In the first part of this 3 part interview we discuss my background (Andrew), how I founded Lawn Care Marketing Expert, what makes us tick, our process when a new client signs up, common marketing misconceptions of lawn care business owners and why we are so passionate about being the leading lawn care marketing agency in the United States and Canada.
This is a GREAT very in-depth interview!
This is Richard Jacobs with Speakeasy Marketing and today I’m speaking with Andrew Pototschnik of Lawn Care Marketing Expert. Andrew and his company focus on online marketing for lawn care and landscaping companies both in the U.S., and Canada. How you doing Andrew?
Andrew: Doing great. Thanks for asking to interview us today or me. I seem to talk about myself in the plural. Yeah, so if you want to hear a little bit of background I’ve been in information and design and technology marketing for a long time, 15 years. I’m really dating myself here and I really come from the traditional ad world background. You know the branding and the combining of the Internet to sell your image and your brand and using the latest technology to do that.
So I’ve really been at the forefront of things since Google started to rise. And even before SEO was a word, Search Engine Optimization was a word I’ve been involved in the online marketing areas.
I worked on campaigns for Frito Lay back in my younger years and even with some of the huge international ad firms such as publicist, but I’ve really seen marketing and that traditional ad world in their approach and really I’ve gone a completely different direction. I got fed up with the branding approach where it’s all about image and less about substance and less about offering your customers or your leads, the people who are searching for your business, less about offering them what they want and all about telling them what you are and why they should like you and why you’re the best.
So I have a unique approach in the sense that I came from that world. I certainly appreciate a beautiful ad, but the approach I take is much more direct marketing approach and that’s where we’re at now.
Richard: Okay. How did you get involved in something like lawn care businesses.
Andrew: Yeah. Well, who wouldn’t want to be involved in lawn care businesses. It’s probably one of the sexiest markets out there, I would say out there, right?
Richard: Well, to make a bad joke, the grass is always greener, literally you’re there.
Andrew: The grass is always greener, that’s true. But lawn care was actually something that I got involved in, it was my very first job when I was, I was probably 12 or 13, freshman in high school. My brother was a junior in high school and he started a lawn care and landscaping business.
I got to tell you I think I only made it one season working for him. We grew up in Texas and it’s over 100 degrees in the summer so it’s really a business that I have a lot of respect for because the guys who do that on a day-to-day basis and making a business out of it that’s got to be one of the hardest most under appreciated jobs that you can have.
Whether it’s a 100 degree whether or 70 degree whether it’s tough work and that’s, well, that’s my first job. Ever since then I’ve been familiar with the industry. My brother left that industry briefly and then ended up in a round about way getting back into after high school in his mid 20’s and grew very respected large lawn care company in Dallas that he still has to this day.
And like I said, going back to the first question or my background, I’ve been involved with Search Engine Optimization and Google and marketing online since before that was even a word. And it was through my brother asking for assistance marketing his lawn care company that I really sorted of solidified my focus on doing lawn care marketing for that one very specific niche. And my brother’s company brought us on, they were our first lawn care client, we’ve added over $1.5 million to their annual revenue, which has been huge for them.
Andrew: We still continue to do work for them and since then we’ve really focused on our niche. I’ve expanded the company quite a bit and there’s just a ton of benefits of really focusing on one type of client and really getting to know your industry, the business owners, the lawn care — I call them lawn care entrepreneurs that’s what they are — and it’s an industry that I think really needs help.
There is not a ton of agencies that service them. There certainly none that are focused like we are. We’re the only one in the U.S./Canada, we also service Australia, U.K., New Zealand there’s not another agency out there that has the razor sharp focus that we have on this one very specific industry.
So I was very attracted to it and as I got to know other players in the industry, I really realized that these guys are extremely hard workers, they’re serious about growing their business to over $1 million a year, but you know what? They’re not the most technical people. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
They’re not the most technical people, but they know that the online marketing and the direct marketing area is somewhere that they really need help. They know that they need to be doing something, but they really just don’t know what to do. And so I’m really passionate about working with hungry business owners and partnering with those guys.
Whether you’re just getting started out and you’re bringing in $35,000 or $40,000 a year and you’re out in the field every day, or if you’re already making $1 million a year, either way what we do can still help you. Because we have that razor sharp focus. We really understand your customers. We understand their needs. We understand what they want and we also understand what the lawn care business owner’s struggle with and are going through. So there’s a ton of different ways we can help them.
Richard: Okay. All right. So what is the typical process you go through when a lawn care company talks to you [inaudible 07:03] what do you do?
Andrew: Well, I really, the first thing I do I usually have a one-on-one interview with them. I really get to know the nuts and bolts of their industry. I get them to tell me details about their market, every single markets different whether it’s in Texas, or if it’s in Ohio, or if it’s in Ontario, Australia, every geographic region has slightly different things. Their customers have slightly different needs.
And so it really starts with a lawn conversation, in depth conversation. I like to know how many crews they have. What was their gross revenue last year. What are some of the issues that they currently have in their own business. Because marketing is more than about just getting incoming leads.
To have a really optimized and have a really powerful online marketing campaign, you need to have all of your cylinders firing optimally. That means that your office staff needs to be pulling their weight and helping us with the marketing and your crews, your people interacting with your consumers they need to be firing on all cylinders as well. They need to be pushing the brand, your brand and your brand values to your consumers and really fulfilling what your advertising and what you’re going to deliver.
