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Solutions, not Services

October 22, 2020

In this episode of the Green Industry Perspectives Podcast, Ty Deemer welcomes Jay Worth to the show! Jay is the Marketing Coordinator at Tomlinson Bomberger Lawn Care, Landscape, and Pest Control. Jay shares how any company in the green industry can start a marketing program. He shares his best practices for direct mailing, inside sales, working with consultants, and more. You won’t want to miss out on this great start to season two of Green Industry Perspectives.

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On this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How to build out a marketing plan.
  • The importance of meeting your customers where they are at.
  • Jay’s tips for direct mail.
  • How to thin about setting a marketing budget.
  • What success looks like in marketing your business.

Links to love

Full Transcript:

Ty Deemer:
You are listening to The Green Industry Perspectives podcast, presented by SingleOps, a podcast created for green industry professionals looking for best practices, tactics and tips on running their tree care or landscape business. All right. Welcome everyone to season two of Green Industry Perspectives. My name is Ty Deemer. I’m the marketing manager at SingleOps and I will be your host for this season. To kick off season two, we’re really excited to welcome Jay Worth to the show. Jay is the marketing coordinator for Tomlinson Bomberger and he’s just going to join us today to share a lot of his insights as a marketing leader for a company in Pennsylvania. It’s a pretty unique role. So, we’re really excited to have him on the show. Jay, welcome.

Jay Worth:
Hey. Thank you so much for having me, Ty. Appreciate it, man.

Ty Deemer:
Yeah, absolutely. So, to continue the theme of season one, we just want to jump right into some immediate value for our audience. So, I want to ask you what are the top three things or common threads you see in successful tree care or landscape businesses today, specifically in marketing?

Jay Worth:
Yeah, I was about to say I’m a little biased towards the marketing side. So, I’m going to frame my answers that way. But I think the number one thing is they have a plan for marketing. I think so many of us go into this industry not really prepared and opportunities arise and we’re busy in the middle of the season. We spend money that’s not smart. So, I think they have a plan for marketing and what they want to do with that. I think they’re measuring, number two, their results. It’s great to put a plan together and spend smart but you’ve got to track it and make sure it worked. So, that way the following year, you’re not spending money you don’t need to spend because we all have that just laying around, right? Bunch of money to throw at this. And the third thing to do is you have a structure to support growth. If you’re deliberate with your marketing efforts and you’re going to make the phone ring and the phone actually does ring, you need to have a way to execute on that work. So, I think those are my top three.

Ty Deemer:
Yeah, absolutely. That’s all great stuff and I’m excited to kind of go a level deeper with you on all that later in the episode. But just so people get an understanding of you, your background and then Tom Bomb, the company you work for, just kind of go into your background for me, how you got into the industry and how you ended up where you are today.

Jay Worth:
Yeah. So, I landscaped my way through college. I’ve worked everywhere from being the guy holding a weed eater doing commercial properties to I worked on a palm tree farm at one point and kind of worked my way through college that way. Got out of the industry for a little while and then got back into it shortly after kind of the bottom fell out of the economy in 2009. I was selling lawncare door-to-door and I did that for a total of about six years. Right in the middle there, wedged in between, I had a year where I sold advertising to small businesses. So, I learned a lot about the marketing side of things at that point. Truthfully, a lot of what I’ve learned about marketing green industry specifically, some of it was built on like kind of common sense stuff. Like I had a background on like okay, this is about when grub control should go down. The label says it goes down at this point. But a lot of it too, some of it’s been trial and error and luckily, I’ve got an employer that’s really gracious. They’re definitely demanding. They don’t want me to spend money stupid but I’m not getting beat over the head for that learning curve either. And now we’ve got things streamlined really, really well.

Ty Deemer:
Yeah, that’s awesome. And then just going into a little bit more depth about Tom Bomb, where you’re located, who you serve, what services you offer. In previous conversations, you and I have talked about some of the success that y’all have been having over the last honestly a couple years especially in entering into a new area. Just go into a little detail about that for the audience.

Jay Worth:
Yeah. So, we’re located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. If you think I like the Amish, that’s what most people know us for here in Lancaster and truthfully, I live a half a mile from the office. Every once in a while, I’ll get a horse and buggy that rolls right past my house. But there’s a lot to do in the area, believe it or not. It’s kind of an up and coming small city. We’ve been in business, next year it will be 40 years. So, it’s got some staying power behind it. About 120 co-workers in total. I joke with clients, if it’s on the outside of the house unless it’s decking or fencing, we probably do it. Lawncare, landscaping, pest control, tree pruning and removal, hardscaping. We actually have kind of a niche in south central Pennsylvania specifically with athletic field work and large turf work. You need an infield edged and groomed, we can take care of that. There’s not a lot of companies that have that kind of capacity close to us. And then we just opened two years ago a new location in Harrisburg which is the state capitol. It’s about 40 minutes from Lancaster. So, opened a new office there and that’s mostly lawncare/pest control focused but we’re pretty excited to watch that grow.

