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Here are links to some of the things we talked about it in this epsiode:
Example of cost-related topics: How Much Do Landscaping Websites Cost to Re-Design?
Example of writing about competitors: Who Are the Best Pool Builders in Richmond Virginia?
Hello, everybody. Welcome to episode number three of the "Smarketing" [SP] podcast. I'm your host, Chris Heiler. This podcast is all about candid sales and marketing talk for green industry companies like you guys. All about the things I love, sales and marketing.
So we're getting close to the end of the year. It's pretty obvious. So I hope you guys have had an awesome year so far in 2014. A lot of the companies that we've talked to throughout the year and including a lot of our clients, they've been genuinely really excited about how they've been doing this here. So it sounds like there's a lot of opportunities out there for companies and you guys are getting a lot of work and hopefully growing. That's exciting stuff. Hopefully, 2015 is going to be the same for everybody.
I'm pretty excited about our own business, Landscape Leadership. I think this our second full year as an actual agency. With this type of business model, it's really our second full year.
We've actually more than doubled our revenue in 2014 compared to 2013, so that's exciting. Kind of toot our own horn. Last year and years previous, I was doing everything myself. I had some freelancers that worked with us, but it was pretty much a one-man show. In 2014, I was able to hire three full-time employees, which is super exciting. So we've had a ton of growth in 2014. There's tons of opportunity out there for us. 2015 is going to be even better. I don't know if I want that much growth this next year, that might be a little overwhelming. But things are exciting here and I hope things are exciting in your businesses.
So looking ahead to 2015, there's a couple of things I wanted to touch on today. I wanted to talk about some trends that we're seeing on the marketing side of things. I want to spend a few minutes touching on those. But the big thing I want to talk about today in this podcast is three subjects that companies in our industry...actually, every industry, really. But three subjects that companies are really resistant to talking about or sharing information about as it relates to content marketing. So whether you have a company blog or a Facebook page or you're shooting video; you have a YouTube channel, whatever. When it comes to content marketing, these are three subjects that companies are really resistant to talking about. So I want to spend probably 20 minutes, something like that, talking about that.
But first, I wanted to touch on some trends. So heading into 2015, just a couple things that I'm really interested in. Our client services director, Paige Worthy. Yes, that's her real name, Paige Worthy. Cool name, right? Anyway, she wrote an article for "Turf Design Build Magazine," it was the November issue. It was titled "Seven Inbound Marketing Trends for Green Industry Companies." This was published in November. I'll share a link to that in the show notes so you can review it.
But I want to talk about two of those trends that interest me probably more than the others heading into this new year. The first has to do with social media and this whole idea of having to pay to play. Buying advertising on the social networks to reach your audience.
I think...if you're paying attention to social media, this should be fairly obvious to you, especially on Facebook. It's getting harder and harder to reach our audiences on the social networks, especially on Facebook. On Facebook specifically, the organic reach has declined even more over the past 12 months. Now, we're at the point to where we're able to reach 5 to 10% of our fans with our updates on our business pages. That's ridiculous, right? I hope you guys understand that. There's a lot of companies that don't get that.
So when you share and update on your Facebook business page, not all of your fans see that. Only a sliver of those fans actually see that update. It's between 5 and 10% now, is all.
So when you think about that, your organic reach being between 5 to 10% on Facebook, is it really worth your time? Should you be spending time on a social network like Facebook as part of your marketing strategy if you're only able to reach 5 to 10% of those fans? We look at that, we evaluate that all the time for our clients and for ourselves because managing the social media for our clients is one of the things we do. So we have to spend a lot of time evaluating that.
Should we put resources into social? I'm really reevaluating how we use social as a marketing platform going forward with our clients and with ourselves. What we've seen is with this decline in organic reach, the only way you can really, truly have an impact on your business as it relates to social is if you pay to play. As if you actually have some budget for advertising on these platforms, whether it's Twitter or Facebook, those are the two big ones.
In Facebook, we've seen this over the last 12 months. If we want to drive traffic to our website or our client's website, if we want to generate new leads and new opportunities for our business that will impact the bottom line, which is what's important, right? If that's our objective, well, we've got to pony up some dollars for Facebook, Facebook advertising, if we're truly going to generate leads and customers from Facebook. We're at the point now, it is pay to play. That's going to be our approach moving forward internally here at Landscape Leadership and how we market ourselves with social media. We have to come up with a budget for social media, for ads.
