Landscaping is a pretty cool job if you think about it. Our office is outside for the most part, in the fresh air and sunshine. We get to be creative and solve problems. Landscapers are basically artists who paint with living materials. Who blends natural beauty with curated functionality. Our work touches the senses. You can smell it, touch it, feel it, and taste it.
Some of us love it so much we devote our entire lives to it. We hone it as a craft, give it years of our lives, and in the process, many of us decide to start our own landscaping companies.
It’s a great feeling, seeing your name on those fresh-pressed company t-shirts. Having homeowners gush about your work when your team finally finishes off that landscaping project they’ve been dreaming about for years. You made it possible. You made it happen.
But business ownership brings problems. One common problem faced by many of today’s landscaping business owners is that, at some point, sometimes sooner than later, your growth starts to flatten out.
Sure, business might be trickling in, but you don’t have time for a trickle. Landscapers operate on thin margins as it is, with up to eighty to ninety percent of project costs going to labor and material.
You want to put your head down and keep focusing on what you’re good at, but you can’t always rely on word-of-mouth to keep new business coming in. For many landscaping companies, it is around this time that they begin to think about hiring a marketer.
Marketing is one of those industries that feels like it should be easier than it is. In fact, where many business owners go wrong is thinking that marketing is something they can do themselves in their downtime, an hour here, an hour there.
In truth, that approach is almost never effective. Marketing is a complicated job. Marketers spend their days trying to understand customer behavior. Learning what drives them and what influences the choices they make. It’s not about selling snake oil, it’s about communicating the strength of one particular brand over another. A good marketer will easily cover their own costs and then some, and a great marketer is worth their weight in checkerboard sod.
But how should you go about hiring this marketing guru? Is it better to hire someone full-time or outsource? To work with an agency or try to find a talented freelancer?
Keep reading, we’ll break it all down.
Hiring someone full-time can be a great idea. It means you’ve got someone whose sole job, round-the-clock, is cranking up the volume, getting potential customers excited about what you do, and helping to drum up more business. That can be a very valuable thing.
Another positive aspect of hiring full-time is that you’ll have someone there, an actual human being who lives to talk and chat and charm. They can make promotional materials with clients at job sites and attend networking events. And if you’re in a pinch, they can probably help out with customer service or administrative needs.
The thing is though, marketers can be hard to parse. By its nature, marketing attracts confident people who think they can achieve results. You need to hire the one who can prove it. And that kind of experience doesn’t come cheap.
If you hire one person to do marketing full time, they essentially serve as their own department. The limitations of their skills become the limitations of your marketing department. Can they edit photos? Make videos? Are they solely creative thinkers or can they back it up with numbers?
Beyond that, you need to ask yourself some other questions. Who does this person report to? Is it you? How will you know if they’re doing a good job? Most marketing campaigns take time to build. How long are you willing to wait until you see results? How will you know what good results look like?
Whether you’re hiring a marketing master at $60k a year plus benefits, or your cousin’s friend’s sister with 8,000 followers on Instagram for $10/hour every Tuesday, those are questions to consider.
When it comes to outsourcing your landscape marketing, you’ll have no shortage of options. While there are a TON of individual distinctions you could make between certain agencies and particular individuals, we’re going to boil it down to two general categories. You can hire an agency, or you could hire someone freelance.
Hiring freelance can be a great option if you’re looking to get a single project done, relatively cheaply. There are dozens of websites where you can find freelancers, and since many of those are at the beginning of their careers, they are willing to work for much less than a full-time employee.
One of the problems businesses face when looking to hire freelancers is that many of these sites lack a vetting process. All someone has to do is make a profile that says they’re a web developer and boom! They’re a web developer. It can be hard to weed through.
Another issue that comes up with freelancers is that they move around between industries. As they dip and dabble in one thing then another, they develop a taste for each but lack expertise.
We’ve come across a few examples of this, like the freelance web designer who used a picture of an IV drip above an article about drip irrigation. Or the content writer who wrote an article offering Seattle homeowners tips for how to care for their palm trees. We aren’t sure whether that particular writer gave Honolulu homeowners tips on how to care for evergreens, but we wouldn’t be surprised.
Not all freelancers make those kinds of mistakes. Many research heavily to fill the gaps in their knowledge. But research takes time, and let’s not forget that ultimately, that’s time for which you’re paying.
Hiring an agency can be a cost-effective solution to your landscaping business’s marketing problems.
Agencies are often comprised of multiple people with diverse backgrounds and skills. People who have taken the time to master the thing they are good at. For example, an agency might have a professional photographer on staff, a web designer, a content writer, and a project manager to bring it all together.
Some agencies tend to do a lot of their work upfront, but many others are focused on analytics, monitoring the health and success of their campaign. This insight can be crucial for future marketing efforts, as well as budgeting for future campaigns.
Many agencies specialize, working with many clients spread across a single industry. This makes them particularly knowledgeable about that subject. No palms in Seattle here.
Of course, some landscaping companies worry that an agency’s attention can be spread too thin if they’re working with a number of clients, and this is a fair concern. Ideally, you’ll get to meet the folks at a particular agency and you can ask them about that, and make the decision yourself.
After all, no one knows your business better than you.
Like anything else, you get out of marketing what you’re willing to put in. The right marketing strategy can mean the difference between a business that lasts for years, and a business that goes under before you’ve had time to scuff the floors.
It is a decision you want to consider carefully. Your marketing person or team need to understand who you are, what your goals are, and what sets you apart. If you can communicate that to them, they should be able to communicate the same to the world.
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