Ty Deemer:
Yeah, that’s awesome. Thanks for providing that insight. Yeah. So, let’s go ahead and jump into kind of more of the nitty-gritty marketing stuff. When we talk about marketing, it’s kind of just this ambiguous word to people sometimes and I do think breaking it down in a little bit more simple way for the audience could be extremely helpful. So, what are some of the things, a few of the more basic assumptions you need to have in place when you’re building out your marketing plan?

Jay Worth:
Okay. So, if I’m advising someone listening to this and really this goes across a lot of service lines but specifically for the green industry here, I’m personally framing a lot of my thoughts around this under a couple, as you mentioned, like some basic assumptions. One is that you have a website, right? It’s 2020. You better have a website. Like if you don’t have a website, that needs to be one of your first expenses as you’re opening your new business. And there are some things you can do to make it better but you need something where people can find basic information, even just contact information and they can ask you about your services. So, having that is really, really critical. I think you have to have a Facebook page. You don’t have to keep it updated with content all the time. You’ll hear a lot of marketing people tell you you’ve got to have it like three times a week and it’s got to be this and that. That’s helpful and it really is especially as you’re getting started. People that follow you are engaging with is going to be helpful. That actually helps your website become more visible on searches. So, that’s a big deal.

You got to have somebody who’s going to answer the phone, right? Like if you’re trying to make the phone ring, that’s the next assumption I’m working off of is that you have somebody to answer calls even if it’s you. You’re the business owner. Somebody’s answering those calls. You also need, this is my next assumption is that you have some sort of system in place to track where these calls or how they found your website. You’ve got to really, really dive into that. So, that way where to spend your money. And then lastly, I’m just assuming you want to grow. I’m assuming you want your business to be more successful and if you do, I’m hoping a lot of this is helpful for you.

Ty Deemer:
Yeah, absolutely. I really like the way you kind of phrase it as a few basic assumptions that you have to have in place before you can really take that next step. Because a lot of the things you’re talking about, they are what I would consider investments of a marketing plan. A website might seem like it’s overly complicated but there’s so many different ways you can go to build that out. You can use an Upworker to help build it out for relatively like cost effective and it’s a great place for people to interact with your company and your brand. Even putting portals on your website for them to be able to request services from you, that’s such a huge part. And then Facebook as well just because if you Google, like I’m located in Atlanta, Georgia, if you Google landscape company in Atlanta, Georgia, most likely on that search page, the third or fourth listed result is going to be a Facebook link to their page. So, it’s huge in growing your business and those two things, the website does cost something but Facebook is free to build and maintain a profile. Those really do have to be your kind of non-negotiables as you start out so people can access your brand and then start the process of asking you to come onto their property to give them a bid. So, I’m glad you started with that.

Jay Worth:
Yeah. A lot of people don’t realize the way Google works, okay, just at a 10,000 foot view, I’m not going to get like way into the weeds with it, but there are a series of programs that scour the internet for information and they report it back to Google, right? So, one of those places that they trust is Facebook. So, when you have information on your website that says this is our physical location, these are our hours, these are the services we offer and that matches what’s on Facebook, it makes it more likely that Google is going to put you close to the top of those search results and that’s critical.

Ty Deemer:
Yeah. That’s great information for the audience to know. So, I think your first point addresses a lot of the needs of someone that’s just basically saying hey, I’m not doing this at all right now, where do I get started. But as they have that now in mind, we can kind of talk about okay, what’s the next level. And your last point there was you want to grow your business. So, what are some of the things or priorities they need to keep in mind when they’re starting to build out these programs?

Jay Worth:
So, if I were going to start building a marketing program and this is actually where I inherited some stuff that I wasn’t crazy about, a lot of it was good. I’m not saying there was there was bad stuff there and we kept parts of it but we really had some aggressive growth goals. And so, there were parts of it I had to just scrap all together and I had to just reevaluate the whole thing, make sure I wasn’t making assumptions. So, one of the things you need to do, you need to start as the business owner or as the sales and marketing guy or whatever, you need to determine what your priorities are for the following year, right? Like as you slow down in the winter, what do you want to do more of the following year, first of all, and second of all, what do you actually have the bandwidth to handle? Like right now, I would love to aerate every single one of our lawncare clients’ lawns but we actually don’t have the staffing for that. It’s a challenge right now. So, what we can do more of right now is pruning. So, there’s looking at types of things. Do I have a staffing plan in place to be able to take that on next year or do I know I have extra capacity in a certain area of my business? That’s the first thing you want to kind of look at.

