As a digital strategist, I’ve talked to hundreds of landscapers and lawn care business owners regarding their Winter marketing efforts. Most either ask to have marketing efforts paused after October or ask if they should. My answer is generally the same – it depends.
Are you cutting marketing because cashflow is tight now, or are you instead cutting marketing expenses because you don’t see value in promoting a service that only delivers nine months out of the year? If cashflow is tight, you have limited options. But if you feel there is no value to marketing in Winter, then there are a few things to reconsider.
Yes, as Winter hits, people look for landscaping and lawn care services less. That’s just a fact, but the population never hits zero. In fact, data shows that people who contact lawn and landscaping businesses in the Spring started their search during December and January.
To Cut Or Not To Cut
Should you cut some marketing expenses in the Winter? Or should you cut all marketing expenses in the Winter? The answer to the first one is yes. Less people are looking for services. However, it doesn’t mean you should cut all marketing. Here are a few things to consider:
Commercial accounts. If you service commercial accounts or want to grow that part of your business, November and December are the worst times to cut marketing expenses. Companies’ fiscal years typically coincide with the calendar year, meaning annual budgets are being assessed at the end of the year into the beginning of the year. If a company, HOA, or apartment complex discovers they have budget for grounds maintenance they’ll start searching for a maintenance company in December and January. If you’re not in front of them while they’re searching, you’re missing out on that account.
Residential annual contracts. November and December is usually when LCOs (including your competitors) are sending out annual renewal letters to customers. These customers are in prime buying time as they’re getting ready to sign up for an annual contract. Just because they may be receiving a renewal letter doesn’t mean they are going to actually renew with their current company. They might not be satisfied with their current provider, their current company may have been acquired, or the renewal letter may include updated rates.
In any of these cases you’re going to want to be visible during this time. If the customer decides to search on the internet for another provider, you’ll want to show up. Another way to intercept these customers would be to mail them a postcard or mailer talking about your annual plan. I call this “conquesting.” Wayne Wilson of Inside the Box Marketing actually posted a great way to do this with postcards.
Searching In Winter/Waiting Until Spring
While the concept above has historically been hard to prove, with digital marketing we are now able to prove this behavior by evaluating search trends. The data shows Winter marketing produces Spring leads. The idea is that if you cut all your marketing costs in the Winter, your Spring won’t be as fruitful.
Just this month, we posted our annual landscaping and lawn care search trends report. There’s a lot of information regarding how people search, what devices they use, how they engage with websites, and when people search for lawn and landscaping services by the month. But there is one graph in there that sticks out the most.
The above graph shows the average clickthrough rate versus the average conversion rate of all of our lawn and landscaping clients over the course of 2021. “Clickthrough rate” is the percentage of people who click a search ad after seeing it, while conversion rate is the percentage of people who contacted the business after clicking the ad.
What we found was that the highest clickthrough rate happened in January at a massive 6.98%. That’s 58% higher than the yearly average. However, the conversion rate is the lowest of the year at only 4.26%. The data suggests a lot of people are actively looking for lawn and landscaping companies, but not contacting them as much in January versus other months. The big conversion rate spike is in April. That’s a commanding 10.3% conversion rate – 70% higher than the yearly average. Yet, the important thing to note is that the clickthrough rate has only increased marginally. This tells us that the active people searching in January didn’t decide to contact the business until April.
In other words, if you waited until March to start marketing, you were too late to catch that April wave. Sure, you’ll get some last minute customers who didn’t research in January, but you missed out on all of the January searchers.
How To Market In Winter
I wrote about how to market during the Winter in Turf several years ago. And while those recommendations still apply, there are a couple of additions, particularly relating to messaging that might help produce sales during the Winter, rather than just getting your name out there.
Drop your ad spend. Part of knowing how to market in Winter is knowing you shouldn’t be spending as much as you were in Summer. This is especially true with Google and Bing Ads. Search volume is lower so you should lower your ad spend. But don’t drop it down to zero. Make sure you’re still getting at least a 60% impression share on your ad delivery.
Plus, it’s important to note that Google Ads is cheaper in the Winter. A lot of lawn care and landscaping business owners and marketers pull their ad spend out of Google during the Winter because they haven’t read something like this. When there are less competitors running search ads, there is more supply for ad space which lowers your costs per click (CPC). When your costs per click are lower, your ads are cheaper to run than they were in the Spring. Winter is a perfect time to capitalize on cheaper ad delivery.
Conquest with postcards. Potential customers are getting their annual renewal letter from their current provider. This is the perfect time to sneak into their mailbox and get in front of them when they’re thinking about spending money with your competitor for an annual agreement. For landscapers who don’t offer an annual contract, this is still the perfect medium to upsell clients on a Spring project with a discount in help increase cashflow.
Offer a Winter discount. A lot of our clients don’t like the idea of giving discounts. They feel like it might cheapen the value of the work. I would argue that doesn’t hold quite true during the Winter. Discounts are a perfect way to get buyers to pull the trigger during the Winter. Offer 10-15% off (or however much you want) for an agreement to a Spring project or annual maintenance contract. This will not only entice customers to purchase in the Winter, but adds more people to the Spring schedule and Winter cashflow.
Ultimately, the decision to stop marketing in the Winter is yours. If you’re in a comfortable spot with your business and want to take the Winter off, go for it. If you’re trying to have a bigger business next year, my advice is to keep it going, but be smart about it.
Hundley is the CEO of Evergrow Marketing, a digital marketing agency that caters to the landscaping and lawn care industry. They create digital marketing strategies utilizing SEO, SEM, Social Media, Website Development, and UX optimization to deliver high quality leads with a measurable and positive ROI.