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Expert Interview: Using Customers in Landscaping & Lawn Care Marketing Photography

Picture of Chad Diller Author: Chad Diller

When you think about your lawn care or landscaping company's brand, the last thing you would ever want to be seen as is average. But unfortunately that describes the majority of companies in our industry.

One of the ways that they reinforce this average perception is by using stock photography or amateur photos. So today, I am going to introduce you to one of my friends, Mike Miville, who does a lot of photo shoots for our clients at Landscape Leadership.

We're going to talk about some of the most powerful images that you would use on your website and how you can make them not just look average, but WAY above average.

Stay tuned.

(Check out the video with description, resources, comments, etc. on YouTube)


Video Transcription

Chad:  So one of the things that we do on shoots is we often tell clients, in the beginning, that it's really important to have people in your pictures.

Mike:  Absolutely.

Chad:  Companies in general, not even just lawn care and landscaping industry, are really notorious for marketing to an external solution or an external problem. Like, I want green grass or I want a patio in my backyard. But people buy your service or products have a very specific internal problems that they're dealing with.

Like, my deck is so small that I can't have more than two people over for dinner. Or when I get home, my lawn looks so bad, I just want to drive right into the garage and hide from my neighbors. So we want to get into that deeper part of our prospect.

For the website visitor or someone that's seeing marketing materials, we want to show them somebody that's just like them, that has had a pain or a problem, and now they're succeeding. And the way that you do that is through photography that includes people in some of the foundational, most important images in your marketing arsenal.

We like to call them, specifically on a website, a hero image. That's the first image that you come to when you go to the homepage or a service page. And so, on our photo shoots together, we have instructed clients, that it would really be great if we could get people in these pictures. But that often comes with some challenges, right?

Mike:  Oh absolutely. You know, when we're talking about having people in these, it's because people want to see themselves in a scenario. Some of the challenges that we face are not using professional models. If you're able to have models, we always highly suggest that because they just give you the best quality. They usually work a lot quicker cause they're used to being on camera.

But you know, we can and do constantly work with amateurs and just homeowners or whoever is there. It just takes a little while longer to to build a rapport with them and to get them comfortable on camera.

Chad:  Yeah, I mean, we understand that a lot of times when we start working with clients, they've used low cost professionals or have done a lot of in-house amateur photography, and it's not always the best.

So it's a little bit of a jump to even get to photography that is done by a professional, let alone pay your (Mike's) kind of rates (laugh). And to hire professional models for the day could be a big chunk of change.

But I think we've still been successful. We've gone to landscaping and lawn care company owners and we've asked them for family members, friends, maybe even teammates that maybe plastered all over the website, like a salesman and his family or a long-time client that fits the bill.

And those are stand-in models, amateur models that we've used in pictures. So tell me a little bit about using amateur models like this. What are some of the things from a direction standpoint, that we have to do when we first start working with them and how do we transition it from being kind of awkward to kind of a little more natural?

Mike: Yeah, so working with amateur models, it is one of those things where you have to massage things a little bit more and finesse things. Most of the time it, it just takes a little more time up front to kind of build a rapport, calm them down, and relax them. We hav to set a scenario that feels more natural, where they can forget the camera's there and just be themselves. If you give them a little direction up front, not too much, I feel like I get the best reactions like that. 

Chad:  Yeah, like some of the situations that we've run into where like, you know, lawn care photo shoots where we are on the lawn, or in an outdoor kitchen photo shoot. If you think about those situations in actual, real life, what are you doing with your kids? You're playing ball with them. If you're in your outdoor kitchen, you're grilling. And so we've used props and we've just inserted ourselves into the party. We're  behind the scenes and we're just kind of having a fun time. We might be a drink with them or a cup of coffee. We just tell them, "Listen, just pretend I'm your buddy and I'm here hangin out with you", or things like, "Just go out there and play ball with your kid and have fun." 

