It's spring 2023, and are you getting fewer leads at your snow and landscape company than you have in the past few springs? Is the budget that your potential customers have, is it smaller than the past few springs? If yes, you're not alone. In today's episode, I'm going to give you some insights from some of my top snow and landscape clients around the country. I'm going to share with you Google Trends. What are people searching now for on Google and how is it different from past springs? And maybe you're considering doing Google Ads or doing direct mail, or maybe you're realizing you're going to need to do more marketing in this economy. You're on the right track, and I'm going to share with you some ways that you can create direct response marketing campaigns that create a more measurable response that will help you weather the storm and position your company in the best spot possible.
Hey everyone. Welcome to The Landscaper's Guide podcast where we share sales, marketing and leadership ideas. Today, it is the middle of May, 2023, and I want to share some things that I'm hearing from clients. I'm hearing from some of our marketing clients at Ramblin Jackson, that I'm hearing in my mastermind groups, that I'm seeing from other business coaches and authors who work in the green industry, that I'm hearing from my Account Managers, the people meeting with our team. And I want to share with you ideas that will help you navigate a normal economy. So today we've got some ideas on big paper because we've got big ideas and I like big paper to share them. All right, so it's spring 2023. Some of the things that I'm hearing are, "Hey, lead volume is down. Lead quality is down. I'm not getting as many qualified leads. My close rate, the number of proposals that I'm presenting to proposals won are down."
I'm hearing from people that the size of the projects that they're selling and the budgets that clients have, especially for landscape construction are down. And I'm also hearing this very regionally, so I'm especially hearing this from people in the northeast. I'm hearing it in Virginia. I'm not hearing it in Colorado or Texas or some of my clients in the southeast like Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, some of those states where we've seen a lot of people moving over the last few years, we're actually seeing strong demand still. And in the Midwest, it's kind of the same, but I'm definitely seeing it slowing down in the northeast. So a lot of people want to know, am I alone in hearing this? And you're not alone. I'm hearing this from a lot of different people. One of the things that I look at often is Google Trends. Google Trends is a free tool that shows us the demand over time, the search volume for the phrases on Google.
2:59 Google Trends For Landscaping Searches Peak Each May
So some of the things I look at are landscaping, landscape design, tree service, tree care, lawn care, lawn mowing. Those are some of the big keywords that are going to give me a broad sense of data to look at. And what I'm seeing, you can set the tool to go back 15 years from now. And what we see is there's always a seasonal spike, typically at the end of April or maybe early May. It varies year to year, and it's definitely influenced by the weather. When does spring actually start? And it can vary regionally, but generally nationally, it gives us a good high level picture of what's the volume like, what are people searching? And there was an all time peak in 2020, and let's think about what was going on in 2020. There was the pandemic and there were these shutdowns of the economy.
There was stimulus money, there was a huge push to work from home for a lot of office workers, so people couldn't travel. They then didn't spend the money they were going to spend traveling, and they were stuck at home, and there was a huge increase in demand. People were noticing their yards, they were spending more time there.
4:10 Google Searches For Landscaping Phrases Are Down 20-30% From Their Peak In 2020
Record searches of all time in the last 15 years were in the spring of 2020, and then the year after that, 2021, they were down a little bit from there, but they were still pretty high. 2022, they were still pretty high. Here we are in 2023 and the searches for tree and landscape queries are overall, they're down 25 to 30% from the all-time peak in 2020. And when I look at it over a long period, they're down to normal. They're down to normal, meaning what was the search volume like prior to the COVID shutdowns and the stimulated economy that came with it?
So what that means though is that if you were getting a ton of leads from even paid per click, even Google Ads or Organic SEO over the last three years, the searches haven't gone down to zero. We shouldn't expect zero leads, but we should probably expect 25 to 30% fewer leads, 25 to 30% less traffic, people visiting your website because there are 25 to 30% fewer searches. So it's very market driven, and right now the market is lower than it was from what it was in 2020. And again, it has not gone down to zero, but 30% decrease from three years ago is significant. In my opinion, many people who were going to buy landscaping maybe this year in 2023, maybe they were going to buy it next year, 2024, the timeline for that purchase was likely accelerated to have people buy sooner in 2020, 2021, 2022, because of the overall world situation, the market, low interest rates, people could get a home equity line of credit.
