, saying things that I can’t repeat in this [swarm 00:09:59]. Not only that, it was played so loud that it was distorting the speaker on my phone and I had to hold the phone six inches from my head.
My first impression as a marketer, as somebody calling back with a potential prospect was, “This guy’s eighteen years old, I’m never going to do business with him.” Imagine if I was a customer; imagine if I was a prospect calling to hire your company. Now maybe I wasn’t even his [imigraft 00:10:32] but [inaudible 00:10:37] would definitely meet my parents, and my parents are not staying on the line, they’re hanging up, they’re calling somebody else.
Everything, even your voice mail message, even the music that you play on hold gives an impression in the consumer’s mind of what type of business you are. Your experience, your customer experience should be designed around the types of customers that you want to attract. Now I like rappers, I like Little Wayne but he would never represent my company, it would never be my hold music, my hold music would be whatever my ideal client wants to hear.
Here’s a gentleman, I came across this a few days ago, he has twenty three one star reviews on Yelp. I blurred out the names so if you’re here don’t worry about it. Two things go through my mind when I see this, one this guy just doesn’t care what anybody thinks about him, his a complete rebel or he’s completely oblivious to the reputation that he has on-line. In most cases these guys are completely oblivious to the reputation that they have on-line. One of the key signs of that is that consumers, his customers hate him so much that they’ve uploaded pictures of the grass that he killed two days ago.
On the flip side of that guys …. A whole lot of us in here are guilty of this. This is a search for lawn care of Los Angeles, huge market, tons of searches every single month, seven companies, not a single one of them could be bothered to get more than five reviews and turn those ratings into stars. If one company in Los Angeles had done that, had gotten five star reviews on Google that little two Google reviews would turn to a five star.
You know what happens when you stand out in this local listings within Google you get the clicks. How hard is it to get five reviews? Everybody in here has ten customers who love them. In fact actually if you’re here, if you’re on this bench call me for free within thirty days you will have the top ranking on this page. You will have a ton of reviews. It’s not rocket science, email your customers, it’s easy.
Why should we invest in our brand image? Well your advertisings going to be much more [effective 00:13:33] because we’re essentially going to be preselling the consumer before they ever get to us. They’re going to be seeing that one truck that we’ve got, that one truck that we bought that’s property wrapped, that gets attention wherever it goes, they’re going to be seeing that driving around the market and saying, ”Gee I see your fleet of trucks everywhere.”
Where our customers see us, when we’re visible on a market, we become more credible, we become more trustworthy, they know we exist, they can do business with us. It also lets us not have to compete on price. I hear this complaint all the time; guys are competing with the guy in the market charging twenty five bucks working for beer money. Well if you don’t want to compete with those guys don’t look like those guys.
Don’t be the commodity service provider in your market and in order to do that you have to step your game up; you have to look like a professional company, starts with being visible. If you think about it when you think of [amber 00:14:41], when you think of coffee you think of Mc Donald’s, you think of Star Bucks. The same is true for lawn care. You obviously don’t have the same budgets that you do with Mc Donald’s or Star Bucks but visibility goes a long way towards being credible, towards being perceived as the leader in your market, even if you’re not the leader in the market.
The more visible you are the easier it’s going to be to close sales. Consumers are also going to assume that you’re the most trustworthy name brand if you have the right market, if you look professional. Now a great example of this is Apple. Apple’s considered the most trustworthy name brand. They charge a premium for their cell phones but they don’t sell us [that much 00:15:26] cell phones. Samsung sells twice as many cell phones as Apple but Apple takes on all the profits. Apples kills it profit wise.
Samsung’s not even close but they market their company and their brand as the most trustworthy and innovative and they can charge a premium. The number one problem with lawn care companies place in the market is obscured. If all you do is spend money on paper click ads, most of your market doesn’t know you exist. If all you do is spend money on some limited every door direct mail a direct mail campaign, most of your market doesn’t know that you exist.
The more frequently your prospects see your brand the more credible and trustworthy your brand becomes, so there’s a lot of different ways that we can become visible in our market. Even before they’re searching for you, even before they go on-line, we can be in their mailbox, we can be in their door, we can have our trucks properly branded. One of my favorite and I don’t see this very often is lawn signs. Fifty percent of your consumers, your residential consumers will let you put a little sign in their lawn for free, even if it’s for thirty days. Everybody in that neighborhood nearby is going to know about your company. This is something you can do for cheap guys. Local business sights, Yelp, Google local is extremely important, you have to have a strategy behind that. Yelp, Seek Search, Yellow Pages … Consumers look at reviews.
