The news reports continue to predict a recession. From recent bank failures to gridlock in Washington DC politics, you can find endless stories (and story writers) who predict a big slowdown in business in 2023.
We had questions from clients and followers on the subject of our economy slowing down over the past month. We addressed this question with a detailed report we released on 5-26-23: Are Things Slowing Down For Landscapers? You can read the report by clicking here.
Then, Fedzilla released the latest employment situation report on Friday 6-2-23. Once again…our economy has added thousands of jobs. This report says we added 339,000 jobs in May, in line with the monthly average of 341,000 jobs added per month. Of course, the data does not indicate a failing economy nor a slowdown of any kind in the past month.
In fact, construction added 25,000 in the month of May 2023. This is 8,000 jobs higher than the monthly average gains of 17,000 jobs per month in construction.
Buried in the last paragraph of the employment situation report is a special note that most casual readers will overlook. The Bureau of Labor Services (BLS) revised the jobs numbers for the month of March. They revised UP by 52,000 jobs in March. April also received an increase of 41,000 jobs. There appears to be plenty of jobs available for those who want to work.
According to the monthly report, we stand at an unemployment rate of 3.7% in the good ole USA. It’s not the lowest rate we have seen in the past few years…But it is one of the lowest unemployment rates in the past 50 years. If there is going to be a slowdown, it certainly has not happened yet.
Landscapers History Lesson
First, if you have a slow-down in sales at your company in 2023, it’s probably because you failed to execute a marketing plan. Most companies are growing. That’s what the data from last month’s survey clearly shows.
After the past three years of endless job opportunities, tremendous growth in home improvement projects and the fat bank accounts of wealthy baby boomers, landscape contractors have become accustomed to having six months of sold work on their build board. It’s sort of weird.
Prior to 2020, landscapers felt like they were too booked out if they had 90 days of work on the board. In the past, getting a new customer to wait 90 days for a job to start was a hard sell. But today, 60-90 days of sold work feels like the demand is falling… compared to the past 3 Spring seasons.
Somewhere along the way, since we had so much work on the build schedule, many of us stopped (or reduced) doing the important marketing activities that could attract more jobs. After all, we were booked solid and people were willing to wait. This is not going to continue. Failure to market your company is not going to keep your build calendar booked solid for months in advance when we have a slow down.
Guess what? There’s always a slow-down in landscaping just after the July 4th holiday. That’s halftime in our view. Many of us pause, eat barbeque and go on vacation. It’s the time of year many of us take some time off and relax. The urgency of business tends to slow down…at least for a while.
The Slowdown Prevention Plan for Landscapers
Marketing your lawn and landscaping services does not have to be fancy, nor does it have to be expensive.
Which brings me to an email I received from a client that made my stomach turn. He reports that he had met with his website marketing person and he was told that none of the colors on his website were suitable for attracting the correct demographic of his target customer. In fact he was told all of his website needed re-branding or he was doomed.
Let me let you in on a little marketing secret.
If you want your small business to grow and have a predictable steady stream of work, focus your efforts on low-cost direct response marketing. Changing the colors on your website might be a good idea, but it ain’t gonna move your sales the next 90 days. Choosing your best color palette is smart. It’s necessary. It’s called branding…and it’s a long-term marketing strategy.
I’d like to share my top five direct response marketing strategies so you can pick one or two and get to work on growing sales quickly. Please…save your money and invest in your long-term branding during the off-season when you have a slower work pace in the field. The next 90 days – July through September – is when your year will be made into a huge win, an average year or you’ll miss the opportunity to grow.
- Referral Programs: Encourage satisfied customers to refer your business to their friends, family, or business associates. Most satisfied customers are willing to do this if you ASK! Every single time you or one of your team receives a compliment from an existing customer, you should: a) give gratitude for the compliment, b) tell them you appreciate referrals, c) invite them to provide an online review, written testimonial or video interview, and d) share what you get permanently on your website. This can help generate new customers through word-of-mouth marketing over and over and over again with little to no cost whatsoever. Referrals negotiate prices less and make purchase decisions faster than any other type of lead. This will always be true.
- Direct Mail: Send physical mail, such as postcards, letters, gifts, or offers of services, directly to your: a) current customers, b) past customers and c) unconfirmed estimates/quotes/bids physical mailbox. The postal service is a never-ending, low cost sales machine. Use it. Today, too many landscapers are focused on expensive digital marketing like Facebook ads or Google adwords. Don’t waste your money. Focus on the direct marketing listed here and you will never run out of work.
- Email Marketing: Yes. Email is cheaper and faster than communicating via the postal service. But please understand this. Email has a very short life. One email might be good for 72 hours and it’s lost…sort of just goes away. We recommend that email messages focus on educational content 80% of the time. Getting access to an inbox is a privilege. Always deliver something of value to the inbox or you will wear out your welcome. A steady stream of educational messages with an occasional offer (to current and past customers plus prospects) can make you a Wealthy Landscaper.
- Telemarketing: Pick up the phone and talk to your existing customers, past customers and unconfirmed quotes/estimates/bids. There’s really nothing else that can move the sales needle faster than personal, one-on-one communications. If you don’t have anything to follow up on when you call, go back to item number one on this list. Use that phone call to ask for referrals. Once again, you won’t be spending a bunch of money to get this direct response marketing strategy to pay off.
- Text Message Marketing: The only thing that’s more likely to gain immediate response than a phone call is a text message. We highly recommend you collect mobile phone numbers during the estimate or proposal generating process. Prospects and customers are always willing to share their contact information early in the relationship when they are seeking information. Leverage follow-up using text messages. And please – ask for referrals or provide a link to your Google Review page via text messages. You will get great results.
We love direct response marketing. We think you should fall in love with direct response marketing too. Direct response marketing requires an investment of energy and time. The best part is that it produces measurable results in revenue rather quickly.
Branding versus Direct Response Marketing
Back to my client who’s about to spend a pile of money fixing the colors on his website so his brand will be in alignment with his target demographic…I hope he has the money to invest in this branding effort. I also hope he has enough money to sit and wait until the payback comes around in real sales…which could be many months or years in the future.
Let’s wrap this up. Branding is a requirement for successful companies. It can be as simple as having a consistent color on your business card, your uniforms and your trucks. Why does John Deere build all of their farm tractors green? Why are all UPS trucks brown? That’s branding. Consistency in color makes your company recognizable and trustworthy over time.
If you are starting a lawn or landscape company, you don’t have a brand yet. If you’ve been at it for 20 years, I’ll bet you have a brand in the mind of your customers (or community). New companies AND established companies can use Direct Response Marketing to attract prospects and convert them into buyers. Both are tools to help you become a Wealthy Landscaper.
Send us an email and tell us about your most effective direct response marketing effort. Or…if you prefer, tell us how branding has helped your company get in front of the right people. We would really like to hear from you.
Tony Bass, founder
PS – If you need help with direct response marketing for your lawn or landscape company, just send us an email to: Tony@TonyBassConsulting.com We’ve developed dozens of profit-pumping messages that have sold landscaping services across the USA and abroad.
Here’s a special offer. We will review one of your direct mail processes for FREE. Just put “Direct Response Marketing Sample” in the subject line and send over an email with the message you are working on. We will get right back with you.
If you would prefer a steady stream of direct marketing coaching, you should subscribe to The Wealthy Landscaper Letter. Click here to get your marketing tuned up and producing revenue.