After that, you kind of want to start to look at the calendar, right? And you want to figure out when to start sending that messaging. So, let’s say again my background’s in turf, so I’m going to use a lot of lawncare analogies here. If you’re a lawncare company in Minnesota, you’re going to start your messaging probably in February or March. If I’m a lawncare company in Atlanta, Ty, I’m going to start thinking about spring and getting on a new program much sooner. It’s industry related some of it depending on the seasonality of where you’re located. Do your best to get that message in front of clients while they’re actually thinking about it. We all know the phone’s not ringing in December for landscape work, right? Like you got to strike while the iron’s hot in this industry. And so, that’s one of the challenges. The next thing I would say is you want to determine what channels you use and a channel is just any way that you get your message. So, whether that’s Facebook, whether it’s direct mail, whether it’s radio, TV, you put an ad in the newspaper. Believe it or not, I just tried one of those and it actually worked because Lancaster County is a little old school that way.

Ty Deemer:
That’s awesome.

Jay Worth:
Think about where your existing clients came from. How did they find you? Right? That’s a good place to start. And if you don’t know anything, you can do one of two things. You can either take your best guess or you can hire a freelancer or social media consultant to take a look at, you can do something called lookalike audiences with Facebook, right? So, you can take the people that already are fans of yours, that have liked your page and are following your content and you can create another audience where the demographic, the age range, the income level, all that stuff is very similar but those are people that don’t know you. But it’ll tell you, you’ll get some information. One of the things that we tried this year that performed fairly well inexpensively was ads on Bing and Yahoo. You’re saying to yourself why would you do that? All the volume’s on Google. Well, we did that because most of our audience or most of our clients are over the age of 55 and they’re using a desktop and a lot of them do that. And so, we got enough leads out of it at a really inexpensive price point to make it worth our time.

So, just think about your client base and where they are actually looking, right? If you don’t know, you can actually ask them. Ask your clients what websites are you on, where are you getting your information from because we’ve all seen ads on a website or like a blog we were reading or something, right? You can do that at a local level. You can draw a little line around a city that you want to work in and say hey, I want everyone on here to get ads and a social media contractor or an internet contractor can do that for you. You can ask what TV stations they watch. In my market, the NBC is the 900-pound gorilla. Like if we’re going to pull everything else, I’ve got to stay on NBC because that’s the big local, like everybody around us watches it. The only caveat here I would say is don’t rely on just like a single channel or one or two channels, right? You’ll get the most bang for your buck if you can find the effort, they build a synergy with one another and do that on a single campaign. And this freaks out a lot of us in the green industry, right? Because we’re like it’s spring. I don’t have my expenses covered yet and you’re asking me to pour money out. Yes, I am because I’m asking you to invest in the jobs that you’re going to continue to be doing in June and July and August, right? Like that’s how you’re going to get those lined up. That’s how you’re going to make the phone ring then. Don’t go broke on advertising but again, so much of our business is seasonal. Don’t miss an opportunity because you were afraid to spend money there.

One of the things we did this year again that worked out fairly well for us, we did a lot of radio but we didn’t do like 30 second radio spots because those are crazy expensive. What we did was we sponsored the local traffic reports, right? And so, many of the radio stations now are in these huge networks like iHeartRadio or Cumulus Media. So, when they do their traffic reports and you sponsor it through them, it goes out in like 30 stations at one time and it says hey, here’s your traffic update sponsored by such-and-such, by Bob’s Tree Service. Guess what? That’s a fairly captive audience. They’re hearing your messaging and then when they go home and they see that you sent them a postcard or they go home and they see something on Facebook that you posted, it’s reinforcing that messaging. And that’s something that marketers call frequency and that frequency is really important with how today’s consumers look for things. They’re so busy. They’re being pulled in 100 different directions. You’ve got to try and stay top of mind.

Ty Deemer:
Yeah, I love everything you’re talking about. Like listening to you over the last five minutes, that’s what a program is. It’s not just like oh we only do one thing and that’s the only way we reach our customer base. It’s no, you’re meeting them in all the different avenues they’re at whether it’s online through advertising, through Facebook or Google or Bing or Yahoo. You’re also doing kind of more unique creative campaigns like radio spots. You mentioned to me earlier this week that you had a TV spot and direct mail. That’s all really awesome stuff. And then like you said with the radio spot, if you’re creative with kind of which spot you actually decide to invest in, it can be cost effective.

