Cleveland-area lawn firm fuels growth with dedicated inbound marketing effort
Robert Palmer, left, founded Weed Pro in 2001 in his home town of Sheffield Village, Ohio. The company employs only licensed certified technicians.
Photos courtesy of Weed Pro.
Weed Pro is a 13-year-old lawn care company based in Sheffield Village, Ohio, about 20 miles west of Cleveland. It offers services in Cleveland, Akron and Columbus. Weed Pro does most of its marketing inbound.
The Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines inbound marketing as: “A Web-based sales technique that offers helpful material on a website in addition to information about the company’s products. The approach is designed to keep visitors coming back to the site on a regular basis. Examples include white papers, blogs, videos, e-books, glossaries, podcasts and current news. The Web opened a world of opportunities for inbound marketing.”
Owner: Robert Palmer
Headquarters: Sheffield Village, Ohio
Markets: Cleveland, Akron and Columbus, Ohio
Services: Lawn care packages, basic lawn services (including organic lawn care), tree and shrub care, landscape weed control, perimeter pest control, commercial properties and athletic field service
Employees: 17 year-round, 37 seasonal
Shaun Kanary is the full-time marketing director for the company and he’s moved the company’s marketing to include regular blog posts, white papers and other helpful website content. The goal for him, as well as other companies using inbound marketing, is to get prospects to his website through a social media channel, such as a blog.
The next step to inbound marketing is to get the prospect to commit to something, such as a free report on weeds, grubs or any other lawn care or landscape maintenance issue.
Weed Pro has many types of white papers that folks can download. In order for Kanary’s prospects to download a free report, they need to supply their name and email address on the landing page. Then, they get his free report and Weed Pro gets a contact name and email address to customize further touches, such as email marketing, a free video, etc. And hopefully all of these freebies turn prospects into paying customers.
Kanary makes sure that there’s new blog content every week to keep Weed Pro’s name forefront in the existing, as well as potential, customers’ minds.
“I remember when I first discussed the opportunity with Rob (Palmer, owner of Weed Pro), he remarked that it was unheard of in the green industry to hire a marketing professional to be a member of the team,” recalls Kanary.
Yet, Kanary says that Palmer realized the importance of adding a marketing professional to advance his company’s message. Kanary’s job includes using his marketing skills to present Weed Pro’s product, pricing strategy, placement and promotional plan to the sales team and to the public.
“I think that’s what makes our marketing so successful, the fact that I have an intimate knowledge and say in issues regarding the company, product and people in place here.”
About two years ago, Kanary made the move to gradually include inbound marketing to the company’s marketing plan. Even though many marketing professionals make the move to totally eliminate outbound marketing from their plans, Kanary decided to keep some outbound in Weed Pro’s marketing campaign.
“It’s been two years in December since we’ve started using inbound marketing, and I would say that we’re 75 percent inbound to 25 percent outbound. While that may seem slow to others, it’s been lightning quick to us internally,” says Kanary.
Weed Pro’s model
Why did Kanary move Weed Pro’s marketing toward an inbound model?
“The biggest decision factor when considering the switch to inbound marketing had to be the evolution of today’s consumers,” says Kanary. “Today’s consumers are smarter and their decision-making process has evolved, putting more emphasis on educating themselves using the Internet. We had to come to the hard realization that consumers could not care less about our company and products, but instead were more concerned with finding information that solved their problems. Inbound marketing allows us to provide solutions to their lawn and landscape problems; then it allows us to nurture them into customers.”
Google is the top dog when it comes to determining if a company’s Web content is succeeding. Marketers crave high Google rankings, meaning their company’s location on a Google search results page. Potential clients use specific keywords to find sellers and service providers, and the goal of those providers should be to be found on that first page, ideally at the top.
Before Weed Pro started its inbound marketing campaign, the company was ranked for less than 30 words on the first page of Google in January of 2012. Thanks to inbound marketing and using Hubspot (http://www.hubspot.com/) inbound marketing software, it is now ranked on the first page for 203 keywords with 78 in the top three, says Kanary.
