Do you ever wonder if you should pay for Facebook advertising while you wait for your website to be launched? Or how do you get started with direct mail? Should you open another office in a different city just for the local SEO benefit of ranking in Google Maps? If you wonder these things, you're not alone. And today's episode, I'm going to answer those questions plus several top other sales and marketing questions that landscape company owners just like you ask me all the time.
Hey, everyone. Jack Jostes here, and welcome to The Landscaper's Guide. This show is all about serving the snow and landscape industry with sales, marketing, and leadership ideas. I wrote the book The Tree of Good Fortune: The Landscaper's Guide to Modern Sales & Marketing, and in it, I answer a ton of sales and marketing questions. Recently, I hosted a live Q&A for people who have read the book, and in today's episode, I'm going to pull in some of my favorite questions that they ask me because a lot of people ask me these questions all the time. Now, if you haven't already checked out the book, grab a free copy at treeofgoodfortune.com. We will ship it to you in the mail. And you can also get this book on Audible. It just came out on Audible as an audiobook. If you don't use Audible, if you want to get the audiobook on our website, go to treeofgoodfortune.com. But let's dive into these sales and marketing questions.
How To Target A Rural Area With Local SEO
Hey, Jack. So my question is, when it comes to SEO, local SEO, on your website, you say to use a page for each location, but my question is, in a rural area, how would you do that? Would you do it by areas, or would you just do the major towns and within each one of those pages of the major towns, snag up all the smaller communities as well? Thank you.
Awesome. Well, Joey, thanks so much for asking the question. In The Tree of Good Fortune, and this was one of the key concepts of the book is the idea of building out a limb for each city and a branch for each service. So if you're in... I'm just going to use Chicago. If you're in Chicago and you do landscape design and you work in Arlington Heights, the suburb, you'd build out a limb for that city and then a branch for that and you'd repeat that.
In a rural area, it's a little more complicated in some ways, and the answer always is to look at the competition online. So for instance, I live in a small town with 2,000 people, and there are landscape companies here, but typically, it's going to be landscape companies from Boulder or Longmont who would then drive 25 minutes into Lyons, right?
So as far as do you need a page for each, well, it depends. I have clients in Georgia where they refer to county, and people Google by county, and that's just how it is there. Here in Colorado, it's more by the city or the suburb, that sort of thing. We have another client in Colorado Springs where we've gone as specific as certain neighborhoods and it has worked really well. So it's kind of an experiment. The way that I would decide and the way that I would do it, Joey, is to definitely pick the nearest cities that you service and you could build out a page for that city. And then on that page, and one of the things I advocate in the book is writing long-form content. So typically when I'm building a website, that page might have 1,000 words of content, and when you have a page that has a lot of content, it can rank for a lot of different things. So on that page, you may have a paragraph that serving... What county are you in, Joey? And if you could unmute? I can't hear you currently.
Sorry. I didn't really realize if you were asking me or not, but I'm in a county called Lafayette.
Okay, Lafayette. And then what cities are in that county?
I'd say there's probably a dozen or more. Now, cities and towns, I would differ everything under, let's say, 5,000 people. There's probably a dozen or so.
Okay. So I'm going to share my screen here. And so is this it? So is it outside of Kansas City?
Okay. So we've got Odessa. So what I'm doing is, I'm looking at Google Maps and I'm looking at the bigger words here. So these are going to be bigger. So Concordia, Odessa, Higginsville, Alma, Lexington, do you service all of those?
Right now, I'm trying to push my way. So I-70 is right there. I'm in Concordia pretty much, so I'm trying to drive my way up I-70 to Odessa, and the further north you get into the county, it gets even more rural, so I'm trying to not necessarily spread myself into the smaller, lower... I don't want to say lower income. More spread out areas.
Yeah. Sure. Yeah, that's fine. And what's the main service that you're going to offer there?
Right now, I'm focusing more on landscape because the mowing takes more time of drive time.