Jay Worth:
Absolutely.

Ty Deemer:
I’d love for you to go into a little bit more detail about y’all’s direct mail strategy. That’s something I’ve really enjoyed learning about before and maybe something that it might be for like the older generation green industry pro, maybe a little easier to come on board with because Facebook—

Jay Worth:
It really works.

Ty Deemer:
Yeah, Facebook for me can even be intimidating sometimes. There’s always like, I feel like I’m always looking up a help article. But direct mail is still effective in a lot of ways. So, I’d love to hear you kind of go into a little bit more detail about the ways you all use it.

Jay Worth:
Yeah. And don’t feel bad about, Ty, I have two different social media certifications and I also don’t understand Facebook.

Ty Deemer:
They update it too much.

Jay Worth:
It’s a lot. It’s a lot to take in and it changes all the time. That’s why I use vendors. I have the luxury of having people that I contract with. But in terms of direct mail, if we’re talking print ads, whether you’re putting in a magazine, whether it’s a billboard I think because that’s a display ad, a print ad, okay, if it’s a direct mail piece, I think there’s a couple of things. One, and some of this maybe you don’t do if you’re a billboard, like maybe you don’t want an offer. I’ll get there in a second. But some of the concepts are similar, right? Simple is better I think. I think if you have one image and one main message that you’re trying to convey. This is something that we were guilty of as an organization even as recently as like three and four years ago. We put a print ad out there with something and then at the bottom, there was this little black bar and it had like nine other services we offer and it would say we also do landscaping and irrigation installation and blah, blah, blah. It was like you’re confusing the issue. You sent out that direct mail piece for one reason. You want that to make the phone ring for your tree pruning or you want the phone ringing for your edging and mulching services, right? So, one image and one main message. You can have text explaining it but keep it short and sweet and that works better. For example, with our pest control this year, we sent out direct mail. It had a single dead ant on a white background and the headline read “Kill Bugs Better,” right? Underneath that, it talked about how we find the source so that we can eliminate it but then it had the logo and a contact info and that was it. And it made the phone ring, right? So, simple is better. Just convey one message at a time. Don’t over complicate it. Don’t put a paragraph in there.

The second thing I would say, keep in mind that your ad is for the consumer, it’s not for you. So many of us want to like show off, like look at all this stuff that I do and I’ve won 50,000 awards and my team is the best. Okay. You know how awesome you are. You know how awesome your team is. You don’t need to literally advertise that. What you do need to offer a client is a solution. So, they hire a service as part of a solution, right? Like I can change my own oil in my car. I know how to do that. I pay a service to do it for convenience. That’s my pain point, not because I’m incapable. So, if I were marketing an oil change shop, I’d talk about how fast and easy it is, how clean the waiting rooms are, I’d have a TV spot where as soon as the nice lady driving the minivan like goes to sit down, they’re bringing her keys back out and saying hey, your van is ready and with a big cheesy grin and she’s all smiles, right? That’s what you’re selling. You’re not selling—I mean literally any service station can change the oil. So, that’s the way you need to think. Your competitors can do all the same things that you’re doing for the most part. I mean maybe you have a really incredibly specific niche and in that case, business will probably find you. But for most of us, anybody can do that. So, sell solutions, not services. It makes you feel more like you’re building a relationship with the client and that’s what they’re looking for.

I said I’d get to an offer. You probably should put an offer on there if it’s for new clients, right? Toss them a bone to try you out and then let your quality of your work continue that relationship like secure the business. But whether it’s a percentage off, a dollar amount, I personally think dollar amounts work better. If you say 10% off, they don’t have any idea what the scope of the work is. But if you say $500 off, they’re going to pick up the phone, right? That’s my personal opinion. Or free something. If you’re in a recurring service business like pest control, lawncare, plant healthcare and you can throw a freebie in, cheap’s good but free’s better, man. That’s going to make the phone ring. It doesn’t have to cost you a ton of money. It just has to look like it’s high value to the client. So, I’ll give you an example here. We’ve got some folks that are like right on the edge, there’s this like weird no man’s land in eastern Lancaster County in between us and like what is closer to a Philly market. And we have a competitor over there who started moving west into Lancaster County which is fine and they sent out a direct mail piece that did a lot of these things. Like the image on the front was a little kid playing with a dog in the lawn. Really good piece. And then when you opened it up the offer was two free insect controls. If you do application work, you know that that’s like $8 in bifenthrin. They didn’t give away anything really. You know?

Ty Deemer:
Yeah.

