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Check out the Smarketing Talk Podcast. Candid marketing & sales insight for landscaping pros.
Podcast with Lawn & Landscape magazine discussing social media in 2015 (also talk about Houzz for your landscaping business).
Hello, folks. Chris Heiler here. Welcome to another episode of Smarketing Talk podcast. It is a Friday night here in Austin, Texas. It's the 9th of January. Actually, I can't believe it's nine days already past the new year. Crazy. I guess this year's going to fly by probably even faster than 2014.
Anyway, I'll give you a little context here. I have pretty much no outline for this podcast. Actually, I was just in the shower. I take my showers at night, rarely take them in the morning. For some reason, that's where I come up with all my ideas. I get in the shower. I always start thinking about business. It's always where the head goes. And I started thinking about a couple of conversations that we had with two of our really good clients today. And I was thinking about conversation I had yesterday with Brian Horn from Lawn and Landscape. We were doing a podcast together.
I was thinking about those conversations, and I thought, "Hey, you know what? This would be a good topic for a podcast, so I should record a podcast, maybe next week, and talk about this stuff." And then I thought, "Why the hell would I wait a week when I can just get out of the shower, sit down, and record it right now." So, that's what I'm doing. I've got a glass of wine by me. Actually, I kind of lied. I have a rough outline to go by. I have a very loud dishwashing machine going behind me, so if you hear anything, it's probably that. Sorry about that.
Like I said, the new year... whenever the new year rolls around, that means we start having conversations with our clients about renewals, renewing our contracts. We had two of those conversations today with two of our really good clients, both commercial landscaping contractors, different parts of the country. And there was just a couple of interesting things that I wanted to touch on and share with you guys.
With all of our clients this year, we're de-emphasizing social media and what we do for them on the social networks. Typically in the past with our clients, social media has been an important part of what we do for them. We manage their Facebook pages, their Twitter accounts, so we're posting pictures on their behalf on their Facebook pages, sharing updates, all that fun stuff. In the past, it's been a somewhat effective way to build brand awareness and to get people to their websites and generate some actual leads and opportunities.
Well, what we've noticed over the past year or so... probably the past year, even six months, it's been more dramatic. But the ability to reach people on these networks, especially Facebook, has just declined so much. It's to the point now where we're looking at one of our client's Facebook pages this morning, and if we share an update on their Facebook page that update might reach 10% of their fans, which is crazy. Right?
So if that's the case, why would any company invest the time and resources into that platform? I might've talked about this on the last podcast. But anyway, I'm coming back around to it. So we had that conversation today with both of our clients as to how we're de-emphasizing social. They were bought into that. They get it. They understand. That's one of the trends we're looking at this year.
Well, I mentioned I did that podcast yesterday with Lawn and Landscape and Brian was interviewing me. We had talked about that, too. He asked me what are the big trends with social media, and I said sorry to disappoint but I think the trend is in de-emphasizing it, putting less focus on it. It was probably a crappy interview for him.
Anyway, one other thing that we touched on in that interview with Brian at Lawn and Landscape was niche social networks and specifically Houzz. I'm sure a lot of you guys have heard of Houzz, probably familiar with it, right? H-O-U-Z-Z... houzz.com. It's a website, kind of a social network. I guess you could call... I call it a niche social network.
It's a website or niche social network for consumers, homeowners who are maybe designing, building, renovating their homes or their landscaping, right? And it's a place for homeowners to go to get ideas for all of these different projects... get ideas, get inspired, and to find contractors in their local area who are on Houzz, who have built a profile on Houzz.
And I think the trend moving forward is in these niche social networks like Houzz for companies like you guys. If you're a residential design build company, if that's your focus, then instead of putting time into Facebook, I would be putting time into a network like Houzz.
And here's why. Houzz has homeowners actively looking for ideas, actively searching for contractors to work with. They're looking for you guys. They're looking for your services. On a social network like Facebook or Twitter, homeowners and consumers really aren't on there actively searching for landscaping or actively searching for a landscape contractor.
They might stumble upon one of your updates that someone shares. They might see your stuff. So that's good for a little bit of that brand awareness. People are not going to Facebook to search for a landscaping contractor to work with, but they do go to Houzz. So if you want to be really purposeful and pragmatic as it relates to your marketing in 2015, I'm looking at Houzz more than I'm looking at Facebook. And that's been the recommendation that we made for our client.
I want to share a couple of interesting examples or case studies with you to back this up. So we've got one client who's... they are a full service landscape design build and maintenance contractor out in New York. They do a lot with swimming pools, build swimming pools, a lot of high end residential design build jobs. And we've been doing quite a bit with their Houzz account over the past maybe nine months, something like that.