And now, wow, I've lost count of how many times the Fed has increased interest rates, but the cost of borrowing that money is significantly higher than it was even a year ago. So all of these things, and are we heading into a World War? And oh boy, we have another election, how fun, coming up. So all these things can create uncertainty for people, layoffs in the tech sector, all these different things. Banks closing. There's a lot of reason why people may be skittish right now. And also maybe, again, some of that market was just accelerated to buy sooner, so there's maybe less market right now.
I was having a conversation with my coach, Wayne Herring, about boom or bust cycles, and we were even talking, I'm in Colorado, we're talking about the gold rush, and throughout history, we've seen these boom and bust cycles. And we were talking about in general, during boom times, you'll need to do less marketing. There's more demand. Money was less expensive to borrow. And your cost per lead, how much you would pay in advertising to get a lead was lower, and it was even lower if they spent more money. So if you paid just a hundred dollars per lead, as an example, and they spent 50,000, but now you're needing to pay maybe $150 a lead or whatever the number is, and they're spending less, that return on advertising spend is going to be lower. During normal times, you're going to need to do more outreach, more advertising, and you're likely going to have a higher cost per lead. So that's big picture. I see us somewhere in between here.
Again, it varies regionally, but if things are back to normal times, you're going to need to do more outreach and more advertising, and I'm going to share with you some ideas that can help you with that. A question I have is, will you be in business 10 years from now? Are you going to be in business 10 years from now? There's no right or wrong answer. You're probably at a different phase of your life and career than somebody else who might be in your mastermind or whoever's watching this. If yes, if you're going to be in business 10 years from now, what will you have done during the downturn that positioned your business to capitalize when the market rebounded? I had a conversation with one of my clients, Craig Attkisson from Green Side Up Landscaping out in Richmond, Virginia, and he said, "I get it. The market's down, but I want to be in the absolute best position. I want to get my SEO dialed in. I want to get my marketing totally dialed in, so I'm really killing it when the market rebounds."
That's a way of, I think, looking to the future, recognizing that in every economy throughout history, there are ups and downs, there are booms and busts, and where are we in that wave and what are we going to do to be prepared for it when it rebounds? And if no, if you're not going to be in business 10 years from now, it may not make sense to do some of the things that I'm going to talk about next. It may not be worth it to invest in advertising that may have a longer term return on investment. It may not make sense. It may make sense to contract and keep what you have, position it for selling, I don't know. But if you're planning to grow your business long-term, these ideas will help you.
10:05 What Can People Say Yes To In This Market?
A key question we need to get clear on is what can people say yes to in this market? What can people say yes to now? I was in a mastermind, a marketing mastermind with Drew Dinkelacker a few years ago. He's a marketing author and coach, really smart person, and I was struggling to come up with... Basically, I was speaking on somebody else's stage. They wanted me to sell something from the stage, and they wanted a percentage of the sales. And I was way over complicating it, trying to think of what percentage to offer the person hosting me and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And he said, "Jack, think of something he can say yes to." And it was really that simple. I needed to think of something that he could say yes to, offer it to him. And I did. After weeks and months of deliberating, he said, "Yes, we did it. Very good." Okay, so the question though is what can your customers say yes to in this market and how is that different from two years ago, one year ago, three years ago, five years ago?
11:14 Would You Take On Smaller Projects Now?
A lot of people come to me who sell design build or installation or construction. A key question is, would you say no to a $5,000 front yard in boom times, when the market's at its peak 2020 and you're like, "Oh my God, I can hardly even reply to all the leads coming. And I can hardly even answer the phone enough or call people." But you would say yes during normal times. Or you can change the number here. You've got to get clear on that though, is what is it that you're wanting to lead with now? What is your minimum? A key part of this is ultimately what I call the hell yes customer, which is what services do they buy? What service areas are they in, geographically where are they? And another key component is what minimum budget do they need to have?
