It seems like the worse the economy is, the more marketing advice I hear thrown around. I'll spare you the long winded lecture explaining that you should have been marketing your landscape design business just as much when times were good as when they are bad.
Instead, I'll focus on five marketing strategies that landscape designers can implement that meet two specific criteria: First, these strategies can generate more business immediately, and second, each can be implemented at very little cost. I understand that no one wants to hear about long term marketing strategies that come with a large investment up front. Here we go...
Seek Free Publicity
Getting free publicity is easier than you may think. Our local press and media are hungry for positive stories right now. Chances are you are sitting on a unique story right now that someone would like to write about. The mistake that most landscape designers make is that they wait for the media to contact them. Now is not the time to wait around, you need to approach the media with your story first. Here are some potential story ideas:
· Unique landscape design projects you have recently completed.
· A unique design feature you have implemented such as a system to re-use storm water on site.
· Problem/Solution-how did you solve a difficult problem on site with a creative solution?
· Landscape design awards and certifications you and your employees have earned
I have found the best way to get publicity is by sending well written press releases. Sending a press release via fax is most appropriate. If you need to include photos, then postal mail is the best way to send a release, not via broadcast email unless you have permission. I have also had success posting press releases online using free services such as PitchEngine.com.
The benefits of free publicity are many, but most importantly you will be positioned as an expert in the eyes of homeowners, local business leaders and your peers.
For me personally, networking is one of those "ugly" words that conjures up thoughts of traditional salesmen in lousy suits and fake smiles. That said, you can not minimize the powerful effect that networking can have on your landscape design business. Not only can strategic networking bring about immediate results, it also leads to long term business success in the form of collaborative and mutually beneficial relationships.
There is no better time than right now to develop a comprehensive networking strategy. Take a look around you, are there other landscape industry professionals you can collaborate with? I know of many landscape designers who partner with landscape contractors, and vice versa. Do you know of other allied professionals you could refer, and receive referrals from? Remember, we're all in this same economic situation together.
I also highly recommend joining networking groups such as your local chamber of commerce and referral groups such as BNI (Business Networking International). Less work means more time for networking right? So get out and meet some new people. This almost always leads to immediate business.
Most of you by now are probably familiar with e-newsletters, or e-zines. You have probably had many delivered to your inbox, with or without your permission. Permission-based email marketing is an easy and inexpensive way to stay in contact with past clients and your other business contacts. If you have done a good job of collecting contact information from past clients and others, now is the time to develop an e-newsletter.
Monthly newsletters are the most succesfull, but if you cannot consistently produce a monthly newsletter then consider a quarterly mailing. In my experience cost typically ranges from $15 to $30 per month for a service that enables you to design your newsletter, maintain your email list, send the newsletter and give you detailed reports. I have used and recommend ConstantContact.com as well as AWeber.com.
The key to producing a quality e-newsletter is to provide valuable content to your readers. Sure, you can write about current landscape design projects and the latest happenings in your business, but make sure you are providing helpful and useful information as well.
Pay Per Click Advertising
If you hesitate to spend big bucks on traditional print advertising, then consider advertising online in the form of "Pay Per Click" advertising. Google is the predominant player in PPC advertising, but Yahoo also offers a service. With PPC, you have direct control over how much you want to spend. And unlike traditional print advertising, there is no time lapse between when your ads run like with monthly magazines.
A somewhat new player in the game of pay per click advertising is the social networking site Facebook. When advertising on Facebook, you actually have the option to select very specific demographic groups you want your ad to appear in front of. Because ppc on Facebook is relatively new, there will be less competition if you get in the game now. Like with anything new, I suggest doing your research before jumping into pay per click advertising.
Finally, think about ways you could collaborate with your landscape industry peers and other allied professionals. Co-op marketing and advertising is less expensive when two parties split the costs. Not only that, but you can build credibility when you link your landscape design company with another successful company.
I know of landscape designers and landscape contractors who have advertised together, splitting the cost and the leads generated. The best example of co-op marketing that I have seen in our industry is when like-minded companies put on workshops together. Garden centers and nurseries can host workshops in which they invite landscape designers and contractors to present their expertise. This is a win-win for each.