A new year is upon us, and this is the time of year where anything seems possible. Lawn and landscape business owners are reviewing what worked last year and planning for the coming season. A key part of planning is having an idea of the obstacles and opportunities that will be in your path, so let’s look at 7 trends that will impact your lawn or landscape business in the months ahead.
Is your website designed to tell your brand’s story and convert visitors to leads? Does your social media presence showcase how amazing you are? We can hardly say that online marketing as a trend is unique to this year, but every year it becomes more and more important. Google is constantly changing not just what you need to do to show up on page one, but how those results are displayed.
If you’re not also encouraging customers to give you online reviews, it’s time to start! You can see in the screenshot above that the map listings – which show up just below the paid ads and above the rest – now show review ratings. That company with the 5 star rating sure stands out, even if all three are equally good. Getting those online reviews can help your business in several different ways.
For a lot of your customers, their home is the most expensive purchase they’ll ever make. This makes hiring a contractor to modify or maintain their property is scary for many. If they don’t understand what all goes into what you do (and let’s be honest, most don’t), they can be put off by what landscaping actually costs.
For this reason, customer experience is key. There are so many retailers setting a high bar for service, both online and brick and mortar, that your customers are coming to you with high expectations. The good news is that there are several tools and services that can help you be responsive and attentive without dramatically increasing your workload. SMS messaging services can send alerts to customers about service dates with the push of a button; products like Describeit help you get your proposals turned around quickly; and collaboration platforms like Trello or Asana can help your clients feel like there’s a line of communication – without your cell phone ringing at 11 pm.
Native plants/ecological landscaping
Natives plants are the new hotness with a lot of homeowners. Ten years ago you were lucky to find one small booth selling natives at the nursery trade shows. Now there are dozens of vendors to choose from! Whether you offer maintenance, design, or installation services, natives present an opportunity and a challenge.
Native plants are a huge opportunity because it doesn’t take a lot to be knowledgeable enough about them to add them as a service line. Additionally they’re still fairly sparse at retail in a lot of markets, so if you can source them from quality vendors you’ll be ahead of the competition.
What makes natives (and other ecological landscape practices) a challenge is that there’s still a lot of confusion and misinformation about them. Many homeowners seem to view natives as a cure for everything that will always grow perfectly and never need water or care. You know this is far from the truth. Being able and willing to educate your client base about how to care for natives, and what to expect from them, will help your lawn or landscape business grow.
We talk to dozens of landscape professionals every year, and we’re finding that a growing number participate in industry peer groups. Generally speaking, these are groups that are led by an industry consultant. The members are company owners from around the country (so that they’re not in direct competition with one another) who get together several times a year. They open their books and share their numbers and key performance indicators and compare notes on what’s been working and what hasn’t. A peer group can provide a boost to your business and it’s worth looking into. You can find one by asking your local landscape association, looking through a national trade association like NALP, or by doing a Google search.
You don’t hear about too many contractors these days who don’t have cell phones, do you? They’re just so useful, especially smart phones. Tablets too, actually. Many software tools now have mobile apps for phone or tablet, allowing you to send invoices, pull up client histories, even log employees in and out of a job. I should mention that Describeit offers mobile support for several functions, even at our starter plan. Customers expect a responsive landscape company (see #2 above!), technology can help you be everything they could want.
The old expression “greater than the sum of its parts” certainly applies to tools that work together. These days it’s rare to have to use one piece of business software for functions A-C, log out, then log into a different one for function D. Software companies can use what’s known as an API key to allow one application to “talk” to another. A perfect example of this is Describeit’s integration with Quickbooks. This allows you to still create great looking proposals, create invoices, and get all the reporting functions you could want, all while using Quickbooks – without having to enter things twice.
A lot of posts talk about the challenges in the labor market. It’s definitely a challenge, but we wanted to end on a high note! So here’s why we’re optimistic about the future of the landscape business: more communities are realizing the value of preparing students for a wider variety of career paths. That means more vocational and technical training centers, which means more students coming out of high school with not just technical skills – they’ll know how to solve problems and make things work.
All these lawn and landscape business trends will favor landscape professionals who are always on the lookout for ways to build a better business and provide a better customer experience. If that describes you, have you looked at Describeit yet? We’re here to help you take your business to the next level.