Your prospective client needs help visualizing their own success. Don’t just show the product or service you sell. Show how your clients use the product or service. The most successful brands do this and people are conditioned to respond positively to it.
Models or actors are wearing the clothing. They eat the food. They drive the vehicles. They use the devices. They enjoy lives that are a direct result of the product or service.
One of the most powerful ways to have maximum marketing impact is to have your landscaping or lawn care customers appear in your marketing images and videos.
There’s just one big problem. That’s often easier said than done. How do you get customers to help? What do you do when they’re camera shy? Are there other alternatives?
We get it. You’re a lawn care or landscaping professional, not a casting agent. This likely feels overwhelming (or even impossible). But it doesn’t have to be.
We’re going to give you some advice on how to pull this off. We’ll also share some insights from clients who found great success sourcing models and actors for their shoots.
Using Customers as Models & Actors
First and foremost, you’ll want to determine who to use for your photo or video shoots. The ideal choice is your customers. Using the actual people who use the property you care for is the most authentic option.
FYI, when we talk about actors in this article, we're referring to those without any speaking lines. Models are people appearing in images.
(Below is an example of how Oasis Turf & Tree used a customer for their Tree & Shrub Care video and images.)
Our client, Oasis Turf & Tree, a lawn care company based in Loveland, Ohio, typically uses customers for their photo and video shoots. Adam Zellner, VP of Sales, says that he begins the process by looking for any customers who have given the company a top rating or has sent them raving feedback. That automatically tells him they are someone who could be excited about being involved.
“We then pull up satellite photos of the properties and narrow it down to a list of our top 10 that would suit what we’re looking for and reach out to our top choices.”
Even if you have an enthusiastic client, you can sabotage your efforts if you don’t know how to tactfully approach them about the opportunity.
Don’t make it seem complicated, difficult, or exhausting. Just find out if they’re willing to help you from the comfort of their backyard. Downplay the experience and make it seem like they’ll be doing normal things.
Tell them you’ll have more details later but ask if they’re free for a target week when you want to complete the shoot. Here’s an example.
“Mr. Jones, I love your enthusiasm about how we transformed your backyard. I was wondering if you’d be open to helping us out with something the week of [dates]. We would love to shoot some video of your property for our marketing. Would that be okay?”
At this point, you’ll hopefully get a “Yes” to using their location. Then ask this follow-up question:
“Great! Would you and your wife also be willing to just relax on your patio so we can get some footage of you using it? If you wanted to invite some friends over, I’ll even buy the food and drinks for you! I promise it would be really easy on everyone and we only need you for like an hour or two.”
Securing the location is your first win. Getting customers to be your models or actors really comes back to the relationship you’ve built. If you can’t pull this part off, there are still other options.
Using Friends as Models & Actors at Customer Properties
“There are times when the client wants to be involved and in the shoots and other times where they’re happy for us to do the shoot at their house but would prefer we brought in other people.”, Zellner explains.
(Above is an example of how Oasis Turf & Tree used a team member's extended family as models on a customer's property.)
The same situation occurred for our client KD Landscape, Inc., based in the suburban Chicago area. Company owner Kevin Manning says that he had a landscape design-build project he wanted to showcase but the homeowners preferred if they would use other models. So, he got a group of his neighbors and their kids together for a little outdoor party.
(Below is a video example of how Kevin Manning from KD Landscape used his friends and neighbors as models and actors on a customer's property.)
The key is to make it fun and entertaining for everyone. This helps to show what your prospect can buy, the fun times and an upgraded property.
“We had a charcuterie platter and wine and cocktails ready to go and everyone came over and just had a good time,” Manning recalls. “It was great for very authentic and natural photos.”
Zellner agrees that having everything ready to go is key. It has to be easy and stress-free for whatever models you use.
“If we want to shoot a family having dinner, then we’ll have it all ready for them when they show up,” he adds.
A Token of Gratitude
To thank customers or friends who participate in the shoots, Zellner says he’ll usually send a little gift or do something special for them. One customer really loved golf, so Zellner had a really nice golf pullover made with the Oasis Turf & Tree logo.
“Another time, one of our properties and its photos won a NALP award, so we had a plaque made up with the photo of their home and let them know it was an award-winning property,” Zellner says.
As Zellner ads, a short family portrait session is also a nice touch. “If we have a family that is part of a photo shoot, we also typically have the professional photographer take some nice family photos and we put those on a drive for them as an added thank-you.”
(Below is an example of one of the complimentary family portraits Oasis Turf & Tree provided to their actors/models.)
Another potential thank-you idea is discounting an existing service. Sometimes, even just staging the site (with fresh flowers and mulch) is a great thank-you.
At the end of the day, the incentives aren’t the reason why customers or friends are participating. It’s just a way of saying “thanks” and maintaining goodwill.
Using Team Members As a Fall-Back Option
If you can’t get customers or friends to play the parts, chances are you already have some possibilities amongst existing team members. Just pick people who are more obscure in the eyes of your prospects.
We say “obscure” because you wouldn’t want to use leaders or salespeople who interact regularly with your clients and are already the “face” of your company. Ultimately, you’re having these people pose as happy customers in the photos and videos.