Okay. So I would do a search for like landscaping companies, Odessa, Missouri. Okay, so I'm actually seeing that there's quite a few in that town. There are map results here, right? So there's actually pretty, I would say, fair competition here. And when I'm looking at these website results... So here's somebody implementing the idea, right? This Procore company has a page for Odessa and a page for landscaping. They're the only contractor doing that. The rest is all of these advisors, right? So I would build a page on your website for Odessa and see how it ranks. And then as far as getting leads in all of those little areas in between, you probably don't need them.
What’s Working Now For Recruiting Landscaping Employees?
Hi, Jack. John Domini of Mist Yard here. Thank you for the recruiting worksheet from November of last year. It was a great help. My question is, what have you learned in the past year in terms of best practices and what's working now for recruiting? And can you give us several examples from your customers?
Awesome, John. Thanks so much for asking that question. John came, we did a workshop last November, I guess a year ago about recruiting, and in many ways, a lot of the basics are still tried and true, and I see a lot of landscapers not doing them. So some of the things that are still working include, the most important question is, "What's in it for me?" And employees want to know about their career path, they want to know about culture, and they absolutely want to know about pay. Here in Colorado, they actually just passed a law that you need to include salary in your job advertisements. I've personally been doing that for six years because when I didn't, I didn't get a response to my job ads at Ramblin Jackson, and when I did, I started getting people. And I also got people who were in the bracket, the budget that I had for the position.
So that's really working well for clients. I just talked with a client yesterday in my mastermind. I have a Wild Frontier mastermind group with some of my top clients, and one of them started using a program. Aaron, if you could put this in the chat, landscapersguide.com/teamengine. Team Engine is a software that, it's actually one of the few softwares that I recommend to people. They're using that to manage their applicants. And one of the things that it does is it pushes your job post out to all these different websites with the click of a button and it creates an applicant dashboard where you can manage applicants.
So part of this is, one, we have to have a reason for people to apply. We need to have a very compelling job description that's emotional and benefit-oriented. And yes, we're going to get to, "You need to be able to lift 50 pounds in the sun," but most landscaping job ads read like wanted advertisements for some kind of criminal. It's like, "Wanted, person to lift heavy things in the sun every day, rain or shine." And yeah, landscaping is hard and you need people who will work outside in the elements, but if that's all you tell them, it doesn't sound very good.
People want to hear about how they can learn and how they can grow, their career path, what's in it for them, and do you have benefits, do you have perks. And if you don't have benefits and perks, you probably need to figure out a way to offer them, because people are going to look around and see other people who are listing a salary that's attractive to them, they're listing benefits in perks. And I also know what it's like to not be able to offer all of the benefits and perks of the giant company and whatever, and we're going to come to that in a follow-up question about recruiting later.
But the other things that I've learned, you asked a question of what have I learned in the last year that's working, one of my clients hired a part-time recruiter, and this person is proactively messaging people, finding them on LinkedIn, finding them on Facebook and Instagram, finding people who have posted their resume on Indeed, and they're in Virginia and they have successfully filled positions. This person works like five to eight hours a week.
They found them on a website called hiremymom.com. Hiremymom.com is a website where... It's kind of like Fiverr or those other, Upwork or a gig. Basically, it's a gig website where you can find people, many of them are stay-at-home moms who might have five to eight hours a week, or 10 hours, or 20 hours, but they don't want a full-time job or something like that. Found a very skilled person who was personable that proactively interviewed people. So that was one thing that worked.
Is It Worth Paying For Social Media Advertising While You’re Waiting For Your Website To Be Built?
Hey, Jack. Lola Wright of Nathan Wright Landscape Design here. Quick question for you. Do you think it is a waste of paid social media advertising dollars to boost posts before your website is rightly designed for a kind of ecosystem and a email capture that really works? So if we're advertising on Facebook, on LinkedIn, or Instagram, is that a waste of paid advertising dollars before our website is really optimized for great use?
