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Check out the Smarketing Talk Podcast. Candid marketing & sales insight for landscaping pros.
Hi, folks. Welcome to episode 5 of this marketing talk podcast, where we talk about all things related to marketing and sales for the green industry companies like you guys; landscape contractors, lawn care operators, garden centers, equipment manufacturers, all of you green industry folk. I'm your host, Chris Heiler.
Thanks for joining me today on this podcast.
How many of you guys watched the Super Bowl last weekend? That was one heck of a finish. It was crazy. I don't remember a Super Bowl coming down to the end like that in quite a few years. But anyway, so if you watched the game, you saw the last few minutes. Patriots are up what? Four points, I think, because Brady just drove them down the field. They take the lead. They're up four. Sea Hawks get the ball back. Russell Wilson drives them right down the field; end up on the Patriot’s 1-yard line. I think it was maybe second and goal to go, with a chance to win, and maybe a minute left on the clock.
Russell Wilson up to that point, played a great game. I think he had 250 yards passing, or something like that, a couple of touchdowns; played a really good game. He pushes the ball in the end zone. He's probably the MVP of that game. But what happens? Throws the pick on second and one, so Russell Wilson goes from being brilliant, being probably the MVP of the game, to the goat. You know, just like that. To me, that's what makes sports so exciting. That why we watch, right? For moments like that, we love that. It's exciting stuff.
So I was watching that game, watched the end of it. It just reminded me so much of life in general, but also business; the ups and down of business. If you just think back, three years ago, four years ago, we were in the middle of a really bad recession. A lot of companies were struggling. A lot of companies folded, actually. It was a tough time.
It was a really tough time. Now, over the last year and a half, couple of years, when I talk to companies around the country, they're genuinely excited and optimistic about where their businesses are right now. They've turned things around. They've been experiencing a lot of growth and that's exciting. You've got the ups and downs. But what we can’t do, when the times are good, is get complacent. Because at any minute, there's probably another Russell Wilson moment right around the corner, or another recession around the corner. So we can't get complacent, even when the times are good, we're growing, we're out of the recession. We can’t get complacent.
I bring this up because one area that I see companies in our industry, especially our industry, get complacent in is in how they market themselves. It’s on the marketing side. You know, marketing, how should I say this? Most companies in our industry have never really put a lot of value into marketing. Most companies are very sales driven. I think you guys would agree with that. So there's never been a lot of value put on marketing, especially when times are really good.
Owners, company owners, folks like that, they think, "Man, we're getting all this work. We got all this work coming to the door. We can barely keep up with it. Why do we need to be out marketing?" So it's kind of pushed aside. It's when times are bad, when they think, "Oh, damn. You know what? We better start marketing a little bit. We better start getting our name out there a little bit." So now is not the time to get complacent, as a business.
So in this podcast today, I really want to focus on marketing and, specifically, investing in marketing. I think I've talked about this in the past. There's a big difference between investing in marketing, and spending on marketing. Most companies spend on marketing. They do not invest. I'll give you an example that illustrates this. Think about a postcard, direct mail, right? If you spend five grand to spit out thousands of post cards in the spring, that's spending on marketing. You might get some leads that come in through that, but the second you stop sending those postcards, the leads dry up. That’s spending.
Same thing with pay-per-click advertising, Google ad words; that's spending on advertising. I look at Google ad words as like a water faucet. As long as you're spending money, that faucet is turned on and you're probably generating a few leads, but the second you stop spending, that faucet dries up, no more leads. That’s spending on marketing. On the other hand, when I talk about investing, I'm talking about investing in content marketing.
So creating content that will resonate with your website visitors and attract people to your website for years to come, even after you've created that content.
So I'll give you a couple of really good examples of that. One piece of content that's worked really well for landscape leadership is an article I wrote, a blog-post of our site. I wrote this probably five years ago. I think it was called, "The 10 rules of advertising for landscaping companies," something like that. I wrote it five years ago. That article, it probably took me six hours or something like that, to put the whole thing together.
That article, today, continues to draw people into our website that never even knew who we were, never knew we even existed. But they find our company through that single article that we wrote five years ago. So we get a lot of visitors from that. We get a lot of leads from that article, you know, a lot of leads that we call follow-up with and pursue as a marketing agency. So that piece of content has been very valuable for us over the years. So that's investing.
