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Happy Holidays

Posted by on Dec 7, 2013 in SEO | 0 comments

Wishing you Happy Holidays and a New Year filled with prosperity and success!

What Should be Part of My Branding Repository?

Posted by on Nov 7, 2013 in SEO | 0 comments

Landscape Management — October 2013

What Should be Part of My Branding Repository?
Lara Moffat, ASLA

 One of the more frequent questions I hear is, “What really should be a part of a marketing plan?” Effective branding and marketing starts with a communications strategy suitable to a company’s business model. Only after distinguishing a business’s culture, clientele and services, can a company develop a fitting communications strategy—and one including messaging, content and platforms (traditional or digital).

Another question I frequently receive is, “What’s the difference between marketing and branding?” Marketing is tactical, a process identifying target consumers, effectively communicating with said audience and initially retaining them. Branding is strategic. It expresses characteristics, values and attributes that create engagement, loyalty and referrals. I advocate brand marketing focusing on communicating the brand message to drive awareness and encourage engagement.

So what should be a part of a branding repository? A repository is a collection of content, including copy (verbal and written) and imagery. Depending on the medium, a communication may be timeless or have a shelf life. Once you’ve created effective content, file it where it’s easily retrievable. Don’t be afraid to revisit past campaigns. Just because imagery is outdated doesn’t mean the message is irrelevant. The following are components of a rich branding repository.

Consistent messaging. First, define your personality. Specify the services you offer, the demographic of your target audience, what differentiates your company and what matters to you as a professional. Being as specific as possible enables you to create messaging that resonates with and engages prospects, clients and industry colleagues. Remember, though, people buy a service based on the benefits of the service, not because of the service. Consistent and clear communications that place the consumers’ needs first will keep you top of mind and build brand loyalty.

Complementary collateral. Your letterhead, business cards, proposals and contracts need to be complementary. The look and feel of each must have a unified appearance because it reflects the professional nature of your business and, in some cases, is a deal breaker for whether you’re awarded the project. Beyond appearance, especially in legally binding forms, review them for consistent copy.

Professional promotional materials. Invest in quality graphic design and professional printing. Just because you know how to use a desktop publishing program doesn’t mean you should. Your office printer is fine for certain applications, but a professional printer is the best option. As with complementary collateral, professional promotional materials often sway a prospect.

Interactive website. A website is a company’s online communications specialist, though many sites remain static. If you haven’t added a blog, don’t delay. A blog allows you to further engage visitors, showcase your companies’ personality, highlight your interests and helps with search engine optimization. You have only two or three seconds to make a good first impression online. Be sure your website mirrors your promotional materials and is streamlined for easy content navigation and intuitive user engagement.

Suitable social media. Look to your target audience when deciding which social media platforms are right for your business. The big three are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, followed closely by Houzz and Pinterest in the residential market. Each platform has its own advantages and a different way to engage. LinkedIn can be an amazing tool for consultants and managers, if used properly.

Purposeful public relations. Support the community that supports you. Being involved in the community benefits your company image, but it’s also important for your employees. Psychologically, helping others strengthens the bonds of a group and develops employee loyalty. Fulfilled employees are typically your best marketers, so share your stories online and in press releases (locally and nationally) before, during and after events.

Effective networking. Being visible, whether through community involvement or networking, is paramount in today’s marketplace. With active lifestyles, it’s imperative to be involved and reachable. Your target audience, however, determines how often and in what capacity. Even as time is limited, networking is effective only if you take a sincere interest in the person and enrich the relationship. Supplementing face-to-face interactions, LinkedIn allows you to engage your audience even when you’re unable to meet in person.

Where you invest your branding efforts will differ depending on the market sector, consumer and community. Start small and focused so you allow time to direct your initiatives effectively. Consistency and professionalism should be your guiding principles. As time and staff permit, add another strategy and continue to review what’s resonating with your prospects, clients and industry colleagues. Through effective brand marketing, you’ll build awareness, encourage engagement and create lasting relationships.

Promote the Industry, Promote Yourself!

Posted by on Oct 23, 2013 in SEO | 0 comments

Lawn care technician, owner – who’s picky about a title? Lara Moffat of LM Creative Consulting, and she explains why in this preview for “Promote the industry, promote yourself!” her Learning Lounge talk at GIE+Expo.

Midyear Review: Brand Management

Posted by on Jun 20, 2013 in Branding | 0 comments

Midyear Review: Brand Management 

Lara Moffat, ASLA, LM Creative Consulting, PLANET Member Consultant

PLANET Front News, June 2013

For many companies, it is almost time for midyear reviews. Spring is behind them and they are preparing for the summer. As they are reviewing their financials, it also time for them to take a look at their overall brand and assess their marketing strategies.

When was the last time you evaluated your brand, and were you successful in aligning it with your business model? Simply, branding is how you and your business are viewed in the market place. Though it is not simple! It takes a process to create, time to develop, and—the big one—CONSISTENCY to endure.

