April is National Lawn Care Month. How are you going to blog about it?

Here’s an idea: Use National Lawn Care Month to tell your local audience about your lawn or landscape company’s products and services.

How?

Through your blog, of course!

This is the time of year when you should utilize your blog to tell the world—or at least your local audience—what you do as a lawn service provider or a landscape company; why you do it; how lawn care and landscapes benefit the homeowner; and how the lawn and landscape industry will not bring the end of the world as we know it (in other words, the lawn and landscape industry benefits the environment and local ecosystems rather than poisoning it with too much fertilizer or pesticide use).

Let’s break this down. Here are five blog ideas to use for National Lawn Care Month:

  1. Tell your audience what you do. You own a lawn care or landscape business. Imagine your prospect reading your blog right now. Tell your readers why a healthy lawn is preferred over a perfectly manicured lawn. List the benefits of a healthy lawn, and explain how you can help them achieve it.
    Remember to avoid using any jargon that you and others in your industry would understand, but your readers may be confused by. In other words, keep it simple because your readers only want the basic facts.
  1. Tell your audience why a healthy lawn and a well-maintained landscape should be important to them. Explain it in layman’s terms why healthy lawns benefit the local eco-system. Explain why a retaining wall will keep their soil from eroding down an embankment. Explain why you perform a soil test on their property before you put any fertilizers on it.
  1. Explain the value of curb appeal. This is where you describe how beautiful lawns and landscapes raise property values. And tell your clients how you will make their properties look fantastic for the summer season. Remind them that they can sign up for landscape maintenance services from March through November to keep their landscape looking fresh and beautiful.
  1. Go to National Association of Landscape Professionals’ website to download information to share with your readers (http://goo.gl/LycNHc). The National Association of Landscape Professionals (formerly PLANET) offers promotional materials that you can download to include in your blog as well as on your other social media channels. Use these free materials to get your blogging juices flowing or to back up your services.
  1. Make it timely. Don’t wait until April 1st to start blogging about National Lawn Care Month. Instead, start blogging now. You can write blogs about the history of lawns and how the industry has evolved since the first lawn care business opened in the U.S. You can also use other teasers such as a contest about lawn care or landscape facts. The winners could win a 10% coupon off their next mow or they could win a free flat of annuals. Keep putting out teasers so they continue to read your blogs about National Lawn Care Month and why you’re the right lawn care or landscape service to call for all of their property maintenance needs.

Do you want more marketing ideas to use during National Lawn Care Month? Then, go to my friends over at GoiTalk for more information, http://goo.gl/LBxq5r.

If you need help with your lawn or landscape website’s blog during National Lawn Care Month, email me at wendy@landscapewriter.com or call me at 717-381-6719 ET.

8 Tips to Guide You When You Hire a Content Writer

If you’re updating your lawn care or landscape website, you know that there is a lot to do to get it up and running. And it’s vital to that you know how to lead a writer and web designer to create content that’ll make your website shine.

I’ve been helping lawn care and landscape clients with their website content for the past 22 months. And I’ve learned some things along the way. Here are eight tips to keep in mind when you hire a content writer to write your website copy:

  1. Make sure that someone is in charge of the entire project. From my experience, I think it’s best to hire an Internet marketing agency to not only help you with localization, but to guide the entire process. If you choose to lead the project, keep in mind that a content writer (even a subject matter expert) isn’t you. So you may have a firm idea in mind for what you want, but if you don’t communicate that idea or understand that it might take longer than you expected, you may be better off hiring a project manager to lead your website’s reconstruction.
  2. Make sure that you introduce your writer to your web designer. I think this is perhaps one the most important points. Most of my clients introduce me to their web designers and that makes the entire website project so much easier. You’re an expert in lawn care or landscaping. The web designer is an expert is web design and the content writer is an expert in providing the content that’ll draw people to you. Thus, it only makes sense to connect your writer with your web designer so they can collaborate. If you decide to keep the two components apart, you’re asking for trouble.
  3. If you expect your writer to put together footers, headers, call out text, and other writing jobs in addition to writing text, make sure that you know that this project can take longer than one month. You know the old saying, “Poor planning on your part doesn’t mean an emergency on my part.” I can’t speak about other writers, but my process of researching, writing and editing takes a bit of time—if it’s going to be done right. So, plan ahead and give your content writer plenty of time to digest, organize, and write all of your content.
  4. Keep your audience in mind. I can’t stress this tip enough. You are talking to clients and prospects. And they’re busy—they don’t have time to wade through a lot of green industry buzzwords or technical terms. Remember the age old rule, KISS: “Keep It Simple, Sam.” You’ll keep your readers coming to you more often if they feel that you’re not talking down to them, and they just get the basic facts to make an educated decision to hire you.
  5. Remember the sales funnel. When people Google “lawn care” or “landscape” business, they’re looking for a local business to come to their property and fix their problems. And that usually requires you to make an introductory visit to analyze their situation. Thus, you don’t want to bog them down with the contractual terms within your website content. If you feel that you need to have that on your website, make sure that you have it as a separate page. Link to it and allow people to choose to go there if they’re interested.
  6. Be clear about what you want. If your writer emails you a summary of your phone discussion with him, read over it to make sure he understood exactly what you wanted. If you tweak the information, allow him to digest it and figure it into the deadline. But don’t constantly tweak the information or add more information to the point where the writer’s eyes are going cross-eyed. I’ve learned that it’s best to take one step at a time. If you want to take more steps, then be patient and ask your writer to add it. But again, this goes back to expectations. If you want your writer to write reams of content in a short time, you may not get what you’re paying for.
  7. Expect that you’ll need to make some edits. Writers are not mind readers and we may not get all of your information down exactly as you want it. So, working with a writer is a process with a lot of give and take. Matter of fact, a great writer is actually a great editor. If you meet a writer that tells you that she’s going to perfectly write your copy the first time around, run the other way! Going through one or two edits is pretty normal between writers and clients.
  8. If the relationship turns south, part amicably. This is a hard one. Who wants to break any relationship? But personalities and expectations are different. Some folks mesh better with certain personalities than others. Realize it isn’t personal when two vastly different personalities part ways. It’s part of being in business.

Now your turn. Are you renovating your lawn care or landscape website? Are you the project manager? Will you be introducing your web designer to your writer?

 

5 Questions to Help You Get the Most Out of Your 2015 Marketing Plan

It’s nearly the end of 2014. Can you believe it? Where did the year go?

Things are probably winding down at your lawn care or landscape company’s office with finished projects and a sense of well-being from another successful growing season.

Yet, it’s also time to start thinking about 2015 and next year’s marketing plan. In 2014, you may have invested some money in Internet marketing. Now’s the time to look over that decision and evaluate how successful your Internet marketing plans were. Since many of you still incorporate traditional marketing methods with Internet marketing, I’m going to include some pointers in the following list. Here are a few things to check before turning off your office lights on December 31, 2014:

  1. How’s your website? Is everything up to date? Check your About Me; FAQ’s and Home Page. And don’t forget to go through your Contact Us page. Do you still offer all of those services that you have listed on your Contact form?
  2. What are your marketing plans for 2015? How much more of your marketing dollars are you going to invest in Internet marketing?
  3. What types of traditional marketing worked for you in 2014? Did you get your expected return on investment from your mailers, brochures, and door hangers?
  4. What Internet marketing outlets worked for you in 2014? Did you start a blog, and did you keep posting regularly throughout the year? Did you get more people contacting you because of your blog? Look at your Facebook page. You may have 1,000 likes, but who has contacted you from those likes?
  5. What are you planning on keeping, adding, or changing when it comes to traditional and Internet marketing?
  6. What is your marketing plan for 2015? Where are you now? Where do you want to be in six months when your busy season is just starting? Where do you want to be next year on December 31, 2015?

These are the types of questions that you need to ask yourself in order to move forward. After you’ve discovered your answers, then decide how much money you can invest in marketing and how much will be designated toward Internet versus traditional marketing.

Time is running out! If you’d like to invest in adding a blog to your website, call now. I have limited spaces available for 2015. You can call me at 717-381-6719, visit my website at www.landscapewriter.com or email me at wendy@landscapewriter.com.

How to Get Inside Your Customers’ Heads to Meet Their Needs

A few months ago, I met a marketing consultant who belongs to the same networking group that I do. He took a look at my tagline and essentially said—“The tagline should not be about you, but about your client. What you have here is how you see your business, not how the client sees it.”

Light bulb moment!

Then, this gentleman asked me a series of questions to get me thinking from my clients’ perspective. First, who are my ideal clients?

They’re you: Business owners in the landscape design/build, lawn care, and outdoor living businesses. In other words, this seasoned marketer asked the kind of questions that put me in your shoes.