Now if you’ve ever taken your spouse out for a nice dinner you’re probably going on-line and you’re reading reviews about the restaurant. I want to bet that every person in here who has purchased something from Yelp, excuse me from Amazon has read the reviews first, especially if it’s a major purchase. Lawn care consumers are exactly the same way.
They want to know about your reputation before they do business with you, so we need to have a presence on all of the major review sites, even Yelp as much as I hate Yelp, you need to have a presence there. It’s integrated with IOS; the data goes directly into the iPhone’s iPad. Google search results are obviously very important, majority of consumers are going on-line to find lawn care and landscaping companies like yours.
That means running both paper click ads and a research optimization campaign that gets your website to rank repeatedly. One of the more ways that we use paper click is that researching optimization, you’re going to target a very specific set of keys words to rank really well for those. You’re not going to target thousands, you’re going to target a very specific set, your most important phrases, what we call in the business “The money phases” the ones that get all the traffic.
People search in different ways and there’s thousands of different ways that consumers can find you on-line so we also want to run a supplementary paper click campaign, because we want to run ads on those other five thousand different key phases that consumers are searching for in the market. They’re not just searching for lawn care Los Angeles; they’re searching for best lawn care company in Los Angeles with insurance. That’s a completely different search [inaudible 00:18:56].
How can we prove that they can trust you? Well there’s a number of different things that you can do. One of the most effective things that you can do is have a super strong guarantee. No matter what services you provide there is something about your business that you can guarantee. Even if it’s you show up on time, guarantee that. Guarantee something about your business and include it in your market, on your website and on your direct mail pieces, anywhere the consumer is getting your advertisements, include it on your advertisements.
Reviews and testimonials, hopefully we all know that this is important. Reviews not only should we have them on Yellow Pages or Google Local pages. Testimonials … Create a page on your website full of real testimonials. Video is the best; audio is second, text with a photo in details about the person, their name, what city they live in, that will be third. The more information that you can give about that consumer the more believable that testimonial will be.
If all you’re going to do is create testimonial page with text quotes from clients even if they’re real, it’s not going to be effective, people are not going to believe that, you need to include at least a photo, even better ask them when you’re out on the field, “Hey do you mind if I shoot a short video? Ten seconds, tell me what you think of our service?” Put that on your website. That goes a long way to convincing other people in the market, just like that customer that you can be trusted and that you’re credible.
Trust badges, if you have tons of five star reviews on Yelp, tons of five star reviews on Google, put the badges on your website, let people know that we do great work, prove it. Put the badges people recognize these ranks, they recognize the Better Business Bureau; if you’re a member put that on your website, that goes a long way.
Local awards, if you’ve been mentioned in a local magazine, if you’ve gotten the award for best lawn care landscaper in your city, put that on your website. Consumers recognize that award and it brings trust and credibility to your business.
Personal video, this is huge. Enough clients who are actually brave enough to get on video, a cheap video, it goes a long way. Put that on the front page of your website as the business owner. Tell them in one minute, two minutes exactly why they should do business with you. Let them look you in the eye. People buy over video. I say this to somebody who shoots two videos every week for the past I don’t know how many years, I was terrified when I first started shooting video, and if you look at my first videos that I shot years ago, I looked terrified.
Personal video goes a long way. It lets the consumer connect with you and it lets you sell yourself. Our clients who let us put a video cam on their websites, their websites convert a lot better in the videos … Excuse me, the websites that don’t have a personal video.
Ten reasons you should choose us. Another page everybody should have on their website. Tell them exactly what you would say in the video. Why should somebody do business with your company versus everybody else in the market? If you’re not [inaudible 00:22:17] service provider you have ten reasons. Why should somebody do business with you? What do you do differently? What are you going to do for them that they can’t get from another company, that’s cheaper than you but in the same market?
Regeneration, this is where we spend all the marketing dollars typical, but most companies don’t take it far enough. I’ll give you a couple of examples … Most of you have one marketing technique and they do it kind of okay, they’ll do every door direct email occasionally, not on a recurring bases, they might do some direct mail but any of you guys who had success with direct mail we don’t know that the success comes when you do multiple mailings.
If you just do one drop in March, yeah you’ll get some new clients but you’re not going to get nearly as many as if you mailed them three or five times. Telemarketing has … still has some success. Website, I see a lot of guys starting up simple website templates, templates that are built for blogging that aren’t built for converting visitors to customers and a website would do all my marketing support, a website with no marketing program behind it is just a business card.
If you’re not getting value, if nobody can find your website they’re only going to be coming to your website through your business card, through your direct mail piece, they’re not going to be finding you on-line. The mistake I see a lot of companies make when it comes to generating pieces, they try and do everything themselves and it’s often because they want to save money. You know I totally get it, especially if you’re starting out. Even if you’ve been in business for five years you have a limited budget.