Branding is also not just a marketing concept, it plays a part in how every aspect of your business is communicated and perceived. The saying may be cliché, but “Perception is Reality” in the eyes of the consumer, and you want to be perceived favorably. Think of all the contact you have with your team, clients, and community at large … how are you and your business viewed?

There are several questions to ask when defining your brand; here are the basics:

1-      What core services or products do we offer?

2-      Are we servicing what our market wants?

3-      Do we need to modify our business model?

4-      How are we perceived by our employees, clients, competition, and prospects?

5-      Do our team members have a clear understanding of their roles in our overall success?

By answering these questions you will be on your way to clearly specifying your services, identifying your market, and differentiating your company, which will help determine how to manage your brand. Use the following to further define your branding and start developing a plan.

Creating your message

State what services or products you offer.  The more specific you are about the services or products you offer, the more likely you will be to communicate accurate messaging to your community at large, including internally to your team and externally to your customers, industry colleagues, and prospects. If you are routinely contacted by consumers regarding services you do not offer, then it is definitely time to review what message your employees, your promotional materials, and others are sending to prospects.

Determine what motivates the decision makers in your key market. Knowing your target audience is essential to market to any given audience effectively, so you need to identify the consumer behavior that motivates your specific group. Consumer behavior is the study of when, why, how, and where people do or do not buy a product or service. This information will vary greatly from residential to commercial and tree sales to high-end landscape construction projects. In addition, it is important to note that people really don’t buy a service because of the service; they buy it based on the benefits of the service.

Promote what differentiates your company from another. At first blush, many landscape companies offer the same services from the consumer’s perspective. But, as stated above, your client is more concerned about the benefit they receive than with the service. Try to define a personality, such as a clients’ lifestyle, a company’s involvement within the community, or a business’ sustainable practices, that authentically speaks to your target audience, business model, and community culture.

Communicating your message

Once you’ve “defined a personality,” it is time to manage your brand. Develop a plan that reviews and integrates all contacts your business has with your marketplace: employees, clients, industry colleagues, collateral, marketing, equipment, etc. Every impression makes an impact on branding, and professionalism tops the list as the way to build a positive brand. Think about the individuals you respect. I’d wager you have a high regard for them because they are a professional in their words, actions, and appearance. The same is true for your business.

Train your employees to be professional by valuing what they do and that investment will have a high rate of return. By engaging your employees and making them aware of the business direction, you will build ownership and develop a team mentality. Set expectations: first, through leading by example, and second, by holding yourself accountable. Put in place tools and guidelines that enable all to achieve. Then, expect attention to detail, from the cleanliness of the fleet, to the consistency of marketing materials, acknowledging the successes and constructively course correcting the misses.

Each year, devise a focus. Work with your entire team, senior management through crewmembers, in the initial year, and lead exercises that give them the basis to communicate your brand. Start with a concise and clear mission statement or tagline—a succinct version of an elevator speech. Ensure everyone understands it and lives it. Remind them of the message in speech, in conduct, and print. Share it in conversations with clients, networking with colleagues, releases to the media, and in your promotional collateral. By embodying and embracing your brand, your company will be hard to miss in the marketplace!

In April, I led a PLANET webinar titled “How to Define and Manage Your Brand” that covers this topic in more depth. After reading this article, and if you are interested in learning more, then I recommend reviewing the presentation online in the webinar archives which can be accessed at LandcareNetwork.org and following the instruction on the Webinars page under the Events/Education tab.

Lara Moffat, owner of LM Creative Consulting and former director of marketing for a nationally recognized Design/Build/Maintenance firm, brings a diverse educational background (degrees in art, psychology, horticulture, and landscape architecture) and a wealth of landscape industry experience to her approach to strategic marketing, public relations, and branding that’s ideal for any size business. Moffat understands how to market to clients desiring a luxury good as well as those requesting a service product. Through her strategic process, she can help you analyze your business, develop a tailored marketing plan, and align an integral message, both internally and externally, with your overall business plan.

What Consumers Want: What They Value

Posted by on May 6, 2013 in SEO | 0 comments

            

 

Landscape Management — May 2013

Green Industry marketing experts translate the results of PLANET/Harris Interactive’s  consumer survey.

In December, Harris Interactive conducted an online survey on behalf of the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) to discern homeowners’ landscape priorities. The study was conducted among more than 2,800 U.S. adults.

To learn how some of the study’s results can be used by landscape professionals to improve their messaging, we tapped three Green Industry marketing pros to give us their take. Here’s how they broke it down:

“Looking at your communications, are you targeting these themes (homeowner pride, property values and relaxation) when you market? If not, it’s time to make adjustments to your messaging. Think about your elevator speech and ensure your wording paints a clear picture of your work to a prospect. For example, ‘The gardens my team and I create complement our clients’ beautiful homes, enriching their lifestyles and giving them more time to relax with family and friends.’

In reviewing images for future materials, which ones speak to pride, relaxation and property values while mirroring your sales messaging? Clients often don’t know what they want, but they do know what they don’t want. Plan your marketing well and help them make educated decisions.”