Same thing with our clients. That's the approach we're going to take with our clients moving forward. No longer are we going to only rely on organic reach on the social networks to reach their audiences. We are going to have to have an advertising budget on each of these networks to really reach the audience and make the impact that we want to make. Anyway, that's a big trend.
So if your business is all into social right now and you're totally relying on organic to reach your audience, I think you're going to need to reevaluate and really look at "Is that working?" Are you actually getting new leads and opportunities from social media? Are you actually getting customers from social media? Because if you're not, I challenge you to ask yourself "Why the heck are you doing it?" Why are you spending time there? If you're going to invest time into the social networks now, I think you need to think about investing some money as well into the ads to reach people. Anyway, that's one of the trends I wanted to touch on.
The second one...again, these are in that article. So I'll link to that in the podcast notes. But the second trend I wanted to mention is digital recruiting. That's what I call it, "digital recruiting." It's the idea of using the inbound marketing process or the inbound marketing methodology that I always talk about. It's the idea of using that same process to attract qualified job candidates. So not just using these strategies to attract potential customers. But using the same strategies to attract real job candidates for your business.
That's digital recruiting and that's becoming a bigger and bigger deal moving forward. It's a huge trend that we're just scratching the surface of right now at Landscape Leadership with our clients and in house.
Some things we're doing right now with clients, we have done this with ourselves as well. But using their websites to attract new candidates, screen potential candidates and actually grade new candidates. So it's easier for the HR people or the business owner to prioritize who they follow up with. So putting processes like that into place and having it all run in an automated way on a company's website, that's what I'm referring to as "digital recruiting" and doing that through your website. So that's a huge trend we're seeing.
Like I said, we're only doing this with a couple of clients right now. But down the line, we're going to be doing a lot more of that. I think in the future, companies that we work with, they're going to have their monthly inbound marketing and sales budgets. But I think they're also going to have monthly budget for digital recruiting or call it "inbound recruiting." I think they're going to have a budget for that. That's the future.
I think they're going to be getting away from the job boards, career fairs, things like that. I think some of those things are still going to play a role, but we all know how big of an issue recruiting and hiring is in our industry. Every company we talk to, every client we have, that's their main issue. How do we get qualified job candidates? It's tough.
This inbound approach, digital recruiting, whatever you want to call it, it's a big trend. Companies are moving to this and I think 2015 is going to be a big year for digital recruiting. All right, those are the two trends I wanted to touch on.
So let's go back to the big topic I wanted to cover. As it relates to content marketing, I mentioned earlier there's three subjects that companies are really resistant to talking about. Whether that's...like I said, writing articles for your blog or shooting a video for your YouTube channel, there's really three subjects.
The first one should be obvious and this is the big one. It's cost-related information. Sharing cost-related information about your products, about your services. Sharing that information online, on your website.
Let's think about this for a minute. I've talked about this in the past. I have a feeling 99% of you folks listening have gone online to a website searching for pricing information. Whether it's a product or it is a service of some sort. You've gone online to someone's website expecting to find pricing information. I'm sure some of you during that process have been disappointed or frustrated in that you did not find the pricing information that you wanted, right? Sound familiar?
So we all know that's the case. We go online to look for pricing information. A lot of times, we don't find it. When we don't find it, we get frustrated. That's just what happens.
Take a look in the mirror for a minute. Look at your business' or your company's website. Are you talking about pricing information on your website? My guess is that 99% of you are not. So we understand that we, ourselves, get super frustrated when we go online and we can't find information about pricing. What do you think is happening to the visitors that are coming to your website looking for pricing information? Yeah, they're getting frustrated just like you would. It's a two-way street. We expect to see the information. Your visitors, your prospects expect to see the information.
Now, here's the cool thing to think about. If someone is on your website, if someone is visiting your website and they're looking for information about how you price something. Whether it's lawn care or what a product might cost. I would say that person is kind of at the bottom of the funnel. They're getting closer to making a buying decision and they're on your website. This isn't someone that's just probably starting the early stages of research. These people are getting...if someone is looking for pricing information on your website, they're getting close to making a purchasing decision.
So give them the information that they need to get them closer to making that ultimate decision. If you don't give them the information, what happens? They just bounce, they just go somewhere else. They go to one of your competitor's sites, looking for the information. So you've got to give them the information.
Now, there's a couple objections that go with this. We get this from every client. I'm serious, this is one of the things that we're really trying to focus on in 2015 with the content that we create for our clients. We want to create a lot of content that's focused on cost, all right? We've started to do this already and we've already gotten push-back. Already. We approach a client and say "We want to write an article about the cost of outdoor kitchens," whatever. The immediate response is "Oh, no, we can't write about that. We can't share any of that information."