We also want to focus though on lifetime value, because let's pretend that you're a full service landscape company and you have a lifetime value of... I'm just going to use round numbers here. They spend $5,000 a year on maintenance, and you retain them for 10 years. That's a $50,000 lifetime value for that customer. And maybe they also buy enhancements. Maybe they also buy installation or construction design build projects. It's going to vary for your business. Or if it's commercial, how long are you going to retain those? What are the enhancements opportunities there? So getting clear on how much is that is going to help you figure out what are you willing to do to bring people in as an account so that way you can continue upselling them. Once you get clear on this, some of the things that you may need to revisit in spring 2023, and you should really look at this at least annually, maybe it's been accelerated because of the current market situations, your pricing pages.
I'm a big believer in having price ranges on your websites. Do your price ranges, do they need to change for the current market? Does your contact page say, "Hey, we're currently accepting projects of $15,000." Is that still the case right now? I don't know. You need to make sure that's current. Does your sales team, does the person answering the phone, who's qualifying? Are your proposals, are the scripts that you're using, the conversations that you're having, are they a match to what's happening right now? If you haven't downloaded the worksheet already, you can grab it for free at landscapersguide.com/hellyes. I'm going to email you the hell yes, customer worksheet. It's a very simple exercise that helps you get clear on this and it can help you with what we're going to talk about next.
When you're doing this and when you're getting clear on what can people say yes to now and what kind of package are you going to offer, there's a spectrum here that we want to be aware of. So on one end we're wishy washy, "Oh yeah, you got some poison ivy. Yeah, we can remove that. Stack the firewood. Okay." So we don't want to just take on everything. So there's wishy washyness that I think most people go through a phase of multiple years of taking on whatever you can get to figure out what you do really well and who you want to sell to. And then on the other end of the spectrum as well, "This is how we've done it at Johnson Landscaping for 25 years. That's what my dad did, and that's what I do." There I meet some people who are just stubborn and this is how we've done it for 20 years. Good luck. Good luck.
I think there's a happy meeting point where we're flexible, we're strong, we're confident, we're empathetic, we're meeting people where we're at, and we have that long-term vision in mind of a long-term customer, a long-term vision of the market, and recognizing where we are in it in the market cycle. So this is going to be different for everyone, but when you're creating your minimum and what can people say yes to now, be somewhere here in the middle. Don't be wishy washy, but do be flexible. And remember that a lot of this stuff you may need to revisit six months from now or a year from now, and you can change it. Once you're clear on what people can say yes to now, we're going to create an offer.
15:47 The Marketing Triangle: Message, Market, & Media
This is a key part of marketing that a lot of people come to me and say, "Jack, should I do Google Ads? Should I do postcards? Should I do Facebook? Should I do social media?" Maybe. I'm going to get to that question of what kind of media is best in a minute. In all marketing though, we have to have an offer that compels people to respond, and then we market that offer. We may advertise that offer. We drive traffic to it through the media, the print, your AdWords, organic email, whatever it is. A question is when you're creating an offer, when you're creating a campaign, is how long is your sales cycle? From the time that you get a lead, to have a phone call with them, to maybe go and meet with them, to get them to pay something, this is going to vary for everyone. I have a lot of clients who charge for that appointment and they have a much shorter sales cycle. I also have some people where that may not make sense in this market right now.
16:50 Consider Your Sales Cycle and Marketing Production Timeline
You may need to change that. But how long is your sales cycle? And working backwards from that, and then thinking of seasonality. And one other question is, how long will the marketing production take before we get traffic? So if you're doing a postcard campaign, you're going to need to come up with an offer and a strategy. You're going to want to create a landing page. You're going to want to design the postcard. You're going to have it printed, then you're going to need to mail it. And what kind of postage are you using? If you use priority rate, it'll get there faster. If you use postcard rate, it'll get there slower. So you can work backwards from how long does it take to do this? And big picture, where am I? And this will help us also think of which part of the sales process do you need more of?