The perfect example for this is our friends at River Pools in Richmond, Virginia. I know I've talked about them before. I think it was either five or six years ago when they first got into content marketing. Marcus, the owner of the company, he wrote an article. I think it was called, "How much do fiber glass pools cost?" How much do fiber glass pools cost? That was the title of the article, the blog post.
To this day, they get thousands of visitors a month, to their site, from that article. Hundreds of leads they get, from that article. Marcus told me that that single article has attributed to over $2.5 million in sales. Two point five million dollars in sales from a single article that he wrote five years ago. It's still bringing in the sales. Now, if you're spending money on postcards every year, dropping five grand, ten grand, whatever it may be, and not investing but spending on pay-per-click advertising, are you getting $2.5 million worth of work from that?
Now, not every article is going to generate that, but I just love that example because Marcus has the data to back that up. That's the power of investing in content. Now, you can't just invest in any content. Really, what I'm talking about is blogging, blog posts on your site. You have to be strategic in the content that you create. You can't just write a bunch of press releases about your company, and expect that to generate a lot of visits, leads, and customers. You have to be very strategic about the content you create.
That’s really what I want to focus on today. I want to talk to you guys about how we, as an agency and with our clients, create our content strategies for our clients and kind of the formula that we use when it comes to content marketing and being strategic. So what I want to talk about is what we call "buyers content." I'll give you an example of this. I'm going to read you some headlines or some article headlines.
When I read these, I want you to think about who would this article appeal to? If they found this article online, who would this appeal to? So the first headline is, "Five keys to a successful lawn care program." So who do you think that might appeal to? My guess is you would say, it could be someone who's looking to do their own lawn care, right? It could be someone who may be interested in hiring a professional to do it. But more than likely, it's someone just looking for really good information on lawn care, and someone who is probably going to take care of their lawn themselves.
Now, this next headline, think about who this one would appeal to. How much does a professional lawn care program cost? How much does a professional lawn care program cost? Now, who would that appeal to? That article probably appeals to the person who's considering maybe taking care of their lawn themselves or they're thinking about hiring a professional. They're probably at that point. They're like, "All right. Should I do this myself or should I hire a professional? How much will hiring a professional cost?" They're kind of in that research phase, but they're getting really close to making a decision because they're looking at cost now. They're researching cost. So that means they're getting closer and closer to making a buying decision.
So think about this third article, this third headline; "A review of the best lawn care companies in Atlanta, Georgia." A review of the best lawn cares companies in Atlanta, Georgia. Who does that appeal to? That article will appeal to someone who is ready to make a buying decision soon, right? That person is looking for a professional. They're looking for reviews on the best lawn care companies in Atlanta. They're not looking to do the stuff themselves. They're looking to reach out and find a lawn care company. So these three different articles that I just shared with you, we consider these all to be buyers content.
They all appeal to someone who would be doing research around the topic of lawn care. So when you plan out your content, you have to think about what content will resonate with people that are actually close to making a buying decision. That’s what buyers content is all about. So there are five big categories of buyers content. We call these the "big five." I got to give credit to Marcus. Marcus owns Rive Pools and Spas. He also owns an agency; Sales Lion. You've probably heard of Sales Lion, maybe. Anyways, so Marcus shared this with us. This is exactly how we do things with our clients.
So this is the big five. These are the big five topics that you guys should be covering with your content, that are actually going to appeal to the buyers and turn people into leads, and convert people into customers, which is the name of the game. So the first is content that deals with cost issues. I've talked about that a little bit already. I know all of you guys have gone online, probably even in the past week, and you've researched the cost of something, right? Everybody does it.
I know there's times when I've gone online. I've tried to look up the cost of something, whether it's a product or a service. I go to a company's website, and I get frustrated because I don't find what I'm looking for. That’s probably happened to you guys, right? You're online. You're on a website. You're looking for pricing information. You can't find it. You get frustrated. Well, what do you do in that case? You just bounce, right? You go somewhere else. You know someone else will be talking about pricing. You don't pick up the phone and call them, you just leave.