They have a pro account, so they actually pay to get a little more exposure. I don't want to get into that too much right now. But anyway, they have this pro account, so they get good exposure. And when I was looking at the metrics over the past year, some of the stats, I could see that when you compare the number of visits to their website from Facebook, compare that to the number of visits they get from Houzz, the traffic they get from Facebook far outweighs the traffic they get from Houzz. They gets tons more people coming to their websites from Facebook than Houzz.
So you might think okay, well, maybe they should spend a lot of time on Facebook. But, if you look closer and you look at the number of new leads and new opportunities they get, it's reversed. It's flipped. They get more new leads and new opportunities from Houzz even though we put less effort into Houzz.
Basically, what I'm saying is from what we've seen, and this isn't with a huge sampling of clients, this is, I think, with two clients, okay? The ROI is greater on Houzz than it is on Facebook and some of these other social networks. You get more opportunities from it, because like I said, homeowners are actively looking for ideas, actively looking for contractors on that network.
Another interesting thing with Houzz, and this just popped into my head, we have a client out in Utah. Landscape Lighting Pro of Utah is the name of the company. Keith is the owner. Awesome guy, awesome company. All they do is residential. Well, I shouldn't say residential. All they do is landscape lighting, but mostly residential.
About a year ago, we were talking about Houzz and how landscape lighting contractor should absolutely be using Houzz. Keith is on there. His company is on there. But he was telling me a story about how his wife used Houzz. And this shows you how consumer habits have changed. He was talking about Houzz, and he said maybe a year ago, probably more than that, probably two years ago, they were redoing a bathroom in their house.
They were renovating it. He said his wife would go to Houzz and put together these idea books. She'd find all these ideas, collect them into an idea book it's called, and then she would contact some contractors that can renovate their bathroom. And when those contractors would come visit with them, there really wasn't a consultation. It was more like her saying "okay, here's my idea book, this is what I want. I want this counter top. I want this storage. I want this shower, toilet, whatever." She wasn't really interested in their ideas at that point.
You see what happens there? Houzz gives the consumers the control of the process. That's just the reality of it. You've got to deal with it. It's how consumers are nowadays. I thought that was really interesting. She really wasn't looking to consult with these general contractors.
She wanted to just give them her ideas and get a price. That's the reality of it today. I went off on a tangent there. Anyway, I think Houzz is going to become more and more important. If you are a residential focused landscape contractor, designer, landscape architect, landscape lighting company, swimming pool company, I definitely think you should be on there.
I'm going to write a pretty substantial article about how to use Houzz I think in the next few weeks. I'll be publishing that, so I'll share that with all of you guys. So, that was topic number one I wanted to cover.
The other thing I wanted to talk about was how to measure the success of your company's blog. This is what I was thinking about in the shower.
I had a conversation with our client this morning when we were talking about their blog. And I had suggested that we increase the number of blog posts that we write each month. So let's go to five or six a month instead of four. She was a little hesitant with that because... I guess her comment was "I haven't seen our number of subscribers go up, so why would we want to write more blog posts, or why would we want to put time and money into blogging more if the number of people who subscribe to our blog is not increasing."
That's actually a question we get a lot from customers. And here's the issue with that. She and other clients that have that same question are viewing the success of their blog the wrong way. It's not that the number of subscribers doesn't matter. It's just that the number of subscribers matters less than other more important metrics. So that's the wrong question to ask... how many subscribers.
If you're judging the success of your blog based on number of subscribers or something like the number of comments you get, you're looking at the wrong metrics.
What I want to do is just touch on the things that you should be measuring. Like I said, it's not about the number of subscribers, or how many of your customers you're getting in front of with your blog, or how many of your customers subscribe to your blog.
That's another question we get a lot of times with our clients when we start working with them. Maybe six months into our engagement, they ask us, "well, none of our... our customers don't seem to be reading our blog posts so why are we doing it? Why do we spend time and money blogging if our customers aren't reading it?" It's a good question, but that's not really how you judge or measure the success of your blog.
What you need to look at instead of how many customers are reading your blog or how many subscribers you have, you have to look at the new opportunities that you're getting from your blog. You blog. You create content. I hate that word blog, by the way. It's called content marketing, an article. You write these articles. You do the content marketing mostly so you can get discovered by potential new customers. You want potential new customers to find you. That's why you're doing the content marketing. It's not necessarily just to stay in front of your existing customers.
Really, you have to judge the success of your blog based on the new customers that you attract by blogging. That's the most important number that we look at. It's the number of opportunities that you get from your blog, from your content marketing.
You might look at the traffic, the number of visits to your website or to your blog. One company might have 3000 visitors every month coming to their blog. Another company might have 300 visitors coming to their blog. And you might think that company with the 3000 visitors is much more successful. Well, that's not necessarily the case. If they're not turning any of those visitors into leads or opportunities then that blog's probably not all that successful. Right?