Do you need more 15 minute calls? Do you need more onsite appointments? Who is receiving this offer? Do you have an offer for repeat business, that's different from new? I would recommend that. As an example, I have a primarily designed build client here in Colorado who is growing their maintenance division, and isn't maintenance sexy during an economic downturn, right? Yeah. So everyone wants more maintenance right now, so why would they choose you? A lot of this stuff is the same. Why would they choose you? They would be more likely to go with you if they're a repeat customer. They already had a positive experience. So I would absolutely send postcards, emails, phone calls, texts, whatever makes sense to my existing customer base. I would absolutely prioritize this while also having campaigns in mind for new customers. Even if you don't do maintenance, how many people's backyards did you do where you haven't done their front yard?
And do they know that you do front yards? And do they know that you during this time of year have a $5,000 front yard refresh package or whatever it is? When we're creating an offer, we're thinking of who's getting it, we want to have scarcity, urgency and follow up in mind. So scarcity and urgency, I'm going to talk about that. So one way that you can create an offer without doing a discount, I think you have to be very careful about discounts. And there's a whole book on pricing strategy by Dan Kennedy, and I'm borrowing a lot of ideas from Dan Kennedy and want to attribute a lot of this to him, and I will on the next page, but be careful with discounts. We don't want to get a bunch of discount buyers who are going to then drop off. They don't have that long-term value.
One of the ways that you can create an offer is a gift with an appointment. Maybe your goal is to get more onsite appointments. Maybe your audience is repeat customers, and you're going to offer a, I didn't write this one here, but you're going to offer a free landscape maintenance evaluation if you schedule before X date. So I'm thinking of the timeline here. Maybe you're going to bring them a free potted plant with that consultation. That's kind of cool. Get a photo of yourself with a potted plant. Talk to your local nursery, talk to your local garden center, and, "Oh, that's kind of nice. Sure, I'd love to have a conversation with you." And if I take action before a certain date, and I know that you're only doing 20 of these, it's going to compel me to respond to the postcard, to the Google ad, to the email campaign, and it gives you a reason to follow up as it's expiring.
Here's another offer idea, free driveway power washing with fall cleanup, limited to 20 customers sign up before September 30th.
20:40 Communicate Your Capacity To Create Natural Scarcity That Drives Customers To Take Action
So this is where if you look at your current project load, your current number of clients, what's your capacity? Maybe you only have 20 spots open, right? Communicate that to people. It makes you more desirable. It's like when you're walking down the mall, maybe the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, and you go past the restaurants and there's one that has a line out the door, and then there's another one that has no one in there, right? You're more drawn to the one that has the line out the door. It appears better.
21:10 Use Negative Selling To Attract Clients and Avoid Desperation
So this scarcity, you can't make it up. I think we all know when we're seeing a BS scarcity offer, but hey, if we're limiting it to this many customers, and then you're communicating that when you're getting leads and now we're bringing in some negative selling hate before we move forward.
"I want to let you know we're only taking on 20 clients before September 30th. Would it be okay if I asked you some questions to see if it's a fit? And if it's not, I have some other people I could refer you to." That moves you into the attraction zone. Meanwhile, somebody else who has no offer, they have no scarcity, and they're desperate is less likely to acquire the customer. So these are some compelling ideas that can impact where we're headed with this. So a key concept from Dan Kennedy that I want to share, Dan Kennedy wrote the No BS Guide to Direct Response Marketing for non-direct response marketing businesses. It was life changing for me to read that book. I've read about 10 of Dan's books. I'm a big fan. He has a quote that he puts in nearly every email that he sends out, which is, "Whoever spends the most to acquire a customer wins."
Think about that long-term value. Are you going to be in business for 10 years? How much could one customer spend with your landscape company over 10 years? How much more are you willing to pay to acquire that customer than a competitor? It doesn't cost a lot more to acquire that customer to implement some of these ideas with gifts, offers, follow up. So thinking with that long-term in mind, there's the marketing triangle that he created, and so on one end is the message. What are we saying? Who are we saying it to? The market, we call this hell yes customer. And then the least important part really is the media. So when you have a market in mind and you're aware of what they can say yes to now, you have a sales process and you come to them with a message, with an offer that resonates with them, that compels them to reply.
