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Irrigation Association of New York

Increase Sales – What to Do in a Tough Market

Now it’s time to prime the pump and get customers flowing in the door again. For many companies, the only path to profitability is to increase sales. There’s nothing more to cut.

So where are you going to get increased sales if you don’t market yourself?

One contractor put it succinctly: “You can’t cut your way to prosperity. You can’t disappear. If you get off your customers’ radar, you’re finished.”

When times are slow, businesses hunker down and begin reducing expenses. Most contractors have cut all they can.

Ask yourself whether you are doing every possible thing you can to find business. Are you sitting around grumbling about “things that will never work” and “we tried that before and it failed” while others are doing well? (Yes, I have contractor clients whose sales are UP in the industry’s great recession.)

So what things should you think about for your recovery package?

Have a plan to stay visible with current clients. Long-term customers are always potential buyers for new items and a steady source of referrals. Use tools like postcards, e-mail newsletters and telemarketing to promote new ideas for their landscapes. Find new things to sell these people, and then get selling.

Get your message where the buyers are. The right advertising continues to be a smart way to build your brand and your reputation. Select media that reach your target audience directly and effectively. “Bargain rates” for ad space are a waste of money if the publication is not read by customers who are ready to buy your product.

Become an Internet-savvy marketer. Smart contractors know the Internet is where customers go to investigate landscape improvements and choose contractors. It’s also one of the most measurable places to spend you advertising dollars.

Does your Web site showcase your company’s skills and advantages? Is your photo portfolio up to date? How about your reference list? Have you implemented paid search advertising to drive buyers to your front door? Is your Google-places listing current? Are you using Angie’s List, Facebook and LinkedIn to your advantage?

One of my clients increased his winterization business by 15 percent through Internet advertising. How’s your campaign going?

Educate your buyer. Help your customers understand what you offer. Make it clear how your company and your products provide value. Offer tips, tools and ideas to your clients that inspire them engage with their landscapes.

Get professional advice. The way contractors need to market themselves has changed completely in the new economy. Engage with a marketing expert who understands your industry and businesses like yours. If you’re unsure what to do, hold a planning session with your pro to review where you’ve been and where you need to go.

Results-oriented marketing always begins with a clear set of goals and objectives rather than a “let’s try this to see if it works.” There are no silver-bullet solutions, but the advice of an experienced pro can help avoid mistakes and will use your limited budget wisely. Plus, it may give you the motivation to make changes that will help you do better in 2011.

Marketing expert Jeff Carowitz leads a landscape-industry marketing agency. Find him on LinkedIn or e-mail him at Jeff@StrategicForceMarketing.com.