Monday, March 28, 2011

Social media — get with it!

The days of the uneducated customer are over. Kaput. Done. Finished. Extinct. History. Evaporated.

That's what Tim Miles, partner in Wizard of Ads, told an audience at the Water Quality Association in San Antonio recently.

He said that social media is revolutionizing how people research and share information. Given the choice to participate or not to participate — you have to go for it, said Miles. If your service offers benefits for the environment, improves people’s well being, adds value to their properties, etc. (sounds like the landscape industry to me) why wouldn’t you?

Other points he made:

— Never overestimate the importance of word of mouth.
— Technology is transforming commerce. Get with it.
— Transparency is not an option; it’s the reality.

Added Miles, there’s still no substitute for getting face-to-face with prospects or clients. (OK, so this isn't news to those of us in the landscape business, but it's good to get a reminder anyway.) — Ron Hall

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Here are the most valuable two minutes you'll spend on your business today

Can you spare two minutes to find out what really motivates your front-line employees? Money? Nope, says Mel Kleiman, the one-time owner of three different businesses, including the largest group of Hertz Rent-A-Car franchise locations in the United States.

Below is the URL for the 2-minute video from Mel sharing the 5 things your best employees want from their jobs.

We can guarantee you that it will be the most valuable business-building two minutes you spend today. Click here and tell us if you agree or not.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Oyler's presentation on sales got the troops stirred up

Tom Oyler, hobbled with an injured leg, nevertheless was at his animated best in sharing some of his sales and marketing thunder at the Next Level Network (NLN) University in Dallas recently. From time to time, in fact, he grabbed the wooden cane he kept at his side, and waved it around when making what he felt was a particularly vital point.

Wow, that kept everybody’s attention riveted on the speaker! That and Oyler’s recipe for marketing and sales success which he shared in his day-long presentation to a full room of managers from the seven participating NLN companies. They expected some powerful sales advice from Oyler who has sold tens of millions of dollars of landscape services and built and operated several successful Florida businesses . . . and they got it big time.

And as the presentation rolled along audience members started chiming in with their own experiences and thoughts, making for a lively exchange of ideas, some of which Oyler agreed with and some he challenged.

And why do we keep returning to the NLN event, since we’ve reported on it in previous blogs? The answer is simple. When we review our notes from the event we keep finding things to share.

In this post, let’s talk branding which Oyler says is one of the toughest things for a landscape company (or any high-labor service business) to establish. That's too bad. A brand is differentiator in the market with a “good” brand commanding a premium in sales.

So, what’s a brand, according to Oyler?

— A brand is a “living” thing.
— A brand is the “idea” about your company your created with your customers.
— A brand is what your company “stands for” in the market.
— A brand deals with every way you deal with your customers.
— A brand is “grounded” at the point of delivery of your goods and services
— A brand is a major differentiator.
— A brand is often poorly managed in high labor services industries
— A brand once established generally lasts a long time — for good, bad or for worse.

Again, the reason why you want to establish a brand, a "good" brand in the market is so that you can command a higher price for your services. And generally that's the case when everybody is offering pretty much the same services and saying pretty much the same things, such as "we can do it faster, cheaper and better." And who doesn't say that these days?

For the record: Oyler partners with Bruce Wilson in the Wilson-Oyler Group, a full-service consulting firm specializing in business improvement services to the landscape industry. Read Wilson's "Best Practices" column in Landscape Management magazine each month.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Lambert Landscape knows gardens like few other companies

One of my first assignments with Landscape Management (then known as “Weeds, Trees & Turf”) in 1984 was visiting Lieds Landscape, Sussex, WI, founded in 1945 by the late Delmar Lieds. I spent that soft, early-autumn day with Delmar (he passed in the mid 1990s) and his son, Tom, who was then running the company. The company is now under the guidance of Robb Lieds, the third generation directing the family business.

What I remember most vividly about that first facility tour is the colors and textures Delmar evoked in describing the “gardens” his company designed and produced for its clients. His love for plants and their unique characteristics, which he shared as the two of us walked a stand of blue spruce in the company nursery, struck an emotional chord within me that remains to this day.

Those of us in the industry talk about landscapes. We talk property maintenance. We talk lawn care.

Why don't we talk more about giving our customers "gardens"? Who doesn't like a garden, after all?

It seems to me that to answer that from a business perspective, at lea
st, we have to answer "yes" to two questions: 1) Do we have the special knowledge and skills required within our teams to install and to care for gardens? 2) Do we have a sufficient number of customers desiring, willing able to pay for them and their maintenance, recognizing that gardens are constantly evolving and maturing?

It's a brave landscape company, in this case Lambert Landscape, willing in late winter to show the gardens under its care — even in Texas where people are apt to be a bit more on the bold side. This time of the year the turfgrass (St. Augustinegrass in most cases) is dormant and brown, and residential gardens are a month or more away from even approaching their true attractiveness.

Several weeks ago I was fortunate (and delighted) to join a group of knowledgeable horticulturists from some of the nation’s top universities and tour gardens designed and installed by the Dallas-based company.

Lambert's Lara Moffat, MLA, director of marketing & recruitment, and several of her colleagues walked with us and answered our questions regarding the gardens their company had installed and maintains in Highland Park, an exclusive community three miles north of downtown Dallas. The gardens were impressive — the design, the attention to detail, the hardscape, the huge containers, the statuary, etc. — in spite of plant material still suffering from the unusually bitter cold and snow that dampened nearby Super Bowl activities several weeks earlier.

My main takeaway message from the afternoon walking the properties is that Lambert Landscape, founded in 1919, intimately knows its market, knows its customers' desires and needs, and the people on the Lambert team know gardens.

Enjoy some of these images we took as we walked the gardens of several of its clients. We look forward to sharing images of some of these same gardens on this blog when they're at their amazing best. — Ron Hall