I took that business person’s questions and used them to brainstorm a new tagline: Growing Your Business, One Word at a Time.

Through my tagline, I’m trying to communicate that I’ll help you bring in more business and elevate you to expert status in your region through the use of my words.

In today’s business world, it’s imperative to have a website. Yet, not only do you need a website, but you also need to regularly add fresh content in the forms of blogs, case studies, white papers, etc. to keep Google happy.

So, it stands to reason that you may need a writer to consistently communicate your message to homeowners, retail managers, and other prospects about the value that you bring to them through professional lawn care and landscape design/build, as well as outdoor living products like BBQ’s, outdoor kitchens, and fire pits.

How about you?

Do you step in your ideal customer’s shoes and find out what motivates him to invest in your services or buy your products? And if you did walk around in your client’s shoes, did it help you better nail down your marketing message?

Here are some questions to get you started on your tagline:

  1. Who is your ideal client? How do you solve those problems?
  2. What are his or her landscape or lawn care problems?
  3. If you’re an outdoor living manufacturer or in sales, how do you meet your clients’ dreams for an outdoor pizza oven, fireplace, or patio furniture?
  4. Finally, how are you going to let your ideal clients know about the problems you solve or the dreams you design?
  5. Do you know what keyphrases people are putting in Google, Bing, or Yahoo to find you?

Think about these questions—have a brainstorm session with your sales force or your web designer, and see what all of you come up with, and then narrow it down to its simplest terms to create your tagline.

If you want to know more about taglines, here’s an article I wrote about a similar topic, Unique Selling Proposition, for TURF magazine: http://bit.ly/1aCLH5S.

What Your Clients Need to Know about Smart Irrigation Month

Happy June! The kids are almost out of school and it seems that everyone in the lawn care/landscape industries are busy back at work making residential and commercial properties look beautiful this season.

There are three common questions that I hear from lawn care and landscape prospects before they decide to commit to a blogging regimen. And even though these questions are asked differently, they boil down to these three:

  1. Can I trust you (Wendy) to deliver on your promises?
  2. How do you know that this will work?
  3. And what will you be writing about?

There are many other kinds of questions that pop up when a prospect and I are getting to know each other. But the above three are the most fundamental to many businesses before they decide that they want a blog on their website, let alone hire out to a complete stranger to get the job done right, the first time.

So here are my answers:

  1. Yes, you can trust me. But I’m happy to work with you so you can discover how my writing services help your return on investment. I know that there are a lot of charlatans out there who claim that they’ll write you a wonderful blog, full of great keywords, and other SEO jargon. You pay them and later find out that you have to rewrite everything because the blogger didn’t know a grub from a bean.
    Also, there are a lot of outlets where you can pick your writers for a very low fee. Yet, you get what you paid for. Even though it’s great that you’re paying $2.00 for that lawn care blog, don’t expect a lot of detail from someone who isn’t familiar with American lawn care and landscape methods—especially if they’re from third world nations.

 

  1. Social marketing is here to stay—whether you’re on board the social media train or not. Other lawn care and landscape businesses are adding blogs, e-newsletters, Facebook pages, and video to their marketing plans. And while I can’t guarantee you certain results, I can tell you that, so far, my clients are happy with me.
    Also, you should be getting feedback on how well your blog and overall website are doing. You can find out by asking your web developer or Internet marketing agency to run an audit on your blog. What keywords pop up? How much traffic is coming to your website? What blogs most resonate with your readers? And … most importantly, are you converting prospects into paying customers?

 

  1. You’re in total control of what is posted on your blog. I offer free consultation on ideas and direction, but I won’t write a word until you okay the topic idea (and you have the final say before the post is put on your website). This is your blog. I’m just the person writing the words for you.

For many of you, blogging and social media are new concepts. And you’re busy. But it’s worth your while to find a blogger or content writer who understands your business needs and can deliver what she promises.

What questions would you like to ask me about blogging, web content, SEO and the like? Feel free to leave a comment below.

3 Ways to Come Up with Landscape/Lawn Care/Outdoor Living Blogging Topics

Are you running out of blog ideas?

