Landscaping is a competitive space and businesses are often in a race against their competitors to sell their services. While so many companies spend enormous amounts of money on marketing, they make the fatal mistake of overlooking two key aspects – positioning and branding. What follows next is thousands of dollars wasted on marketing with no return.
A strong positioning is how your customers will find you, and branding is why your customers will choose you. They both go hand in hand and help you create your identity. In this article, we are going to learn about the importance of positioning and branding, and how you can get it right.
Redo your positioning as per your audience
You can improve your chances of success if you position yourself as a partner to your customers. The way to do that is by getting on their side of the table. Learn what they perceive as valuable to them. This will help you understand the market and how you want it to think about your brand.
In all the “digital marketing for landscapers” articles on the internet, often one key concept is ignored:
Landscaping marketing is all about P2P selling, i.e. person-to-person. Regardless of whether your company is B2B or B2C, you are selling your services to people, and that’s what (or rather who) your strategy should revolve around: people.
Once you accept this, you can devise your positioning strategy around it. Keeping this in mind, let’s get started.
So what is positioning all about, and why is it important?
The biggest commercial landscaping companies like BrightView, U.S. Lawns position themselves based on their size. Go ahead and play up the one-stop-shop, full-service player in the market, but do it only if you are one of the biggest players in the market. Otherwise, chances are it might backfire because then you might be perceived as a jack of all trades, but a master of none.
For most other companies, unique positioning is the best way to make a compelling case. It is what saves you from being ‘just another landscaper.’ When starting out, a one-size-fits-all approach is a terrible mistake. Positioning fixes that. Before you hit the mark, isn’t it important to understand what you’re aiming at?
Positioning is how your customers remember you compared to others. When there are so many companies offering the same services, it is positioning (and branding that we’ll cover later) that will set you apart. Positioning not only helps you stand out but helps your customers understand what you offer in detail.
So how do you differentiate? You can differentiate on locations you serve, the type of services you offer, and what type of clients you typically serve.
For example, you could specialize in hardscaping, such as stonework, courtyards, paving works, retaining walls, etc, or in softscaping, such as turf and gardens. You could specialize in HoAs and, via case studies and testimonials, position yourself as the best service provider in your region.
Let’s understand this concept better with an example. This is what weak positioning looks like: “We offer residential and commercial landscaping services.” Now, here’s an example of strong positioning: “We offer luxury landscape services for commercial properties in Kent, Ohio. ”
Weak positioning is anything that is generic, and that any landscaping company can come up with. Carve out your niche in the ecosystem! Strong positioning is specific and answers your customer’s questions at the first glance.
How to effectively position your company?
To start off, let’s understand two different categories of positioning.
- Vertical positioning means focusing on your audience or industry vertical. For example, only focusing on lawn care services for healthcare systems or landscape maintenance for homeowner associations. (Here, it’s based on the audience).
- Horizontal positioning focuses on specialization or expertise. That means your company is based upon a core strength or competency. You may only want to do large-scale projects or focus on commercial work for builders such as townhouse developments.
The sweet spot lies somewhere in the middle – a mix of both vertical and horizontal positioning. An example would be a landscape company offering lawn maintenance specializing in hotels and resorts in Atlanta’s northern suburbs.
In order to define your positioning, you need to first understand the demand for your offering in your region. You cannot focus on a position that carries limited or no scope of demand for your type of service.
To find out your positioning, first, find your industry vertical (commercial or residential, for example) and your specialization in it. This will act as the differentiator from all other landscaping companies in a highly competitive market. Now, that differentiator can’t be just excellent customer service or quality of service. That is expected of you. Here’s a list of prompts (not an exhaustive list) that will help you find your positioning:
- Which industry do I want to serve?
- Which customers do you want to work with?
- Where are my customers located?
- How do my customers find me?
- What is the profitability of my business?
- What are my customers benefiting from my competitors?
- What is my company’s personal uniqueness?
- What are my company’s strengths and weaknesses?
Stop performing unprofitable services and find that thing that separates you from all other competitors, be it price, convenience, unique service, size, etc. Now limit your services to those that are most profitable and don’t do it all.
We are not saying you should just stick to one service. Once you’ve established your expertise, diversify your services. Even when you do that, remember that depth should always be your competitive advantage.