Lara Moffat, ASLA, LM Creative Consulting

 

Press Releases: Spend the Time or A Waste of Money?

Posted by on Mar 21, 2013 in SEO | 0 comments

“(Press releases) are not dissertations, these are not long articles. You want to have a hook and you want to include some information in the body portion on why people would be intrigued by this story.”
–Lara Moffat

A Consistent Message

Posted by on Jan 30, 2013 in SEO | 0 comments

Lawn & Landscape Market Leadership “Marketing consultant Lara Moffat talks about the most important aspect of a green industry company’s marketing plan, and how long it should take to implement it.”

How to Market a New Service: A Marketing Strategy

Posted by on Dec 18, 2012 in SEO | 0 comments

Things to think about before you launch that new line…Full article online by Rod Dickens…

 

 

Happy Holidays

Posted by on Dec 18, 2012 in SEO | 0 comments

How to Network in the Digital Era

Posted by on Dec 3, 2012 in SEO | 0 comments

To network successfully, you need to know when to surf and when to turf!

 

 

 

Nov./Dec. PLANET News

Department: Feature Story

By Lara Moffat, MLA

How to network in the digital era

You’ve just come back from an event and you have a stack of business cards now piled up on your desk. Adjacent to that pile is a mountain of paperwork that needs your attention. Do you have a system that ensures both can be addressed? I’ve heard it asked time and again, “How do I manage my network and continue to be productive with my business?” “Who has time for email, let alone social media platforms?” Actually, you do.

Articles on social media currently dominate most marketing discussions and place an emphasis on the importance of being technologically savvy. What these dialogues tend to sideline is the importance of relationship building through personal interactions. To network successfully, you need to know when to surf and when to turf.

Networking Basics

As we all know, the key to successful networking lies solely in making connections. And how often you connect depends on the contact, your relationship, and the mode of communication. Understanding the way an individual likes to communicate is as vitally important as the purpose of the message.

But first, you need to get to know the person. Right now, before you even finish reading this article, think of three items of interest that might be talking points when you are introduced to someone new. Introductions can be awkward, so being prepared to communicate and relate should be top of mind. Singularly, the goal of initial conversations is to find something of mutual interest, whether it is a common friend or a shared activity.

When introduced, take a sincere interest in the person and ask engaging questions that spur a conversation. However, especially at events, know when to move on so as not to monopolize the person’s time to meet others. And, before saying your goodbyes, exchange business cards, and then do follow-up. Connecting via LinkedIn is one of the best and easiest ways to reach out to a new contact. Be sure to mention the meeting and refer to something specific that came up in the conversation. If you have an article that would be of interest, connect first on LinkedIn and then send an email later in the week.

Network Management

As previously mentioned, the way a person likes to communicate is as important as the message. Consider how you like to communicate. Do you pick up the phone or dash off an email? If a contact repeatedly answers your calls with an email or a text, then it is a safe bet that he or she prefers this mode of communication. It may be a preference based on that person’s workload or a matter of the person’s age, not necessarily an avoidance to chat. Either way, keep the message brief, professional, and clear.

Try to respond to an individual’s connection as soon as possible! It may be hard to conceive; nevertheless, texting is now part of mainstream business communications. It is used to send quick responses or messages when a phone call can’t be made and is time sensitive. Again, keep texts brief and on point as with emails and social media platform messages such as LinkedIn or Facebook. Lengthy emails, phone calls, and most letters should be replied to within 24 hours depending on the response needed. If you need to address a matter with delicacy, pick up the phone or, if possible, set up a face-to-face meeting.

Client Management

In the green industry, we visually remain in the forefront of our clients’ eyes through the care of their landscapes. Depending on the sector you service, the attention you provide can be seen multiple times a day. Responding to your customers’ landscape needs depends on the urgency of the matter and the temperament of the client; however, someone within your company should respond the same business day. Again, respond to clients in the manner they prefer.

Remember, consumers don’t buy a product based on what the product does per say; they buy because of the benefits they receive. People characteristically make purchasing decisions because of connections, whether or not they recognize it. Depending on the purchase, it can be as wide ranging as a referral to collegiate affiliation or a civic interest. But, almost always, they won’t buy from someone they don’t feel comfortable with or who doesn’t keep their interests in mind as a top priority. The same is true of those who give referrals.

Electronic Etiquette

Electronic communication can sometimes go awry because of the absence of social cues. Misinterpretation is often cited as the No. 1 reason a relationship sours, and the result can quickly spiral out of control. Studies have shown that when we receive an email, we are more influenced by the unrelated events that happened to us prior to reading the transmission; whereas, in a face-to-face meeting or even a phone call, we disassociate ourselves more from the emotions of the day. If you find yourself either as the “misinterpreter” or “misinterpreted,” make the first move and address it immediately. Once context is established, the misinterpretation typically gets forgotten and does not impact the relationship.

Knowing when to surf (to communicate digitally) or turf (call or speak in person) will help you appropriately communicate in the digital age!