Archive for the ‘marketing’ tag
Here’s our weekly digest of cool internet stuff. Enjoy!
- Chris Heiler launches an online radio show.
- Ikea granite.
- Five tips on improving your local search results. (via @canyoncomm)
- Interview with Nike’s VP of sustainability. (via @waterguru2)
- Too much work is bad. Except when it’s good.
- Green construction is booming.
- A round-up of water rebates from across the country.
- Above: The concept of doughnut marketing, illustrated.
If you’re competing against the guy who put this up, you have my sympathy.
Because he’ll do anything to get the business. Read it yourself: He’ll mow your grass, clean out your garage and move your sofa. No job too small!
I hear from readers all the time about the mythical lowballer – how he’s stealing business and driving down prices and hurting the industry. They’ve been around forever and they won’t ever go away.
The only way to compete with someone who will do anything at any price is to do the same. Otherwise, you have to ignore him.
Do you target customers who pay the lowest possible price and also ask you to haul their old washing machine to the dump? Do you get a lot of your leads from the grocery store bulletin board?
If you don’t like competing against lowballers, stop. Find new customers.
As Seth Godin explains that your customer isn’t always the person who signs your checks.
Zappos is a classic customer service company, and their customer is the person who buys the shoes.
Many manufacturers have retailers as their customer. If Wal-Mart is happy, they’re happy.
Apple had just one customer. He passed away last year.
Not everyone with a lawn or snow-covered driveway is your customer. And not every landscaper is your competition. Figure out where you want to spend your time, focus your energy and stop worrying about these guys.
(image via @jasoncupp)
The Pew Internet and American Life Project last week released a report on how consumers use the web to find information on local businesses.
Key findings from the report include:
- 47% say they rely most on the internet to learn more about local businesses
- 36% rely most on search engines
- 30% rely most on newspapers
- 22% rely on word of mouth from family and friends
- 1% rely on social network sites or Twitter
One thing that surprised me from the report was how low social media ranks. While customers might not seek out or use your Twitter feed or Facebook page to learn more about you all the time, using those platforms to create original content will improve your search engine rankings.
I asked some of our regular social media contributors to weigh in on the report, and here’s what they had to say:
This is interesting. Seems a lot of folks trust search engines and media more than their friends (social media)!
One more reason for creating great online content – and getting it shared on sites outside of Facebook where it can provide search benefits.
Very interesting. I’m not surprised though. Most “casual” social media followers don’t use the medium to the extent that it could be used. For example, I recently tweeted (last weekend to be exact) “What is a great Sunday brunch location in downtown KC?” Since I have a lot of followers from the KC area, and have some SM influence here, I got some replied and ended up going to one of the places that was tweeted to me – and it was more than awesome!
SM requires dedication and time to build followers and influence and is an ACTIVE discussion online. Without that activity, there is no reply. Most don’t have any activity in their SM world – including Facebook. That said, internet browser information is static. You can instantly type something into a search engine and get a reply, so most people go to what they know best.
Unfortunately, those results are often biased by geographic location, number of reviews on Yelp, Google, and well as blog entries, reviews, etc. It’s not nearly as organic as going to your “friends” for a referral, which in the landscape world, we all know is the best kind of business development tool.
Also, the cohort searching for you online, according to the Pew study, is likely female, college-educated and has a household income of $75,000 or more. Sounds like the target demo for most landscape companies I’ve talked to recently.
And, no surprise, nearly a quarter of respondents said they rely on friends and family.
So, it makes sense to continue to invest in online marketing and social media to promote yourself. But, at the end of the say, a happy customer is still one of your best marketing tools, however you reach them in the first place.
No, we’re not proposing you dress up as Santa to mow your customers’ lawns. But … then again … there have been worse ideas. Dressing up as Santa to service customers’ lawns is something most people would probably remember. And it’s an idea straight out of Santa’s play book: Be unique.
In a blog post, My Creative Team points out that the four reasons Santa’s brand is so strong is he is: consistent, unique, customer-focused and viral. By focusing on and pulling off these specific steps year after year, Santa has made a name for himself with little marketing effort.
Santa has never spent a dime on advertising. He has used good public relations tactics to develop, manage and maintain solid relationships with marketers who advertise for him. Consider the Coca-Cola ads featuring Mr. Claus. Think of all the newspaper inserts that carry his picture during the holidays. Then, there are all those helpers in department stores everywhere.
Everyone knows one of the most cost-effective ways to market is word of mouth. If you stand out and provide great service, your customers will do much of the work for you through referrals.
The bearded man on that couch is Adam Lisagor. He’s a filmmaker. Well, to be totally accurate, he mostly shoots online commercials for tech companies. The above video is one he put together for a great iPad app called Flipboard.
And while you don’t produce commercials on the internet, I think there’s a lot to learn from Lisagor’s style and approach to communicating with viewers and customers.
In a recent Fast Company article, Lisagor outlined the three biggest mistakes companies make when trying to talk with customers:
1. Companies Disrespect the Audience’s Time
“It’s the Internet, not TV, so you could take all the time in the world. That doesn’t mean you should. Put extra thought into how to explain yourself in the simplest way, show us you’re mindful of our time, and we’ll love you for it.”
