Archive for January, 2013

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“In the absence of value, your customers will default to price comparison. Understand what value you bring to your potential customers.”

Even with all the information available on the Internet, your customers will only have a small amount of knowledge when they sit down with you to talk about pavers, retaining walls and other landscape offerings. So how do you set yourself apart so your customers do not make a decision based solely on cost?

You can try to educate them, but you run the risk of sounding too “salesy”, or even worse, you provide contrary information to someone who believes everything they read on the Web.

Or, you can bring added value to your presentations.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Bring additional options for your customers to consider.

If your customer wants new pavers in their driveway, add an option to do it in permeable pavers. Give them a price to do an overlay on their plain concrete front porch with matching 45mm pavers. Add a funky, curvy border to the driveway to define the start of the walkway to the front door.

Whatever the project, have a few cool options priced out and ready to present.

2. Bring a list of references along with your project photos.

Your customers will check you out online, so there’s a good chance they have already seen your websites photo gallery. Present them a list of references from work you have done recently (the last 2-3 years preferably). Include the customers names, addresses and phone numbers. Some customers will just scan the list for projects in their neighbourhood, but others will go see the driveway you installed last year or call one of your previous customers to confirm they would recommend your company.

3. Bring a design that your customers can visualize.

Your customers do not install Hardscaping for a living so help them see your vision for their space with a great design. If you usually draw plans on cocktail napkins or an empty package of Export A’s, enlist the help of a qualified designer to help you project a professional image. If 2D hand drawings are your preference, learn how to use Google Sketchup to bring 3D images to life. You will close more business if your customers can imagine living in the space you have designed.

4. Bring a project checklist.

Customers have no idea now many steps it takes to install a driveway, a patio or a retaining wall. So tell them!

Provide a checklist for the entire project so your customers have an understanding of the complexity and duration of your work. It will help make sense of your labor costs and imagine what other contractors will do if your customers ask for their project checklist!

5. Bring your industry certification to life.

Most customers you meet will not understand what ICPI or NCMA mean to them, no matter how much research they have done. So help them understand how certification sets you apart. If they want a new driveway, place your ICPI course manual in the middle of your customers dining room table. Tell them that you use a minimum of 6″ of base under your driveways because it is the recommended industry standard. When you recite standards from these huge course manuals, it will help legitimize your price. And your customers will be wary of other contractors who suggest using quantities that do not have industry standards as context.

Find ways to bring added value to your customer presentations. Your customers will thank you by signing more contracts for more dollars than you could ever imagine.

Happy Hardscaping!

Does your company stand out from the crowd?

Does your company stand out from the crowd?

I was having lunch with a friend recently who had arrived a few minutes before me at our chosen restaurant. He had ordered a Coke and was running out to his car to grab his phone when I asked him which one of the waitresses was ours.

“The one with the glasses” he said.

I stared over at the two brunette servers. One was at least four inches taller than the other and perhaps ten years older. The younger one had highlights, was a few pounds heavier and her hair was shorter. As a pair, they were similar but in a superficial way. But not alike. It was not hard to distinguish one from the other.

But when I asked my friend which was our server, how had he answered? He hadn’t said the shorter one, or the one with longer hair, or the one with the highlights. He’d said the one with the glasses.

Wearing glasses was the major difference between them and it overrode all the other differences. The other differences were matters of degree. Taller, younger, thinner, highlights. The glasses were not matters of degree. One woman wore them and the other one didn’t. An absolute difference. No confusion. Our waitress was the one with glasses.

What do your customers and prospects remember about you and your company? Go over your typical customer presentation and write down the points that you feel make you stand out in the crowd of other contractors. And then have someone you trust look at the list. Together you can decide whether you have been telling your prospects that your taller, younger, thinner, have longer hair and highlights.

Or that you wear glasses.

Happy Hardscaping!

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The 40th Anniversary of Landscape Ontario’s Congress is about to kick off on Tuesday, bringing together landscape professionals from across the industry. It is your opportunity to get your first glance at new equipment, plants and products, network with industry experts and participate in the hundreds of product demonstrations. So much to see and do.

So what’s your plan?

With over 13,000 industry professionals and 600 vendors spread out over eight acres, it is more important than ever to understand where you need to spend your time effectively. So whether you are a hardscaping rookie or seasoned vet, here’s 4 items that should be on your to-do list:

1. Determine what booths and/or vendors you need to see

More than likely you will want to visit the booths of your go-to vendors. These are the people that make the products you use the most and you will want to see what changes they have in store for 2013. Notice that I said changes, not just new products. That’s because its just as important to beware of price increases, discontinued products and dropped colours as the shiny new pavers or retaining walls they have on display.

P.S. Don’t forget to visit vendors of the products you are competing against. You will gain some valuable information that will help you compete for those landscape prospects. Who knows, you may even find a product that fills a void in your current vendor’s selection.

2. Know what you want to accomplish

Now that we can see the tail lights of 2012, what are your plans for 2013?

Do you need new equipment this year? Are you looking to add lighting to your list of services? Do you want to install more retaining walls in 2013?

Great! Now make a list of questions you want to ask to help you make your decisions on each item. Print off or save a list of vendors and highlight their booths on the LO Congress floor plan. Here’s a link for both http://tinyurl.com/acu957q

3. Take notes that you can use after the show

After a long day or two of visiting booth after booth and attending one or more of the many conference sessions, what are you left with? Forty-five business cards, 14 pages of notes and countless numbers of pictures on your smartphone. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some way to capture all of these items in one place?

Download the Evernote app on your smartphone or tablet.

Now you can take pictures of those business cards, take notes on your smartphone or tablet and upload photos from the tradeshow and save them all in a notebook in Evernote marked LO Congress 2013 for future use.

Even if you still feel that handwritten notes are more your style than typing them into your iPhone, take a picture of those notes and put them into Evernote. The optical character recognition built into Evernote will scan your handwriting and now you can search by keyword to find what you want. How cool is that!

Here’s a link to learn how to use Evernote and download it too http://evernote.com/evernote/

4. Attend at least one Conference Session

Have you been to LO Congress for years but never attended a conference session? Whatever you want to do better in 2013, there is a session to help you make it a reality.

Are you interested in learning more about social media? There are 3 sessions to choose from. Do you own your landscaping business? You have four sessions specifically for you. There are also sessions on paying for your equipment, retaining employees and two on job costing. Make this the year that you take something from your list of goals for 2013 and learn more about it from some great speakers.

Here’s a link to this years schedule of key note speakers and conference sessions http://tinyurl.com/axvv3wo

Everyone at Landscape Ontario Congress hopes that 2013 will be a prosperous year for the entire industry. But they don’t have the ability to make that happen for your company. You do.

Be prepared to walk into the show with a plan. Without it, you’re liable to end up shaking hands and talking about the weather.

Happy Hardscaping!