But when you look at all the websites in our industry, if you look at landscapers' websites, lawn care company’s websites, very few of them mention anything about price or cost on their websites, right. So just imagine, visitors coming to your website looking for information on how much something costs, not finding it, getting frustrated, and then leaving. That’s what happens. That happens. So we have to start tackling this issue of cost, in our content. So this is one of the big five buyers content categories. I mentioned earlier how Marcus did this with a blog post, "How much does a fiberglass pool cost?"
He hit a home run with that one. When I talk about cost, I'm not asking you to put your price list online or anything like that. All you need to do is address how much things cost. You could write a great article about, "How much does an outdoor kitchen cost?" In that article, you could write all about the different considerations that go into that, that effect the cost. Well, if you use blue stone for your paving, you're going to pay more versus if you use concrete. If you put an overhead structure over your outdoor kitchen, you can expect to pay this much more. You're not giving somebody a quote. You're just addressing cost concerns, is all you're doing. So don't be afraid to talk about cost and pricing on your website. People are searching for it. If they're searching for it, who do you want them to find? Your competitors? No. You want them to find you. So go ahead and talk about it. Put it out there. So talk about cost and pricing. So that's number one of the big five.
Number two would be addressing problems and solutions. When people have a problem, what do they do? They go online. The other interesting thing people do is, when they're looking to make a major purchase, sometimes not even a major purchase, but any kind of purchase, they don't always just research the positives. Often times, they research the negatives or the problems involved with that purchase, right? That's why you'll see a lot of times, people will go online. They look for reviews. They're reading the positive reviews, of course, but they're also reading the negative reviews, because they want to know what is wrong or potentially wrong with this product or the service that they're going to purchase.
So to create buyers content for these folks, you need to address the problems that they have and then offer solutions. So I'll give you a couple of examples of this from one of our clients. So this is a show grounds management. They're a commercial landscape contractor up in Cleveland, Ohio. On their blog, they had a couple of recent articles on there, addressing problems. So here's the first one, "Can ice melt products damage your commercial property?"
That’s one of their headlines: "Can ice melt products damage your commercial property?" So what’s the problem they're addressing there? The problem they're addressing is certain ice melts products potentially damaging property, whether that's plants, planting beds or its pavement. So they're addressing that problem because people ask them that question. They get asked that question. We know people are online searching about that, searching for answers to that question. So they tackle that problem head-on in that article.
A second example is, "How to winterize evergreens and prevent winter burn in your commercial landscape." So what’s the problem there they're addressing? How to prevent winter burn, right? It’s a common question. Last year was a terrible winter. There's a lot of winter burn. I know a lot of our clients experience a lot of winter burns, especially through the Mid West. So their clients have that question. How can we prevent that? If their clients are asking that question, you know for certain that people are going online and asking that same question. So create that content for those people. Let them find your site and not your competitor's. So that's the second one, is creating content that really addresses problems and then offers solutions.
Now, this third category of buyers content, we call this the "versus or comparison" type posts. You've seen these. You've seen these before. I knew you've gone online to compare different things, compare different products, and compare different services. That’s another way that people search online. So you can create content, comparing these different things. I'll give you a couple of good examples. We talked about snow and ice, or ice melt products. Here's a blog post topic that one of our clients wrote recently. It’s titled: "What is the best ice melt product? Calcium chloride versus sodium chloride." So what are they comparing there? They're comparing calcium chloride versus sodium chloride; ice melt products. Again, because they've been asked that question by their customers. Since they've been asked that question so many times, they're putting it into an article. They know, again, people are online, searching for an answer to that question.
Another good one: "Gunite pools versus vinyl liner pools: what’s the best type of in-ground pool?" That's a great headline: "Gunite pools versus vinyl liner pools." We know people are looking for that information. Here's another one: "Dethatching a lawn versus lawn aeration, comparing detaching versus aeration." To us, they're very different things, but in a homeowner's mind, they might not be all that different. So creating content around that, a comparison post like that could be very powerful to draw people in.
The fourth category of buyers content; this is probably my favorite one, the best type articles. Think about it, when you go online to search for something, you go to Google or whatever search engine you may use. How often do you preface your search with the best? The best way to? The best landscape contractor? The best way to do something? There's so many different ways that you can search, using that qualifier. We call that a qualifier; the best. You probably search that way so much you don't even realize it. It's kind of subconscious thing. But anyway, you can create content with that mind, knowing that so many people are out there, searching around that.