What I see happen time and time again is that they will try and set up their own website or they’ll try and run their own paper click campaign or they’ll try to do all of their own marketing themselves and it’s ineffective. It’s not as good as they hired somebody to it for them. Time after time if you’re doing your all year marketing, there’s somebody out there who can do it better than you and can get you a bigger return on your marketing investment including how much it costs to pay them to do it for you.
Trade marketing is an amplifier. Man the greatest example of this is every year, the last week of February we get about four times as many calls as any other time in the year. If you wait until February to think about your marketing you have a problem. You should be planning your marketing for the entire year in advance. When you’re slow in December and you’ve got nothing to do, plan out the next twelve months exactly what you’re going to do. Your direct mail pieces, where your on-line marketing strategies are going to be, plan everything in advance.
Print out any marketing pieces that your office staff is going to be mailing out, do all of it in advance. When we do this we’ve got unpredictable growth, it’s like stopping and starting, it makes a forward progress and then we stump. We need to be consistent and when we’re consistent we’ll get a much higher return on the market investment.
Now I get a ton of email, and I try my absolute best to reply to absolutely everybody who knows me and that means I get a ton of questions. Some of them I answer on my You Tube channel and then others I’ll just send a reply. This is a pretty typical email that I get. I probably get a couple of these every month. This gentleman says, “I’ve been doing this for eighteen years and I’ve never spent a dime on advertising, I’ve always relied on word of mouth to get new business. Business has really slowed down in the past few years. I’m still out in the field working my butt off but not really growing. Should I just throw in the towel and get a job? Convince me marketing works.”
I did reply back to this guy and what I wanted to say was, “I don’t need to convince you marketing works because what you’re doing isn’t working.” This is a typical lawn care guy, business is struggling but they’re not doing anything to solve the problem, they’re not marketing, they’re invisible in their market. The keyword here was, “He’s always relied on word of mouth marketing,” which for somebody like me who to talks to a lot of lawn care business is code for not doing anything.
The only word of mouth the marketing program that could be a program is when you have a referral system that plant seeds from a referral and then goes and harvests those referrers on a regular basis. Just waiting around and hoping to talk about you or talk to their friends or refer somebody to you is hope. We’re trying to be lucky. We know people talk about us, that’s not the way you grow a business.
If that’s how you treat your business you’re going to end up like this guy. We have to put effort into our marketing; we have to invest into our marketing. Marketing is quite simply the fuel from your business growth; I liken it to giving a car and taking a trip. To get to your destination you have to put fuel in your tank. When the tank starts running low you have to refuel the tank, you have to put more fuel in the tank, you have to reinvest in your market.
If your dream is to have a five million dollar lawn care company, well a five hundred dollar marketing investment isn’t going to get you to that next stage. Here’s another gentleman and this is another common question that I get. “Andrew I spent twenty five hundred dollars on mail [for 00:28:23] mail just like I do every year and I don’t get the response that I used to. Do you think I should change markets? Do you think I should get up and move my business somewhere else because my market is obviously broken?” Well the problem this young man was having, when I dug a little deeper is he was also just relying on the one technique.
He was only doing direct mail. To make matter worse he only mailed one time the entire year, he emailed in March, and that was it, the rest of the time was his word of mouth marketing strategy. When I dug a little bit deeper we found that his market was gentrifying. His market previously was sixty up, it was an older market that he was in but the twenty five to thirty year olds, the first time home buyers who were moving into his market, he didn’t have as many of his older clients as he used to.
The twenty five to thirty year olds they weren’t responding to his same old direct mail pieces that he’d been sending out year after year. In his particular case he needed to extend his market. He didn’t need to get up and move and do the same direct mail somewhere else, he needed to do marketing that put his company in front of his market. His market had changed to twenty five to thirty year olds. That means he needed to go on-line where they’re searching, he needs to be doing all the things that the younger consumers is looking for.
This is the key that I want you guys to take when it comes to regeneration, if we’re trying to reach our entire market we can’t do one thing. Whether we like it or not and especially being busy lawn care business owners that we are, we look at marketing like, “This is going to take so much time, I don’t have time to do this, I’m just going to do direct mail because I can’t be bothered with the on-line stuff, I can’t be bothered with how my website looks, I can’t come up with ten reasons why somebody should do business with me. Oh it’s all hassle.”
Well if that’s how you approach it, you’re going to have a really hard time reaching the majority of the market. Majority markets going on-line; many consumers would never look at direct mail. In fact I probably looked at four direct mail pieces all year in the past twelve months. That means four pieces out of all the junk mail that I get in my mailbox, only four of those pieces caught my eye long enough to have me look at it in the printing tray.