Our competitors will see that. Our competitors can't see how we price things. That's one objection, is competitors.
Here's the deal. My guess is you probably know practically everything there is to know about your competitors. You probably even have an idea of how they price things, don't you think, if you're being real? Don't you think you already know kind of how your competitors price things?
Well, it's the same with your competitors. They probably know how you price things as well. Not exactly how you do it. But they have a general understanding of how you're doing things.
So this idea of not wanting to put pricing or addressing cost-related issues on your website because your competitors are going to see it is BS, quite frankly. It's a terrible excuse. That's objection number one.
Objection number two, we get this from salespeople. This is a big one. "If someone has a question about price, well then, they need to call us." Do you think that way or have someone in your company that thinks that way? "If someone has a question about price, then they need to call us and talk to a salesperson."
Salespeople, they want to get people one on one on the phone. Here's the problem, though. It's a new day and age. Consumers have the control now. Someone who comes to your website looking for pricing information...if they don't find it, they're just going to leave your site. They're not going to pick up the phone and call you like you want them to. That's just not going to happen.
So let's wake up to the reality of the situation and actually approach the topic of cost and pricing on your website. Don't make people pick up the phone and call you or send you an e-mail because guess what? They're not going to do it. They're just not. So let's deal with the reality of that.
Those are the two big objections there related to cost. So how do you do it? I don't want to just rant about this and then not talk about exactly how we do this. So here's the deal with talking about cost. When it comes to cost-related topics, you don't have to get so specific where you're giving away your pricing list or anything like that. You need to address cost-related questions. You don't need to answer them. There's a big difference between addressing a question and answering a question.
Let me give you a few examples. Outdoor kitchens. Let's say you're a hardscaping contractor, landscape contractor, you build a lot of outdoor kitchens. I know one of the questions you get is "How much is it going to cost for an outdoor kitchen?" "How much do grills cost?" "How much does it cost to light an outdoor kitchen?" Whatever, there's tons of topics around that.
So if you're creating an article for your website that addresses that topic of cost, you don't need to write an article saying "An outdoor kitchen costs $12,000, between $12,000 and $15,000." No, all you have to do is address it. So what are the different cost considerations that go into building an outdoor kitchen? You've got paving. Paving can cost about this much or that much, depending on materials. You've got your equipment or your appliances, you can spend this much on your grill. You could add these features and spend this much. You could create an overhead structure for your outdoor kitchen. That could cost between this much and this much.
So really, you're just addressing the factors that go into the cost of something like an outdoor kitchen. You're not giving them a specific price. That's what I mean by addressing it.
Same thing with lawn care. You don't have to tell people "Our fertilization costs so much per square foot." You don't have to give your price list like that. You just have to, like I said, address it. Give people a ballpark. Let them know what they should expect, roughly expect.
If you want a good example of this, look at the blog post that we just published last week on Landscape Leadership. I wrote a blog post, I believe the title was "How Much Does It Cost to Redesign a Landscaping Website?" Something like that.
I actually got pretty darn specific in there and actually gave a range of costs. I don't expect you guys to do that. I do it because I'm very transparent and I don't mind putting that out there, I could care less. But if you want a good example of how to write one of these articles, I'll put a link in the show notes to that. That's the first subject that companies are really resistant to talking about, is cost-related stuff.
So get over it, okay? Who cares if your competitors see this stuff? They probably already know how you charge for things, so don't worry about that. And then as it relates to the salesperson who wants to get the person on the phone before they start talking about price, those days are over. Let's just deal with that. So start addressing cost and price right on your website. Right in the very early stages of a consumer's buying process.
Second subject that companies are never really thrilled about addressing: the competition. This is a good one. No one likes to talk about the competition, at least not online where everything can live forever. You might do it at a networking event or something like that, but companies do not want to talk about the competition online. Granted, this is a tricky one, it's very tricky. Honestly, this isn't as important as the subject of cost. But I want to show you how you can do this, I want to give you a really good example.
In the past, I've talked about a pool company in Virginia called River Pools and Spas. They crush it with inbound marketing. They wrote a blog post, I think it was in 2012 titled "Who are the Best Pool Builders in Richmond, Virginia?" "Who are the Best Pool Builders in Richmond, Virginia?"