Jay Worth:
They’re not giving away a ton but it looks like a ton of value to the client and that’s what you kind of need to think through. So, I think those are the things that make a good direct mail piece. It needs to be concise and clear what you’re sending a message about, it needs to solve a problem for them, and you need to have an offer.

Ty Deemer:
Yeah. That’s all great stuff and I’m glad you were able to touch on it because the cool part about direct mail to me is it’s a great way to reach new customers but it’s also a great way to remind your current customer base of services you offer when you get into PHC work and different things like that.

Jay Worth:
Absolutely.

Ty Deemer:
It’s like hey, I know we cut your tree down last fall or something like that but we also offer this to ensure that the rest of your trees are in good health. And that makes you look like an advocate for your client which you are and it’s also another revenue stream that you can use marketing to fuel.

Jay Worth:
Yeah. One of our salespeople—Jeanette if you listen to this, I’m giving you some props right now—she’s brilliant. What she’ll do at the end of every year, she collects the list of all of her install jobs and she follows up with them to sell them a plant healthcare the following year. She calls them and says hey, I know you spent $4,000 on that install job. How about for 600 bucks you protect it?

Ty Deemer:
Yeah, that’s awesome.

Jay Worth:
Oh my gosh, it’s gold.

Ty Deemer:
Well, especially if you got feedback from the initial install that they were happy with you and they enjoyed working with you. It’s such a warm offer of like look, we loved working with you, we’d love to continue earning your business.

Jay Worth:
And we’re concerned about your investment. We’re trying to be your advocate for your own investment. We want to help you protect it.

Ty Deemer:
Yeah, that’s awesome.

Jay Worth:
She’s brilliant.

Ty Deemer:
Yeah. So, kind of going back to more of the digital marketing side of things, Facebook, Google ads, the online space, I think we’ve both been able to acknowledge that even for people that do it every day, it tends to be a little daunting at times. There’s just so much out there and you mentioned the opportunity to use vendors. For someone that may be a little unfamiliar with what that looks like, what would be your suggestions to someone that wants to get involved with advertising on Facebook or Google but kind of realizes that in-house they don’t have the tools to do that. What should they look for when they’re looking for consultants and vendors and what questions should they be asking?

Jay Worth:
The way I, and I have done this in the past actually when I’ve been shopping for new vendors, the way I find stuff is the same way your clients are looking for you is I Google it. So, if you Google just about anything, any service you’re looking for and the city you live in, you’ll get something. So, Ty, for example, I wondered what the marketing consultant market looks like in Atlanta. So, I Googled marketing consultants in Atlanta, Georgia and I found three different lists that said top 10 marketing consultants or 15 best marketing consultants in Atlanta specifically, right? So, if you’re looking for something like that, you need someone to help you with search engine optimization which is how do those websites that show up first on Google, how do they get there. That’s called search engine optimizations. It’s little tweaks you can make to your site or to your Google my business listing which is the little directory of information that Google hosts about your business. Whether you’re looking for somebody to help you with that, whether you’re looking for somebody to help you with social media, it’s the same thing. That’s where I go first. I Google it. And then I ask a lot of questions of potential vendors for myself. I ask how many people do you think this is going to impact or if it’s an ad, print ad or even a Facebook ad, how many people are going to see this, what geographic area does it cover. You want to make sure you’re not spending your money somewhere you don’t work, right? We all have a certain point in which we’re not willing to drive to go get that work.

So, do you have any references? I had a vendor walk in the door and asked to do business with me and I asked them for a list of references and I called every one of them and talked to every one of them before I gave them any work. Do you have examples of work that you’ve done for companies similar to mine? That’s a great one. That’s a totally fair ask especially when you’re talking about the internet. The internet’s all over the world, right? The company that I use for my SEO work, they also do my Google ads, I know they work with like five other lawncare or landscape companies but they’re in like Chicago, right? They’re not competitors of mine but I want to see do you understand my industry and can you show me results from someone like me. I ask if it’s a print ad or a Facebook ad, I ask is the design of the ad included in that price, right? You want to make sure you’re not getting hit with a surprise cost later on. Even though I help design the ads, I cannot use Illustrator. I don’t use any of the software that you actually make those ads on. So, I’m relying on vendors. I either have a graphic artist. I have a couple of them on retainer. Like hey, if I have a project I need done, I have two that I work with right now who I will just send work and say hey, do you have time for this and they’ll do that. If not, just make sure that the design is included in the price and a lot of times it is for print ads but you just want to clarify that. What’s the deadline, right? When do you need the final copy for this ad? If it’s going to go live on the internet, when do you need my approval as the business owner before that goes live? What’s the deadline like? What type of return are you expecting? That’s a totally fair question to ask a vendor. If you’re walking in my door or I’m sitting down with you and I’m considering spending some of my business’ hard-earned money with you, I want to know what I’m going to get out of it.

