It can be challenging to get customers excited about a potential landscape design — particularly if they aren’t good at visualization. But Eichenlaub, Inc., a landscape company providing design/build and maintenance services in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has found a way to change that. By opening their brand-new outdoor living studio, they now have a place to actually show clients what they can do for them. Ryan Johnson, the company’s manager of business development, says that the studio has been a big success.

“Our challenge was getting people more excited about a space they were considering having designed and built,” Johnson says. “Looking at a plan is one thing but getting an actual representation takes it to a whole new level. At our design studio customers can actually touch and feel materials we could use in their project and get a real sense of what their space could look like.”

Photo: Eichenlaub, Inc.

Among other features, the studio has several different examples of seat walls, a water feature, a patio space with a pergola over it, an outdoor fireplace, and 52 different landscape light fixtures that can be controlled in the studio to show various lighting effects. The studio even has furniture on display, which the company now sells as well. Johnson says it’s part of an effort toward being truly a “one stop shop” for their clients.

“It’s also very helpful for us to carry the furniture that our customers might buy so that we know exactly what size patio they’ll need,” Johnson says. “We know that everything will fit perfectly. We also sell accessories like planters. We want customers to be able to step onto their patio when it’s complete and find that it’s completely ready to go. All you have to do is enjoy it.”

Photo: Eichenlaub, Inc.

Prior to building the studio — which is separate from the facility where their headquarters is located — the best way to show clients what their project could look like was to send them to other clients’ properties. Johnson admits that wasn’t ideal. He always felt bad asking former design/build clients if he could bring someone on their property or if he could give out their address. Now, with the studio, they no longer have to do that. And Johnson says the fact that it’s indoors is even better.

“It gives us total control over the space,” he says. “People can come and see it rain or shine — and it definitely rains a lot here in Pittsburgh. Plus, it doesn’t have to be nighttime to see the effects of landscape lighting. We can make it pitch black with blinds and show personalized lighting set ups.”

Photo: Eichenlaub, Inc.

Johnson calls the studio a “powerful sales tool” and says that there’s no question a visit there helps close the sale. People get really excited about their projects once they can see them in-person, he says. And it helps with upsells, too, he adds. They have sold more pergolas than ever before.

But selling hasn’t been the only benefit. Johnson says it has also made a difference with “customer expectations,” and that’s huge. It’s meant less change orders for the company. And Johnson says there is never a reaction of “I didn’t think that’s what it would like look” — because clients know exactly what their project will look like when it’s complete. All around, it’s a win.

Our Like a Boss series highlights some common business challenges landscape professionals face and how they conquer them.