This article, this blog post, a very short post. I bet it was less than 400 words. It featured five companies, five pool builders in Richmond, Virginia, none of which were River Pools who are also in Richmond, Virginia. So River Pools wrote an article featuring their top five competitors calling them the best pool builders in Richmond, Virginia and they did not even mention themselves as one of the five best.
Now, if we suggested a client of ours do that, they would say "Chris, you're a freaking idiot. There's no way in hell we're going to do that. Not a chance." Wouldn't that be your response? That's what not River Pools does. They think differently than everybody else.
So they wrote this blog post because they knew damn well that a lot of people searched for the phrase "The Best Pool Builders in Richmond, Virginia." Just like people search for "The Best Landscapers in Zeeland, Michigan." "The Best Lawn Care Service in Cleveland, Ohio." Whatever it may be, people search for that.
So River Pools said "Hey, you know what? We're going to answer that question. We're going to address that question with a blog post so people will find us. Once they are on our website because they found our article, well, we got them. We got them on our website. Now, we just need to close them."
That's the whole purpose of that. The article gets them to the website. Then because they approach the topic in a very unbiased way, they end up building a lot of trust and a lot of credibility with the website visitors who are looking for that information. Even though they're not listed in that article, but they're the ones who wrote it. So there's a lot of credibility in that.
I can tell you, River Pools has closed hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales from that article. Hundreds of thousands of dollars can be attributed directly to that blog post that did not even mention them as one of the five best pool builders in Richmond, Virginia. So do not be afraid to tackle subjects like this. You just have to do it in a very unbiased and respectful way. That's the key, unbiased and respectful. That's subject two, competitors. Number one, we talked about cost, competitors.
Number three, a subject companies don't like to talk about: services or products that they don't offer themselves. Services or products that you might not offer yourself. We go to a client and we say "Hey, I think you should write about..." let's say it's a lawn care operator. "Hey, I think you should write about mowing." But they don't offer mowing. They're a lawn care company, chemical applications, they don't get into mowing. That's fine.
But why shouldn't they create content around that topic? People are searching for it, right? Why not create content around that topic, draw people into your website? Because I can guarantee you, if someone is interested in information about mowing, chances are, they're probably also interested in information about some of your services, whether it's aeration or fertilization. Weed control, pest control, those types of things.
Why would you write about something you don't offer? Because you want to attract the folks who are interested in some of your other services that align with that service that maybe you don't offer. Like I said, a lawn care company, right? If you don't offer mowing, so what? You could still talk about it. Draw those people in. Sell them on something else that they're going to need.
Another good example of this is with our own website, with Landscape Leadership's website. We do this a lot. In the past, I've written a lot about advertising, just traditional advertising. I'm not a huge fan of traditional advertising and spending money, I would say "wasting" money on traditional advertising. But I understand it, I can write about it and I know people in our industry are searching for information on it. So I've written about it in the past and we get a ton of traffic and actually, a lot of leads because we've written about advertising. Even though we don't do that ourselves, we're not an ad agency. But we get a lot of new contacts because we talk about it. A lot of those folks are interested in inbound marketing.
Same thing with website design. I don't claim to be a website design company. We do it, but we only design and redesign websites for our clients. The clients that we work with on a monthly basis. Those are the only companies we really redesign websites for. We do an awesome job, we just don't want that to be our business.
But that doesn't stop me from writing about website design on our blog. Because I know if someone finds our website through a blog post about website redesign or website design, I understand that "You know what? They might also be interested in our content marketing services and all of the other digital marketing things that we offer." So we just use it as a way to pull them in. You guys should be doing the same things. You should not be afraid to create content around or about the products and services that you don't offer. Don't worry about that. If it's related to the things you do offer, then it's fair game, in my opinion.
So those are the three things. Cost, that's the big one. Writing about competitors. Then, number three, writing about services you might not offer.
All right, let's wrap this baby up. Getting a little long here. Again, I really appreciate you guys listening. Like I said at the beginning, I'm really excited about 2015. I hope you guys have awesome holidays, Christmas, awesome new year. Have a great 2015.
Do me a favor. Leave some comments. If you have any thoughts on talking about cost and things like that that I just covered here, if you have any opinions on that, share them in the comments, I'd love to hear it.
Then, I want to really get traction with this podcast. So if you could forward this, share it with a colleague or one of your peers even, I'd really appreciate that. Then, of course, if you subscribe to this on iTunes, go ahead and leave a review. That's always a big help, too.
All right, let's wrap it up. I hope you guys have awesome holidays and much success in 2015. I will come back with another podcast probably early January. So I will talk to you in the new year. Take care.