Anyone used marketing firms or consultants?

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by bcg, Jun 3, 2011.

  1. bcg

    bcg LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Tx
    Posts: 1,835

    Marketing has really kind of been the part of owning a business that I've enjoyed the most and with the lawn maintenance and irrigation business, I've got it down to a fine art where I know that if I need x number of new customers, I simply need to do y to achieve that.

    As we've branched out into lighting however, I'm finding that reaching the customers that I want is a real challenge. I know how I want to position our image, as something exclusive that not everyone can have, but the methods that we've used in the past just don't seem to give the kind of results I'd like to see. Instead of getting those customers that want something special, we end up getting a lot of people that want to spend no more than $2,000 to light a $750,000, or more, home that really needs 20 - 30 fixtures to be lit properly. I know that referrals are always going to be the best way to get this kind of work (and I am getting some of that) but, as Tommy said at the AOLP, word of mouth is a result, not a method.

    So, with all that said, has anyone ever used a marketing firm or consultant to help develop and/or run campaigns to reach the higher end clientele? In what ballpark was the expense of doing so and was it worthwhile? How did you go about selecting the firm you chose?

    Finally, if any of you have any marketing tactics that have worked well for you, I'd be very interested in hearing them.

    I do a lot of direct mail but with lighting, it seems to not be attracting the right kind of customer. Some of that may be the message our mailings have portrayed and we've been working to tweak that. We've also done home shows with very poor results, again most of the people we talked with were looking for package type deals and discounts, not custom and unique lighting designs. We do have a bid in for a project at a racquet club where I've offered the club management a discount in return for some sort of exposure to their membership, which is exactly the type of person we need to be marketing to, but we haven't discussed details on that yet and I won't know until the end of the month, after their board meeting, whether or not we've won the project.
  2. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,102

    "as Tommy said at the AOLP, word of mouth is a result, not a method."

    Let me be the first to disagree.

    Word of mouth, or more accurately referrals, can be a marketing method when you design a program and set about to generate those referrals.

    I would be happy to talk with you one on one sometime on this topic, not here as I am tired of discussing marketing & sales techniques in a forum that is read by my local competitors.

    Drop me an email sometime.
  3. bcg

    bcg LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Tx
    Posts: 1,835


    I agree that word of mouth can be a great avenue of getting new business a fledgeling in lighting, there has to be a base to get those referrals from first. You and I talked briefly about the Purple Cow at AOLP and I'm doing that with the customers that I have and it has led to referrals but their network of friends that can, and more importantly will, afford lighting at this level is only so large.

    I'll definitely drop you a line though, I really do want to explore the topic further, especially with those of you that have succeeded in the market I'm working to crack.
  4. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,756

    bcg, I don't know about Purple Cow but how about Blue Ocean Strategy.
    Look here You will find excerpts from the book. Their theme is "how to make your competition irrelevant."
  5. Will P.C.

    Will P.C. LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 965

    Professional photography to create some lookbooks and nice professional pamphlets with your work professionally photoed in it.

    I have seen some great work photoed with a cheap point and shoot and it did not do the job justice.

    You are in the business of lighting and these pics can be taken at night to hide any flaws in the house or landscape that isn't your fault.
  6. The Lighting Geek

    The Lighting Geek LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 875

    I just want clarify my statement a little. I believe word of mouth is the end result of a good marketing plan, and can be nice benefit AFTER you have a customer base in which to garner referrals. Too many people here in the states have told me when business was good and leads fell in their lap, that their marketing was solely based on word of mouth and never worked at referrals. It worked for them then and now many of them are out of business. Why? because they had no other means to get in front of NEW customers. I have never quit marketing, referrals are good sometimes and not other times. I am always reaching out to new clients and it is tough in many markets today. Landscape lighting is really a niche business and not everyone sees value in what we do as professionals. It is up to each of us to get in front of those clients who DO see value in what love to do.
  7. steveparrott

    steveparrott Sponsor
    Posts: 1,196

    I believe your lack of success with direct mail has two main causes:

    1. Direct mail has always been more successful with middle class consumers compared to high-end consumers. The middle class market these days is all about budgeting, do-it-yourself, and cutting back on discretionary spending. High end consumers (your best market), in my opinion, tend to ignore promotional postcards.

    2. The Internet.

    Bottom line is that if you are considering hiring a marketing consultant. He or she should be an Internet consultant or agency. Direct mail is getting less and less cost effective - it will probably disappear as a viable marketing tool within a couple years.

    To evaluate what help you need in the Internet realm, consider as a first step hiring someone for a comprehensive evaluation of your online presence. That evaluation should include:
    1. An evaluation of the effectiveness of your website for a variety of factors
    2. A comparison of your website with your competitors
    3. A determination of the keywords that are most likely used by your potential customers
    4. An evaluation of how you stand with your competitors for these target keywords in Google organic search results
    5. An evaluation of how well you are positioned in local search results
    6. An evaluation of your adwords campaigns (if you have them)
    7. An evaluation of your backlinks
    8. An evaluation of your presence in social media networks
    9. An evaluation of your use of blogs, press releases, and forums
    10. An analysis of your website statistics

    Ask the consultant if they will grade you in each of these categories (or other categories they create). This is extremely useful because it gives you a starting point and a basis for establishing goals and timelines to achieve them. It is also useful for evaluating the effectiveness of any consultants or agencies you may hire in the future.