So in The Tree of Good Fortune, we talk about the foundation of digital marketing, and this is based on my experience. The reason why I created this was I had a lot of businesses jumping to the top, what I would say, doing Facebook advertising, doing Google AdWords, Instagram ads, or social media. And what I've found in running Facebook ads for landscapers and then also talking with them is that typically, if you don't have what I call the foundational four, your branding and differentiation, your website, your local SEO, your online reviews, you're not going to get very good results from paid advertising. And one of the reasons is that especially if you're selling a higher ticket landscape design build project, like your firm does, Lola, people are going to be, they're going to do more research around your brand and they're going to Google you.
I want to share a fun horror story. So Mountain Sky Landscaping Boulder. Okay, so I don't know if you can see the number one result here, but it is a... Oh, let's look at it. Wow, 14 reviews with a 1.5 star average. Oh. Well, I might as well read these. So you can read through here on your own time. Sadly, there is a company out here that has stolen hundreds, if not hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars from homeowners in the Colorado area to do these big pool-building projects. I mean, numerous, numerous things. It was even in KDVR news. What is it, Mountain Sky Landscaping? Yeah. So pool contractor disappears with $90,000, leaves mess. So there are these horror stories of unethical contractors in a variety of trades who take people's money and run. And I think people are aware of this, and the point is that they're doing more research before they hire someone. And if you don't have any internet presence, I think you're going to have a very poor result from social media advertising.
With that said, Facebook ads, Instagram ads. I don't know about LinkedIn ads for residential. I wouldn't do LinkedIn ads. But Facebook ads, you can get up and running and you can target people in a specific neighborhood. And with your Facebook page, if you have an abundance of great photos, you have a bunch of social proof in the form of reviews from other people, I think you'd get a better result than if you didn't have that. So if you were just starting out and all you had was a Facebook page and it didn't have any content, and when I Google you, I can't even find anything about you, I think you'll get very poor results. So I think it's kind of complicated. Now, if you were selling belts and they were $50 and they had a cool belt buckle, like cool, I'm probably not going to Google that before I buy it. If I see an Instagram ad for a thing, you probably just buy it. Kind of low risk. $90,000 for a landscape project? I'm going to think about that a bit.
One of the other things that social media advertising and advertising in general, what I've found is that it typically produces unqualified leads, meaning many of these people don't remember who you are and why they're contacting you. They are maybe just filling out a form on Facebook. I remember we ran really great ads with a client, they got a ton of leads, and they were like, "Who? You're who from where? Oh, yeah." And I don't know about you. I use social media on my phone late at night, I'm like half paying attention, and then Facebook autofills your contact information into an advertisement. Whereas when you generate a lead through your website and they've read more content, they've watched videos, and they've really become warmed up, they'll be more qualified.
So Lola, I wouldn't spend a lot of money on Facebook or social advertising. I think your question was, "During the time that I'm waiting to build my site, should I do it?" Maybe. I think that Facebook groups for neighborhoods would be a much better bet. If you could get into a Facebook group for a neighborhood, for the neighborhoods that you join and post photos in there, like make a graphic about your content, I think you'd get a much better result from doing that. That's more of kind of a guerilla marketing, I guess if you would, than a advertising tactic.
How To Get Started With Direct Mail Marketing For Your Landscaping Company
Well, one of our clients is Rich Bradley out in Massachusetts. Rich is a great guy, runs Superscape Landscape, and his question was, "How would I get started implementing direct mail?" I'm personally a big advocate of print direct mail and doing offline and online marketing together. So at Ramblin Jackson, we have a print monthly newsletter. You've probably gotten a postcard from me in the mail inviting you to an event, and that postcard... Rachel is nodding her head. Rachel, have you received our postcard? Okay, good. Right.