Some consumers they are only going to search in Google, some consumers only ever click on your website or go and check you out if you have a five star review or a four plus star review. We can’t reach everyone in the same way so whether we like it or not guys we have to do multiple marketing methods. I know that it means more time that you have to spend if you’re not hiring somebody to do it for you, but in order to reach the entire market that’s what we have to do.
We have to do that because we have to be where the buyers are buying. This is a great bit of research that was done by [Mealstone 00:31:34] in Google. They did a study that showed that the more marketing methods that you use, the more times your prospects are exposed to you, be it different media channels meaning on-line market SCO, direct mail, your trucks, all of the different ways that you can market your business.
The more often times, the more times your prospects are exposed to your marketing through different channels the more effective your marketing is. Fifty percent more people will recall your brand if they see you’re marketing through different marketing channels. This is from Google. Google makes billions selling paper click ads.
The other thing to know here is Google itself, they sell on-line advertisements and they do a significant portion of that billion dollar business by sending out direct mail pieces to sell paper click. They’re going to where their consumer is. If that means being in their in-box, be in their in-box, if that means being on top of a pizza box, be on top of a pizza box, be where your consumers are.
Exactly what your marketing mix is going to be is going to vary based on your markets [stereographics 00:32:52], who you’re trying to reach, how you’re searching, what they respond to, if you have an older market it might be slightly different than a younger market or a new track of brand comes in the market. Of course there’s a lot of different ways to reach them. If you’re a brand new company, have no money except printing up your own door [inaudible 00:33:16], your own flyers you might be relying on door [inaudible 00:33:18] for a while.
Most of you are probably past that point, but to give you an example of what you can do if you just go out there and get the business. I had a gentleman who called me, he’s a young kid … I think he had just turned twenty, couldn’t afford our marketing program which is fine. I spoke to him at length, and he was able … His first year in business he was able to print up his own flyers, go out into the market before season started and pre-sell a hundred and forty clients by knocking on doors himself.
The clients are there if you’re willing to go to them, if you’re willing to sell them whether that’s on-line or knocking on their door, the clients are there, the money’s there, you just have to go out there and take it. Referrals, this is still one of the cheapest possible ways that you can get clients. Everybody in here needs to develop a referral system. Implement it as a process in your business, put your office staff on it, make sure it happens every single month. This is the cheapest way to acquire customers.
It will be … I can’t compete with it, I do all my marketing. I can’t compete with a really good refer program. Problem is I can count on one hand the number of people I know who actually have a referral system that happens regularly in their business. This is easy money.
Face book, is also very … It’s one of the last things that we should be doing. I’m going to just mention something as [inaudible 00:34:56] side, because sometimes I hear people talking about social media and needing to invest the time of time where you post two days, two times a week on your social media page, on your Face Book page. Something that you need to know about Face Book is it’s an advertising platform, Google is constantly …
Excuse me Face Book is constantly tweaking their [inaudible 00:35:18] of how much they suppress your posts on your business page into your followers newsfeed. Face Books [inaudible 00:35:27] actively hides your post in the newsfeed unless you pay. If you’re spending hours every week posting on Face Book the majority of the people are not seeing your post.
I’ll give you a perfect example. I do some advertising on Face Book for my new business and I’ll tell you I have eight thousand, four hundred followers on my Face Book page. If I don’t pay to have my posts promoted on Face Book they get about a hundred and fifty views, the same is true with yours. Rather than waste a whole lot of time on Face Book I would keep Face Book as a strategy where you are building followers, you are building lights but until you have an advertising budget and a clear strategy to generate business using Face Book that’s one of the last things that you want to do in your business.
Now for other industries, for other businesses it might be a little bit different but for a lawn care company you need to be aware of that so if you’re spending that whole time posting on Face Book you might want to rethink your strategy if it doesn’t include a budget for ads, for promoting your posting on Face book because they’re just not getting seen.
Just like off line stuff the branded trucks, the lawn signs, all the things that we can do off line, being on their door, same as true on-line, the more that we’re showing that on-line where ever they’re looking, the more effective our on-line marketing’s going to be. If we want paper click ads and we have image mail ads that are following them around or we’re showing up in search results, we have the search for any lawn care or landscaping phrases related to their city, or any of the other things that [inaudible 00:37:16] my mind.
The more that we’re showing up on-line just like off line, the more credible and trustworthy that we’re going to be, we’re going to have work soldiers so we’re going to get more leads and it’s going to increase the success of our marketing program. A couple of key things that [inaudible 00:37:33] lead generation, first of all adjust your mind set and realize that when you’re doing the right marketing, when you have a marketing campaign that’s actually converting, that’s actually getting you new clients at a reasonable cost per action … Excuse me cost per acquisition. Marketing is not an expense, it’s an investment because when you’re doing the right marketing strategies you can dump money into that program, it’s going to spit back out new clients and revenue.
