Web Wednesdays

Posted: March 21, 2012 in Design, Marketing, Pinterest, Social Media

Pinterest Logo

One thing is certain, there is SO MUCH CONTENT out on the web one does not even know where to start.  I am constantly following blogs I don’t have time to read and still adding new ones that I find interesting.  So, here is where I am going to help you filter through it all.  Wednesdays I will highlight something I think is the ‘best of the web’, and Thursdays will be the ‘Best of the Rest’, or a link list for some of the great content I find out there.

So this week, this first Wednesday of Web Wednesday’s, I am taking a cop out.  I am going to highlight Pinterest.

I know, I know, you didn’t need to read my blog to hear about Pinterest.  Clearly I am not breaking ground here.  Consider this more of a confession… Hi, my name is Dominick, and I am officially addicted to Pinterest.

I use Facebook and find it a useful tool for both personal and business communication, but I don’t think I ever got hooked.  I came closer with Twitter because it provided for a little more random interaction.  But with Pinterest I find it not only useful, but fun, motivational, and random enough to be exciting.

And for savvy retailers, graphic designers, landscapers, and other visual professionals, an incredible marketing tool.

The other social and search networks work primarily on a text interface that also supports graphics.  Even for all the photos on face book, your status updates are all about your words.  I am blogging, so I appreciate words, but there is something about the overwhelmingly visual nature of Pinterest that can be very influential.  Someones pin board can not just share some info, but tell a story.  It like Facebook + Google images + StumbleUpon all in one.

So how could you use Pinterest for business?  Let’s say you are a tattoo artist.  You could start a Pin Board that includes you favorite ink from around the web, talk about what you do and why you like it, and reference how it compliments your own style.  You could also have a Pin Board for your own work that shares the link to your own web gallery so people who search Pinterest for Tattoos will find your work, and have a path to get back to you if they want it.  The ease that this could happen might be the best feature of Pinterest for businesses.  Much like Twitter, the beauty is in the simplicity.  Pining images, searching the site, liking, and commenting is very easy.

If you are not already signed up, do it.  Now.  Go.  Thank me later.

Tucking In The Kids

Posted: March 20, 2012 in Customer Service, Marketing

As happens most nights, I am the last one up at my house.  For reasons I have never quite figured out I am at my most productive between 9 and midnight.  It is also best time of day get a good politics fix (thank you Hannity and Stewart).

I always check on my kids before bed.  Tonight I gave my 3 month old back his pacifier, and put a blanket over the 2 year old.  I took the magazine off my wife’s lap, turned off her light, then got into bed myself.  Even though this is pretty standard set of events, I was thinking tonight about how important these things are to the family dynamic, and of course, what are the marketing lessons from them….

Neither son, nor my wife, will know I tended to them when they awake.  Thats fine, and its kind of the point, right?  These are not things that are done for credit or for reciprocation, they are genuine acts of affection and caring for thier well being.

Do you tuck in you customers?  To you fold their magazines and turn their lights off after they fall asleep?

Customer service needs to happen even when your clients are not paying attention, for two reasons.

1. It means that they will be more satisfied, even if they don’t know why.

2. It means you really care about your customers, clients, and ultimately that you really care about yourself and your own success.

Next time you are tempted to promote every little thing you do in your business, ask yourself, is there anything I do to tuck in my clients, and is best if I don’t wake them up to the fact that i am doing it?

Social Media at NLAE

Posted: March 16, 2012 in NLAE, Uncategorized

NLAEIn a couple of months I will be flying to San Antonio for the Nursery and Landscape Association Executives of North America annual conference. This is the second year I will be joining this great group of professionals to discuss issues facing our organizations and the industry.  Last year I stepped forward (or everyone else stepped back, still not sure what happened) when volunteers were asked for to help assemble this years conference.

During the planning call for this conference, it seemed that social media was still highlighted as needing to be on the agenda.  After some discussion we determined that a better approach was the integrate SM into the conference to give the participants the experience, rather than just have them talked to about the ins and outs.

Why does all that matter?  Many of the posts over the next few weeks leading into the conference will be geared toward engaging these association leaders and sharing relevant information.

We will see how it goes!

Having a baby!

Posted: March 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

I suppose ‘Had a baby!’ might be a more accurate title actually.  A little over two months ago, that’s exactly what happened to me, or I suppose more literally, to my wife.  This is our second child, and we are truly blessed to now have two healthy baby boys.

It is true what they say, kids change everything.  My life was sent into a tailspin experienced by every father before me.  Writing blog posts was the least of my worries!  I do think how ever that getting married and having children is a process that can’t help but make you a better person if you embrace the challenges and face them head on.  For the purposes of staying on message with this blog, here are some aspects of my business life that have improved thanks to my dedication to my family.

