[img:1]I live in Atlanta and we are having an unusual winter full of cold temperatures, ice, and even snow. This means we are stuck at home more than usual and have a more difficult time getting out to work. While for some people that means frustration, to others it means opportunity; a chance to get things done around the house, finish projects, and spend time with family. For business people, it means time to work on a more successful year, develop a marketing plan, and develop communications for clients and customers.
I’ve often said that one of my biggest pet peeves about business owners in our industry is the amount of time I hear the line, “my business is word-of-mouth.” This usually means they have the mind-set that they do not have to do any marketing to stay busy. To me it means they are fine with just getting by, fighting for every job they get, and don’t believe that marketing is an investment in the future success of their business. For the record, marketing is a vital element of success for any business.
If you are taking time to get your marketing together now so that you can send it out later, you are on the right track. Here are a few things you can work on now for success later this year:
**Plan Your Events**
You probably already know if you want to participate in home shows this year, host DIY events, or a pond tour, so why not get your information ready now. By planning in advance you will be able to have all of your collateral (tri-folds and handouts) designed and printed so that you are not doing it last minute. If you have a pond tour, it is a great idea to start getting sponsors now and decide what materials you will need. Getting out a calendar and marking the materials with dates needed to go to the printer, sent in the mail or given to sponsors and partners, and lists of other important dates for marketing, will help make your events more successful and less stressful.
**Create a Communications Plan**
(Here is where I’m going to use a bunch of very familiar phrases.) It doesn’t take a lot to stay top-of-mind so that those loyal customers can refer you by word-of-mouth, but it does take communication. How can they think about talking about you if you aren’t even a thought? With the thousands of messages we all receive each day it is very easy for you to become lost in a person’s everyday life. Creating a schedule to deliver meaningful communication (in other words – stuff they really want to hear and know, not just a sales letter) will help you become more memorable and further build your relationship. Also, make sure every communication contains a call-to-action. This may include using a coupon or discount, linking to a page on a website, or signing up or registering for an event or product.
*Consider the following initiatives:*
**1. A Monthly Email Campaign** – Once a month is plenty in the landscape industry. If you run a retail location and your products or sale items change weekly, then you can consider a weekly newsletter. Do not engage in a campaign unless you can write content that the reader will want to receive and is unique for each mailing.
**2. Postcard Campaigns** – While traditional snail-mail seems to be non-existent anymore (unless you are a big company sending out a catalog every other week), postcards still have a place in a well-designed marketing plan. Make sure you have a mailing that is creative, informational, and (here is what will get them) has a special offer or discount. This can be very effective for retail locations. Plan on sending them out three to four weeks prior to your traditional slow periods. Not sure when that would be? Check your books and calendar from last year and prior years.
**3. Spring Newsletter **– A great way to kick-off the Spring season and reintroduce yourself to your customers is with a newsletter. Here are a few suggestions based on size:
*• For an 8 ½˝ x 11˝ page (one-sided), break it down into three parts: *
1. Introduction and need-to-know information for the New Year.
2. Tips for pond, water feature, or landscape care and maintenance.
3. Product suggestion for improving outdoor living space and/or landscape.
4. Sidebar – Upcoming events and local information.
*• If you are doing a two-sided newsletter (add the following): *
1. Here is where you can add extra information on products and services that you offer (without being too “salesy”) and add incentives for early signups for Spring Cleaning or maintenance packages.
2. Coupons are great too. People love a discount and you can hold on to them to track the success of your newsletter.
*• If you are doing multiple pages or a larger format: *
1. Articles! If you want to use articles not written by you that you have PERMISSION to use, that is fine. But, writing your own articles will help you in several ways. First, it establishes you as a valuable and credible resource to your readers/ customers. Second, it forces you to research information and learn new things. Finally, it will help you work on your communication skills – even if you have someone else “polish” it.
2. Add pictures from customers. This works best in color and high quality. Pictures show off your work and you can even add customer comments or blurbs about the job.
**Now, try something new…**
For all the new materials, collateral, and touch-points you put out this year, let me introduce you to a semi-new concept – The Tag. There are several different versions of this out there but the Microsoft Tag is the most prevalent. It works similarly to a bar code in that the specific pattern holds information and is read by a scanner. Recently, more magazines and advertisers are using them and I’ve even seen it on product packaging. I’ve been using them for the past year now and it always raises eyebrows and gets people excited. Those who are most excited are those who have smart phones (such as the iPhone) and can download the free app. You can use them in all of the above initiatives and more. I now design all my business cards with them and add them to any marketing piece a client will allow me to do it on.
**You can create four kinds of tags: Text, vCard, URL, and Dialer. **
But how you apply them is only limited by your imagination. You can also print them in color or black and white, depending on how you want to use them. For more information on Microsoft Tag, visit their website at http://tag.microsoft.com. Here are some of mine to play with (If you have a smart phone, download the FREE app from http://gettag.mobi):
My **v-card tag** has my information and can be stored instantly to a phone once read. I put this tag on anything from business cards to business communications from me personally.
My **phone tag** can be scanned, and the phone instantly asks to dial the number. This tag can also be put on business cards and communications, but is also great for advertisements and signage.
My **URL tag** links instantly to The Green Pen website. It can link to any page on the Internet, including videos. It can be used like the other tags above and is a great fit for just about any type of advertising.
Here is an example of the back of a company’s business card. This allows whoever gets the card to add all the necessary information to their phone instantly which means they are more likely to hold on to it.
Whatever you do, make sure you have a plan in place, that you track where your leads come from, and that when you send out any communications they will capture the audience’s attention and give them a call-to-action.
Now, sign-up here to win a FREE custom email campaign template ($600 value) for your email communications!
(Don’t have the Microsoft Tag Application but want to register? Visit our website at http://sendgreenmail.com/tag)
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