If you’ve been following this blog for the past 18 months, you’ll be able to pick out some recurrent themes:

  1. The importance of beefing up your landscape/lawn care/outdoor living website with compelling content. And not just web copy (written words), but also videos, photos of before and after projects (with happy clients in them). And I’ve encouraged you to effectively use social media to build your green business’s platform and get the news out when you’ve something new online to share.
  2. The importance of localizing your website and blogging to gather interest among readers who’ll call you for business. My biggest push: Even though the Yellow Pages might’ve gone the way of the dodo bird, don’t forget about your geographical audience.
  3. The importance of keeping a consistent web and social media presence to garner trust and bring more people to you.

Yet, after you or your writer have been blogging awhile, you may find that your landscape/lawn care/outdoor living ideas are drying up. You’ve done everything I recommended, plus more. And the well is running dry.

So what do you do?

Here are three places to find new ideas to get the blogging ball rolling again:

  1. Look up keyword searches on Google Trends. How do people find your blogs? Ideally, if you’ve hired an Internet marketing agency that specializes in localization, they probably supply you with this information. If not, you need to do it yourself.
    I’m not an expert in Google Trends, but this is what I figured out by plugging in the keywords “build swimming pool:”
  • Under regions, I got this
    UnderRegion
  • Under queries, I got this
    UnderQ
  • Under rising, I got this
    UnderQ2

So now I have some keywords to work with even if my pretend pool business is not located in the top subregions. You can use “build a pool (which was the most popular keyword search);” “inground swimming pools;” “natural swimming pools.” Additionally, you can write about “cost of a swimming pool;” “swimming pool design;” and “building a pool.”

  1. Check out your blog’s statistics. What were your most popular blogs? Can you write more about those subtopics? What about comments? Use comments to write new blog content.
  2. Look at the junk mail that’s delivered to your home’s mailbox. Last week, I got a mailer from a big box store. They had three pamphlets labeled: “Welcome Home,” “Backyard Living,” and “Curb Appeal.” In the Curb Appeal pamphlet there were “Tips for Tender Loving Lawn Care.” Have you ever written a blog about giving your readers’ lawns TLC? Play around with it—just don’t copy someone else’s work because your Google rankings WILL drop and you could get in trouble for plagiarism (now I’m sounding like an English teacher!).

As you can see, you have a lot of options when it comes to digging for new blogging ideas.

Have you tried the above? Or if you have other techniques for finding fresh landscape/lawn care/outdoor living blog topics, please share them here!

Okay, so you decided to hire a writer to blog about you, your work, and your landscape and lawn care services. You’ve learned that hiring a marketing writer doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.

Smooth sailing, right?

Well, don’t think that you’ve washed your hands from the project. You’re still the boss and you need to provide some direction to your marketing team, which includes that writer you recently hired.

Here are three things to expect from your freelance writer when she writes blog posts for you:

  1. Introductory questions: Most market-savvy writers will know to ask you specific questions about your blog goals. But if you hire a newbie writer, she may not know what questions she should be asking you:

Who is your ideal client?

What type of people do you serve (upper class, upper middle class, commercial, or just residential)

What climate and growing zone do your clients live in?

What’s your business’s cycle? For example, if I have a client in a temperate zone, say in Florida, then I need to know what their growing cycle is like since I’m from Pennsylvania.

What does your business do: hardscaping, landscaping, lawn care, or a combination of all three?

What makes your business stand out from the crowd?

How often do you want to publish your blog–once a month, biweekly, or weekly?

How often do you want to pay your writer? After each blog post, once a month, or on a quarterly basis?

And do you want Q&A- (Question and Answer), how to-, or informational blogs? Or a mixture of all three?

  1. The editorial calendar: You’re probably thinking, the editorial what? But the editorial calendar is essential for a streamlined relationship with your writer. And an editorial calendar doesn’t have to be formal. I have clients who want me to focus on a theme, like lawn diseases, for a couple of months and others who’ll give me general topics to focus on for one month. I’ll do some added research, if needed, and then, write the blog.
  2. Your feedback:It’s imperative that you look at the blog draft before it goes online. You should also feel that your copywriter is approachable to fixing any mistakes–including the grammatical and spelling ones. And a copywriter shouldn’t charge you for revisions–at least not for the first two revisions. After more than two revisions, you and your writer may need to work out communication kinks or decide to part ways.

Look, I know writing can be intimidating. Yet, you can feel comfortable that there are competent writers out there–including ones who specialize in the lawn care/landscape industries–who’ll write blogs for you at a reasonable rate.

Do you want to post a regular blog for your clients and prospects? Then call me at 717-381-6719 (EST) or email me at wendy@landscapewriter.com to collaborate on your landscape or lawn care blog.

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