We've been able to capture some really great powerful images, That's what people buy, you know,? They're not buying lawn care program. They're buying those moments with their son in the backyard or having people over.

So we each have our favorites. Some of them are shared favorites, but there's so many great images that we've gotten on photo shoots, that had people in them, the real heroes. These are the people that are going to hopefully buy our clients' services.

There have been a bunch of those. So tell me what were some of the favorite images that you think we've shot for lawn care?

Mike: One of my favorite images was one for Oasis Turf & Tree. It was of a grandfather and a grandson who was probably three. They were sitting by a fire. I was trying to capture an emotion of the connection between the two of them, as opposed to just like blades of grass with them sitting in it.

So they were sitting in a chair near the fire pit and they were kind of connected doing their thing, and I was just snapping away. And this is one of the things I have to keep in mind as a photographer doing commercial work...Yes they are cute and yes, this moment is really special, but we're still selling a lawn care service. So I have to kind of keep that in the back of my head.

So when I was photographing them, I had to place them in a position where I could still see the lawn in the background. In this feeling and emotion, the lawn is secondary, but the feeling and emotion of being able to enjoy the space with your loved ones, that's the number one. That's really what you're trying to, to push forward a connection. And this photo is just really captures all of that.

Chad:  Yes! We have several of those, with other people in the family there, too. Some shots are more tight, close-in where they're actually on the lawn and some that are pulled back a little bit. And again, like you said, when you look at the image in isolation, it might seem like a picture of a grandfather and grandson, but when it's in the context of being in lawn care marketing materials, it creates a deeper emotional connection. 

Mike:  Exactly. Another really powerful shoot we did was a for Kingstown Lawn & Landscape in Virginia.

Chad: Yeah. You know, there's a couple of things that, when you think about why you want to buy a service or why you haven't bought a service, there's really two places people's brains go.

You're having a pain or a failure. Something is going tremendously wrong. Or, there's a success that you're trying to steer people to. So those are really great images. Like the Kingstowne Pest Defense images. It reminds me of the failure, if I'm going to do it myself or if I'm not gonna do anything about it.

So explain what you were trying to do when we shot those pest control images for that part of their business. Y


Mike:  What we were really trying to capture and go after was the expression of frustration. You know, homeowners can get really frustrated with trying to figure out all the different aspects, all of the different products that you could accumulate over time. Plus, not really knowing what they are supposed to do can really be frustrating.

Chad: Yeah, solutions that don't work.That was an easy thing for us to paint there. The other thing that comes to my mind is the success of building an outdoor living area. People want a place that they can relax or create memories. We were able to do that in some photography for the website with some situations that we simulated. I think it was a couple that the owner was friends with. They didn't have any kids or they weren't available. So, we actually used the owner's daughter on the shoot. Temporarily adopted, you know, for that shoot.

Mike:  You use what you have available sometimes. It just worked out to be able to use her and that couple who were already using for some other than the photos.

Chad:  So we hope this brief look into our conversation about professional photography for lawn care and landscaping has helped you understand not only just the importance and why these images are so powerful.

We hope that you can also better understand what goes on behind the scenes and some of the things that are helpful to think about whether you're working with a professional photographer or an agency that's also helping with the direction of that.

At the end of the day, really all we want is for you to succeed in your landscaping or lawn care business and professional photography, images with heroes, people in the pictures, is one way to do that. Thanks a lot. Hope you're having a really great day.

Want regular, practical tips like these to take your lawn care or landscaping business to the next level? Then consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. Or if you'd rather read our in-depth articles on Landscape Leadership's website, you can also subscribe to our blog   

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Picture of Chad Diller

About Chad Diller

Chad is the President of Landscape Leadership. Prior to joining our team he served as a marketing manager for one of the Top 150 Companies in the Green Industry. In addition to his vast marketing experience, he also has held certifications such as an ISA Certified Arborist and Landscape Industry Certified Technician. He currently resides in beautiful Lancaster County, PA.

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