10 Marketing Mistakes Lawn Care Companies Make

These 10 common marketing mistakes cause lawn care companies to miss their growth goals, waste money, and drive themselves nuts in the process.

1. Rely on a one-step marketing strategy

All marketing methods work to some degree. But relying on just one method can greatly reduce the return you get on your marketing investment dollar.

Consider this example: It’s possible than 95% of your door hangers go straight into people’s trash cans. That’s because most people view the door hanger at a time when they are not urgently in the market for landscaping or lawn care services. But they still see your name, which is a good thing. When they do start shopping for lawn care services, they will be more likely to think of your company and feel good about giving you a call. Additionally, if they then go online to search for lawn care companies in their area and see your company pop up in the search results, they’ll be much more likely to give you a call.

Every impression counts. And when everything is working together, it helps build awareness and generate leads at a much higher rate. That’s why door hangers or direct mail often work well with online advertising, and social media works well with company newsletters, for instance. The trick is finding out what works best for you, and putting a good mix together.

2. Copy competitors

Many marketers, not just lawn care companies, make the mistake of trying to emulate the market leaders. Sure, there might be a thing or two you can learn from them. But you have no idea if what they’re doing will work for you—or if it’s even working for them!

You must remember that consumers are overwhelmed with communication today. You must stand out to get noticed. By copying your competitors, you simply ensure that you’ll blend in with everybody else. And when you look like everybody else, price becomes a more prominent factor in negotiation.

Also remember that the success of a given lawn care company is the result of many factors, not just advertising. Years in business and skilled, tenured employees likely have a lot to do with it. These factors have nothing to do with marketing.

So quit trying to emulate your competitors. They likely aren’t marketing experts either. There are many ways for you to stand out in your market. Look at what’s being done and brainstorm ideas that are different. You want to catch the consumer’s attention in a way that creates a favorable impression of your company. Then translate what you do into how it will benefit them.

3. Don’t connect with customers enough

Failing to say in touch with existing customers is an extraordinarily costly mistake. The biggest asset your company has, along with its employees, is its existing customer base. Existing customers are not only a source for current business, but also for referrals.

The second your existing customers feel like you don’t care about them, they’ll become open to the notion of hiring a different contractor.

Many lawn care companies are afraid to contact their existing customers. They are afraid of bothering them. So these lawn care companies end up ignoring their customers except for those times when they need to send the customers a bill. What kind of message do you think that sends?

There are many sensible, non-intrusive ways to stay in touch with existing customers. You can publish a regular email and/or printed eNewsletter (quarterly or maybe even monthly). You can talk about your services, changes in your company, what’s going on in the community, funny stories, people profiles (employees), and seasonal tips and advice. Just don’t be boring. Most of your customers don’t care about your latest seeding technique. Keep it conversational and “human.” Be personal and strive to build a relationship.

4. Not real good on the phone

When a prospective client calls you, it’s a hot lead. If you are unable to answer the phone, do you think that prospect will continue calling back until you pick up?

Roughly 70% of callers hang up without leaving a voice mail. Most are then calling another contractor on their list. You can’t afford to let these opportunities slip away.

You should assign someone in your company (sales or admin) to answering the phone. If you’re the owner of a smaller company and can’t afford this type of support person, and are in the field working, you might want to consider signing up for a phone service that will answer for you after three rings. The monthly cost of this type of service could easily be offset by the amount of new sales you bring in. Like anything else, a call service like this should be viewed and measured as a marketing investment.

The other thing you could do is set up a creative, energetic voice mail. Use a lively voice, i.e. “Hi, this is John from John Doe’s Lawn Care. I’m soooooo sorry I missed your call, but I’m helping another one of our valued customers right now. Please leave a message and I’ll call you back by the end of the day. Thank you very much for calling John Doe’s Lawn Care.”