(Above is an example of how Oasis Turf & Tree used a team member, Lori in the center, along with her husband, their adult daughter, and grandson).
You could also use a combination of customers, friends, and team members in photos and videos. FYI, if you end up using team members in photo shoots, more paid time off is a great incentive.
Using Professional Models
In addition to considering customers, friends, or team members, you also have the option of hiring professional models. This is something that a professional photographer or videographer will love because these are people who already have lots of experience at taking direction on shoots.
Manning says that he ended up finding a model through his local landscape show, where she was hired to work at a another booth. She runs a small studio and already had a network of people. Manning says it was an easy experience to hire her and a few friends for one of his shoots.
(Above is an example of how Kevin Manning from KD Landscape used a professional model, appearing on the right. She also recruited some personal friends to join her on the shoot.)
In this case, you’ll obviously pay for the models’ time but it can sometimes help the entire process to go more smoothly. Manning says it was a relatively small fee in the grand scheme of things and he was pleased to get exactly what he wanted out of the photos and video.
(FYI, we've seen professional models and no-line actors charge anywhere from $200-$1,000 per day).
Just as he did with the shoot with his neighbors, he provided the food and drink for the models to enjoy.
“My best advice would be not to be intimidated by the process,” Manning adds. “But treat them well and don’t waste their time. And make it fun for them.”
Tips for a Successful Photo or Video Shoot
No matter which direction you go with sourcing models and actors, we have some tips to help make the experience a success.
Create a Clear Creative Brief
In order to get all of the important shots, have a clear idea of which shots you need and in what order. This minimizes downtime and frustration for everyone involved on-set.
Confirm Everything in Advance
Ahead of the shoot, you definitely want to confirm the exact time and the location with all of your models. You’ll also want to confirm, again, that they will definitely be able to be there. If they’re not able to for some reason, then you’ll need to move to your backup plan (which we’ll discuss next).
Always Have a Back-Up Plan
As you know, things sometimes go wrong. This can definitely happen with your shoots, so it’s critical that you have a backup plan ready to go if any of your models suddenly can’t be available.
Zellner says that when he goes through his list of top 10 customers (in the process discussed above), he always keeps a few in mind as a backup plan.
“I’ll reach out to these homeowners to see if they’re interested and then keep them on my list in case we do need to go to that backup plan,” he explains. “This has happened to us before. We had a photographer already hired and he was there for three days to shoot and something came up with the original homeowners who we planned to use. Fortunately, we had a backup plan.”
Make Attire Recommendations
You’ll also want to make attire recommendations in advance of the shoot. In fact, many homeowners will ask. We tell people to limit wearing clothing with large logos because it’s distracting. Busy prints are also distracting.
When it comes to ensuring that prospects “connect” with the people in your photos, you might also want to consider that people avoid wearing sunglasses. Seeing the models’ eyes is helpful in terms of making a connection.
Stage Locations & Get Props Prior to the Shoot
There is a lot of advanced planning that goes into a shoot. You’ll need to make plans for everything that you’ll need to stage the site and you’ll need to do all of that in advance. If you’re having plant beds mulched or adding flowers (or bringing in containers), make sure all of that is completed ahead of time.
You’ll also need to grocery shop and get any food and drinks ready ahead of time.
Ultimately, when the models show up, you want it all ready to go. You shouldn’t have them standing around while you’re staging things. You want to keep them happy and stress-free. You also want to make it as easy as possible on them.
Even when everything is ready, shooting can take a while. But try to give them an idea of how long you’ll need them and then stick to it. You’ll need to coordinate with your photographer or videographer for the details. It may also be a good measure for you to be on-site to help schmooze while your videographer or photographer is setting up equipment for the next shots. Keep your models and actors engaged on their breaks!
Professional Photographers, Videographers, & Directors
And while we’re on the topic of the professional photographer and/or videographer, keep in mind that hiring the right pro for this job is important. Not all professional photographers and videographers are good at working with people. There is a certain way to light the faces and position the camera. Ask a pro to show you work that they’ve done with models before so that you can ensure you’re going to get the best results.
You might even want to consider hiring an on-site director if you’re shooting a video. This person would be in charge of running the site and making sure you’re getting the shots you need.
Making Meaningful Connections with Prospects
While there’s obviously time and money that needs to be invested in this effort, when it comes together the right way, you end up with assets that will be incredibly beneficial to the success of your company.
That makes it worth the investment.
There is human emotion and feelings that are tied to images with people in them—and they can help you to sell more work. When you have only images of projects with no people in them, there can be a disconnect.
Ultimately, by getting the best shots, you can achieve success and make meaningful connections with your prospective clients. And it truly doesn’t have to be as difficult as it might sound. By following some of these tips, you can end up with some amazing images and videos that will draw more people to your company.
If you’d like to learn more about planning and executing a professional photo or video shoot for your lawn care or landscaping company, request a meeting with us. We engage with these projects on a limited basis or as part of a comprehensive marketing strategy.
Want more insight like this? Join over 4,000 of your green industry peers by subscribing to the Landscape Leadership blog. We'll send new content directly to your inbox. Just add your email address below.