If your idea of a marketing budget is five hundred bucks a month but your clients are worth seven grand for three years, you need to adjust how you’re thinking about marketing in your business. Don’t try to do everything yourself, saving money is often times costing us money. What somebody, one expert can do for you that you can’t do for yourself will often times make you more money than you trying to save money to do it yourself.
System [inaudible 00:38:46] and schedule all marketing advancing, if you’re slow in December you have plenty of time to plan your marketing for the entire year. That means everything from how your office set operates, how they deal with clients, how they deal with complaints, objections, everything. You can plan that and create a system for everything revolved around your marketing program.
Tracking return investment, any times somebody calls you need to find out where they got you from. Did they find you through on-line, did they find you through those beautifully wrapped trucks that get attention in your market, did they find you from your lawn signs. If you’re not tracking your return of investment, you’re not tracking where your leads are coming from you don’t know where to shift your marketing budget and you will be shifting your market budget when you’re doing multiple marketing methods.
You might be shifting in towards direct mail at a certain point, you might be shifting in towards paper click it up at points but you don’t know unless you’re tracking your marketing investment. You need to know where your business is coming from and what marketing programs you’re running that are the most successful ensuring the highest return on your investment giving the lowest cost of acquisition per client.
Now this is something that we run it to with the larger clients who have significant budgets, is that you will reach a point where … I’ll give you an example, [inaudible 00:40:16] you will reach a point when you’re a larger company that you will have maxed out your paper click budget where even if you dump more money into Google ad words you would have to bid on keywords that would not attract your ideal customer.
There’s going to be a limit on what you can spend on ad words. Few companies actually reach it, some of the larger ones do but just like paper click there’s going to be a maximum expand you can do with direct mail or every door direct mail where it no longer makes sense to try put more money into that marketing method because the cost per acquisition is going up when you do.
Use marketing to close sales, this is one of my favorite areas to talk about because the ideal scenario for lawn care company is, “Here’s my marketing budget, make my phone ring.” That would be the ideal scenario. Even better than that, “Here’s my marketing budget, make my phone ring and then close all sales for me.” We need to pay as much attention to closing those sales that we’re generating from leads as we do in generating the leads in the first place.
This is where I see a lot of companies fall short is that they’re out on the field, they let all their calls go to voice mail, they don’t put any effort into actually closing those sales. They don’t have a phone script, they don’t do anything of the things that a professional organization would do to maximize their close rate, especially if you’re paying my company for marketing you better be closing your sales.
If you’re not focused on closing your sales everything that I can do for you is becoming less effective because you’re not working on closing those sales. A couple of years ago we had a client loosing clients. We’re running … I think we were running paper click campaigns and we’d just started an SCO program. We’d been running paper click campaign for about a month. He calls my office one day, I’m on the other line and wants to speak to me and he tells the person who answered the phone that he doesn’t think that on-line marketing is working for his market.
I call him back on his cell phone and I get his voice mail and so I just hang up, he’s probably in the office, so I call his office phone number, the number that we’ve put on his website, the number that we’ve put on fifty plus local listing sites, the number that’s all over his direct mail pieces, the number that’s on his truck, the number that’s everywhere in relation to his business. When I call the number I get, “I’m sorry this voicemail box has not been set up yet.”
I called him again and the same thing, I get another beep. I called him the following day and the day after that. It turns out that he’s never set up his voice mail and he’s never fixed up his company phone number, so he squandered a rather large marketing budget for a month because he hasn’t been paying any attention to the customer experience.
He hasn’t actually called his number to see what the consumers are going to get when they call the number that he’s publicized all over. What can we do about that? First thing we do to close more sales is answer our phone lines all the time. I say twenty four seven if you can do that. A lot of you guys probably don’t have an office staff especially if you’re a smaller company but you can still hire a live receptionist, this is an easy way, it’s not that expensive, it’ll cost you two hundred bucks a month. They will answer the phone, collect the leads information, you can tell them … Give them whatever script you want and then you can call them back. Just doing that right there you’re going to close a lot more sales than just having them go straight to your voice mail.
Implement a phone script. If you look at what larger companies do, four to five hundreds, companies that are making millions and millions of dollars in closing sales over the phone. Every single one of them has phone script. Even if you’re the guy closing all the sales you need a script. Part of a script is tracking where the leads came from; asking how did you find us and it’s also a way force to track all of the objections that we get from the consumer about doing business with us.