Scheduling:  When you work two jobs, have a family, a house, and several side projects, your daily schedule moves from empty pages craving to be filled to a closely guarded tool that only important and relevant meetings get added to.  I find it important to schedule meetings in clusters, and leave continuous blocks of work time.  Previously what didn’t get done during the day could be made up for  at night or on a weekend, and now, that is not an option.

Delegation:  Now that my wife and I have two children, I have quickly realized that I really can’t do it all on my own.  In the last few months my organization has doubled its productivity by establishing committees and hiring a new staff person mostly because I developed an appreciation I never had before for the saying “many hands make light work”.  Take a look and everything on your plate, and then decide if someone else can help you eat it!

Automation: When timing matters, I have come to rely heavily on automated features in the programs I use.  Setting the release of my blog posts or emails allow me to work on things in batches during scheduled work times, then have them all hit when I want.  If you want to time your social media check out hootsuite or tweetdeck.

David and Goliath

Posted: November 17, 2011 in Marketing

Small business are like David, and big business is like Goliath, right?  This is the analogy that is often used when the ‘little guy’ wins.  But what about this famous bible story should small business owners pay attention?

David was not the only one on the battlefield.

For forty days Goliath challenged the Israelites, and for forty days no one accepted the challenge, until David.  David was only on the scene to help his older brothers and bring them food.  Most business are not in a truly unique industry, but it is often the small business owner with the guts to stand up and take on seemingly impossibly challenges that reaps the greatest rewards.

He was guided by faith.

When David stood out from the crowd, he did it with confidence.  He knew that God had his back, because he knew what he was doing was right and good.  What are you conflicted about?  If you have doubt and reservations that constantly nag at you, it will be hard to ever stand out from the crowd.  A healthy amount of perspective us good, but if you gut is telling you what you are about to do is wrong, you might want to have a sit down with your gut before you make a big leap.

He played to his strengths.

The future King opted not to brandish a sword and body armor, but rather just take his sling.  Sometimes the best way to battle a competitor is to fight on your terms, not there’s.  What is your unique selling position?  What gives you an advantage over larger competitors?  If you are truly a small business you are probably more connected to the community, can react faster, and have less red tape to slow change.  Capitolize on your strengths, it is the best path to victory.

 

How familiar are you with this cycle:Paperwork

  1. work really hard and generate leads
  2. put all energy into selling (ignoring generating more leads)
  3. put all energy into doing ‘real work’ (ignoring other sales or lead opportunities)
  4. get caught up on paperwork (because you have no new leads to pursue anyway)
  5. Repeat
There are two issues at play here.  The first is internal, the second is external.  I want to focus on the latter.

Every time you correspond with a customer or a client it makes an impression. Even consumers who purchase primarily on price still have a certain level of expectation from your service. So don’t think of your bill as a bill, but as an impression. You always want to make a good impression.

When you invoice with consistency, regularly and on schedule, it does more than improve your cash flow. It tells your customers that you are serious about your business. It let’s them know that you are a professional. Consumers want to work with professionals.

Marketing equals everything. Even the most mundane experience can be turned into a message. What message is your billing practice saying about you?

Posted: November 11, 2011 in Customer Service

Pandora Radio IconIf you are in business, you have customers.  Some are loyal, some are transient, but all have one thing in common, they like what you do, and pay you to do it.  What would you do if you received an email from one of your clients (not your best client, just any old client) thanking you for a job well done?  Maybe they tell you about a bad experience they had somewhere, and how they are now happy with you handling their business.  What would you do?  Reply and say thanks?

Over dinner tonight a friend of mine told me a story of his interaction with Pandora Radio.  He had purchased a new HD radio and was very unhappy with the sound quality.  He also was not happy with the quality of his satellite radio.  He was surprised actually that the best sound quality he got in his car was when he was streaming Pandora off his phone.  For no other reason than to be nice, he emailed Pandora to tell them their quality was good, better than HD Radio, and he was happy.  He also sent an email to the manufacturer of the radio.

The radio company replied with a brief technical explanation of what the problem might be, but offered no recourse to fix it.  Pandora sent him a free t-shirt.

Pandora was not running a campaign to give away free t-shirts, and they were not doing to make amends.  My friend was already happy with their service.  What they did was realize that if you don’t give your customers a story to tell, then they have no reason to talk about your company.

We all want word of mouth, it has always been the best form of marketing, and the one you can’t buy.  In business it is a knee jerk reaction to fight to keep the unhappy customers, so much so that the good customers can often be taken for granted.

So next time an average customer acknowledges your work, ask your self, what is my ‘free t-shirt’ that might turn this passive customer into and active evangelist?

Thumbs UpIn a last minute change of schedule I find myself presenting on Social Media Success less than a week from now.  The focus this NJNLA meeting, the audience for which is mostly landscape professionals, is a primer for the business owner that keeps getting told he needs to ‘do social media’ but doesn’t have the time or understanding.