Then you have to call the prospect back by the end of the day. And when you or another employee does, don’t sound tired and in a hurry. Anyone dealing with clients should be well-trained and monitored. Having well-oiled phone standards not only saves you and your employees’ time, but will also increase your close and upsell rates considerably.

5. No referral program in place

The incorrect approach to referrals is to sit back and wait for them to happen. They rarely do. You have to go out and get them like any other customer acquisition.

You might get some referrals naturally from your best customers. But the key to really jumpstarting the number of referrals you get is implementing a strategy that cultivates referrals from customers who wouldn’t normally do it. You must have a process that reaches out to customers to ask for feedback on your service and work, and then invites referrals from those who’ve expressed satisfaction.

6. Too eager to jump on the 'trendy' bandwagon

Many lawn care companies get bored with their current marketing efforts. Then when something trendy comes along, they ditch their existing marketing tactics and go all in on the new trend. This is very risky and can prove to be a terrible mistake.

If existing marketing tools are working well for you, it makes no sense to discard them. A great example is how some contractors think social media such as a Facebook page is now all they need to do in the way of marketing. After a year or so, though, the leads start drying up and they’re left wondering what happened. Again, trendy things like social media, blogging or video marketing work best in concert with other forms of marketing. It’s OK to jump on the trendy bandwagon, but don’t forget that it’s also OK to bring some of your tried and true marketing methods with you.

For example, if your primary marketing goal is to increase your customer lifetime value through upselling and seasonal services, you likely will benefit from a combination of email marketing and social media. If your goal is to increase business for a certain service you offer, you'll likely benefit from a mix of direct mail and/or door hangers, online PPC (pay per click) advertising and social media.

7. Don’t build credibility

Prospects are skeptical. They won’t do business with someone they don’t trust. They also won’t immediately believe what you have to say.

To establish credibility, present prospects with specific proof in a way the prospect can understand.

Just explain what you do, how you do it, and how the customer will benefit. Don’t brag and try to impress them. If you act like a slick used car salesman, most prospects will respond to you as such. It’s OK to point out your accomplishments, milestones and credentials. Just translate them into benefits so you make it about the customer.

Testimonials are huge. With today’s technology, video testimonials have become very effective. Work with existing customers to capture their testimonials on video so you can post to your website and share with prospects.

8. Don't develop a plan ahead of time

Many lawn care contractors market by the seats of their pants. But without a plan, you don’t know what you’re doing. A marketing plan is the foundation of your business. It should have clearly defined goals and an outline of the specific steps needed to increase visibility, expand your customer base, and provide quantifiable results to measure your return on investment.

Don’t delay your marketing plan until you think you need it; i.e. phone stops ringing or sales are way off. Schedule everything on your calendar and follow it throughout the year.

9. Fall prey to ineffective marketing services

The marketing consultants running around the Green Industry and other service industries are a dime a dozen. And these days, the agencies promising to “help increase your website’s ranking in the search engines” are a dime a hundred.

Beware of SEO (search engine optimization) companies that guarantee a No. 1 ranking on Google. Nobody can guarantee that because they are not Google. Plus, search algorithms change frequently. SEO is a continuous effort.

If you’re going to hire an SEO company to help you, make sure they are qualified in all aspects of marketing, not just SEO. The company should be able to offer the right combinations of online marketing tools like social, email, PPC advertising and reputation management. The company should also be a specialist in the landscaping or lawn care industry. A company that understands your business and the services it offers will do a much better job for you.

10. Failing to take action

Inaction and procrastination are killers of a lawn care business. Forward-thinking entrepreneurs avoid these mistakes at all costs.

Successful lawn care company owners act on good ideas when they see them. Their businesses are constantly changing. They improve the way they do things so they can better meet the needs of their customers. Marketing is no exception to this mindset.

Based on a white paper by Andrew Potoschnik, the founder of Lawn Care Marketing Expert, a leading marketing agency for lawn care and landscaping entrepreneurs. Visit lawncaremarketingexpert.com for more information.