Five Marketing Mistakes Landscape Entrepreneurs Need to Fix for 2024 - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Five Marketing Mistakes Landscape Entrepreneurs Need to Fix for 2024

Guest post by Robert Murray with Intrigue Media

Marketing. Everyone has an opinion. Some are good, most are not, and few are backed by data and facts. So, how do you figure out who to trust and what to do?

For the last three years, the wind has been at our back and business has been booming in the green industry! We are now facing headwinds and need to sharpen our approach to maintain healthy growth in a more difficult marketplace.

According to IBISWorld iExpert, in home improvement renovations, the industry revenues are set to decrease by a 6.6% in 2023 alone. The last time the industry shrank was during the recession between 2007-2009. I’m not saying that’s going to happen again, but I think it is prudent to get our ducks in a row where we can to make our businesses bulletproof and ready for whatever is coming our way. In the wise words of Zig Ziglar, “Expect the best, and prepare for the worst.”

This article will give you a summary of which marketing strategy works best in the green industry, and help you align what you’re doing so it can be more effective in 2024 as the market continues to become more competitive.

Mistake #1 – Marketing to the wrong part of your customer’s brain.

People make decisions emotionally and then rationalize those decisions intellectually. We need to engage the brain that is responsible for emotions and decision-making – the limbic brain. The issue is that the vast majority of marketing and sales communication is targeting the neocortex. This makes sense, as this part of the brain is responsible for language, arithmetic, and can absorb a lot of information, but this part of the brain won’t help your clients make decisions.

Simon Sinek’s research dove into how the best leaders communicated differently than the rest and what made their communication so successful. Long story short, they communicated to the limbic brain through purpose and emotional engagement. Famous examples of this are Martin Luther King saying, “I have a dream!” not “I have a plan,” and Apple’s marketing surrounding “Think Different” and then doing everything to challenge the status quo.

We have to speak with purpose and let the world know what we believe. Father Nature Landscapes, based in Alabama and Tacoma, has done a great job. They connect life & land. They want to help build stronger families by getting children off screens and experiencing the outdoors with all five senses.

What is your belief? Why does your organization exist, and why should anyone care? This answer can help you build a unique position in your marketplace.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek

Mistake #2 – Revenue is primarily a function of new business.

When speaking and working with landscape entrepreneurs, the sales forecast is primarily driven by projects that are pre-booked into the future. And there is nothing wrong with that. It’s just there are a number of other ways to drive revenue growth.

Every business basically runs on top of the same revenue model:

Leads x Conversion Rate = Customers x Avg Sale $ x Avg Gross Margin % = Avg Gross Margin $ x Frequency of Purchase Per Year x Number of Years as a Customer

This means we can optimize our revenue model anywhere along this formula.

Here are 6 ways to optimize your revenue model:

  1. We can invest in marketing to drive more qualified leads.
  2. We can invest in sales training to close more deals.
  3. We can raise our price or raise the minimum project size we’re willing to take on.
  4. We can invest in equipment that makes us faster.
  5. We offer maintenance on our design-build projects or at least annual check-ins.
  6. We can engage our past customers with an email campaign and reach out to them via phone once a year to see how everything is going.

Mistake #3 – Talking about yourself, not your customer.

“We are a full-service, design-build, & maintenance landscape company.”

Great, what’s the difference between you and the next one that says the same thing? That’s right, it’s price. No one wants to compete on price, except for Walmart, so we need to establish a position in the marketplace so we become the choice, not just a choice.

What’s your specialty? Are you an expert in tight urban environments? Do you know the makeup of the ground in your local community better than anyone else? Are you best at estates or cottages? Are large industrial spaces your thing?

Whatever it is, you need to double down. The examples above are niches we’ve helped clients establish. And when someone is looking for that expertise, the search is over. It seems counterintuitive to focus on a smaller segment of customers to accelerate growth, but it works. It is time-tested and battle-proven. It not only helps you attract the right type of customer, but it makes your team more efficient by doing similar jobs over and over, it develops expertise.

You get faster at doing the jobs and more accurate with your quoting and costs. You become more profitable, and the organization is less dependent on a few very talented people because you have processes and training in place to help the next person ramp up quickly.

Mistake #4 – No specific business outcome is defined as a goal up front.

The days of not being able to measure marketing are over, and if someone says something like, “If I had a crystal ball, I can tell you what to expect.” RUN!! Any marketer worth their salt knows that there are tools and benchmarks that help us predict outcomes.

If you work with a seasoned group of professionals who are familiar with your industry, then they will be able to provide some clear direction on what you should be able to expect but also clearly measure against that goal all the way through your marketing efforts, so that you know exactly what’s working, what’s not, and what to do about it.

Goals can be:

  • Number of desired qualified leads in a year
  • Cost per qualified lead in dollars
  • Customer acquisition cost

These goals drive revenue. Revenue is a business outcome that helps you grow. Impressions, clicks, brand awareness, and community visibility do not clearly drive business outcomes.

Mistake #5 – No industry benchmarks.

Here’s the kicker… What should a qualified lead cost for a $100k plus landscape construction project be?

In 2023, we saw these leads fluctuate between $375 – $550 and would typically convert into clients around 20%.

That means you’re paying between $1,875 and $2,750 to buy a new customer worth $100,000. From where we stand, that is a solid return on investment. Here are some other benchmarks we’ve seen in 2023 for different types of landscaping work:

ServiceCost Per Lead
Landscape Maintenance$175
Retaining Walls$156
Design Build <$100k$162

Working with a partner who can help you benchmark your business based on others in your industry is a game changer. It signals whether or not it is better or worse than the average, it lets you know how efficient and effective your marketing dollars are, and, most importantly, it keeps your marketing partner honest! Because everyone is working off of the same information.

Clean up these five mistakes, and you’ll be dominating the industry in 2024 and leaving the amateurs in your dust.

Robert Murray

Robert Murray is the CEO and co-founder of Intrigue Media, a digital marketing company that helps landscape entrepreneurs generate better quality leads, grow their businesses, and free up their time so they can do more of what they love.