Secondly we need to ask for the sale, are you asking everybody for their credit card number after you’ve just given them the proposal, after you have given them the estimate, are you asking them, “Would you like to pay with [inaudible 00:45:10]? Would you like to pay with Master Card? Would you like to pay with Visa?” If you ask that simple question they will tell you their objection automatically.
If their objection’s probably going to be, “Oh I need to talk to my spouse, Oh you guys are expensive,” then we need to know what their objection is. Guess what you have a script and you’ve already worked out exactly what you’re going to say to that objection. If your objection’s price, well maybe you’re more expensive because you have a two million dollar insurance policy.
If your staff gets hurt on their property, unlike those other guys, they won’t get sued because we have insurance that covers it, we show up when we say, we have a twenty three step process that we go through whenever we’re on your property, these twenty three things are going to happened every time you’re on [inaudible 00:45:55] or you don’t pay. That’s how you address objections, but that happens when you have the script, when you’re listening to your customer and you’re finding out exactly why they’re not doing business with you.
If you’re tracking the objection, where the leads come from, you can address these objections and close more sales. You also want to track your close rate because when you get an office staff you want to know what the medium close rate is, you want to know that they’re closing at fifty percent. Improve that script to raise that close rate, we want to get it closer to seventy five, we want to get it closer to fifty percent.
Now if you’re willing to just implement a simple phone script that addresses objections right here you can increase your sales twenty five percent, you will increase your close rate automatically just by implementing a script in your business.
People never follow that strategy. The [Inaudible 00:46:54] I see is a lot of you will just quote a price that came up and that’s it. They don’t follow the client, they might email them an estimate if they had to look at it, they’re prepared to go on the outside and look into the property and estimate over the phone and there’s no follow up.
There’s no follow up, there’s no asking for the sale and no finding out what they object to, there’s no trying to get the sale. It’s “Here’s my price.” When we do that we say here’s my price now you go and compare that over the five other guys that are competing with who charge half as much as you. That’s essentially what we’re doing. We want to get back on the phone with them, we want to follow up with them, we want to talk to them, we want to make the sale but we do that with a follow up.
We can do that with a direct mail campaign and we can do that with a direct mail follow up, it happens sending them a letter right after we give them the estimate, we do it via email, phone that’s always going to work best, face to face even better than that, but we can’t do that every single time.
Little [inaudible 00:47:52] come to estimated jobs, hopefully everybody has a process that they do when they estimate jobs consistently so we can know that we’ll definitely get in that healthy profit margin that we want on every job. In the same way that you have a process for estimating jobs you need to have a process for each of these other things. Train your office staff, if it’s you think before you [inaudible 00:48:15] how you’re going to close that sale.
What do I need to tell the consumer to elevate any concerns that they have about using me? You won’t always be able to close immediately over the phone, this is when we really like to … One of things that we like to have our clients do is actually send them a letter, send them a copy of your guarantee in the mail. The day that they call you, if you can’t close them over the phone and you’ve sent them an estimate, send them a sheet of your references and ten reasons why they need to choose at the higher price that you’re charging in the market.
Nurturing client relationships, this is another great way to use marketing and the reason why we want to do this is it’s ten times easier and cheaper to get existing customers to keep buying from you and buy more than it is to acquire a brand new customer. It’s cheaper to sell more to the customers that you already have. You also want to nurture them because when our clients feel neglected, when we don’t talk to them and all we do is call them when their credit card is declined, they don’t feel very important.
As soon as they feel unimportant they’re willing to hire the next guy for a cheaper price. This is how most companies unfortunately nurture their clients, we sign them up, charge their cards and then we forget about them. All we do is call them when their payments declined, their payments late.
We’re afraid to bother them with a simple email. The greatest way to … and easiest way to nurture our clients send them an email once a month, twice a month. You want to sell more to your clients, send them two emails a month and make them an offer. Sell your most highest profit services. Is that fertilization? Is that [mulching 00:50:36]? Is that spring cleanouts? Fall clean outs? Is it Christmas lights?
Send them an email and make them an offer. If they are bothered by getting emails from you, there’s a little thing called unsubscribery at the bottom of the email. Being afraid to bother your clients and not emailing your entire list is costing you money.
This is a picture of me and my beautiful wife [Angelina 00:51:07] at the International Lawn Care Awards last year and I liken nurturing client relationships the same way that you would … dealing with a spouse or girlfriend. When I worked a lot, when I’m at an office until 10 pm or I’m really focused and working on the weekends and I’m not doing a whole lot with her.
