Many of the best landscaping companies today began as very small operations—the owner and maybe one or two other employees in a pickup truck. When speaking with these owners, they’ll often comment on how it seems like a whirlwind that brought them from that humble starting point, to the point of having a growing business with more work than there is time to do it. Whether this sounds familiar—or even if you’re just starting out in that truck—defining exactly what type of projects you want to do, and who exactly you want to be doing them for, is the key to actually driving the growth of your company.
What is a target customer and why should you care?
The term target customer refers to the type of person most likely to buy a product or service. Your target customer dictates important elements of your landscape business like average design/build project value in dollars, average maintenance contract, or average length of time you are working on one project, and even the amount of time it takes your customers to pay. Important stuff, right? It sure is, and the crazy part is that your business has a target customer regardless of whether you’ve strategically chosen one or not.
Your target customer is the one in which you currently or will do work for most often. If you’ve been in business for five years and each season you build a bunch of 20’x20’ patios and your projects are almost always less than $12k, that homeowner is your target customer—like it or not. But if you find yourself wishing you could land larger projects—perhaps more complete outdoor living spaces with outdoor kitchens and fireplaces—than you need to take charge of your business and work to make your company appeal to that type of customer. It’s called redefining your target customer, and it’s how you do more of the work you want and less of the work you don’t.
What type of projects do you like to do?
The first step to defining or redefining your target customer is to take a hard look at your company goals for the next three to five years. This can be sort of an “if anything was possible” type exercise. Next, take those goals and run them up against a little reality—what are the limitations and capabilities of your staff? What are the opportunities in the geographical areas you service? Gathering the answers to these kinds of questions will force you to make necessary changes like adding team members or expanding your service area in order to meet your goals.
Once you’ve documented exactly what types of projects you want to focus on—i.e. $45k outdoor living projects with custom hardscapes, lush plantings, fire and/or water features, and landscape lighting systems—you can begin to understand what type of customer purchases those projects.
Understanding the customer and buyer personas
In order to position your company in a light that appeals to this target customer and to make sure there is enough of your target customers in your service area, it is critical to understand as much as you can about who they are. So basically, you want a detailed overview of the customer that actually purchases the kinds of work you want to do. Where do they live? How much money do they make? What do they do for a living and what do they do for fun? Do they have a family? Compile all of this information in order to paint a complete picture of your new target customer. Then, verify that your service areas have enough population of this target customer.
Positioning your company
Armed with the new understanding of the types of projects or work you wish to specialize in, as well as a clear picture of the buyer for those projects, it is now time to position your landscaping company so that you can attract these customers and close these sales. This is a bit of a sliding scale in that your target will determine what actions are necessary for success. An example that works well to illustrate this point here is the element of project photography. A company hoping to close $100k+ outdoor living projects will need to have a work portfolio of beautiful projects that are professionally staged and photographed in order to compete. A $10K project will not require such an elaborate effort, but will still need some professional photography.
Another example is the quality of a company’s website. For a landscaping company that wants to manage smaller lawn maintenance work, the homeowner will be a bit more forgiving of a website that is cluttered and not user-friendly (depending how good the competitors look). Whereas the buyer looking to pay $20k for a project for an in-ground pool, extravagant paver patio, or complete outdoor kitchen will simply leave that subpar website right away without even a consideration of hiring the company who owns it. There are of course many in-betweens, and it boils down to if you want more dollars then you need more quality—and nowhere is this more true on your company’s website (since many studies show that at least 70% of people research a business online). And if you know your target customer is a woman and has a family, then your verbiage, imagery, fonts, etc. should appeal to her.
There are many elements to a professional marketing plan for a landscape construction company looking to compete in today’s competitive market. The point is that in the eye of the consumer, a company’s image is synonymous with their reputation and quality of work. There is a very real strategy to making sure your business is conveying the right message to the right buyer, and doing it successfully can change your business for the better.
Thanks to Corey Halstead of Halstead Media Group for this insightful article. For more ideas on improving your landscaping company’s image, growing revenue, and anything marketing for landscapers, visit halsteadmedia.com’s blog.