That blog with 300 visitors a month might be generating one or two, maybe more opportunities every single month from the blog, turning those opportunities into proposals, turning them into real customers, things like that. You could have a blog with 300 subscribers compared to a blog with three subscribers, and the blog with three subscribers might be getting more customers from the blog.
Those top of the funnel numbers, like number of visitors, number of subscribers, things like that, aren't as meaningful as the bottom of the funnel, the bottom line numbers like opportunities and customers. If you guys agree with me that the reason you are blogging, the reason you are creating this awesome content... reason for that is to generate new opportunities and new customers, what's the best way to do that? What is the best way to do that?
If you read the stuff I write, or you listen to my podcast, you know I'm always talking about educating, teaching your prospects. Right? Your blog should not be a press release machine spitting out the latest news about who your company hired and what events you guys are participating in, and blah blah blah, because nobody cares. Right? Nobody cares. People come to your website because they want information. They want to be educated. They don't want to hear about how so and so got promoted into the account manager role. Sorry, I don't mean to rant.
What you want to do is educate. Everything has to start from a teaching perspective. And you have to be very purposeful about what you write about and very pragmatic. This is something I've struggled with over the years, honestly. A friend of mine, some of you probably know him, I talk about him, Marcus Sheridan, also known as the Sales Lion, also runs a swimming pool company.
A very smart content marketer. He has really pushed this on me and he's really gotten this stuck in my head. This idea where you don't necessarily want to be spending your time writing about thought leadership topics. Some of that's good. It's good to be a thought leader and write about that stuff. But, at the end of the day, those types of articles or those subjects are not really attracting new opportunities and new leads and bringing in new customers.
The thought leadership type articles really aren't impacting the bottom line of your company, so you have to be much more purposeful in the topics that you write about. Okay? And I've struggled with that. A lot of what I've written in the past has very much been thought leadership.
What Marcus suggests and really what we're trying to do now, is focus on creating content around the subjects that we know people are searching for. We know what questions people ask, our prospects ask, so we create content around those questions. With a little bit of keyword research, we know what terms, what phrases people are searching for, what questions people are asking.
So being purposeful means understanding what these questions are, understanding what people are searching for, and then answering those. Creating content around those subjects so the people actually find you. If you spend all of your time writing thought leadership pieces, people aren't going to find you, because they're not searching for that stuff. They're just not. It took me a long time to figure that out. I've got to say since I made that shift and we're really focused on optimizing our content for what people are actually searching for, our traffic has gone way up and our opportunities have gone way up.
I'll give you one example. We wrote an article. It was, like, B2B marketing best practices for landscape contractors, something like that, marketing tips for commercial landscapers. I was optimizing that for B2B landscape marketing, something like that. Not a term that gets a ton of search volume, but people search for information on business to business marketing for landscaping.
I wrote the article, published it, and within a week after publishing that we got a new lead through our website. I could see that that lead found us. He found that specific article because he did a search for landscape marketing B2B. He went to Bing, actually... he went to Bing and he typed landscape marketing B2B. He found the blog post that I had written a week earlier. He went to the contact page, reached out to us, and he became a qualified lead.
I call that a sales qualified lead. Now, it didn't turn into a customer yet. Hopefully, they still do. But, it was a multimillion dollar commercial landscaping company who needs the help of a marketing agency like us.
Being pragmatic and changing our approach from thought leadership to being much more purposeful and pragmatic has really helped us. I mean it's already paying off. And we're doing this with our clients, too, and we see it paying off.
I'm going to wrap it up here. If you have a company blog, don't get hung up on number of comments, number of subscribers, how many of your customers are reading the blog. That's not what it's about. The number you want to worry about is how many opportunities, leads, customers are you generating from your efforts. That's really the most important number.
You have to be very purposeful about what you write about.
I hope you guys enjoyed this podcast. Let's see, I'll probably have another one for you in the next couple of weeks. Trying to be consistent with this. Like I said before, I'd love to be doing it every week. I don't think I'm at that point yet. If I can bust them out once a month, I'd probably be happy with that.
If you guys want to help me out, if you enjoy listening to these, if you want me to do more, if you want to hear more of my insights, please subscribe to this. I think I've got it up in iTunes now. You can subscribe in iTunes. If you do subscribe to it in iTunes, if you leave a review, I'd really appreciate that. I think that boosts me up in the search results.
And, please share this with your peers or your colleagues if you think they'd get some good insight from it. Anyway, hey, happy New Year. I hope all of you had an awesome holiday season.
I hope you're ready for 2015, because it's quarter one, baby. Month number one, week number one actually, of the new year, so I hope you guys have a successful 2015 and really start the year strong. Take it easy.