Here are the five points I think are important to anyone starting out in social media for their business.

1: It doesn’t matter if you don’t get it

One of the things I hear most is “I don’t get it.”  Facebook and twitter is not just about seeing what your niece had for lunch or how many row crops your sister planted in Farmville.  If you don’t like it or don’t understand it, that’s fine.  But here is the question you should be asking: Do my customers get?  Are they using it?

2: New marketing tools don’t negate old marketing rules

I often get the impression from people that starting in social media marketing is a binary decision: keep doing what I am doing, or start doing social media.  You need to do both.  Social media channels give you new insight into clients and prospects you never had before, but marketing this way is still about gaining trust and building relationships, same as it has always been.  Which brings me to number three…

3: What is the number one point businesses get wrong when starting in socail media?

They forget the most important word: Social.  These new tools are about having conversations, listening, having some fun, and building relationships.  Setting up a Twitter account, only to post “Click Here to see great photos of my last job”, is too much yelling, not enough talking.  Ask questions, read what others have to say, and learn what it is your clients want.

4: Facebook is not for everyone

I include this because Facebook is the point where most beginners begin.  Mostly because there kids or spouse or friends are on it, so that is where the pressure comes from.  Facebook can be great for a small landscape business, but there are lots of social media channels, and it is good to know your options.

5: It’s harder than you think, but don’t worry, there is an app for that…

Like any component of your marketing plan, social media needs a plan, and that plan needs to be executed on.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress and Youtube are all free to join, but the investment comes in the time.  There are tools available that will help you schedule in advance and save you time, like Tweetdeck and Hoot Suite.

Anyone can get started in social media, but knowing some of the in’s and out’s will mean the difference between a fruitful marketing campaign and just getting frustrated and going to play Farmville.

Marketing Equals Everyting

Posted: November 1, 2011 in Marketing

This is indeed an equation that is practical for business.  You could write it both ways of course, since everything is marketing.  This is an important and initial point for small businesses to understand before developing a marketing plan.  Your marketing plan is not a separate document that does not interface with other important strategic documents or action plans.

Marketing is not just advertising

Many people I talk to refer to their phone book ads or postcard mailings with a phrase like “we needed to do some marketing”.  While their statement is not on the surface inaccurate, it often points to a lack of understanding of the science and art of marketing, and how it affects your entire business.

Authentic Marketing

In my first post on authenticity I talked about being true to who you are.  Your business needs to act authentically as well.  Your customers have a higher awareness for ‘fake and false’ than they ever have.  It is so easy to be transparent in your business (thanks to social media and other online tools) that customers almost expects it.  The tension between what is real and what is concocted can’t always be explained, but it can be felt by the consumer.  Whatever your marketing strategy, it should cover your whole company, inside and out.

If you are not tracking, you are not marketing

I don’t remember where I heard this first, but it was several years about and it stuck.  ROI, Analytics, Insights… there are so many tools to understand how people are interacting with your company and your brand.  You need to track your marketing, because you need to know what is working and what is not.  Don’t leave this to conjecture, and don’t always trust what people tell you.  While I recommend asking a new lead “how did you hear about us”, it is more interesting to know how they actually found you or your website, and what other impressions you made on them that let to them searching you out.  The rule used to by 7 impressions were necessary to be noticed and remembered.  I have seen that number jump to over 30 by most estimates!  You need to be tracking what you are doing to make the most of your impressions, and not waste time on the ones that don’t matter.

Everything you do in your business, from the way you treat your employees to the way you send your invoices, should fall in line with your marketing plan.  Marketing = Everything.

Authenticity

Posted: October 30, 2011 in Green Industry, Landscaping, Marketing


To be authentic does not mean to be original.  I suppose the argument could be made that if we are acting with 100% authenticity, and we are all unique individuals, then it could mean original.  But remember this, in America, if you are 1 in a million, then there are 300 people just like you.

In New Jersey alone, it is estimated that there are over 4000 (some say as much as double that) landscape companies.  That’s over 190 per county, and more than 7 per town!  How on earth is a landscape business, or other related green business like garden centers, nurseries, irrigation companies, and tree experts supposed to stand out from the pack?

The answer is simple, there are LOTS of ways.

I started this blog with the idea of sharing my ideas, thoughts, conversations, findings, and questions with anyone interested in listening.  Mostly this is a marketing blog, with a focus on how creative and effective marketing can help small green industry businesses.  Other small businesses may find it useful.  I like calling it a marketing blog, because it leaves room for wiggle room into a lot of topics: branding, customer service, social media, design, business practice, and so on.

So your challenge is to be authentic, be yourself. The more that comes through in your business, the more you will succeed.  MY challenge is to be authentic in everything I write in this blog, so that the information is useful, relevant, and sincere.  And, as with your business, it wouldn’t hurt to have a little fun along the way as well.