I’m not taking her around to dinner. I’m coming home late, she’s already in bed, she’s pretty unhappy with me. If I continue that we’re not going to have a very happy relationship. In fact if I don’t talk to her on a regular basis you can be sure that my relationship with [Angelina 00:51:55] is going to end in a divorce. Our clients are exactly the same, it is a marriage of sorts and even if it’s sending them a thank you card or a personal email saying, “Hey we appreciate your business,” that goes a long way to keeping them satisfied and happy with the relationship.
Let me give you a couple of practical ideas of what we can do. One thing that we recommend for our clients is send the client a welcome letter. Remind them why they hired you; remind them why they’re paying more to do business with you. Send them a copy of the guarantee. Send them a personal message saying, “We really appreciate your business, we’re not going to let you down, you’re going to be super satisfied with the service that we deliver. “
Prime them for a review, prime them for a testimonial. “When we do prove great service to you Mr. Smith we’d sure appreciate it if you’d leave a review for us.” Then follow up a month later and ask for that review after you’ve delivered great service. That is a process. You can implement that in your business. It will happen every single month with a new client.
Even an email marketing strategy, we talked about this with upselling and stuff. If you don’t have an email marketing strategy, you’re simply leaving money on the table. Sell then ask for referrals and get reviews using email. You don’t have to be intrusive, sending a client two emails a month is not a big deal, everybody in here needs to be doing that.
Send thank you cards and gifts. These are two thank you cards that I send out to my clients for different things, whenever they upgrade their program or sign up or for different things. Images need be [goofy 00:53:50], on the back I write a personal note from me, hand written, it’s a postcard, I drop it in the mail. “Thank you for doing business with me. I love working with you.” This goes a long way and it’s me having fun. I want to have a fun relationship with my clients. I want to build a rapport; I want to make our relationship stronger.
Do quality assurance calls, this is another thing that everybody in here can do and it’s a great way to add a chunk of new revenue by just spending one day, or part of one day every month. Call your clients, check in, talk to them, how are we doing? Did we screw up? Are you unhappy? Let’s do a [inaudible 00:54:34] call once a month. Spend a four hour long time, choose a hundred clients and call every single one and talk to them.
What can we do when we’re on a Q and A call, when we’re checking out our service? Well we can trouble shoot any problems that we have with our business, we can make sure that we have no unhappy clients so we can avoid getting those twenty three one star reviews on Yelp and …. Guess what, we can sell them when we’re talking to them on the phone, we can sell them those services that they haven’t bought.
“Joe we were at your property and I just want to make sure that everything’s okay, but I saw a trouble spot in your yard, it’s a bit of a brown spot. I have a launch man that will clean that one out.” “Your [inaudible 00:55:16] is looking pretty old, it hasn’t been refreshed in three years. Can we come back and fix that up for you?” You’re on the phone, there’s no better way to sell somebody than on the phone or face to face. One day a month, generate a whole lot of new revenue.
Implement a referral system. Again all of these things can be written down as procedures that you can implement or you can hand to a staff member that implements it for you, consistently on a specific day or multiple days each month.
Use marketing to reclaim lost client and recover a positive reputation. The easiest customer to sell to is a former customer so [inaudible 00:56:09], we’ve messed up maybe hit some sprinkler heads, we screwed something on the property, every single company here has done something, but how we react to that and what we do for the customer afterwards should also be a process.
We can also find marketing into that. If they’re a great client we want to have a marketing strategy that recaptures it, we want a direct mail campaign that recaptures it and gives them the special offer. We want to have a procedure where we call and we follow up and we address the problem and we want to have a strategy where when somebody calls in to cancel service, we find out why. Our staff is empowered to fix the problem.
Not every customer is one that you will [inaudible 00:57:00]. Now we’ve all had angry customers and I want to share a little story with you about something that happened to one of our larger clients earlier this year. The other day we had a … with our larger clients. They started getting a ton of cancellation calls on one particular day. I think this was back in March this year.
They had call after call after call of companies wanting to … Fortunately their staff was trained, so right after the first call they knew immediately what was going on. What they found out is that the people were calling to cancel because one lady had posted on Face Book that one of this companies lawn care workers had stolen her wallet off the counter at Seven Eleven and that person went viral.
They keep getting calls of people cancelling, they finally find out who’s posted this on Face Book. One of the people calling to cancel actually gave them the URL to the post so they went and checked it out; they reached out to this lady. She was adamant that one of their lawn care workers when he was filling up the service truck at Seven Eleven stole her wallet off the counter.
Well they have a great manager at the company so the manager said, “I’m going to get to the bottom of this.” He told the lady, “No matter what happens I’m going to make this right with you and we’re going to solve this problem.” Manager goes to the Seven Eleven and fortunately the manager at that Seven Eleven was kind enough to give him a copy of the security tape.
