By Lenny DiTomaso
Throughout the 30-year span of my career in the landscaping business, I’ve seen a dramatic change in the way we market our business. Just ten years ago, the Yellow Pages were the most convenient way to search for a reputable service company. Today, people do an Internet search and call a company within seconds. But the one thing that has not changed during that time is the powerful influence of a referral.
I would estimate that 80 percent of our leads are the result of referrals, either from happy customers or other businesses that we consider partners. A referral gives you a foot in the door that you can’t get from a cold-call. If you’ve made someone happy through your work, they will tell other people. When someone else hears that, they’re going to want to give you a call.
Every time I meet a new customer, I give them a folder with a reference list of people from surrounding towns, my certificate of insurance, and my brochures. I’ve also sent out a mailer to about 500 existing customers with a coupon toward a plant or dinner if they refer us to a friend, from which I’ve gotten several calls.
Gaining referrals through business partnerships is another relatively simple way to grow the business. We’ve partnered with a pool company, an electrician and a plumber for 25 years. When someone needs landscaping around their pool, we get referred and vice versa.
Working with partners improves communication and ensures that issues are prevented or solved without customer involvement. It also provides more control of a project timeline. We can dictate when our electrician hooks up a line; avoiding the wait that sometimes occurs when other subcontractors are hired. Smooth working relationships with partners saves time and money that benefits all parties involved.
One happy customer can turn into several referrals, which are lost if the quality of service expected isn’t achieved. That’s why we also rely on Bobcat of North Jersey to provide quality equipment for all our jobs. Bobcat skid steer loaders have low ground disturbance so we don’t tear up our jobsite, which makes the customers happy and we don’t spend time cleaning up our mess. Not all companies care about those kinds of details. It’s a business mindset of putting the customer first, and just goes to show that word of mouth advertising is easy to accomplish by simply doing business right.
About the Author
Lenny DiTomaso is the president of Landscape Perceptions established in 1988. He graduated from Syracuse University and is a licensed landscape architect in New Jersey and Maryland. Lenny is a member of the New Jersey Landscaping Contractor Association, the American Society of Landscape Architecture, and also volunteers through Covenant House, a charity for homeless teenagers.