Marketing Matters: The Value of Picking a Lane - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Marketing Matters: The Value of Picking a Lane

It’s easy to want to be all things to all people. Especially when you were starting out, how could you possibly say no to paying customers?

However, the sooner you find your ideal client base to focus on the better, as making the transition later on will become increasingly harder with a larger organization. Refining your position is also beneficial for your marketing efforts.

“In business, when you learn to say no to certain things or certain types of clients, there’s a benefit to that,” says Chad Diller, president of Landscape Leadership, a sales and marketing agency for lawn and landscape companies.

He says the adage ‘riches are in niches’ is very true as your capacity for maximum profit, innovation and focus comes when you narrow your position.

“If your only focus as a company is to just be completely innovative for that type of clientele, you just get better and better and you make more money and have a deeper impact,” Diller says. “That’s why I believe companies should pick a lane when it comes to marketing.”

Picking a Lane

By taking the time to decide what clients you’re not interested in, your brand image becomes clearer and your message to your prospective clients has a deeper impact.

Trying to appeal to a commercial property manager, a municipal government organization, middle-class homeowners and luxury homeowners all at the same time dilutes your brand.

“It creates this subconscious mental exercise where people have to immediately discern if you are the right type of company to help them with what they need,” Diller says. “If I’m a property manager, I come to the website and it’s talking about Mrs. Jones that loves her backyard versus this other guy that’s the director of facilities at this university, I’m getting a completely different impression on your capabilities and how you handle more complex relationships and properties that are 100 times the size of a residential property.”

If you try to brand yourself as a full-service company for both residential and commercial clients, you can run the risk of coming across as a jack of all trades and master of none.

“It creates this huge challenge when you go up against other people that are specialized,” Diller says.

While it’s not impossible to opt to be a full-service landscape company for both residential and commercial customers, it does come with trade-offs including a lack of connection with clients, possible confusion, duplicated marketing efforts and added costs.

Diller acknowledges that it can be hard to decide which customers to focus on if you currently cater to all of them. He says company owners are often afraid to lose out on revenue.

“There’s been this view in the industry that the measure of success of a company is by revenue,” Diller says. “Really, it’s about profit. Companies have to look at where do we have the greatest potential to make profit, not revenue.”

He understands some of this is driven by the desire to have a diverse portfolio due to the unknowns of the economy. However, he argues that strong specialized companies can remain profitable even during economic downturns.

He also advises selecting a customer base that creates the least strain for your team so you can reduce burnout and retain employees longer.

“You might be chasing revenue because you feel like it insulates you more from the world and things that can happen for your company, but if it’s going make you miserable to do commercial when you’re a residential creative design-build person, that’s your heart and your soul,” Diller says. “It’s not all about maximizing profit, it’s about maximizing your life.”

He suggests doing a deep dive with a consultant to determine where you’re making a profit as well as what would help the organization be healthier. Also, consider your market and the prospective clients in your region.

Fine-Tuning Your Marketing

Diller advises if you are trying to narrow your marketing focus down to only residential or commercial, do this in phases to make up for the lost revenue and ensure team members are able to transition over to the different departments.

If you do decide to focus only on commercial clients, Diller says someone should be able to tell who your ideal client is easily and what problems you solve based on the images, videos, customer testimonials and language you use on your website. Diller notes that your outreach to commercial contacts also has to be completely selfless.

“It has to be of high value to your prospect versus the stereotypical ‘Can we get a meeting? Can we get a meeting?’” Diller says. “They’re getting bombarded with that stuff. If you actually have some content or something of value that’s intriguing that is a better way to position a resource in front of them to help in some way.”

Meanwhile, if you decide to go the residential route, Diller says the same thing applies: Make sure all your marketing assets reflect a residential focus.

“The buyer motivations are very different,” Diller says. “They’re more emotionally driven. They’re not so much on cost and liability and all that stuff, so you have to shift that.”

Diller notes that residential clients tend to conduct more research via Google so writing content for SEO is important.

“It’s also important for commercial people to write content too,” Diller says. “Although there are not as many people searching, and you may not get as many inbound leads to your website from that type of source. What does someone do when they hear about a business and their services? Check their website.”

Diller adds that an unclear brand can cause a disconnect between prospective clients and result in lost profits. He says it can also be a distraction from the areas of your strengths.

“If you’re a residential company and you really want to be a commercial company, the more you’re focusing on residential, the less bandwidth you have to grow commercial,” Diller says.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.