Busy Bee Lawn Care makes the most of today’s marketing techniques

Photos Courtesy of Busy Bee Lawn Care.
Ashley Brooks, second from left, with his staff: from left, Jay Thames (JT), Willie Harwell and Brandon Amerson.

Delivering your message in today’s high-tech environment takes a combination of expertise and dedication. With a degree from Clemson University and 10 years’ experience promoting life insurance as a licensed insurance broker, Ashley Brooks, owner/operator of Busy Bee Lawn Care, (www.busybeelawncare.com) in Columbia, S.C., has that and more.

He started the company as a one-person operation in April 2006. He’s now running two additional crews with an individual in training to head a third crew in 2010. Brooks says, “In our warm-season region, we need to keep the customers satisfied all year long. Communication is the best tool to make that happen.”

Busy Bee Lawn Care’s main logo is a bee-powered mower.

Get a Web site

Your Web site is your showplace, an opportunity to put your company in the spotlight 24/7.

Brooks says to first determine what you want to name the Web site. That may be a full company name, your name or a short phrase that Internet browsers will identify with your business. Then, connect with a company (such as Register.com or www.GoDaddy.com) to determine if that name is available to purchase. If the name is already owned, you can propose to buy it; make sure all the legalities are covered if the holder is willing to sell it. Explore any potential trademark encroachments before you proceed beyond this point.

Brooks suggests gaining html skills or working with a consultant or webmaster. Then, you can either select the company from which you purchased the domain name as your host, or search for other hosts that require html. This gives you the ability to develop an interactive Web site that provides the opportunity for multi-pronged marketing.

Brooks says, “Post your picture, provide your background information, make it easy for people to connect directly with you. It’s your company and people are going to expect you to be on the job. Post pictures of your staff and your equipment. Incorporate lots of color. Show before and after pictures of sites you maintain. Use multiple tools, such as slide.com, to develop a slide show of projects from start to finish. Develop a great logo and use it.”

The easier it is to navigate within the site, the more time browsers will spend there, says Brooks. “Show them what you do as an overview on the home page. Insert multiple links within the copy so they can click right to the information you’ve posted on the main items of interest,” he says. “Establish yourself as the expert. Set up a blog that matches the features of your Web site to deliver timely information. You can install free software from a company like WordPress.com to get the blog started. It’s held at the hosting company and you go to their control panel to access it.”

Set up links to other industry-related sites, and join the local Better Business Bureau and link to it. Include local sources of services your company doesn’t provide, such as stump grinding or tree removal. Brooks says, “Think about the questions people usually ask and give them the answers. Become the main source of lawn and landscape information for your customers.”

Promote and maintain the site

Once the Web site is established, keep it current, says Brooks. “Use a date stamp every time you tweak the site so people know it’s up to date. Change the background to fit the season. Post a short seasonal message on lawn care on your home page. Keep it simple, such as: It’s time to use mulch; click here for ideas.”

With continual tweaking, the site will grow more successful over time. The goal is to hit the top of the list when browsers use search engines to seek out services. Part of that will come from including key works about the green industry in the text on the site.

Brooks says, “Consider the pay-per-click option. You pay a predetermined amount to be at the top of the list for those searching for the specific word or phrase you’ve designated. If they click, you pay.”

A before shot of a renovation project. The front of the site prior to renovation.
This shot of the renovation project shows how the conversion has enhanced the outdoor living space. This is the same site after the installation of sod, mulch and a river rock parking area.

Manage Your market

Keep up to date on lawn and landscape issues that affect your local market. Make sure your Web site is in step with those issues. Brooks says, “Take a common-sense approach to the features on your home page. Don’t blog about water-needy plants in the middle of a drought. Track the going price rate for services within your area; don’t lowball or overcharge.”

Busy Bee’s client base is evenly split between residential and commercial accounts. Lawn care services are offered in four categories from the basic “mow and go” to “the works.” Mowing frequency is specified as “twice a month,” providing the flexibility needed to work around rain or extremely hot conditions. Additional services include dethatching, aeration and overseeding; fertilization; sod installation; mulch installation; shrub and hedge pruning; spring and fall cleanup; and irrigation system repair.

Brooks uses texting to communicate with his crews when they’re on the job. As they wrap up at one site, he’ll text their next assignment along with brief instructions, including anything that differs from the standard practices for that property. The crew can also text him if they notice a problem or something that should have immediate attention.

“Depending on the situation, I might text or call the customer with that report and recommend the step we can take to alleviate it. Generally, I’ll get the approval during the phone call or with a return text message. My cell phone is our published business number; I encourage customers to call or text me directly or to e-mail me since I get those by phone, too. It’s a time management tool for me and an added service for our customers,” Brooks says.

While face-to-face meetings are still an important tool in establishing relationships with customers, cell phones and e-mail have become the preferred method of communication. Brooks says, “I don’t turn business away if they don’t have e-mail access, but face time and the travel time it requires do add up. The time gained by e-mailing boosts profits, and there’s a record of the communication. I keep an Outlook file for outstanding bids that I can retrieve very quickly.

“It’s all about interacting with your customers through the venues that best match their lifestyles. In today’s marketplace, that’s immediate accessibility via cell phone and the Internet.”

Suz Trusty is a partner in Trusty & Associates, a communications and market research firm in Council Bluffs, Iowa. She has been involved in the green industry for over 40 years.