Word of Mouth Referrals Don’t Work Like They Used To

Let's be honest. The world has changed a lot from the days when relying solely on word of mouth referrals was a safe strategy for home remodelers, landscaping companies, and other home improvement contractors. That’s not to say that referrals aren't still the most qualified leads to get. But today, when a customer gets a referral from a coworker, they don't simply pick up the phone and schedule a time for you to come out and provide an estimate. No, no. They thank Susie for the recommendation and then they go online to learn more—a lot more. Often, this means that they start searching Google right from their smartphone. And do you know what the best way to watch your word of mouth referrals dry up as fast as a 1-gallon perennial on a 90-degree day in August? Letting that high quality lead find low quality information about your business online.

word of mouth landscaping work referrals marketing

This idea of homeowners doing significantly more research online before making a big purchase is here now and it’s affecting the landscape industry. Not sold? How’s this for some proof: according to a study by GE Capital, 81% of consumers do online research before making a purchase. The same study reveals that for major purchases this research period averages 79 days in length. 79 Days!

It makes sense that there is all this research; there are more tools than ever for homeowners, from social media, to yelp, to Google search. And of course, more accessibility. When consumers pick up their mobile phones or jump on their laptops to bang out some quality Facebooking after the kids hit the sack, they are one quick click away from validating that referral they got earlier in the day. Why wouldn’t they check it out? It’s super easy and actually kind of fun. Heck, they’re already on Facebook. All they have to do is search up the company’s page right there and start the process without even leaving the site. When they do, they will see your competitors’ pages as well, and trust me…they will check them out too.

The point is that homeowners hold too much buying power to blindly follow word of mouth referrals. If your landscaping company doesn’t have the online presence to back up the recommendation, consumers are likely to see what other options are out there. Referrals and reviews are everywhere online so they’re not going to find any shortage of referrals for your competitors. Google reviews, Facebook reviews, Yelp reviews, you name it.

So how do you make sure you maximize your company’s great reputation and word of mouth lead engine? Easy. You make your online business look and sound as good as your offline business. Doing this effectively requires an integrated approach to your marketing, meaning that your company’s look and feel is cohesive across all channels online. These channels include your social media profiles, your website—both mobile and desktop versions, your online reviews, and all the other online mentions of your business.

And most importantly, make sure that your online messaging (which includes imagery and text) communicates to your target customer. For example, if your target customer has a family, relay how your services will improve that family’s life. If the decision maker is a woman, write about stuff that interests her.

So what is the common element between all these channels that holds the overall plan together like the polymers in your polymeric sand? Great content that helps consumers with their online research; all 79 days of it. 

Photo: Flickr Samrat Jain