2. They Underestimate the Audience’s Intelligence
“Audiences are almost always smarter than you think. So let us meet you halfway to understand your concept. We’ll feel healthy for having done the work, clever for having gotten the concept, and we’ll love you for it.”
3. They Follow a Formula
“At each creative decision, ask whether you’re doing it a certain way because that’s the way you’ve seen it done before. If the answer is yes, then figure out if there’s a better way. You’ll stand apart from the rest, and we’ll love you for it.”
Again, you probably aren’t in the same business, but Lisagor’s ideas – communicating clearly, respecting the customer and differentiating yourself – should resonate with any company selling anything.
You can watch more of his work here.
The first time John Riccitiello managed employees he was 15 and going door-to-door selling lawn services and hiring salespeople. The company he worked for didn’t discover his young age until they asked him to drive the van and he had to admit he wasn’t old enough to have a driver’s license. Riccitiello has gone from selling lawn services to the head of Häagen-Dazs International, Wilson Sporting Goods and now CEO of the $3.8 billion company Electronic Arts. He recently told the New York Times his success – from age 15 to now – has been a product of painting clear pictures for employees.
Q. Any sense of why they gave you the job?
A. I generally think, especially early in a career, what distinguishes leaders oftentimes is whether they paint a picture. The word “vision” can sometimes be horribly overused, but they paint a picture of the way it’s supposed to work, and it resonates with people. And so I think at that point I had a view that we could generate a lot more revenue per household if we bundled some services. It was a logical way to sell, and it worked really well. They wanted me to teach other people to do the same thing.
Q. Talk about some of the leadership lessons you’ve learned.
A. When you’re working on a business and it’s small, you’re a clear part of the equation yourself. When you get the scale, though, you’re mostly painting a picture for a lot of people for whom you’re just a concept, as opposed to a friend. So you’ve got to find a way to be incredibly consistent, so when other people repeat the same thing it conjures up the same picture, the same vision for everyone else.
Last week I bought jewelry from Stella & Dot, so it was no surprise when a plain, brown box showed up in the mail Friday.
I cut through the packaging tape with my key and pried open the first flap of the plain, ordinary brown box. When I turned the box flap over, there was a message that read “You are truly fabulous.” The boxes inside followed with the messages: “You have a great eye” and “You’ve got smarts and style.”
Of course Stella & Dot’s wrapping is pandering to its 20-something female customers like me, but there are a few lessons here.
1. It was totally unexpected. Did they need to do it? No. Did I appreciate it? Yes.
2. It shows they pay attention to detail. A company that puts that much time and energy into designing the boxes it ships its products in is probably going to put the same detail into the product.
3. It changed the entire buying experience. I knew what was going to be in the box. But instead of just opening the box and taking the earrings and necklace out of plastic wrapping, the carefully, individually wrapped boxes made me feel like I was opening a present.
Stella & Dot is comparable to say Mary Kay or CUTCO – you can’t buy its products in stores, they are sold through local representatives, and it relies on a brand forming largely by word of mouth. In shipping me my purchase – its final form of communication with me – Stella & Dot needed to make a lasting impression. The company needed to do something that would make me enjoy the entire experience and make me think of them the next time I want to buy jewelry.
For landscapers, it’s like doing a one-time project and hoping the customer likes your work enough they call you back on a regular basis. Besides doing great work for the client, what are you doing to leave a lasting impression?
How much do you pay for print ads in your local shelter magazines? Radio spots? Flyers and mailers and postcards and rented lists and door-to-door salesmen to sign up new customers?
Or, if you rely on word of mouth: How much effort do you and your team put into your work to ensure Mrs. Jones tells her book club about how much she loves her new patio?
Take a minute this morning to think of all the time and hard costs associated with a great referral program, landing new business and keeping current clients happy.
Then listen to your receptionist answer the phone.
Seth Godin describes the bad side of this process bluntly:
When a new referral shows up, all that work and expense, and then the phone rings and it gets answered by your annoyed, overworked, burned out, never very good at it anyway receptionist, it all falls apart.
Marty Grunder always asks his audiences why the (often) lowest-paid person on your staff is (usually) the first person new customers deal with.
You spend a lot of time each day with your foremen and crews and suppliers. But your customers spend most of their time interacting with your folks on the phone.
The more effort you expend pusing people to call in, the more you should work to make sure the folks answering those calls are doing it right. Otherwise you’re wasting a lot of time and money.
Every winter, the folks at RealGreen Systems host a conference for their customers. Here, the company’s president and owner, Joe Kucik, discusses how lawn care companies can bolster their marketing efforts and gain new business 12 months a year.
The program is called 12 Days of Sharing. Starting Dec. 1st, the company offers a different incentive — an advent calendar of sorts for the caffeine-addicted.
They’ve offered buy-one-get-one-free deals, donations to AIDS charities and, above, $5 gift cards for purchases.
It’s a clever way to encourage repeat traffic around a holiday theme — and an idea any lawn care or landscaping company could steal (or modify) for its own referral program. Depending on your region and market, you could do it seasonally could offer gift cards to a local garden center in the spring, passes to an area amusement park in the summer and tickets to a football game in the fall.
Or you could set up smaller offers — gift cards to restaurants or gas stations — to roll out every week.