WHEN LIKE INTERIOR FORCES WORK TOGETHER
By Chris Raimondi, CLP, PLANET’s Interior Plantscaping Specialty Group Chair
It’s an exciting time for the Interior Plantscaping Specialty Group. For starters, PLANET News Interior e-publication is catching on and being well received. I’ve had several comments from members who believe this vehicle will be very effective in bringing them timely, up-to-date information about our industry.
Today, we have two powerful tools at our disposal — the Interior Industry Coalition (IIC) and the Internet. Both are having a significant impact on our industry.
As you may already know, PLANET and the Green Plants for Green Buildings organization are actively lobbying the U.S. Green Building Council to get interior plants recognized as part of LEED certification, and our members are helping with research that will pave the way. In addition, IIC and PLANET are working with the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA) on a mealybug study.
In the meantime, I’ve had several discussions with PLANET President Bill Hildebolt, Ph.D., CTP, CTP-CSL, about other green initiatives. He believes that our specialty group and IIC have a tremendous opportunity to help bring awareness about sustainability to the marketplace and create exciting opportunities not only for our industry and companies, but also for our communities and our employees. PLANET calls this the 3 P’s — People, Profit, and Planet.
Practicing green, of course, is good for interior environments. As PLANET points out, though, sustainability has a broader meaning that goes beyond its immediate impact on the environment. Companies that leverage their environmental service offerings create business opportunities that can add to the bottom line and generate growth opportunities for employees. Greener and more aesthetically appealing building interiors, again, will benefit people and the communities in which they work and live. Last but not least, encouraging our members to embrace sustainability and promote its benefits will position PLANET and our industry as environmental stewards — a role we’ve been playing for decades and one that is now being recognized for its intrinsic value.
Getting the important sustainability message out to members and to our clients is where the Internet will be a major force. Most of us already use the Internet and its many resources in our businesses — with Web sites, e-mailing alerts and newsletters to customers, and so forth. Now, PLANET has given us another tool that is being referred to as PLANET Universe. Designed as an educational tool, PLANET Universe will be a comprehensive portal for all resources and information pertaining to the green industry.
The portal not only will give members of our interior specialty group an opportunity to share best practices and experiences, but it also will do the same for all IIC members. There is power in numbers, and the more information we can post and share on this new portal will only serve to increase the level of expertise and professionalism within our industry, and that’s good for us and for our customers.
We are approaching a very exciting time for our industry. I feel fortunate to be part of this group and look forward to working with members, including two new members of the Interior Plantscaping Specialty Group — Timm Hahn, CLT, David J. Frank Landscape Contracting and Lynnae “Jazz” Dehoff, Triad Plant Co. — to grow opportunities for our companies and our industry.
CALL FOR ACTION
As a member of the Interiorscape Industry Coalition (IIC), PLANET supports and values the coalition’s efforts to bring interior-specific groups together to share opportunities, raise awareness of the industry, increase professionalism within the industry, and advocate the use of plants in interior environments. The word is spreading, the spirit of unity is growing, and exciting endeavors are taking place in the industry as a result of this collaborative movement.
It’s important to keep the lines of communication open about important initiatives that affect the industry and lend support when asked. For example, IIC member National Foliage Foundation has given its attention and support to a very important research project, “Resistance of Soft Scale and Mealybug Pests to Insecticides Commonly Used in Interior Plantscapes,” and needs your input. Mealybugs might not sound interesting until you consider the thousands upon thousands of dollars the interior plantscape industry spends to control them.
Dr. Raymond Cloyd, Kansas State University, has agreed to take on this research and is well qualified to do so. You may have heard of “pesticide resistance,” which is an insect’s ability to become immune to repeated applications of pesticides from the same group or family. Currently, there is no baseline information associated with the resistance of soft scales and mealybugs to commonly used insecticides. Finding the answer to this question can have a huge impact on the way we control this important pest. The National Foliage Foundation continues to support solid science and has fully funded this project.
Your help is needed to provide important preliminary information in order to launch this project. Please take a moment to complete a simple survey. The time you take now will greatly affect the outcome of the research project and ultimately provide information that will benefit your business. CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY.
For more information on this and other projects being funded by the National Foliage Foundation, please visit nationalfoliagefoundation.org.
INTERIORSCAPE COMPANY RECOGNIZED FOR COMMUNITY SERVICE
For the past five years, Keep Rockland Beautiful (KRB), the local chapter of Keep America Beautiful, in Rockland County, New York, has recruited scores of artists to paint 250 trash receptacles for placement at area bus shelters, parks, and playgrounds. John Mini Distinctive Landscapes decided to become part of this worthwhile effort to raise environmental awareness, beautify the community, and reduce unsightly litter. As a result, company employees enthusiastically painted a record-breaking 20 trash receptacles for the annual John Mini Day event on October 7, 2009. Company employees embraced the project, even donating time before and after the event to wash, prime, varnish, and deliver the receptacles.
For John Mini’s leadership, dedication, and contribution to the good of the community, PLANET recognized the member company with a 2009 PLANET Community Service Recognition Award. Community service projects eligible for this award are those in which five or more company employees participated (or five faculty/students for student chapter members). The service provided may or may not be green industry-related. PLANET will feature the project in an upcoming issue of PLANET advantage magazine.
As John Mini’s Director of Human Resources Lynn Angeloro so aptly pointed out to company employees prior to the event, “Always striving to be the very best, there will be exciting competitions and prizes, but the real reward will be in giving back to the community — with some fun and friendly competition along the way.”
