“How can I bring in more customers?”
That’s a question I’m often asked by business owners who aren’t getting the results they need with their marketing. They’re doing all the things they’ve heard that they “should” be doing, they’re spending a ton of money and using up their valuable time to try to make it all work. But somehow the phone isn’t ringing and they’re left worrying about cash flow and where to turn to next.
What’s going on?
When I take a good look at what these business owners are doing, I usually find that they’re making one or more of the three biggest mistakes you can make in your marketing. The sad thing is that these mistakes are easily avoidable.
Mistake #1 – Over-Reliance on Word-of-Mouth Marketing
“I get most of my new customers through referrals so I don’t need to do much else.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that and it always makes me cringe. It’s not that referrals are a bad thing – they can be a terrific source of qualified leads. But leads aren’t customers; they still need to be sold. And no matter how delighted your existing customers are, they’re not going to do the selling for you.
While happy customers will gladly share your (business) name if a friend or family member mentions that they’re looking for the services you provide, they’re not going to go out of their way to provide all of the information that person needs to confidently make a buying decision.
So how do leads find the information they need to help them feel comfortable contacting you?
They look online! Your website, online reviews, and social media are all sources of information that “sell” people on you and your business. If they like what they see, they’ll contact you. If they don’t see anything or, even worse, they see some bad reviews or a crappy website, then they won’t contact you.
Without a strong online presence, you may make some sales, but how many are you leaving on the table because they didn’t like what they saw (or didn’t see) online? What happens when someone leaves a negative review online (whether it’s justified or not) and you have no other online resources to counteract its effects?
It’s pretty simple – if you’re waiting for customers to act as your sales force, you’re losing business.
Mistake #2 – Ineffective or No Use of Email Marketing
How many of your customers have given you their email address? Have you asked for it? What do you do with the emails you do have?
Technological advances make it possible for you to automate, or at least digitize, many of your customer service processes. Service confirmations, proposals, and invoices can all be sent via email. Customers can pay online and get an automated receipt by email. All of that saves you time and money.
But that’s just one piece of it. Roughly half of small businesses don’t take advantage of one of the best tools in their marketing toolbox – email marketing.
I’m not talking about an “email blast” now and then or spamming your customers with constant sales messages. Email marketing means sending helpful information to people who’ve asked to hear from you and who are interested in what you have to share with them.
In our industry, that usually means a monthly newsletter and, depending on your business, a weekly or bi-weekly update (for example, sharing a plant of the week if you’re a landscaper, or new arrivals in your garden center).
Email marketing, when done right, has an average return of $44 for every $1 spent. What other marketing tool has a return like that?! How many jobs do you need to get from an email to make it worthwhile? Two? Probably only one…
If you’re like many of my clients, you’re probably thinking “Many of my customers are older and they just don’t use email, websites or social media.” But the facts paint a different story. About ⅔ of seniors use the internet regularly (that number is even higher for those with a college education or in higher income brackets) and more than half use a smartphone. They’re “connected” and want you to reach out to them online.
Mistake #3 – Telling Instead of Teaching
I know you’re proud of your business and what you’ve accomplished. You have a top-notch team that does fantastic work. You have state-of-the-art equipment. You have experience, certifications, qualifications, licenses, insurance, and more. And you want to make sure customers and leads know all about it.
The harsh fact is that, for the most part, they just don’t care …
Telling them about yourself doesn’t sell your services. But educating them about how you solve their problems DOES sell.
Most people don’t really know what services they need. They know they have a problem – a hanging branch, brown spots in the lawn, an ugly view – but they’re not sure how to fix it. So telling them about your cabling and bracing techniques, the latest organic pesticides or the new CAD certification you earned isn’t going to convince them that they should call you.
But … if you can show them that you understand their problem and that you have a good solution, then they’re more likely to see you as the trusted expert who they can turn to for help.
How to you do that?
By providing educational content on a regular basis that speaks to their needs in their language. An easy way to do that is by writing a monthly blog post and/or email newsletter. You could also give presentations at local events, update your brochures and fliers to focus on solutions to customer problems (rather than just describing your services), work with a local publication to do a monthly article related to your services or get interviewed about common problems you solve.
The goal isn’t to push people toward a particular solution and you’re not telling them (much) about yourself. Instead, you’re giving them helpful information that they can use. They may not need your services at that moment, but when it comes time to fix whatever problem they have, who do you think they’re going to call? The person they’ve had no interactions with or the one who consistently, month after month, has given them tips, advice, and recommendations that demonstrate a level of caring and expertise you don’t often find these days?
Each of these mistakes are things I see over and over in the green industry. I get it – you’re busy running your business and there’s not much time for anything else. But continuing to make these mistakes will only hurt your business, costing you customers and revenue. On the other hand, avoiding even one of these mistakes can have a measurable and positive impact on the bottom line.
Isn’t it time you took another look at your marketing methods?