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Industry Insights

Not getting as many leads these days?

Ideas for how to respond to a changing market

Hear that? That’s the sound of pencils being sharpened.

Many companies have seen a drop in the number of leads coming in recently. Some have even seen incoming leads drop up to 30% over last year. And, quite rightfully, this is raising questions! Things were running perfectly before; why aren’t they working now? What are we doing wrong? What needs to change?

In this post, we’ll explore the reasons your marketing results may have changed and offer some ideas on how to adjust your marketing plan moving forward.

It’s perhaps true to say that change is the only constant in life, but can we be more specific? In most cases, the recent lead drop coincides with a general drop in search inquiries, which is indicative of a drop in market activity. Inflation and rising interest rates are cooling homeowners’ desire (or ability) to spend money.

The knee-jerk reaction would be to assume the money has dried up, is tied up or is gone for good. One could even be tempted to believe that marketing in this current climate is a waste of money.

That would be a mistake, in our opinion. Growth-minded companies continually market themselves regardless of market conditions. However, we do suggest it’s a good time to revisit and potentially change your strategy.

Now that we have moved past the pandemic, we are facing new/different issues and challenges. What worked in a season of disruption and massive influx of government spending may not work today — in fact, it's more likely that it will not. For many, the challenges of too much demand, too many projects and insufficient capacity has come to an end. In this post-Covid era, we are now seeing issues of less demand, longer sales cycles, more rigorous negotiation around price and increased competition from other firms.

Not all markets will be affected the same. And not all companies will experience a downturn the same way either. Those working for clients in the upper, high-end income brackets will likely see very little decline, simply because those with money still have money. Companies serving middle-class homeowners will be the hardest hit, as those burdened with too much debt or too little savings will be watching their spending carefully.

As money becomes more costly to access (albeit for different reasons), clients in all income brackets will reassess their home improvement budgets and sharpen their pencils. Sales cycles will become longer no matter what market segment you service.

The result will be many landscape firms competing harder for fewer projects.

What can you do?

From a marketing perspective, there are some adjustments you should be making to your marketing plan to prepare for the reality of reduced or less urgent demand.

1. Shift from inbound to outbound.

Rather than focusing on search results, consider more interruption tactics like advertising and direct mail. Get your brand in front of more people. Open up the top of your funnel a little and be prepared to spend more time nurturing interest to cultivate more leads.

2. Shift from qualifying to nurturing.

During the last few years of high demand, many of you have been focused on qualifying leads and being choosy about which projects to engage. As demand drops, you may need to remove some barriers to working with you and spend more time and energy nurturing interested prospects to the point of a call.

3. Don’t forget about your past clients.

Email campaigns to past or current clients can help boost short-term sales, especially when the offer is smaller projects or maintenance-related services. Existing clients have already overcome the hurdle of trusting you with their projects. Providing you did a great job meeting or exceeding expectations, they are more likely to hire you again vs using another contractor they don’t know.

4. Ask for referrals.

If you’ve never asked a happy customer for a referral, now is the time. A strong referral program can help you land more qualified clients during this time of uncertainty. Remember, prospects may be feeling nervous about spending. A referral can ease some of that anxiety and move them closer to a sale.

5. Shift from recruitment to prospecting.

In business, it’s said, “if you’re not growing, you’re dying”. And that may be true over the long haul. However, adjusting your capacity to meet demand makes more sense in the short term. Sometimes a company can realize better margins with less revenue than in rapid growth or reaction mode. During the pandemic, many clients shifted from prospecting for clients and projects to recruiting talent to grow their teams. As demand slows or drops, it may be time to shift back to marketing for clients and projects again.

6. Be prepared to compete

Some clients will still have money to spend in the coming years, but they may be smelling an opportunity to leverage a competitive market to their advantage. And they may be more demanding of bargains and deals in a way they just couldn’t demand a year ago.

We don’t suggest you adjust your pricing, but you should consider differentiating yourself with an exceptional customer experience. Return phone calls and offer faster turnaround times on design and certain stages of construction. Provide better and more proactive communication. Offer discounts for bigger deposits earlier in the process. These are all ways to stand out and compete for new projects or ensure those projects keep moving along.

Also, be prepared to compete against products and services in entirely different sectors. The middle class, in particular, is adjusting their spending habits to survive rising mortgage payments, an erosion of their savings due to inflation and higher interest rates for borrowing.

Sure, their homes have increased in value, but borrowing is now more expensive and their dollars don’t go as far as they once did. As the middle class looks for ways to save money, count on less discretionary spending on luxuries like spendy backyard resorts. Having said that, perhaps they could be convinced to cut spending on that new car or expensive trip instead of the new landscape project. As an appreciating asset, homes are still worth investing in.

We can help

These new challenges can be daunting, but you don’t have to face them on your own. Our team is ready to help you come up with a plan or adjust your current plan to help mitigate the challenges you face and move you closer toward achieving your goals. We’ll certainly be seeing more sharpened pencils and tighter belts in the foreseeable future. But with a sound strategy and a solid plan you’ll also be able to see profits and growth.

Don’t wait. Schedule a call and let’s start this conversation.

Written by Jason Bouwman, RGD

July 20, 2023