Recently, I received a letter in the mail addressed to “R. HASTINGS
or RESIDENT” and as I can claim to be both, I opened it. The letter came from a lawn care company that wants to provide me (or resident) with special packages on their services for 2012. I wasn’t looking for a lawn care company to take care of my property, although my epic failure over the past few years to take care of this myself caused me to look a little bit more closely at their offer.
Years ago, I would have asked family, friends, neighbours or coworkers if they knew anything about the company that mailed me a letter.Today, the way we do our homework is very different and small businesses need to understand how customers make buying decisions.
Here are my thoughts on how we evaluate small businesses with some suggestions for this lawn care company (and others like them).
1. Company websites: With lawn care companies, potential customers are looking at websites for price, availability and some background on the company. Testimonials are very important to provide the credibility that was once earned through word-of-mouth referrals. The answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are helpful to potential customers and to the business for creating credibility and possibly offloading some phone calls to customer service reps. However, what businesses in this day and age must understand is that a solid website is merely table stakes, our starting point.
2. Social Media: Potential customers will look for the company on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ and notice if they’re not there. Companies who choose not to participate in social media miss many opportunities:
· The ability to provide an easy way for customers and potential customers to connect with the business
· The ability to carry on a conversation with their customers
· The ability to build a closer bond
Customers are hanging out on social media sites, talking about lawn care – how can any business afford not to be here too?
3. Blog: FAQs are helpful on the website, but in no way establish credibility like an effective blog. A blog can paint you as a leader in your industry, it shows your thoughts on your products/services, customers and trends that impact the business. A blog lets customers know they’re dealing with a human being. That matters. There’s a very small chance that customers want to know more about grubs or the difference between crabgrass and quackgrass, and that information can be provided through the website and FAQs, but what customers really want to know is that you understand their true needs – how do I get a beautiful lawn that I can enjoy and be proud of when I host my family and friends, without having to spend 10,000 hours or dollars?
4. Content of social media: When your service is grass, you can and should give us interesting information about grass – where it comes from, how best to care for it, interesting ways to cut it, how to prevent insects from destroying it. But what people REALLY care about is the enjoyment of their property. Show them how they can play with their kids in a lawn that won’t harm them or the environment. Publish a list of 10 fun activities on a perfect looking lawn. Show them interesting deck designs that look great against green grass. Talk about the latest in outdoor barbecues, gardens, sprinkler systems. It’s about the emotion that comes with owning a property that looks and feels just right that moves people to hire lawn care companies. Smart companies know this and provide what people want. Join forces with companies that provide products that add to the enjoyment of a beautiful property. Talk about how to host an outdoor party. Become the trusted source for creating, maintaining and, most of all, enjoying a perfect lawn.
5. Beautiful pictures: Encourage customers to send pictures of their lawns and interesting properties they’ve seen as they travel in the summer. Put pictures of families lying on their backs in the grass, all holding hands...actually, scratch that – you have that picture in your brochure and it’s downright creepy.
What do you look for when you’re evaluating a small
business? What else can they do to make a great first impression?