To know more about diversifying your services, check out this great article by Chris Heiler of Landscape Leadership.
With a strong positioning, you are more of a specialist who can fare better than a generalist (even in times of a storm). It is an exercise in exclusion that helps you become an expert. By positioning, you get an edge over your competitors who sell everything to everyone. It is also easier to find bigger and better clients. Word spreads faster about your premium services, and the scope to charge higher rates is much more.
Speaking about a storm, if your landscaping company is actually battling the war of rising costs, we have an article that helps you fight it. Now that you understand positioning, let’s move on to the other critical aspect of your landscaper marketing strategy.
Branding: A form of Storytelling
Brand means different things to different people. Marty Neumeier, author, and speaker on all things regarding brands says,
“A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.”
In landscaping, branding is crucial. If it’s a high-end client, he’s looking to invest thousands of dollars in an outdoor space. To choose a service provider, he has a tough decision to make. How potential providers brand themselves makes it easier for him to make that choice. A powerful brand gives exudes credibility and trustworthiness and makes that choice easier.
Brands do the passive marketing work for companies. How many sales are you missing out on because customers can’t figure out your offer within 5 seconds of visiting your website? Landscape companies that have done a good job at branding can be easily recognized from their logo – or even their company colors.
Shine with your messaging and your language
Your customers don’t generally care about your story, they care about their own. This is why they should be the hero of the story you tell.
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when, let’s say, you think of Volvo (the Swedish automobile manufacturer)? Safety, isn’t it? The more simple your messaging is, the easier it is for the brain to digest. Today, everyone has the attention span of a teaspoon. The best way is to have your customer’s attention in the first 10 seconds.
So, what’s your message? Is it easily memorable, even repeatable? To captivate your customers, your message plays a crucial role. Companies make the mistake of talking about themselves or their company rather than the actual prospects or the clients themselves. In this regard, U.S. Lawns’ simple ‘Your Turf, Our Lawn’ shines with their perfect, crisp, memorable messaging.
Just like in sales calls, your messaging should follow the 80-20 rule. 80% should be about your customers, their problems, main issues, and pain points. 20% should be about you. Your message should be empathetic and should clearly convey the main issues and solutions.
This message should reflect in all your marketing assets, be it your website, social media accounts, paid advertising, sales copies, etc. A brand builds when the same message reaches the audience through multiple channels. It’s a time-taking process
Building a brand style guide
To stand out, build your own unique brand style guide. The biggest benefit of creating a style guide is not only ensuring consistency, but it is also a huge time saver.
Logo, colors, typography, and language play a huge role. Start by creating a guide that defines your company. This helps maintain consistency. What all should be included in your brand guide?
Your brand colors: Your colors go everywhere. Have a defined color palette, and use it on your website, social media, newsletters, pamphlets, vehicles, brochures, etc. The consistency in the colors will strengthen your brand recognition.
Language: Language is an integral part of your messaging. There are some words you probably prefer over others: landscaping contractor vs landscaper, customer vs client, takeoff vs measurement. It’s helpful to have a list of all these and maintain consistency in the language.
Tagline: Ideally, you should have a short tagline so that anyone can recognize you and your brand. This will go on your vehicles. A longer tagline can go in marketing material and your website.
Font: Have a font/typography that runs throughout your content.
Chris Heiler of Landscape Leadership talks about building a brand style guide in excellent detail here. Landscape Leadership itself has become a market leader in marketing for landscaping companies and can easily be recognized by anyone in the industry simply by its logo.
For example, check out these logos. Brilliantly conceived, these logos help your brand in instant recognition – be it online or on your trucks.
When it comes to the logo, have a memorable, eye-catching, modern logo that adheres to your values and follows the best design practices. Along with it goes the company name, which is easily recognizable and cannot be confused with any of your competitors’. These brand guidelines should also show up in your flyers, vehicle wraps, website, etc.
In a highly competitive industry like ours, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. One Google search will show you hundreds of competitors, most of whom have gone wrong with branding. Here’s an interesting read by Green Industry Pros on all the things you should not do as a landscaping company in branding.
Landscaping marketing is all about storytelling. And positioning and branding are two powerful weapons that help you create the perfect script. You simply cannot ignore them.
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