Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by niteliters, Jan 7, 2007.

  1. niteliters

    niteliters LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 537

    I would like to hear from any of you who have tried or are thinking of trying some innovative ways of advertising in the low voltage lighting industry. This industry is in its infancy (at least the professionally installed side of it).

    To me advertising, in differing forms, is like throwing fishing lines into the pond. First, do the research to make sure there are the kind of fish in the pond you want to catch. Start buying the rods, reels, bait and start casting out lines. The idea being to start catching fish before you run out of $$ buying the equipment. There are the tried and true pieces of equipment to use but I want to here from those of who have found or made that magical lure. Maybe we can use this thread to brainstorm and creat our own lure. Jump in...the waters warm :)

    I will share an idea we are kicking around. We are members of the chamber of commerce in our town. Every month they have a breakfast...about 400-500 business men in the community attend. They have some exceptional speakers who attend, last month was our senator Mitch McConnel. For a fee (over $1000) I can sponsor the breakfast. I get 5 min at the podium, can have slide show, video etc.

    In 5 minutes I'll have touched some influencial people in our community.

    Here's another one...much less expensive. Got an invite to a networking meeting with a group in another town that is interested in our joining. It's a bunch of professionals, one per profession, designer..builder.. etc. I don't know what to expect but it costs me nothing to find out.

    Something I learned about advertising in local/regional magazines catering to high income clientel. Spent thousands, focused on readers. Had a few leads but not encouraging. Then the calls came from the owner of the magazine, couple of the advertisers. If you advertise, you must have the best pictures in the magazine. One benifit to our industry, the picture is different from 99% of the other adds. black on the border with the focal point being something lit professionally that you just don't see in a magazine. We looked at 2 years of previous issues to make sure what we did had not been done before.

    I have others...who's next...
  2. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    If I were in your line of work in your part of the country I would be talking to upscale LS contractors and designers/ architects, electricians, interior lighting people and networking with them to generate more work.

    I find that word of mouth referrals is by far and away the best and most cost efficient way to generate new business.

    In the last two years the way I have grown my company is getting referrals from a LS contractor who does not do maintenance and an existing client who put my name on a private referral list.

    This list is unique as it is just a private thing where a bunch of women with similar lifestyles put their best contractors on the list. It is privately done, you can't pay to get your name on the list and if you get some bad comments from others who have used you you will get the boot from the list.

    That generates a lot of calls but even with that the actual rate of getting a new client is about 1 in 10

    I think architects designers and contractors will be your best bet. Have them refer you or use you for their design and spec. in your work. With those referrals the rate is more like 1in 5 and it was 100% until I raised my prices.
  3. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,180

    until you raised your prices is the key there. Obviously you were the low guy or close to it before.

    I have been trying to network with LS contractors and so far not to much going on there. I do offer a very fair sub contract and refferal rate. Hopefully with time and joining the organazations Chris mentioned it will start to pay off. So far even with our traditional marketing tactics word of mouth as mentioned above is the single best form you can get.

    Keep in mind people generally look at price first then the offerings later. Even tho your miles apart on the quality and service if your a few ft off on price it may not get you a 2nd look from alot of people. We all know the type who shop on price alone. Yes I have low enough overhead and if I used the same cheesy products they use could blow thier price out of the water but it wouldnt be a job i would stand behind.
  4. klkanders

    klkanders LawnSite Senior Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 849

    Chris, not to innovative but .....

    I agree with AZ on networking with the other professionals you mentioned.
    Like you said it doesn't cost anything and only positive things can come from it. Unlike print advertising its you in person selling yourself first then your products and services. If they like you as a person your name could be mentioned numerous times down the road whenever landscaping or lighting is brought up.

    I am fortunate that I landscape also as my primary job so the referral's from that and other subs are priceless as well.