Let me give you a couple more examples, and I touched on a couple of these before. What is the best ice melt product? We know people are searching for that. What is the best ice melt product? What is the best type of in-ground pool? We know people are searching for that. We did this recently with an article, you might have seen this three or four weeks ago. We wrote an article on the landscape leadership blog titled: "The best landscaping blogs of 2014." The best landscaping blogs of 2014.
One reason I wrote it is because I know people search for landscaping blogs, and I know they search for best landscaping blogs. So because I know people search for that, well, I want them to find me. So I wrote an article about it. I can tell you that that blog post blew up. That's got more views than probably any other article we've written in, I don't know, probably the past six to 12 months, something like that. So this type of content, it works. It really works.
I'll give a great example, again, from River Pools, our friends there in Virginia. So probably three years ago, Marcus wrote an article titled: "Who are the best pool builders in Richmond, Virginia?" That’s a pretty ballsy topic, right? Who are the best pool builders in Richmond, Virginia? Here’s the thing, he wrote an article. He featured five companies, five local companies, his competitors. He did not mention his own company. He wrote an article, "Who are the best pool builders in Richmond, Virginia?" Listed five of his competitors, and did not say a single word about themselves. But do you know why this worked so well?
They get customers from this. They get lots of customers from this. The reason it worked so well is because they were completely unbiased. Not only that, but when people searched for the phrase, "best pool builders in Richmond, Virginia," well, guess what? They find Marcus's site. They find this article. They get on Marcus's site. They read this blog post, and yeah, they might call his competitors because they're listed in this post, but they're on Marcus's site. So they're probably going to call Marcus, too. That's exactly what happens. So they've closed a considerable amount of business all because they basically showcased their competitors on their website, and never mentioned themselves. That’s a perfect example right there. How many of you have the guts to write that article and do the exact same thing?
Okay. The fifth category of the big five of the buyers content are review/awards type content or blog post, so actually writing reviews about something or giving away an award for something. I can come back to that article I just talked about that Marcus did, "The best pool builders in Richmond, Virginia" because that was really a review article. He reviewed the top five, what he thought were the five companies. So you could do that kind of thing, same kind of thing. I mean, look at your own behaviors. How often do you go online, looking at reviews? Probably all the time, right? So your customers are doing the same thing.
So creating articles, review based articles, is a great way to reach your prospects and bring in new customers. I will give you a reason why that works so well, too. I mentioned that blog post that I wrote recently, "The best landscaping blogs of 2014." That was a review post and an award post. I came up with that award. It's not like it means that much, right? But I was very sincere in who I picked as the top five.
The reason that that post got so much traction right away is because those five companies that I shared or that I listed in there, that I awarded that to, those five companies all shared it. So that got us a lot more traffic. That’s another advantage of doing award type posts like I did. You get more people to share it. You get more traction with it. So let me go through these real fast, one more time. So number one of the big five of the buyers content is how much does it cost? Tackle cost considerations in your content.
Number two is what are the problems? What are the problems people have? Address those. Problems and then versus/comparison type posts, so comparing different things. Concrete paving versus brick pavers, that kind of thing. The best type post, that's number four. The best landscape design, the best landscape design software, those type of articles. And then, number five are the reviews/awards type posts. So you should be able to see that these are the types of topics that resonate with people that are searching for your services online.
That’s who you need to be writing for. Don’t be writing the posts, "Our five favorite plants" or writing a post about how you just hired somebody new. No one is searching for that. No one is going to find that when they're looking for a landscaping company in your area. They're just not. Ultimately, that's what you need, right?
You need leads and you need customers. So you have to create that buyers content that we've talked about, that appeals to those folks. So I wanted to share that framework with you guys today, kind of how we strategize or put together our content strategy for the clients of ours, using the big five. So I hope that was helpful to you guys. Thanks for listening. I'm going to wrap it up now.
Thanks for listening. We're going to do this once a month. So I'll be coming back with another podcast in early March. So again, I appreciate you guys listening and we will talk again, soon.