So, we just ran a, it was called an integrated campaign. It had some direct mail components. There was some retargeting which is like when you let’s say you look for golf clubs, you like do some online shopping and like three days later, ads for golf clubs are popping up. That’s called retargeting. Okay? So, there was some retargeting involved in it. There’s all these moving pieces and they put like a five figure number in front of me and it wasn’t like low five figures. It was like mid five figures. And I said well, okay, what am I getting out of this? It was a lot of money. I was like I have people I’m accountable to. I got people that work for the business. I want to know what we’re going to get out of it. Anyone who promises you anything on the internet by the way is lying. So, if they guarantee you something, they’re full of it. But just say what do you expect out of it. And then what’s the total financial commitment? Sometimes like magazines will give you a discounted rate but only if you’re spending monthly. And so, they’ll say oh, well, it’s normally a thousand dollars an ad but I’ll give it to you at $700. Well, what they might not have told you up front is that that $700 is because you’re committing every single month to put an ad in the magazine. So, those are the types of questions I would ask. I just ask lots and lots of questions until I’m comfortable, I totally understand there’s been no miscommunications, I know when billing’s happening. Billing terms, right? You [inaudible 00:28:28] billing terms. Are these net 30? Do I have a longer grace period if it’s a big expense? What are those kind of things? Those are all questions I ask a vendor.

Ty Deemer:
Yeah. And the coolest part to me about using vendors and consultants is the education process that goes along with them. While you are getting all of these great outputs for your business in really quick fashion by professionals that specialize in that area, you also get to learn lessons and pick up things along the way and it kind of adds to your tool belt as a marketer or a business owner. You’re naturally going to learn things about your customer base, about what messaging works to certain audiences in that customer base and also, just what channels are the most successful. And that’s strictly based off of ROI because at the end of the day, you want to know like how much am I spending and how much am I receiving based off of that spend. And that’s kind of a good transition into my next question, Jay. When someone is thinking about starting a marketing program, starting to invest in it, how would you suggest they decide on how much should they spend on marketing?

Jay Worth:
It’s a great question and just to reiterate, Ty, it was a really savvy observation there. Most of what I know about marketing is learned in that way, by me pestering my vendors until I get the answer and I have a handle on what’s going on. So, education is part of the process for sure. In terms of how much should I be spending on marketing, I think it’s a great question. I think the answer is it depends on where you’re at in growing your business. If you’re a new business, you’ve been in business three to five years or you’ve never invested in marketing and maybe you’re an older business, you should probably spend a bigger chunk of your total revenue on marketing, right? So, 10% to 15% of your sales revenue that I would commit to marketing and I would say the same goes to if you’re a new business trying to break into a new market. And I think that’s one of the things that we learned early on in our new location. We put an office, put a shingle outside and said well, we’re Tomlinson Bomberger. Everyone knows us because in Lancaster County we are a household name but we were going into a new county, into a new city and we had done commercial work up there. So, people kind of recognized the logo but we had nowhere near the name recognition that we assumed we did. And so, we had to shift a lot of that spend to really make our name recognized before people started trusting us with the business. So, that’s what I’m saying. I think you need to invest more heavily on that on the front end.

Now if you’ve got more established name recognition, between 5% and 8% of your revenue should be spent on marketing. That’s the average across all business sectors and that’s the recommendation by the U.S. Small Business Administration. That’s not even a Jay number. Somebody way smarter than Jay figured that out. So, if you’re incredibly well-established, you can probably get away with dialing it back if you have to cut fast somewhere. I don’t think that’s a good idea but I would never slip below 3.5%-4%. When an economy starts to slow down, that’s not the time to cut marketing. That’s the time to at least hold the line because a lot of your competitors are going to start falling off and you’re going to be the last one left standing in the customer’s mind. So, I think you need to hold the line in those circumstances if that happens. But even as an established business, if you’re spending 4% or lower, I don’t think you’re spending enough to sustain growth. You might be holding the line but you’re not growing.

Ty Deemer:
Yeah, that’s all great stuff. To kind of go into the next part of our marketing conversation, we’ve mentioned a lot of different channels you can invest in, strategies to attack them at. How do you kind of keep it all organized and how do you decide when to plan things out? Do you keep a schedule with everything that you have planned for the year? Or what would you suggest to someone whether they’re already dabbling or they’re just getting started? How would you suggest for them to manage all that?

