Unfortunately, marketing is a necessary evil in our business, as in most others. Many landscape architects like me, have no training in marketing, even though we think we know how to advertise our services.
But here is an example of how the right kind of marketing from the right kind of professionals can get your business noticed by the potential clients. I have learned that it is important to work with professional marketing companies. Yes, cost is always a driving factor, especially for new or struggling business. However, you will still need professional help.
Our company has been in business since 2006, and during that period, we have been fortunate to win over 30 awards, including several in 2011. I wanted to find some way to promote these accomplishments to the public. So, one evening, I crafted what I thought to be a well-presented résumé of our company’s achievements and accreditations to add to our website and market the organization.
We learned early on the importance of having professionals design our website and do our SEO (Search Engine Optimization) marketing. We also recently decided as an organization, to direct most of our advertising dollars to SEO marketing. During our deliberations, we made the difficult and anguishing decision to completely remove ourselves from old school Yellow Page advertising. The numbers did not lie—Yellow Page advertising is all but obsolete. Our clients are educated consumers who now search the web to find what fits their needs. They are savvier and certainly do their homework. However, we still find that it is beneficial to retain a presence in some regional monthly magazines in an effort to maintain our name and appearance to the public.
After I drafted a summary of achievements, I showed it to the PR firm that does our website and SEO campaign to get their feedback. The initial response was “that’s nice, but it is not really news.” To say the least, I was a bit surprised that this information was only somewhat useful. However, they continued to inquire about the type of awards we won and whether any would be of real interest to prospective customers or address “hot topic” issues. One of our 2011 awards was for exterior LED low voltage lighting for an already impressive 12,000 square foot home. But for the holidays, we also added 147 strands of LED lights to create a truly spectacular but elegant Christmas display. Then we had it professionally photographed.
While this may seem like a bit much for some, it is what caught the attention of our marketing agency. They explained that they could circulate a press release to highlight our use of energy-efficient “green” aspects of LED lighting (the “hot-topic” item), show off the professionally-photographed house during the holiday season, and note that we are an award-winning company to boot. It seemed like the perfect plan.
The agency sent me the draft release with a price quote that, needless to say, caught my breath—$1,450.00. While the timing seemed perfect (it was December), I was vacillating on whether to accept this pricey proposal. So, I requested further details about the press release and what was involved so I could justify the cost in my mind. The agency broke the cost down and provided more options, and after a weekend of thought, I decided to trust my initial instincts and move forward with the press release.
After one week, I received a notification from the PR Newswire that they picked up the press release and went national with the photo and the company name. WOW! It was thrilling to know that we had hit Times Square and the Las Vegas strip. We also learned that the notice was picked up by countless news wires across the country. The press release really increased our organic search results, as well our presence on the social media network. I was utterly amazed at the power of the Internet and the capability of reaching so many people. With business being so difficult at times, it was great to hit a grand slam at the close of the season. We would never have had these results with a simple addition to our webpage.
Hopefully things will improve for us all in the near future. While we have to be our own best advocates to secure jobs, we also need to find professionals we can trust who know best how to promote not only our own businesses but the profession of Landscape Architecture in general.
In summary, the marketing strategies I most highly recommend are:
- Work with a professional designer to create a website for your business that is appealing, easy to navigate, and answers basic questions. You can only get so much mileage from print ads and word-of-mouth. People want to research their options on the web.
- Have your projects photographed by a professional. It makes all the difference to highlight the best aspects of your work in the most attractive way.
- Look for opportunities to stretch your exposure. For me, having an eye-catching holiday display that was noticed by our PR agency made a huge difference. We got some amazing results from the press release that would not have created the same buzz without the photo.
Steve Chepurny, ASLA, is a landscape architect of the president of Beechwood Landscape Architecture and Construction, LLC in Southampton Township, New Jersey and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.