So I really look at marketing as a partnership between the lawn care entrepreneur and my company. Because we really do need their help to make their campaign a success. So it’s a two-way road. We’re going to help get you leads, but we need you to fulfill your part as well. So it all starts with a conversation. I kind of went off track there, but all starts with a conversation.
And so after we really get to know their business, figure out what their budget is, what size they are, what their market is, and a lot of different details like that we generally start them out with what we call a local listing client, okay. And that would entail something called Google Local, here recently just changed the named to Google Plus Local, which is a business page for your lawn care or landscaping business as well as Facebook for business, Yelp, Citysearch.
There’s a number of different sites that consumers use to find your business. They won’t just use Google that’s a big way, but they use a number of different sites. So our local listing plan really helps get them positioned in the best light on these different sites.
And we generally do about 60 different sites spread out over a 12 month period. We get them listed in all these different sites. We help them get reviews. We help them get, something that we do that’s really unique is that we also, once we get them listed, is that we actually give them postcards that they can hand out to all their satisfied customers.
So when their crew is onsite and one of their customers comes out of the house and says, “Wow, you guys just did an amazing great job.” Their foreman hands them a postcard that has links to their top four review sites that people are coming to find out which lawn care company they should choose, and on the back it also has a special phone number that we’ve set up for them where their customers can call and leave an actual voice testimonial and we put that on their website. That’s sort of things that we do that nobody else in our industry does and it’s something very specific because we focus on this one niche.
Richard: [inaudible 11:02] it sounds like you’re an actual marketing agency. You focus on referrals and all kinds of stuff. That’s a very different way about doing stuff.
Andrew: That’s exactly right. We take an all encompassing approach. Something that I always tell clients is that you should be taking a multi-physical approach to getting new clients and new leads. And what I mean by that is you should have multiple ways of getting new clients.
If you’re just getting new clients through your website, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re just getting them through your Google Plus page, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re getting them through a social media campaign, or you’re sending spam e-mails, which you should never do, you’re doing it wrong.
You should be getting leads from all sorts of different pipelines. From your door hangers. From your, what we call nine around drops, where you actually go door-to-door and you’re on site as well as through your website. As well through your PPC campaign, which is Pay Per Click Google Adwords for those who don’t know. And your local listing. And your e-mail marketing campaign. And your social media campaign. You should be firing on all of these different cylinders. You should also be doing direct mail too.
So you never want to rely on one way to get clients. That’s something that I always stress to our customers. And I also stress because you are at the mercy of Google. You’re at the mercy of the search engines. No agency can control what they do or directly control your positioning.
We can help you get to the top and we certainly get most of our clients to the first page, but there is many reports and many horror stories of websites getting dropped from the index for no apparent reason, even when they’re not doing what we call black cat or shitty techniques, which we do not do, but that can happen.
Google can make a mistake. So what happens when you get dropped out of Google and you’re not doing any offline marketing? What happens if you get dropped from another site that you’ve been relying on for all your leads whether it’s Service Magic or any of these other sites that can bring you leads?
If you only have one pipeline or one tentacle in place, you’re business can be in jeopardy really quick, if you’re running small margins or only have a few amount of clients in your pipeline. When getting new clients dries up that’s just bad business. So we really stress that you need to do a number of different things.
Richard: It sounds like, I’m glad you know about all these things, it sounds like it could be a lot of work and also it sounds like I’m betting a lot of these lawn care entrepreneurs have a lot of misconceptions about what works and what doesn’t and what they should do. Maybe you can talk about some of those. When you first encounter people I’m sure you have clear away a lot of trash that’s been put in their head by other people.
Andrew: Yeah. You know that is a huge thing. I think probably one of the most common misconceptions is that you can spend pennies to have a good online marketing campaign. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. In fact, it’s getting more and more expensive every year.
With every algorithm update that Google or Bing changes or makes, it’s more and more difficult to get up to the top of the ranking. In fact, you have to change your strategy a little bit, depending on what Google and them do, to stay up there or to get ranking or to continue to get leads. So there is an education process involved.
They oftentimes, clients think they can spend a $150 a month and they’re going to have a well rounded marketing campaign. That’s just not the case. So there is education involved. They also think it’s easy. They think it’s easy to get on to that first page. They think they don’t need to be modifying their website or having us modify their website every month or making tweaks to it. Or building links to it or doing all these different things that we do on a monthly basis.
And there’s a common misconception is that at the end of the day, we control the search engines, which nobody does, only Google and Bing can control at the end of the day where you are actually positioned on that search results page.
So I think those are pretty common misconceptions, but that’s something that we speak about every time I have the first conversation with our clients. I give them some background about the industry and oftentimes the last SEO company, so called SEO company what I call them, that they talked to didn’t tell them any of this. And they’re coming to us and they’re worried that they’re going to get ripped off again.
So I think it’s really important that we educate our prospective clients and you know what? We actually spend, we log everything that we do. My team’s great. We log everything that we do. We log our client communications. So we actually know how many hours we’ve been talking to a prospect before they become a prospect.
And let me tell you, it’s a lot of hours. There are sometimes I’ve spent 10+ hours either on long e-mails or phone calls with clients before they even sign up. And they might not even be signing up for a $1,000 a month package. They might be signing up for a $199 a month package, but we’ve already put in 10 hours to show them that we are reliable, we’re ethical, we have their best interest in mind. And that we would be a valuable partner for their business.