    Being new to lighting these two methods should work well for me now at the least cost.
  5. niteliters

    niteliters LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 537

    AZ, havent worked the architects at all...need to. ls con and des have worked on and going well. My question for you is the electricians. We work with 5 different electricians. They know what we do an aren't threatened, they never really did it anyway and with construction being what it has these many years they don't have time to be threatened. What about the inevitable slow down like you all are experiencing in Phoenix? Part of me is concerned about possibly opening a pandoras box. We have unions up here and so far their kicking and screaming has been minimal although there is a new law in effect this year that we have to pull a permit on every job we do and get it inspected. That's more about the city/county/state making $$ I think. i am all for going to the major electrical supply house in our town on a rainy day and doing some networking but am concerned I would wake a bunch of electricians up to some missed income rather than generating work. The other side is they tend not to have the design skills so don't worry about it. My Father is the King of low and slow. I am on the fence here and can't get off. can you offer any input that might push me in one direction or the other?
  6. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    Things are so different here it is hard to compare. Landscape contractors here do it all, there are very few lighting only contractors.

    The electricians I know don't want to dig and they are not very artistic, this limits them as you might imagine.

    They also are out of the loop so to speak because they are using big electrical distribution houses like you. Around here if you want good quality fixtures and transformers geared to low voltage lighting you go to a irrigation distributor. You want junk and multipurpose transformers you go to an electrical supply house.
  7. High Performance Lighting

    High Performance Lighting LawnSite Senior Member
    from So Cal
    Messages: 326

  8. NightScenes

    NightScenes LawnSite Silver Member
    Male, from Kingsland, Texas
    Messages: 2,214

    I have taken an approach that is much different, I think. I have tried to set myself apart from the others by reaching out to news papers, magazines, and television as an expert in landscape lighting. This gets us alot of free advertising in articles that not only use us as experts but we can use this in our portfolios. We were just selected and completed a project for the ABC television show Extreme Home Makeover, Home Edition. We contacted our local PBS station that has a gardening show and asked them if they would like to do a show on landscape lighting and guess what happened, they said yes. So, we are doing a show for them. This is FREE television. I have an article coming out in the spring Home and Garden issue of an upscale magazine in the spring. All I had to do is take the time to write the article. This is way cheaper than magazine advertising.

    I think what happens in our business is that we think too small. We need to get out there and let the world know that we are experts in our field. If you can build a portfolio that shows that you are an expert, and used by television as well as news and magazine media, you can write your own ticket.

    The best thing about using these techniques is that most of it is FREE!! Local papers are always looking for stories. We've had two stories printed about us in the past couple of months and I would bet that we will have at least 6 more this new year. This is way better than paying thousands on advertising.

    Next, let's talk about building relationships, this is by far the best advertising!!
  9. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    Paul,-I know-that you know-that the things you do for TV and Magazines are not free. As a matter of fact the ABC thing if you figure lost opportunity costs is going to possibly run you into the 5-digits. Don't forget what you would have been doing during that time and the income that would have been generated for your company. How much time will you spend writing articles and making contacts? Will that time be taken away from business hours or family time? What is the value of this time because I know its not free.

    Next, after you have done a few TV spots I think you will find it draws out the crazies. You will be dealing with little old ladies with no concept of what things cost. The potential clients that you do generate interest from will assume you are too busy or too expensive or just don't take the time to find your contact information. They will however ask their current landscaper or electrician to do it, or for a referral.

    What you are doing is promotions, not advertising. You are promoting the industry and professional workmanship and lastly your company. Very different from advertising. The exposure is good just don't get sucked into believing TV bits and magazine articles will generate work, they will not.

    They may however help you increase your close ratio from other leads that have been generated. If you are not generating leads in other ways you wont likely see much income for your time and expense of promotions. The two work hand in hand.

    The one thing I have failed to mention is the Karma factor. All these good deeds promoting the industry and helping others will come back to you in some way, some time in the future. But you knew that.
  10. NightScenes

    NightScenes LawnSite Silver Member
    Male, from Kingsland, Texas
    Messages: 2,214

    AZ, believe me, I know that the ABC thing was not free!! It cost me plenty but was still a good thing all the way around. I didn't include my time that it takes to write the articles because I usually do it while I'm in front of the tube, on my laptop. I'm just relaxing it becomes therapy, kinda.

    Just like all leads, you have to weed out the crazies that think you can put in a system for $500. One of the first things I tell people is that I charge a design fee and my systems start at $2500. If I don't hear laughter on the other end, I might have a client.

    Currently I spend around $3000 a year for advertising. My clients and connections seem to generate 95% of my business though.

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