When it comes to selling your lawn or landscape business, you want to get the best possible price. And while everyone knows the importance of impressive balance sheets, there are other determinants of business success, too easily overlooked, which could attract a potential buyer.
“Over the past 25+ years, I’ve had some pretty candid conversations with people on both sides of selling lawn care and landscaping companies. Those stories are full of ‘I wish I had known’ statements,” comments Chad Diller, vice president at Landscape Leadership, a sales and marketing agency for the lawn and landscape industry.
Diller says sellers shouldn’t underestimate the power of optimized marketing and sales in bringing value to the negotiating table. Why does this matter and how do you achieve it? Diller takes us through the steps:
1. Targeted Market Positioning
Being everything to everyone doesn’t set you apart in the market. Positioning is an exercise in exclusion. Diller comments, “Your company should appear as narrowly positioned as possible to support the parts of your business that drive the most profit. This is one of the reasons why residential lawn care spray companies and commercial landscape maintenance companies frequently get acquired. They are narrowly focused on fewer services and a smaller target audience.”
One way to do this is to look at services that might be generating revenue and activity, but are not great profit centers. Dropping these lower value services may be something to consider. For more on this, listen to the podcast, Are Too Many Service Divisions Hurting Your Brand & Profit?
2. Great Clients
Any business owner knows that the right clients make all the difference. You may have ideal, loyal clients, but would they be obvious to a seller? “This is where Google Reviews can provide some validity to your claims. Develop a process to create hundreds of positive reviews over an extended time. The party acquiring your business will inherit those online profiles and their reviews,” comments Diller. For more on this, watch How to Get Google Reviews for Your Lawn Care or Landscaping Business.
Don’t be afraid to ask your best clients if you can feature them in a case study, notes Diller. These “stories of success” are not only a great sales tool, but exhibit the loyalty of your customers to a potential buyer. Featuring key employees in these stories also exhibits that customer relationships aren’t just about you‚ but are also driven by the team the buyer will be acquiring.
it’s worth noting to also be mindful of too many bad-fit clients or a poor online reputation that may need to be addressed before offering your business for sale.
3. Brand Strength
Do you have a strong, recognizable brand? “Let’s face it. If you swapped out logos and colors for many Green Industry companies, you would not be able to tell the difference between many brands,” comments Diller. Here are his tips for a stronger brand.
- Reputation. Join associations, cultivate relationships, and get your team certified. Participate in publications that highlight your company.
- Visual Consistency. Logo, fonts, and colors need consistency and a clean, modern design.
- Unique Messaging. Do you have a unique tagline and copywriting that resonates with clients and is used all branding in various mediums? If not, create one.
- Professional Media. “There are a lot of lawn care and landscaping companies that are more impressive than what their visual assets reveal,” says Diller. Invest in professional images of work, clients, and team members. “It can make a company look 10x its size!” comments Diller. Don’t forget videos, which can tell a more dynamic story. Again, make sure these assets aren’t solely featuring you, but rather your team and client base.
4. Strong Online Presence
Your website is an asset, just like equipment and team members. It’s the place to display everything above: your business’ positioning; client case studies; team expertise; branding; unique messaging; and professional visuals.
Remember, a buyer will inherit your social media platforms. If it includes a library of articles, portfolio images, and videos that drive social media users to your website, it’s a valuable asset as solid marketing strategy.
5. Proven Lead Generation
“Business buyers are all about predicting future success,” says Diller. This means: show me the leads! Can you show a potential buyer where leads come from and in what quantities? The steps mentioned above should be generating leads from: organic search traffic; paid digital campaigns; email marketing; social media; direct mail and print assets; and events and networking. “Using a comprehensive marketing and analytics platform such as HubSpot, as well as call tracking numbers and QR codes can help you quantify how your efforts perform. This can show a potential buyer that you’ve tracked as many data points as possible to make smart decisions so they can continue to grow the business,” says Diller.
6. Healthy Sales Process
Healthy sales can’t just be about your relationships as the owner. It’s critical to develop a documented, detailed sales process, followed by competent individuals, that closes business. If you have problem children on your sales team, get rid of them now, says Diller.
7. Tech That Tracks
Use CRM software that complements your documented sales process and measures as much as possible. A potential buyer will appreciate transparency in your systems and accountability for all sales team members. “Landscaping and lawn care sales success starts with measuring all of the activities that lead up to generating a proposal and then nurturing it through the pipeline,” says Diller.
As a final note, Diller comments, “Follow these tips and you’ll not only command a higher selling price, you’ll help create a more sustainable future for your employees and the new owner. That is the kind of legacy you want to leave behind! You’ve done a great job growing an amazing lawn business. Keep up the hard work until the end.”