Jay Worth:
I calendarize everything. I sit down the year before. So, we’re starting that planning strategy like right now for 2021 and I actually just use an Excel spreadsheet. I have it color coded. Each channel is on a different line and I even break it up. Like for us, there’s this corny little magazine that goes around every home and it’s the Coupon Clipper, right? So, like if you’re putting an ad in there and you want to put an offer in, a print ad with an offer, it does make the phone ring for us as a whole. But we’ve got two markets to do it in now, right? So, I separated out like this magazine for Lancaster and then this magazine for Harrisburg. And then I have my columns are each month. And I say okay, so this is running in this month. So, at any given point, I can look and say in July, these are all the channels, these are all the places I’m spending money, these are all the things that we’ve planned out in advance. And then I actually, when I’m trying something new or I have a deadline, I just put that on my Outlook calendar. If I don’t, I’ll forget it. There’s too many moving parts. And look, I actually have a really good memory. I have a very good memory and I just forget stuff. There’s just too much going on.

And so, I think that organization, knowing what you’re planning on spending, when you’re planning on spending it, why you’re going to spend it there and I base that calendar largely around our services, right? So, like I start lawncare messaging end of February, mid-February to end of February. My first direct mail typically hits home the very last week or last couple of days of February and then it goes for seven weeks. I’ve got mail hitting homes every week for seven or eight weeks. I don’t think in the last three years, I don’t think we’ve ever sent out less than 130,000 pieces of direct mail in the spring alone. You just have to put it on a calendar so that you know when it’s supposed to go and then you just keep that calendar in front of you throughout the year. I put mine, when I was in the office before I started working from home, I had it on the wall right next to my computer. Like okay, what stuff is happening and when and that way hopefully, you don’t miss something.

But like I tried out a couple of new vendors for different campaigns. One of them I was really excited about it. It was like an automated thing where there was a series of emails that went out. Then they retargeted. Then there was like YouTube pre-roll in there and then there was a direct mail piece. It was like five or seven touches and I didn’t have to touch anything. They automated it all for me and I was hoping that worked. So, I put like little okay, this mailer is going out on this time, this is when the second email goes out just so I know when to talk to my vendor and say hey, what did we get out of that? That’s how I do it. I calendarize everything and I just use an Excel spreadsheet to plan out the year. It’s not elegant. It kind of looks messy but it keeps me organized.

Ty Deemer:
Yeah. The main reason I ask is because I’m a huge believer in kind of what your main first point was is having a plan and there needs to be a way to hold yourself or your team accountable to that plan. That’s a huge part of a marketing calendar.

Jay Worth:
Absolutely.

Ty Deemer:
Because I do think there are times where marketing gets a bad rap because people are wondering well, what are those guys even up to? Because it’s not necessarily like sales where it’s like they’re held to a quota each month and there’s a clear definition of what success looks like. Sometimes you might not see the return on investment of a radio ad for maybe six months but you’re in someone’s car in their ear every day and there is value in that. But when you’re like running all of these different types of campaigns, having that schedule is so, so important because it keeps you on time. You kind of dot your I’s, cross your T’s in everything you need to be doing and then it holds you and your team accountable to the things you said you’re going to do.

Jay Worth:
Yeah. And so, to that end, I don’t know if you’ve got this coming up or not, but you’re talking about accountability and how it’s a lot tougher for marketing. People say oh, what are you doing all the time? One of the things that we were able to work on as a department, as a marketing, and I say department. It’s me and my boss. He’s the sales and marketing manager. I’m the one that does a lot of like day-to-day work. But he helped me create this and I think it’s brilliant because it answers that question. What are the marketing guys doing? Like what is Jay doing during the day? We created a dashboard that just comes out once a month. But the things that we’re tracking on the dashboard. So, when I talked about measuring a campaign, like you need to have certain benchmarks that you think are important that you’re tracking to see if that campaign, your marketing efforts worked, right? So, what we track, the top three things that we track, unique visitors to our website. Okay? We want to know are new people finding the website or not, right? We track the number of organic leads. So, leads come into your website one of two ways. If you’re paying for ads on Google, that’s a non-organic lead if somebody clicks on that and comes your website. But if somebody just does search for like hey, landscaper in Lancaster and they find us and they come in that way, that’s an organic lead. They’re doing a form submission. They’re submitting their information to us. That’s an organic lead. So, we track unique visitors, we track organic leads and we track the total incoming phone volume to both the sales support team that schedules appointments for our outside guys and to our inside sales team. So, those two combined. Like how many appointments are we setting? How much stuff are we selling on the phone? What does that phone volume look like? Are those things happening? Those are the three key metrics that we track month-to-month for the marketing side.

