Landscaping is by its very nature a local business model. In local marketing, it’s all about who you know, and who knows you. Marketing consultant Kelly O’Neil, president and CEO at Innovate Brand Agency, shares her best tips for building profitable local relationships.

1. Leverage your local media. Appearing in print gives you a lot of exposure and credibility. Touch base regularly with your local journalists, especially those who write about home and garden topics. Ask them what kinds of stories they are looking for and let them know you’re always available as a source. It’s always a good idea to distribute press releases when you have news, but you needn’t wait until you win an award to court the press. “Write up some seasonal how-to landscape tips for your local market and distribute them as a press release to your local luxury or town magazine. This can be a phenomenal way to get clients quickly,” says O’Neil.

2. Tap into local referral networks. Join Business Networking International or a similar business group focused on hard referrals (as opposed to soft networking meetings where participants simply pass business cards.)

3. Build your own referral network. Often, people who are upgrading or remodeling their home are great candidates for landscaping services. General contractors, interior designers, pool providers and similar types of companies all make great referral partners for landscape providers. If you specialize in one type of landscaping, like lawn care, some of your best referral sources may be landscape companies with a different specialty. Do a reach-out campaign to established local contractors and remodelers with whom you can create relationships and pass business back and forth.

4. Establish great relationships with local vendors. Nurseries, garden supply stores and hardscape suppliers are all great referral sources. Touch base with them regularly so they know you’re available and reliable.

How to build your local partnerships

One of the biggest networking mistakes most small businesspeople make is not being proactive about creating referral partners, O’Neil says. “Don’t just wait for relationships to happen. You need to reach out and say, ‘Hey, I’d love to sit down and have a meeting with you. I’m looking to establish referral partners. I like the work I’ve seen from you and I’d like to discuss taking it to the next level.’”

Consistency and persistence are the keys to success, she adds. “People are busy. Just because they don’t get back to you right away doesn’t mean they’re not interested. I have a rule where I continue following up until they say no or until I feel it’s wasting my time.”

How do you know when to move on? O’Neil suggests reaching out at least three to five times (five is better) before considering writing a potential partner off. Don’t worry about being a pest; your persistent outreach can actually help build trust in your character. “If you’re that persistent following up it lets them know you’re going to be on top of serving your clients.”