“As far as new clients, we averaged around 50 new customers from Web traffic in 2010 and 2011. This past season, we obtained 641 customers due to our online efforts. The great thing about that number is a majority of them came through our blogging efforts. Using Hubspot’s reporting software, we were able to determine that for every 10 blog articles we wrote, we obtained eight new customers,” shares Kanary.
4 Inbound Marketing Platforms
There is a new man in town when it comes to getting the word out about your lawn care or landscape business. No longer can you get away with just outbound marketing, such as hanging door hangers, sending out mailers or offering coupons for 10 percent off of your green services.
Instead, the majority of your marketing thrust should be inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing has gained traction over the past 10 years. Since it’s been an effective tool for marketing and sales folks, inbound marketing programs will continue to grow in popularity for business development.
Here are the top four marketing platforms that came up under the Google search, “inbound marketing software comparison:” 1. http://Hubspot.com, 2. http://Pardot.com, 3. http://Vocus.com and 4. http://Marketo.com.
While only marketers and sales folks can truly say which service is the best, it is fair to say that any company that invests in one of these platforms also needs a full-time marketer to focus on the program’s development. It takes months to get to know a program, implement it and see the results. And a marketing professional knows how to use the results to grow your business.
He adds that not only does inbound marketing drive folks to your website, but you also become known in your region as an expert who people trust and turn to for solutions to their lawn care or landscaping problems. Another key to successful online marketing is developing relationships with prospects that turn into paying customers.
“By taking an inbound/content marketing approach, Weed Pro has established itself as a resource instead of an advertiser. By producing relevant, timely content, Weed Pro develops a relationship with our consumers as lawn experts, and someone they can trust to make their lawn look great,” Kanary says.
So, how does Kanary get all of this work done? He uses Hubspot to complete 90 percent of Weed Pro’s inbound content and marketing campaigns. At times, he outsources bigger projects to an agency to complete, such as the company’s website redesign. And he hires freelance writers to help him write blog articles.
Marketing vs. selling
While marketing consultants often work closely with the sales team, they’re not the sales team. Their role is more of understanding what your ideal client’s behavior, wants and needs are, and how your company can meet those wants and needs.
“Personally, I compare marketing more closely to psychology,” continues Kanary. “The key to a good lawn care marketing professional is the ability to understand how your consumers move through the decision-making process, and then being able to position your product and advertising that lead them through that process.”
He adds that lawn service companies should care about inbound marketing because as consumers develop and become more sophisticated, companies’ advertising methods need to as well.
“It’s not enough to have a website today, consumers are looking for an interactive experience with your brand,” says Kanary.
Obviously, as a landscape or lawn care service owner, you can’t do everything. So, you may need to hire a marketing pro or outsource your web content project to a marketing consultant. How do you find these folks?
Kanary knows that finding inbound marketing professionals who know the green business are hard to find. However, he emphasizes that a marketing professional’s writing ability and involvement in the green industry are the two qualities you should be looking for when you’re ready to add a marketing pro to your staff.
Experienced technicians provide the technical information and customer feedback that Weed Pro uses to produce its informative blogs and other digital marketing pieces that help attract new customers.
“Coming to Weed Pro was quite a learning experience for me. However, my best assets are the technicians who work here (at Weed Pro). The knowledge I share in my blogs comes directly from my discussions with them,” Kanary says.
And he knows the green business since his dad owned and operated a landscape company during his childhood. So, he had more insider knowledge than someone without the benefit of growing up in the business. Yet, Kanary’s degrees are in marketing, specifically digital marketing.
“I think the key to inbound marketing is to find someone who likes to create content. Creative writers who love to produce content on a regular basis often make the best inbound marketers. Look for those who are active with social media and blogging, sharing their opinions on a regular basis with a group of followers. These are often the people who can create well-organized and thoughtful inbound campaigns,” says Kanary.
If you want to learn more about inbound marketing, email Kanary at [email protected].