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Where Do Leads Come From? Inbound v. Outbound

April 12, 2022

This is the second installment in our six-part blog series about Best Practices for Sales in your Lawn Care, Landscaping, or Tree Care business. In this post, we’ll be discussing “Where do leads come from?”

What is a lead? 

According to LeadSquared, a lead is “a person who is interested in the product or service you sell.” That’s a good starting place, but I’d add a qualifier: a lead is “a person interested in the services you sell and has given you their contact information to receive a quote for service.

In other words, someone who calls, emails, texts, submits an online form, is referred to you by a friend, talks to your field staff, or in some other way says, “Hi! I’m John, and I’m interested in getting my lawn treated this season.” (Or shrubs trimmed, tree removed, etc. – you get the idea.) 

Anytime you get to propose work your company does to a potential customer, that’s a lead. It doesn’t matter if it’s in-person, on the phone, or in an email. We’re going to call these “leads” for this post. 

Inbound v. Outbound

A meaningful conversation you need to have about leads is where they come from. If you don’t know how they’re getting to you, you don’t have a way of replicating that lead. Your business will quickly crash if you can’t repeat lead flow at scale. 

According to Medium, Inbound leads are “leads that initiate contact with you directly or through referral channels,” while Outbound leads “are developed through proactive, direct contact initiated by you.” 

Outbound Leads

This concept is pretty easy to get your head around. An “Outbound” lead is an interest in a service that your company generated. So, your crew leader stopping to talk to a neighbor and convincing them to get a quote on their edging and mulching is an example of an “outbound” lead.

Door-to-door sales are another example of this. And if you don’t think this type of outbound lead generation still works, you have to ask yourself: why does TruGreen still do it? If you don’t believe that it still goes on, get on Indeed and search for “TruGreen” in your local market. (I counted at least three open positions for “Outside Sales Representative” in my small corner of Ohio.) 

When to Pursue Outbound Leads

There are a few considerations for outbound lead generation. One of those is the stage of growth in which you currently find your business. New businesses (up to about five years in business) may need to rely more heavily on outbound prospecting to maintain a consistent workload and keep the lights on. 

Another consideration is what part of the Green Industry your business occupies. Lawn Care businesses will almost always succeed with this type of lead generation. Door-to-door can prove incredibly effective when done correctly. 

Early-stage landscape companies will also find success by aggressively pursuing outbound leads. Tree Care companies would likely benefit from strategically timing their outbound; just before and after a significant wind event or ice storm is a great time to invest time and effort into outbound leads.

Companies say, “That doesn’t work for us,” because they’ve only put a half-hearted effort into it. You should create a process and document it whatever you do with outbound. Ensuring you’ve got a well-thought-out strategy around this type of lead generation gives it the best chance of success, and documenting it makes it far easier to train new team members so you can scale it. 

Inbound Leads

Inbound leads are leads where potential customers actively seek out your business to perform a service. When you get an online form submission, an email, a message on Social Media, or a phone call or voicemail asking, “Can I get a quote,” that’s an inbound lead. 

Some methods for getting these leads could be Search Engine Optimization (SEO), paid online ads (like Google Ads or Social Media ads), direct mailers that you sent out, billboard ads, a magazine ad, a yard sign you left at a neighbor’s house, or they saw your truck in their development and called the number on the side. 

Tracking How You Got Inbound Leads

Keeping track of why these people contact you is critical to making good decisions later. I’d avoid asking, “How did you hear about us?” Many businesses use this question, and you tend to get a “last attribution” answer. That means they usually tell you the very last thing they saw with your name on it. “I Googled it,” “I saw a truck,” or “I saw a yard sign” are common answers for our industry.

A more sophisticated question that gets to the heart of the buying decision is something like, “We understand that you have choices, and we’re grateful you chose us. What led to that decision today?” or “Why did you call us today?” (with the emphasis on “us” in that question). This question will get you different answers: “My neighbor’s landscaping looks amazing, and he told me you do it,” or “You do the lawn care where I work, and I see what a good job you do there,” or “I drive past your office on my way to work.” 

Find a way to capture your prospect’s sentiment rather than simply how they found your phone number, and you’ll have an excellent insight into how people chose you over a competitor.

Going Deeper


For a deeper dive into how to market your business most effectively, you can refer to our Green Industry Marketing Guide. It’s full of practical, helpful information about setting up your marketing, where to spend your advertising dollars, track it all, and plan out your year. This guide will help you create a sustainable pipeline of Inbound leads. 

Conclusion

Knowing where leads come from is critical to growing your business. Having a great strategy around building both Inbound and Outbound leads will help your business continue to grow and give you a competitive advantage. 

Go back and read Part 1 – Write It Down

Keep Reading Part 3 – What To Do With a Lead? Qualifying Leads