There’s an old saying that industry veterans understand so well: For any company to reach its full potential, an owner has to switch gears — to stop working in the business and start working on it. This saying also holds true for PLANET. Since the merger, PLANET staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly in the association — getting the new house in order. We have new by-laws, new standardized procedures, and a new CEO. We have “dashboard” reports to monitor goals and a revamped, newly branded certification program that virtually cannot be challenged. Our Day of Service had its second successful year; the STARS Safe Company Program continues to gain momentum; and Student Career Days, Renewal & Remembrance, and GIC, among other PLANET events, continue to draw attention from within the industry.
The key word, however, is “within.” Outside our industry, PLANET is a virtual unknown. It’s not just that our programs are our best kept secrets, but so are we. For the most part, the public, including our clients, hasn’t a clue what PLANET stands for or is about. Now is the time to get this secret out in the open. Just as an example, we’ve invested 16 years in our certification program. This is a wonderful training tool for employers and a great career-builder for employees. It’s also designed to be a point of difference, a competitive advantage, for companies with landscape industry certified managers and technicians. This potential, however, will never be realized to its fullest until the public widely knows about, understands, and then literally demands companies to have certified individuals on board.
Student Career Days has long been known at the industry’s best kept secret. The public should know about this amazing and unique PLANET event that connects students and professors with suppliers and industry members, providing real-world influence on the education program. In addition, I don’t think the public realizes all the community service PLANET members provide, or the fact that we are the original “green industry,” and the incredible positive impact that plants, trees, grass, and our creative design of living spaces have on people and the environment.
More benefits and more value for PLANET members begin with growing public awareness about PLANET. As an organization, if we have one Achilles heel, a missing piece, it’s our inability to effectively market ourselves. Not to say we don’t have the expertise; we do. But like our members (and we are a member-driven group), we have spent the last few years in the trenches working in the association. Now it’s time to emerge and start working on it.
We will do that in the coming year, but PLANET cannot do it alone. It’s going to take a members’ grassroots effort to increase awareness about our association — to talk about us as longtime stewards of our environment and as leaders in developing safety programs, helping educators prepare students, enhancing our communities, and certifying practitioners. Branding PLANET and our certification program go hand-in-hand and offers a tremendous opportunity to create that all important competitive advantage. Here are just a few ways to get started:
• If you don’t already, have the PLANET logo printed on your business cards, painted on the sides of your trucks, and prominently displayed on your Web site.
• Include the logo in your proposals, in your advertising, and in your brochures.
• When you attend HOA meetings and otherwise communicate with customers, remind them that you are a PLANET member. If they ask, “What’s PLANET?” give them the quick tour about membership, certification, Day of Service, SCD, Renewal & Remembrance, and so forth.
• Always look for additional opportunities to help brand the PLANET name and our certification program. This will further solidify your professional status and encourage customers to want PLANET members working for them.
I’ve said in the past that growing PLANET membership to 10,000 is not out of the question. In fact, I think it’s a real possibility and well within reach. Numbers will make a difference in the benefits we all share, in our voice on Capitol Hill, and in the effectiveness of our programs. Customers who understand the value associated with being a PLANET member will want a PLANET member working on their property, and it begins right at the local level. Yes, being a PLANET member has all sorts of rewards, but sometimes we just forget to take advantage of one of the most obvious ones — simply letting customers know we’re members of the premiere national green industry association and sharing some of the PLANET story with them, every chance we get.