The Agronomist: Advocacy Is Just Selling Yourself To a Different Audience - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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The Agronomist: Advocacy Is Just Selling Yourself To a Different Audience

This month, I am going to discuss a coin with two sides. I can hear you saying, “Bob, coins always have two sides!” Yeah, I know that. I think. Maybe.

When I run into people that I haven’t seen in a while and they ask about how my job at NALP is going, some will follow up with, “Are you ever going back to the lawn care business?” My emphatic answer is, “Absolutely not!”

I had a reminder of why I feel this way this past week. Now, before I start, I want to point out that I am not casting aspersions upon the gentleman who contacted me. He was genuinely concerned about the health of his lawn and was convinced that it was the fault of his lawn care company. I joined NALP six years ago this month, and my relationship with this gentleman as a customer is a result of my prior position as the agronomist for a lawn care company. Six years ago! If I were only so successful in hanging on to all of my customers with the zeal of this relationship.  

His lawn was suffering from the usual maladies of midsummer in the Northeast – too much heat and/or moisture stress – yet he had picked up on a tidbit of information about the type of fertilizer that was being applied to his lawn. Let’s just say that the contractor could have done a better job sourcing fertilizer for his customers. That contractor wasn’t wrong per se, but sometimes paying a little less for your products does come with an intangible price of its own. 

After assuring the gentleman that all was well and Mother Nature would heal his lawn in good time without any intervention at all by him or by myself, it occurred to me that this interaction was my life all day, every day, for thirty years. Boy howdy, I have to tell you that I don’t miss it and I tip my hat to all of you who handle much worse every day before 9:00 in the morning without breaking a sweat. Customers are tough! 

The other side of the coin is the advocacy part of our business, explaining to politicians and regulators what it is that we do for a living in the green industry. You would think that politicians who have attained elected office or regulators with advanced college degrees would have tremendous insight into the considerable environmental benefits that come from properly maintained lawns and landscapes. I can assure you that that is not the case. At all.  

But here’s the funny part: if you are in the lawn and landscape business, the thought of putting on a coat and tie and talking to politicians or regulators is horrifying. It doesn’t have to be. Recently, NALP held a fly-in event in D.C. to advocate for certain policy objectives we are working on for the latest iteration of the Farm Bill.

We had a fantastic turnout this time – be sure to join us next time we have one of these events – with plenty of new faces in the crowd. One of the attendees is a good friend who was giving advocacy a try for the first time. Trepidation would be the correct word for how he felt going into the meetings for the first time. He shouldn’t have worried, however. Within 15 minutes of the start of the first meeting, he realized that speaking to elected officials and their staff was no different or more difficult than speaking with customers. After that, we couldn’t keep him quiet! 

As the 2023 lawn and landscape season draws to a close and we take a few moments to catch our breath, let’s remember that the upcoming marketing season isn’t the only sales objective we have to embrace. We need to be sure to sell our services to those who are in a position to impose huge obstacles to the success of our businesses and our industry. We need your voice. We need the considerable public relations experience you’ve cultivated during your career, and we need to bring it to bear on another audience that desperately needs to hear about all the good our industry does every day. 

This article was published in the November/December issue of the magazine. To read more stories from The Edge magazine, click here to subscribe to the digital edition.

Bob Mann

Bob Mann is the director of state and local government relations for NALP.