HOW TO GET STARTED ON TWITTER
By MJ Gilhooley, Gilhooley Consulting
In last month’s PLANET News Interior, my article “Increase interiorscape market share using Twitter” included an overview of Twitter and how to use the social media tool to benefit your business. Now it’s time to jump in and learn how to get started on Twitter.
If you want to first spend time just listening, you don’t need an account to search at search.twitter.com. Listening can give you a sense of how to engage on Twitter. Search for your company and a few key topics, such as building management, property management, or plantscape industry. When you do sign up with Twitter, be sure to add at least a partial profile and pictures so folks can start to find you and begin to trust you.
Twitter will want to know who you want to follow. Following someone means you’ve subscribed to their tweets. When you find a potential prospect (even if it is a national building management firm), look under their picture for the Follow Button. You can choose to interact without following an account and instead just send them a direct tweet.
When you post, you are looking at a box that says, “What’s on your mind?” Business people seem to like quick tips, links to interesting stories, and blog posts (they don’t have to be about your company), exclusive deals, and a good sense of humor. People like the human touch and will appreciate posts with your thoughts and experiences. They also like it when you say hello and respond to their questions, comments, praises, complaints, and jokes.
It’s worth learning the jargon
Twitter does seem to have a language unto itself. It actually looks harder than it is … I’ll be the translator:
- To follow somebody is to subscribe to their messages.
- A tweet is an individual message.
- A DM or direct message is a private message on Twitter.
- RT or retweet is to repost a valuable message from somebody else on Twitter and give them credit.
- Trending topics are the most-discussed terms on Twitter at any given moment.
- @username is a public message to or about an individual on Twitter.
- A hashtag — the # symbol followed by a term and included in tweets — is a way of categorizing all the posts on a topic.
- Shortened URLs. To fit links into the short messages, Twitter automatically shrinks some URLs.
Is Twitter right for your company?
Try Twitter for a predetermined amount of time, and then measure its success. Before setting up measurement tools, focus on the quality of your engagement. Do a gut check of how things are going. Then you can:
- Try to analyze the quality of feedback and topics of discussion, which may change over time.
- Keep a tally of questions answered, end-user problems resolved, and positive exchanges held.
- When offering a special on rotations or maintenance on Twitter, use a unique coupon code or separate landing page.
Be aware that Twitter is a constant stream of communication; however, you can turn it on or off as often as you like. If you are still hesitant, google case studies with Twitter and you will quickly realize this is NO fad. It’s working so well for so many it won’t be going away anytime soon.
According to a recent report, each day 5,000 to 10,000 new people join Twitter. Current estimates of total users top out around 5 million. That’s a lot of opportunity, so don’t write off Twitter as a possibility. You might as well join in and grab your piece of the market share.
THE POWER OF TESTIMONIALS
By Vicki Bendure, PLANET PR Consultant
Testimonials are often an undervalued and overlooked communications tool; yet, they are incredibly powerful. When you say something great about yourself or your company, it lacks credibility because you’re saying it. When your customers say something great about you, it’s a valid reference and testimony to your work.
Testimonials are extraordinarily powerful sales tools. They work hard for you long after your sales force is off the job. Used properly, testimonials have a strong influence on buying decisions.
To be truly effective, testimonials have to have a specific message. General messages don’t carry the “act now” punch.
Where and how to use testimonials
Testimonials woven into news releases give your message credibility. If you’re talking about a specific service your firm offers, use a testimonial from a client who has used the service, or call on a long-term client to back up the fact that the new service will be as valuable as your other services. Testimonials should be phrased in such a way as to promote an enhancement or a value benefit, or they should alleviate a fear or minimize a risk. Becau
se press releases are considered news, you’ll need to identify your source and be prepared to turn his or her name and telephone number over to reporters interested in writing about you. Make sure that your clients have given you permission to use their testimonials publicly, and check to be sure they’re okay with speaking to media. (The media often call on sources in press releases for additional quotes.)
You can use testimonials in advertising copy to overcome competition in the marketplace. For instance, if your prices are higher than the competition but your quality is also higher, use a testimonial that states, “the work this company does is far superior to anyone else in the marketplace. This company provides the best value.” A testimonial could also reinforce a claim. “I used XYZ Landscape Contracting and sold my home faster and for 30 percent more than comparable homes in the neighborhood.” Or, “I used a competitor but noticed my trees and shrubs weren’t thriving like my neighbor’s who uses XYZ Landscape Co., so I switched, and now my landscape is beautiful.”
Customers can be prodded into testimonials, but the best way to get them is to earn them. Be careful that they’re not overinflated either. Overpromising through testimonials will hurt your credibility and your company in the long run.
Make sure that the testimonials you use are active and not passive. You can tell the difference by reading them and determining which ones really make you want to pick up the phone and call. Testimonials such as “they’re wonderful people to do business with” are passive. While they sound nice, they have no buying power.
Testimonials can be used in advertising, on Web sites, and in direct mail. They make the message more interesting and more personal. You may want to use photos of the customers who have given you the testimonials, particularly if you can capture them in the appropriate setting — the backyard lawn that you’ve maintained or in the midst of the front yard landscaping that your company has installed.
So where to begin? List your top five to 10 most satisfied clients. These will be the clients who called to thank you, and those who have been with you the longest. Remember that testimonials are earned and finessed. Also, set up a mechanism to capture the rights to use testimonials immediately. When clients call to thank you, ask if you might use them in your marketing and communications campaign. Keep thank you letters and notes in an accessible file.
Viral marketing is the most powerful mechanism to increasing your business, and testimonials are important to that effort. Most important, testimonials are power and proof that you are what you say you are.