Cutting Into the Digital Landscape

A glimpse into the online footprint of landscape contractors

Jack Haraden mowing lawns

Relatively new to the industry, Jack Haraden is in the growth mode and uses his website as the main showcase for his company.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what message does a landscape contractor’s digital footprint convey? Landscape contractors each have a different approach to utilizing the digital landscape to market their services, network with other contractors, or use it as a tool to not only grow their businesses, but grow the industry as well.

Below, a handful of contractors share the variety of digital methods used to deliver their messages. Their intent may be to market their services, inform their customers, share good ideas, help grow the industry, or include any combination thereof.

Their overall implied message to contractors still questioning whether to venture into the digital landscape is to get off the fence and take advantage of how just a few images or videos of their work can say so much about their company, the work they do, how they do it, and the message they want to convey.

Paul Camara, owner of Spring Green Landscaping in Exeter, RI, is a prime example. He started Spring Green in 2000 and named the business after one his grandfather started in the 60s.

As he described, the landscaping industry has been part of his life forever. In addition to running his company, Camara is also president of the Rhode Island Nursery & Landscape Association (RINLA).

Spring Green Landscaping operates three GHS Walker Mowers and specializes in detailed landscape maintenance. The company has between 30 and 35 customers, one half of whom receive full mowing/maintenance services; the others opt for specialized services and/or Camara acts as a property manager for them.

His 16 to 18 mowing customers range from older folks with smaller properties to larger estates. All are very particular about their properties, and most have been with him from the beginning.

“I don’t want to grow my business, so social media is less a marketing tool and more a way to mentor younger contractors who are just starting out in the business,” Camara emphasized. “Many of my followers on Instagram are contractors who want to do good work, but really don’t know what good work is.

“Everyday, I try to post something different on Instagram. The posting might be the Plant of the Day, a comparison of different plant types, or include a video showing a service such as a topiary pruning job,” he said. “Facebook, on the other hand, targets current customers, reminding them about spring cleanup or other timely services.”

Originally, he had little interest in social media until friends showed him how easy it is to get involved.

“Now, I’ve found it to be a great tool for not only mentoring younger folks, but to inspire them, as well,” Camara said.

IN GROWTH MODE

Starting his business in 2018, Jack Haraden, owner of Haraden Landscaping in Hampton, NH, is at a different point in his business cycle. Even though he has worked a couple of years with a landscaping contractor and has a horticulture degree, he’s still relatively new to the industry and very much in the growth mode.

He calls his website “the main showcase for his company.” Hence, it features images of his service offerings, all the way from weekly mowing with his Walker Mower to mulching, spring/fall cleanup, dethatching, edging/ weeding, pruning, and snow removal. It also illustrates various projects, provides the all-important contact information, and features links to LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook.

Sam Grobel's Truck

Sam Grobel recently started sharing ideas online with other landscape contractors, including images of a ramp system he designed for his company’s F-250 pickup.

Like Camara, he refers to Instagram as his business showcase and tries to post daily. Facebook, he noted, is a vehicle he employs to keep his name out in the community.

“I’ve advertised on Facebook, targeting a specific audience and location, but I would rather spend my money on equipment,” Haraden said. “I still think word-of-mouth is the best marketing around, and having an online presence is a great way to take advantage of it.”

Haraden is referring to a Google My Business tool that helps him interact with customers.

Google My Business is a useful tool that can increase local search engine optimization if used correctly.

He noted that it’s easy for business owners to claim a business by clicking on it and clicking claim. Upon entering some basic details, business owners have an opportunity to upload various details including pictures, opening times and more.

A common error with Google My Business is for owners to claim the site and then fail to keep it updated or have inaccurate information available online. Incorrect or missing information can make a bad first impression when it comes to customer experience.

He encourages customers to review his work, recognizing that what people say about his business matters. Haraden says if a customer leaves a review, whether it’s good or bad, it’s important to reply to them and address their concerns in a helpful and professional manner.

When a potential customer keys in Haraden’s company name, reviews pop up. To date, all have been very positive and he’s striving to keep it that way.

SHARING IDEAS

Shadow Green Lawn Care in Andover, MN, has been in business 10 years. Owner, Sam Grobel, sends out two mowing rigs and six Walker Mowers to maintain 80 property maintenance accounts weekly. They include large single-family homes, strip malls, auto dealerships and parts stores, and a few group homes.

Paul Camara maintaining flowers

Paul Camara has found social media to be a great tool for mentoring and inspiring younger folks..

“Within the last few years, I’ve started to spend more time working on my business, and that includes expanding our social media presence on Instagram and Facebook,” said Grobel. “My goal has been two-fold: to promote the quality of our work and network with other contractors.”

Regarding the latter, he attended the Green Industry Expo (GIE) in Louisville, KY, for the first time last year and was impressed by all the networking opportunities.

Seeing social media as an extension of that, Grobel started sharing ideas online, including showing images of a ramp system he designed for the back of his company’s F-250 pickup. The ramp allows him to transport two Walker Mowers without having to tow a trailer.

To better promote his company, Grobel recently purchased a drone. “The birds-eye view gives potential customers a better understanding of the size of some of our properties and the type of equipment we use to get the job done,” he said. “We don’t need narration; the videos will tell the story.”

BEFORE AND AFTER

When Cleat Bell first started mowing, door hangers were among his most effective marketing tools. Now, it’s social media, and he says there’s no comparison.

“Marketing with door hangers was costly and very time consuming, and maybe I would get a handful of responses,” said the owner of Muscle Mowing in Amarillo, TX. “Social media is not only free, I can contact 2,000 potential customers with a few key strokes and they can immediately see the quality of my work.”

The latter is so important, he added.

“I have between 110 and 125 mowing and maintenance accounts, many of whom are millennials who want instant gratification,” Bell said. “They can see the quality of work right on Facebook and Instagram and contact me immediately if they’re interested. Consumers want value and to see what they’re going to get with their own eyes. For example, what’s more effective than to show a few before and after images or a video of how my two Walker Mowers handle leaves?”

Bell, a former police officer, said he tries to post something on either Facebook or Instagram two or three times a week. He makes them content specific, too.

“One of my pet peeves is postings that show landscape contractors doing something other than their work,” he remarked.

After all, Muscle Mowing wasn’t voted Best Landscaper in Amarillo by Channel 10 in 2017 for its postings about going on vacation.

MAKING UP FOR LOST TIME

Mowing and Growing, Central Coast NSW, Australia, was founded in 2005, and today services more than 120 customers. Family owned and operated, it wasn’t until four years ago that it launched its website and started posting on Instagram and other social media.

According to company president Martyn Safiti, the website is designed to reach potential customers and keep current customers informed. As such, it introduces a bit of the company’s history and service offering, while allowing customers to book a job. It also features a photo gallery and videos, along with testimonials.

“Our website also acts as our online hub where all our other online platforms are directed,” he explained. “I see Instagram as a social networking platform to connect with other industry professionals, whereas our business Facebook, where we like to showcase our work, is also used to reach customers.

“We post on Facebook once or twice a week compared to Instagram where something is posted every day. On Instagram, we like to post stories of how our day is progressing,” Safiti said.

Mowing and Growing has three full-time employees and a part-timer on call. The company uses a Walker MTGHS, along with a couple of other mowers to service a mix of lifestyle properties, residential homes, and large complexes.

“Our website is ranked on page one on Google for our location and the services we provide,” Safiti added. “This has helped us acquire the type of customers we want for the niche market we specialize in. We have a webmaster who manages our website, and because our business has grown over the past three years, we are due for an update.”

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