We have an inside sales team and I supervise them too and we track other things on there. There’s a section on this dashboard that says what our current campaigns are. So, if we’re running something right now, what are we getting out of that? And then upcoming initiatives. So, what’s on the horizon? What’s the next step in the plan? And the whole purpose of this is that I can hand this to anybody on a leadership team. I can hand this to anybody in the organization and they would know exactly what marketing has been doing for them to make the business move forward just by looking at it like real quick. So, that’s been a game changer, man. I mean we were measuring stuff anyway. I was like checking them to see if stuff was working and tracking that. But we didn’t have one centralized place that we could put it that everybody could see it and know oh, hey, website visitors are double what they were last year in September. Like having that is a really clutch thing I think.

Ty Deemer:
Yeah, absolutely. And that’s where I think marketing plays an extremely important role in a company because it can be the thing that binds all the different departments together. Because it sets a standard for the business, it creates a brand that you can be proud of and say like yeah, I work for Tom Bomb and I love it and here’s our brand and like you’d share the website with a friend that might be looking for a job. But also any marketing program has to point back towards revenue and getting that new business and you have a pretty synchronized sales and marketing team because you’re so involved with both and that’s your background. So, y’all are definitely doing it right in that sense.

Jay Worth:
Thanks. We’re trying.

Ty Deemer:
Yeah, for sure. Just to kind of wrap out our conversation here, Jay, I want to ask what are you currently most excited about right now at Tom Bomb with marketing and the things that you and your team are doing going into the rest of the year and as you’re planning out for 2021?

Jay Worth:
Yeah. Two things because I just got a current update as I’m looking at the most recent dashboard here. My inside sales team, we added one guy, one full-time guy this year and in 2020 we have more than doubled our total output in terms of sales dollars in one year. So, that just came through right before we got on this call and I thought that was a win. I thought it was incredible. Again, I think we did a lot to try and streamline that and make sure that we had a good direction. We knew what we wanted to sell. We knew that the easiest way for us to sell that was over the phone. And so, we focused a lot of the marketing efforts around that and it worked out for us. So, that was one thing.

The other thing that we’re going to be getting into that I’m really excited about is customer experience. We’re going to have a fairly automated process. Our CRM allows us to send after-service emails to every client. So, what we’re doing is we’re just using SurveyMonkey, creating a quick, it’s like five or six questions, survey. Any longer than that, I think you lose people. But just to gain some feedback from them because we want to know, we don’t want to make assumptions about what they’re thinking, right? So, we want to know are we doing a good job with each of our service lines, was the billing easy, how was it to work with their salesperson, how did they find us, what services are they most interested in. So, we’re kind of putting together some of those things. And I think any time you’ve got hard data to work from and you can take assumptions and emotion out of the decision-making process in marketing, you’re going to be more successful. A lot of times we get caught in the rut of that’s the way we built the business. Well, maybe that’s the way you built the business 10 years ago. Ten years ago was a totally different beast, right? Like smartphones were like just becoming a thing then, right? Like people still mostly use that, you didn’t see three year olds running around with tablets at the store, like playing like while their parents are shopping. I mean it’s a totally different landscape. You have to adjust and any time you can say well, that’s what worked for us in the past but I don’t want to make that assumption. Let me get some information, some hard information that’s going to verify or blow up my assumptions and then I’ll work around that new information, you’re going to be a lot better off.

Ty Deemer:
Yeah. Jay, that’s all awesome stuff. And for the last hour, we’ve covered so many great topics about marketing in the green industry. Listeners have learned about different channels they can approach in building out a marketing campaign, how to set budgets, how to evaluate and how to schedule and I feel like we could probably go on for another hour talking about all this stuff. So, I really appreciate all your time in preparing all this awesome stuff and I’m really excited to see kind of what Tom Bomb does for the rest of 2020 and into 2021. But I can’t thank you enough for your time on the show. And absolutely for the listeners out there, we’ll be having a blog post with show notes and links to all of Tom Bomb’s profiles and Jay’s background, all that stuff if you ever want to reach out to him on LinkedIn and ask him some questions. But Jay, thank you so much for your time.

Jay Worth:
Absolutely. And if you’re listening to this and you’re like I don’t know where to start and I just want to get started, I know I need to do this, shoot me a connection on LinkedIn. I’ll gladly have that conversation with anybody that wants to connect and try to steer you in the right direction. That’s pro bono, man. I love the industry and I want to see people do better. I want to see me do better. I want to keep getting better at what I’m doing. So, if I can help you with something I’ve already learned as I’m learning something new, I’m happy to do that.

Ty Deemer:
Absolutely, Jay. That’s what this podcast is all about. Thank you again for your time and look forward to connecting soon.

Jay Worth:
Thanks, Ty.

Conclusion:
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