    Looking at this evaluation will help you to see what needs to be done to improve the effectiveness of your Internet marketing. You'll be able to do many of these actions yourself (for free - such as making use of google's business solutions). Other tasks (such as setting up a system for linking your social networks, and working them) may be too confusing and time-consuming for you - so you'll need to hire someone to do those.

    It's not easy to find a good Internet marketing consultant or agency. They range in type from high school kids to large expensive agencies. You can research them online (search for SEO consultants). Here's the criteria I suggest:
    1. Best to use a company that mainly focuses on SEO and SEM; it's ok if they offer other services, but SEO and SEM should be primary
    2. No need to be local, SEO geeks do everything online.
    3. Should have experience working with businesses similar to yours
    4. Most important!!! Insist they provide at least three examples of similar businesses. Do google searches for these businesses using likely regional keywords. If the business doesn't show up on page one, that's not a good sign. Call the businesses and ask about their experience with the consultant - but don't be too concerned if they report some frustration - that's inevitable because SEO work takes more time than most expect.
    5. Ask if they are willing to provide the graded evaluations I described above.
    6. They will most likely offer a range of services - SEO, SEM, Social Media, PR, Web design, blog creation. Some agencies charge separarate for each of these, others provide a bundled service. If the service is bundled, mention each of these items and ask what's included.
    7. Ask if they can edit your website as part of the service. This is essential because SEO always involves editing the html code and the pages themselves. If your site is built with a CMS (Joomla, WordPress, etc), ask if they work with that CMS.
    8. Ask what kind of reports they offer, and how often.
    9. Ask how much, and what type of, work they expect you to do.

    Hope this is helpful.
  8. sprinklerchris

    sprinklerchris LawnSite Senior Member
    from Georgia
    Posts: 281

    Our experience is most lighting work is sold by referral and word-of-mouth. The key is to have a marketing program that generates those.

    Also, we don't see a lot of competition in the category where we are fighting for the same customer. No need to differentiate from the evil other guy. Rather, the job is to create a customer. They didn't know they needed/wanted it until they see it.

    There's not a lot of web site traffic (searches) for professionally-installed lighting because of this lack of familiarity. (Plenty of search traffic for PAR-style floods and post lanterns, not pro installations, so make sure your web person knows the difference, otherwise you'll get a lot of search traffic and no results).

    You will need a quality portfolio and web site for when those referrals come knocking (and yes, they'll start on your web site).

    I would suggest that you seek advice from a consultant or agency that is familiar with the landscape consumer and follows the research on what drives these people to make choices and decisions.

    Hiring a firm that is good at selling skateboards or a consultant who is the worlds greatest web expert can get you some nice glitz, but it doesn't move Mrs. Jones any closer to buying. And if this "expert" tells you Mrs. Jones is shopping Facebook for landscape lights, run.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2011
  9. steveparrott

    steveparrott Sponsor
    Posts: 1,196

    Chris, I agree with all your points. But don't be too quick to discount facebook. I use LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. I get very little new business from these sites, but when they're all linked togther, it's a great way to stay in front of existing and some potential customers. An occaisional update or post from any of these sites pop up as an update in all your contacts email.
  10. Alan B

    Alan B Sponsor
    Posts: 420

    Imho, for the landscape lighting business I do not think it is necessary to hire a mrkting firm. For one I am generally very skeptical of small business marketing experts and firms that are more proven and cater to the larger sized corp businesses will tend to be out of the price range. You will do the best job for your own business.

    I feel the high end is about relationships and referrals. "Work the clusters" When you get into a new high-end neighborhood, think of the first customer as you're introduction to the group. Go over the top with service, professionalism, value, results -- people talk about exceptional. Use that first person to develop a relationship into the neighborhood. Wave to neighbors, put out the sign (if you can), be friendly, visible. Put some flyers in neighbors boxes saying "we just did your neighbors at XYZ, come over and take a look!" Spend all the extra time you can with that first customer going over the top to develop a relationship. Depending on the neighborhood and your personality, when you are finishing up, you can even ask the adjacent neighbors if they want a quote while you are there.

    In short, I find that highend customers often come in clusters around neighbors and social circles and you can encourage that by not by a magic formula but common sense. Over the top service, dev relationships with your customers, be very visible when you are working (lots of estimates come from neighbors seeing you), work the adjacent neighbors, pass out some flyers and signs, ask your customers for referrals. Treat your customers like gold and they will help you. If you are only average or above average you will be ignored, if your customer feels they found a diamond, they will tell people. No one will risk their own reputation to their circle of friends unless they feel the co they are recommending is exceptional (and this concept was not invented by "The Purple Cow" lol).

    Some may disagree but I always think it can be wise to slightly lower a profit margin to get in somewhere and spend even more time than usual with the customer to insure over the top value. They often become your mouthpiece and anchor to getting neighbor business.

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