When you look at the tape there is the lawn care worker in line, two places behind the lady, standing at the counter at Seven Eleven. She never put anything on the counter, she never put her wallet on the counter and their staff never stole anything. With this new information the manager, he didn’t argue with the lady, he still wanted to make it right. “What can we do to make you take the post down and say hey I screwed up?” They went to the house with the video, she would not see them, they showed the video to her husband who answered the door and the husband’s reaction was, “I can’t make my wife do nothing,” so the post stayed up.
In all stead they probably lost ten clients that day, about seventy grand in revenue over three years and there was nothing that they could do about it. They didn’t do anything wrong. We just had a bad … an evil person in my opinion that didn’t care about tarnishing a company’s reputation, even though the facts were that they didn’t screw up. No matter what you do, you’re going to have circumstances like that. You’re going to have customers that you can’t satisfy, you’re going to have people that say things about you on-line that is exaggerate or aren’t true. You’re going to have to address that.
Ask yourself how your company would have addressed this? Do you have systems in place? Do you have processes in place to address a crazy lady like this? Would you even know that this was happening? Would your phone staff have been trained well enough to get to the bottom of the situation, to find out, to ask why you’re cancelling service and find out that this was going on on somebody’s Face Book page? It was a viral post.
Or would your company have tried to argue with her? You’re never going to win an argument on-line, it’ll trifle, you’re not. If you get a negative review respond in the most positive professional way that you can, remind them that you have a two hundred percent guarantee and that you’ve immediately called them and you’re trying to take care of the situation. Never argue on-line, you’re not going to win, you’re going to make the matter worse.
Would your company have even known that this was going on? Are you monitoring your on-line reputation? Are you asking why people are quitting? Would your company have done anything about the negative reviews or would you think then like the guy who has twenty three one star reviews, would you have done anything to address the reviews?
Well I’ll tell you what they did do. They had the phone script, they are trying to deal with cancellations, they’re trained to keep customers from leaving and their staff is empowered to do so. They find out why you’re leaving, “Is it something that we can fix? Can I give you a service credit? What can I do to keep you?” They also trained their staff on how to handle upset customers. Empower again, “How can I fix the problem? I’m not going to argue with you about it, it doesn’t matter if I’m right and you’re wrong. It doesn’t matter; I’m going to fix the problem.”
We regularly monitor their on-line reputation, they’re checking to Google local pages, their Yellow Pages, their key search pages, even once a month is all you’ve got to do. Monitor your reputation, reply to negative reviews, always reply. You can always turn a negative review into a positive review in how you reply. Remind the negative reviewer publically, so everybody else on the review page can see what you offer and how you’re going to solve this situation.
If you look like a professional, you can address problems like a professional and truly cares about giving the customer what they want, that turns a negative review into a positive review. Now if it’s somebody that you do want back, you want to implement a direct mail campaign, you want to send them a special offer. It can be via email, put that in a sequential direct mailing, give them a special offer and get them back, if it’s somebody that has a high profit margin and it’s a client that you want to work with again. If you screwed up do whatever it takes to get them back. It’s going to be easier to close that sale than it is to go and spend money to generate a brand lead that we have to convince we’re credible and trustworthy again.
True to our clients we implement a program and review system, so even though they lost a few clients, they have a seller on their reputation, ninety three four and five star reviews on Google, five star review on Face book. Those ten customers who left and left negative reviews … doesn’t matter because we implemented a review system that gets them so many positive reviews one, two, three, four, ten negative reviews doesn’t make a difference.
Be proactive with your marketing, have a system to give reviews. Then when you have the bad customers, you have the odd seeds that exaggerate or say negative things on-line it doesn’t make a difference, it doesn’t ruin your reputation. Now I know it can seem like I’m super critical of the industry or of all the things that we’re doing wrong because I did talk about a lot of that today, but I’m extremely passionate about what we do, so every time I see a company doing something incorrectly or not going far enough, that is an opportunity.
It’s an opportunity for every single person in here to do just a little bit more than the next guy and as you saw from the presentation a lot of our competitors are doing next to nothing about their reputation on-line, in marketing and being visible in their market.
I want to challenge each of you to just take one idea from this presentation. Take one idea implement it; create a system in your business where it’s happening consistently each and every month, that’s it. Take one step and then the next step and the next step and you’ll be on your way to building a much more successful business than you have today.
If you’d like some more specific tips I have talks and tactics for killer profits, send me an email info@lawncareexpertmarketing.com I’ll be happy to share those with you. Thank you for having me.

Andrew Pototschnik is the founder of Lawn Care Marketing Expert, the largest online marketing agency in North America specializing in marketing strategies for the lawn care and landscaping industries.

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