Using social media to differentiate your green industry business
Jeff Korhan, MBA, Landscape Industry Certified Manager, True Nature, Inc.
One of the reasons you may be less effective than you could be with your social media marketing is that it works much like a traditional medium you probably have little or no experience with—television. However, as a television viewer and consumer yourself, you have a general idea what people will tune into, especially your customers and their influencers in your local community.
To use social media well, it’s necessary to think like a media company, such as NBC, ESPN, or HBO. All of these companies manage multiple networks or channels that collectively represent one business brand. Once you develop that essential mindset, you are equipped to build a better social media business presence and fine-tune it as you acquire more experience.
Whether you are using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or any of the other social networks, the approach is always the same. You have to share content across multiple channels to attract and hold the attention of your audience so that you can occasionally make business offers. It’s a process of earning attention, then familiarity, and finally trust.
Provide valuable programming
For your audience to consistently engage with your social media channels, you have to provide programming that delivers value. This could come in the form of solutions to common problems or ideas that are relevant to their lives. Obviously, the programming should in some way be related to the products and services that your business offers.
As a landscape contractor, you could provide tips and advice on the care of landscapes or information to help your community make better choices with respect to upgrades and enhancements. Is that enough for your community to eagerly anticipate your next broadcast? Maybe. Just learn as you go and make adjustments accordingly.
To get ideas on what works, study both traditional and new media. There is a reason print publication People Magazine continues to prosper in a declining industry. People are interested in people and their stories. Thus, you could share success stories about your employees, customers, or friends in the community. When you humanize your business in this way, you make it friendlier and more engaging.
Personally engage the community
What makes social media special and uniquely different from other communication mediums is its diversity. It’s a combination of traditional print media, reality television, and word-of-mouth, all rolled into one. They all work together to keep your sales pipeline full.
Most companies that are still in business have learned to be effective with traditional marketing. However, the “look at me” and “buy me approach” is less effective in our present environment where the voices of socially engaged consumers are readily being heard. To better understand and serve your customers today, you need to develop new skills to engage them where they are most active—online.
Consumers today are looking for reasons to like your company, and that is not going to come from a traditional features-and-benefits message. Use social media to personalize your business—it’s the ultimate differentiator. Is there an interesting backstory about how you got started or achieved your success? People are hungry for the personal stories and anecdotes that make businesses unique.
This means, you will need to seed your social media with honest and authentic stories, which is easier than you may think. One approach is to create a reality show. Go behind the scenes of your landscape projects to reveal details that customers never see, yet add to the quality of the project. Isn’t this why people tune into HGTV?
You can create your reality show on your own television station—it’s called YouTube. Then share it on Facebook, your company blog, and all of the other channels you have established. Use your uniqueness to differentiate your business and watch your credibility rise, even in crowded markets.
Earn permission to sell
You are ultimately doing all of this to earn permission to sell, and that is something that happens over time. Permission is earned, not taken. So, you should avoid subscribing your audience to your newsletter list. They have to be the ones to opt-in. And, of course, you have to give them permission to leave if they wish.
What you are actually doing is giving up control to get it. To have more control over your social media marketing, you have to give it up to the collective voice of the community that matters more than the singular one of your business. The idea is to use your social media to give your community something that gets them talking favorably about your business—then leverage its power.
When you do that, you respect the fact that nobody wants to be manipulated or pressured to buy. Instead, develop a community that wants to be connected with your business—a tribe of fans that share common interests. And what do fans do? They buy souvenirs.
We typically think of souvenirs as low-value, throwaway items. However, in our digital world where there is so much that is free, tangible items of all kinds are valued souvenirs of a shared relationship. It’s the reason why sports fans spend a fortune on memorabilia just to feel a stronger connection to a player or a team, and it’s why some of your customers buy from you.
Many of your customers are your customers because they want to be connected with your business. They are your tribe, and their desire to be involved extends beyond the quality of your products and services. This likely includes the character of the people you employ and the company values that guide the service your business delivers.
In markets where quality is so high that consumers cannot easily discern significant differences, the differentiators are the subtle qualities associated with your business that you can amplify with solid social media networking and marketing. Focus on that to engage them and earn their trust and loyalty, and you will sustain your business.
Jeff Korhan, MBA, is a digital marketing consultant who helps green industry businesses use social media and Internet marketing to create exceptional customer experiences. Korhan can be reached at email@example.com or 630-774-8350.