We can do all kinds of things with media. We could use this in our direct, we can apply this direct response marketing principle to Google Ads. Most people run the same Google Ads in business for 25 years, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, family owned. And it's like, "Cool." And then there's like, "Free power washing before September 30th, limited to 20 people." It's like, "Interesting. I'm going to click on that."
23:55 Do Your Online Reviews Make or Break The Rest of Your Marketing?
And meanwhile, what happens when they Google you, right? Do you have Google reviews backing it up? Do you have Google reviews killing your paid advertising? One time, I had a client who was spending $6,000 a month between Google Ads and Facebook. I did an audit for them. They were a three star company on Google, and their website took 20 seconds to load on mobile. So did they have a advertising problem or was a key part of their foundational for their branding, website, SEO, online reviews broken?
It was the latter. So we stopped the bleeding. We stopped paying for that. We fixed their SEO in reviews, and that actually generated enough leads for them. But all of this fits together. We got to remember that people, even if they click on our ad, even if they get our postcard, even if they're a referral, they're going to be Googling, they're going to be looking around, they're going to be looking around more and behaving more cautiously in a down economy when borrowing money is more expensive, when there's more market volatility. So all these things come in, but once we get clear on who are we selling to? What can they buy? What's our offer? You can do Google Ads. I'm a big believer in postcards. I personally, you've probably gotten a postcard from me.
I've used postcards for the last 10 years. Why? Because it's something I can control. I can get a list. I can hit that list multiple times over time. They're going to get phone calls, they're going to get helpful emails, helpful videos like this, and I'm thinking long-term, that's how I would look at this. Email, oh, is so great. Are you collecting emails? Are you segmenting your emails. Texts. Networking, are you going to a trade show? Does your trade show booth have an interesting offer? Or are you giving out plastic crap with your logo on it that no one wants? Right? You can apply this to your booth. You could have an offer on a postcard there. You could use this with your trade partners. Maybe you have a referral partner where you're paying them a percentage of revenue and you say, "Hey, I've created this email offer. Would you send it out to your list?"
SEO, over this long period, remember the searches maybe lower than they were a few years ago, but during this time, if you're continuing to build out your website, build out the tree of good fortune, building out a limb for each city and a branch for each service, you're going to be positioned very highly during a time when most people are retracting and they're not building and they're not sending the postcards. And then when the market rebounds, people are going to remember you. They've gotten some of the ads from you. When they Google, they're like, "Oh yeah, these people." And, "Oh, yeah, I feel really good. They're very highly rated."
26:44 Balancing Customer Demand With The Right Staff Is The Ongoing Small Business Balancing Act
It's a scary time for many people, it's slower than it was a few years ago. I know many of you struggled to find enough people to work for you a few years ago, and it was really hard, especially when there were the CARES Act and all that stuff going on. Now that's over, and many of you have worked to get your team up and now demand maybe lower. It's hard. It's really hard. I think it's kind of the nature of small businesses, having enough people on the bus for the amount of business you have, and those two things are very difficult to balance. What can people say yes to now? Which parts of your sales and marketing do you need to update now? And how will you have built up demand now during a slower time to be prepared for the rebound?
I hope you found this helpful. Take action, be flexible, be strong, and if you'd like to run ideas behind me in the Ramblin Jackson team, if you're a client, absolutely. We're going to have a meeting with you about this.
27:58 Tell Me Where To Send Your Beef Jerky!
And if you haven't worked with us and you'd like some more ideas, I'd love to send you some beef jerky in the mail. I want to show you an example of how we do print marketing. I'll send you The Landscaper's Marketing Field Guide and some of our top podcasts. So if you'd like that, go ahead and grab yours at landscapersguide.com/toolbox. I'll put the link below in the show notes. My name's Jack Jostes. Thanks for watching this video. I look forward to talking with you next week on The Landscaper's Guide.
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