So I love it. Yeah, so postcards are cool because... On them, though, here's the thing. So I would start with strategy of what do you want people to do, what are the steps to becoming a customer, and how can you give them something to do. So for me, I have events. I do an event every month, and the postcard is great. It has a very simple call to action of, "Register for the event." That works for me. You could do events. I do know some landscapers who do events.
I wouldn't necessarily prioritize that. If I were to do direct mail, if I were running a landscape company or if I were managing direct mail for a client, I would think of an offer. And an offer doesn't always have to be a discount. In fact, I'd be very, very careful about discounting services because it can attract a price-sensitive buyer.
Another type of offer that you could do, though, is a gift with a purchase. So for instance, Joey, who's here, and I were messaging on Instagram about advertising to a private golf club. So you could think of some sort of gift that when somebody buys their first lawn mowing or their first landscape, whatever, they get a gift with that purchase. So I'm just going to make it up. "You could buy branded golf balls. We're going to give you golf balls with your company logo on it." Chances are, these people at the private golf club have a business, right? So that's an interesting gift, that when they buy, right? And you could add an expiration to it. So, "When you buy X before Y date, you get Z gift." You get Z gift, right? So that's compelling, though, in a direct mail setting because I'm giving them a reason to reply and I'm giving them a deadline, and they're going to be more likely to respond when there's that deadline in there.
So that's how I would start, is by thinking of a compelling offer. I happen to know that Rich is in Cape Cod, and wow. I mean, talk about all the HOAs and all the rigmarole that you have to jump through to do landscaping out there. So knowing that, I would think of something like... I happen to know that it's kind of a vacation community. So people, typically, they're going to want to have their landscaping completed ahead of a certain date so they can use it during their vacation time, and so I might create some scarcity around project installation dates. "If you want your project completed by X date, respond before Y at superscapelandscape.com/mailer. I don't know. .com/mailer is kind of a lame URL, but the point is, in your direct mail marketing, you could use things like QR codes or a specific landing page on your website to track the results of it.
That's more of what's called a direct response marketing approach, meaning I'm doing an advertising campaign with a specific response in mind and I can track the response, versus, say, a brand awareness advertisement. A brand awareness advertisement would be, we'd plop the Superscape logo on a postcard and we would mail it to people. There would be no offer, there'd be no reason to reply. You'd probably still get some leads, but when you give people an offer and a reason to reply, the cool thing is is that they're going to get aware of your brand anyways, right? They're still going to see the brand. So I'm much more of an advocate of like direct response campaign driving people to a website, and now my website's going to do a bunch of the follow-up work for me. Maybe they can schedule online, maybe they can register for something. So creating a solid offer that's timely and of interest to your client is a great one.
And I wouldn't overlook your existing customers. I met with a design build firm recently and they said, "Well, Jack, SEO is killing it for us," because they're a Ramblin Jackson client, right? Anyways, they're getting a lot of design build leads. Their main goal is maintenance. We're doing SEO for maintenance. I'm like, "Well, why not sell maintenance to all of your existing customers?" And so we started thinking of an offer for them. And so that's pretty cool because it's inexpensive. You're going to have a smaller list, sending that to them. You can call them is another thing.
So once you have your content and your strategy, you got to have a list. And so this is where you can work with a list broker. There are a lot of different ways to get a list brokered. You can get specific neighborhoods, zip codes, all these different things. And then you need to work with a printer and a mailer. There are companies out there. Sometimes, I work with local ones. I've worked with PostNet, which is a franchise, and there's a local PostNet and they can do some of this list brokering service for me. I always recommend that you do a multi-step campaign. I think the biggest risk in direct mail is sending a one-and-done advertisement.
All right. Hopefully, you got some value from hearing those questions answered. And if you have other questions, I invite you to join me at one of our upcoming events. We love talking with the audience and taking questions, and we have a variety of really cool live and virtual events coming up. So see the full list at landscapersguide.com/events. See our show notes for that. And my name's Jack Jostes. Thanks so much for checking out today's show. I look forward to talking with you next week on The Landscaper's Guide.