The Challenges You Face When Positioning Your Landscaping Company Around “Sustainability”

sustainable landscape practicesStrong positioning is what distinguishes you from your “generalist” competitors.

Many landscaping companies - including some we’ve worked with - try to position themselves as experts in sustainability.

The thought is that offering sustainable practices in their services gives the company a competitive advantage which will ultimately lead to winning more business.

There are some very practical challenges you will face if you choose to position your landscaping company around sustainable practices.

That’s not to say it cannot be done, but that it will be very difficult.

Here’s why:

What is sustainability anyway??

The pioneer of positioning, Al Ries, suggests you will need to own the word “sustainability” in the mind of your prospects and customers.

The challenge, of course, is that this word is unknown or misunderstood by many.

Taking a “horizontal” approach to positioning by staking it on a specific expertise is difficult enough (see my next point).

Positioning your company on an expertise, like sustainability, that is not universally understood and accepted is dangerous.

Horizontally challenged

Most companies position themselves “vertically” around an industry. We do this at Landscape Leadership by focusing on the lawn and landscape industry.

The horizontal approach – positioning your company around an expertise like sustainability – has some serious disadvantages you will inevitably face, such as:

1. It will be difficult to find prospects who are interested in your expertise.

It’s not like you can join a trade association of homeowners interested in sustainability, or buy a list of businesses who are committed to sustainable practices.

Contrast that with a vertical positioning of a landscape maintenance company focused on serving multi-family properties. These are easy prospects to find and target.

2. What will happen if your current client moves to a new home? Or a property manager moves on to another company or property?

Will the next property owner or manager value – and pay for – your expertise?

3. Word of your expertise and reputation will spread more slowly.

Homeowners and business owners don’t meet regularly to discuss sustainability practices. It just doesn’t happen. So word about your unique work and expertise spreads slower.

There’s just fewer channels for your expertise to spread when positioned horizontally.

Local limits

Positioning your company horizontally around an expertise like sustainable practices is made even more difficult when your service reach is limited to your local marketplace.

This is where you’ll need to get creative.

You’ll either need to remove your local limitations or go deep in what you offer, and to whom.

Can you narrow your offerings to consulting and design-focused services, allowing you to serve a clientele hungry for your expertise well beyond your local marketplace?

Or, do you offer design, construction, and even maintenance services to a wider audience in your local marketplace (i.e.- homeowners, HOAs, corporate campuses, etc.)?

These are painful decisions that have to be made, with much being dependent on the size of your market. The larger your marketplace the more you can narrow your focus and positioning.

You, the expert

If you intend to position your company around an expertise, you, the owner, will need to be the perceived expert.

Let's get this straight: Talking about being an expert is not the same as actually proving it and being perceived as an expert in your marketplace.

I know many landscaping companies who talk about being experts in sustainable practices. This falls on deaf ears in the marketplace because the owner doesn't carry the torch of sustainability personally. It's just another meaningless word in their marketing (along side "award winning").

You need a real face and voice for credibility.

Purchasing a fleet of propane-powered walk-behinds does not prove your expertise. It only gives you credibility if you are already front and center in your marketplace preaching the sustainability gospel through your writing and speaking.

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Let’s recap the challenges you’ll face:

1. It will be more difficult finding prospects and customers interested in your expertise, because...

2. There is a general lack of consumer awareness and acceptance of sustainable practices within the landscape, and...

3. You’ll be limited by the size of your local marketplace.

4. You’ll need to establish yourself, personally, as the expert on sustainable landscaping practices.

You can do this. But, as with anything worthwhile, it will require courage, discipline, and a boat load of hard work. Other than that… piece of cake, right?

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Are you positioning your company around an expertise, like sustainability? Success begins and ends with crystal clear messaging. Hire us to help you get clear about what to say to your prospects. Get started by requesting a meeting with us.

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Image source: “Sustainable Design - Passive Cooling” by Jeremy Levine is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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