As the keystone business principle states: “You gotta spend money to make money.” Savvy business owners of lawn care and landscaping companies plan ahead and make sure a portion of their annual revenue gets allocated to their marketing budget. Aggressive budgeting along with smart initiatives that can be measured are common traits you’ll find when looking to our industry’s leaders. But what happens when you “gotta spend money” and don’t have a lot to work with? Some marketing initiatives come at a premium price and you have to be careful not to waste those dollars you and your team work so hard to bring in. Here are 10 of the most effective marketing tactics that can cost you the least and give you the best ROI:

1. Proactive property visits. Besides the benefit of building a deeper relationship with your customers, visiting your properties a couple times during the year opens warm sales opportunities for growing an existing account.

2. Email marketing. Alec Baldwin may have said, “A-B-C … Always Be Closing” in his obnoxious regional sales manager role in the 1992 “Glengarry Glen Ross” film, but email marketing replaces old, obnoxious tactics with a new phrase: “A-B-H … Always Be Helping.” Email marketing is just one of the ways you can help your customers.

Helpful and timely information versus sales-y messaging will increase your chances of additional sales opportunities with your active customers and also help to re-engage prospects and inactive accounts. Email marketing software is fairly inexpensive, and setting up a campaign takes little time once you have a plan in place.

3. Cloverleafing. Every time you’re servicing a customer is a great time to find new ones nearby. Take a few minutes to walk over to the neighbor sweating over his pile of pulled weeds in his mulch beds. Introduce yourself and you may be surprised at how many times they ask for an estimate.

If neighbors aren’t home, hang some literature on the doors of four nearby neighbors (hence the name cloverleafing). Make sure you mention that you take care of that gorgeous property next door that they envy each day when they come home.

4. Job signs. You can purchase small lawn care flags for less than $1 and 18-inch-by-24-inch corrugated plastic yard signs for less than $10 when ordered in bulk. This signage will often stay in your customers’ lawns for days or even weeks. This is a great way to get exposure in neighborhoods in which you’d love to grow your customer base.

5. Customer referral programs. Happy customers are the best sources to find new ones. Referral leads close higher than any other marketing source and often are more easily retained for the long haul.

Create a formal and generous referral bonus for your customers if you close their referrals. Boldly ask for referrals and make sure you frequently remind them of their opportunity for the reward, as well as your desire to grow your business.

6. Promotional inserts. Thanks to today’s digital printing presses, creating promotional fliers and inserts is very affordable. Stuff a promotion alongside the invoice you mail out or leave at a customer’s property. It’s a great way to keep your customers aware of all the services you offer. Make sure your offer is compelling and generous.

7. Coworker lead programs. As I mentioned in Nos. 1 and 3, your team has multiple opportunities each day to help you grow your business. Give them some financial incentive for generating new business opportunities with a formal lead program.

8. Vehicle graphics. Whether going as simple as a few hundred bucks for logos on your truck’s doors or as bold as a full-wrap on a box truck, people will mention they saw your trucks in their neighborhood. Wrapping landscape and lawn care trucks, trailers and equipment offers a tremendous ROI and is a great way to get hundreds, if not thousands, of advertising impressions each day.

content marketing - blog

Photo: iStock

9. Content marketing. Content marketing — typically in the form of blogging — will cost you more time than money but has proven to be an effective (and measurable) way to drive visitors to your website, generate qualified leads, provide helpful information to include in email marketing and answer questions that people constantly search for online. Just stay consistent, be helpful versus sales-y and learn a little about how to write in the manner that search engines like. A single article can generate many qualified leads for years and years after it is published to your website.

10. Serving on committees. Volunteering on local committees or boards is a great way to meet influential people and business owners in your community. Just go about it with the purpose to help the organization. Make sure to get involved and stay at it. It can take a little time to earn the trust of strangers, but it works.

Not having a big marketing budget is no longer an excuse for not positioning your landscaping or lawn care service for growth. Use what resources you have, make a plan and stick to it, and soon you’ll be on your way to success.