More than a commodity

Many customers want to view your landscaping services as another commodity to be shopped for lowest price, as if hiring your company was no different than buying another gallon of regular gasoline. Landscapers face sealed bids, negotiated bids and reverse bids, all designed to drive your numbers down and pressure your profit as low as you will allow.

Fortunately, there’s a workaround: Stand out from the “other guys” and meaningfully differentiate your company from all the rest. Give customers real reasons to pick you over “good enough.” Make them first want you, then connect with you, and even become your fans and promoters!

Consider customer devotion to Tesla and Mercedes. Lots of cars are manufactured in the world, but these are among the most distinguished, most popular and also most pricy. Consider Apple’s following. Lots of phones are made, but Apple leads the pack in higher prices with their perceived quality and cool factor.

Each is its own standout from competition. In every case, winning customer love and realizing high profits come from meaningful differentiation from competitors and exceeding customer expectations.

In our industry, the best customers are those who value great, attentive service. They’re the ones you should seek. They’re keen on no problems, no worries and no punch lists, and they’re thrilled when they’re proactively kept informed and cared for. When you consistently deliver, customers come to love you for your attentive care. Soon, they can’t live without it. And your company escapes commodity hell and stands on far firmer ground when pricing is discussed.

Knowing and exceeding your customer desires and expectations is key to breaking the chains binding you to all the other bidders. If you don’t, you’re just a commodity, like gravel or plastic pipe. It’s all the same and you buy on price. Yes, there’s money to be made in competitive bidding. But until you differentiate yourself from the pack, you’ll be like a running back with five tacklers pulling you down.

Our company has thrived because decades ago we adopted a uniquely personal, highly attentive, distinctively dependable customer service process as our bedrock, core operating principle. Over this time, we’ve consistently trained our people to exceed customer expectations in all their client interactions.

Quality doesn’t cost, it pays! Superior customer response builds clients for life. And client loyalty is what has sustained us through all our past challenges.

This is key: Differentiate yourself from your competition by training everyone who comes in contact with the public to carefully understand their customer’s needs and to hone their actions to exceed them.

Teach that going the extra mile for the folks who write your checks pays off again and again.

Here’s a clip from our oft-repeated Vision Statement: “We are known for the highest ethical values, with special emphasis on honesty, plain dealing, transparency, artistry and commitment to highest service.”

Excelling in these key behaviors differentiates ourselves from our competition. Honesty and transparency are paramount, as our clients quickly learn to fully trust whatever we communicate, from pricing to specs. Trust and dependability go a long way in contracting.

We also strive to build personal, meaningful relationships with those we serve. And the results are that most of our clients stay put. Some have been around for as long as I can remember. Many refer to us as their industry friend. Most won’t take a chance on a cheaper price. Retaining the high service they’re accustomed to is more important than price alone.

Yet, these happy outcomes only happen as long as we dependably live out our vision, day in and out, without fail or aberration. It takes a long time to build lasting client relationships. Conversely, it usually only takes one or two significant missteps to blow them up.

Exceed expectations consistently and dependably. And remember: Add fresh, unexpected touches onsite and in your relationships to keep things vibrant and alive.

Investing in client loyalty is the smart price you’ll pay for customers who are lifelong fans.

Gary Horton, MBA, is CEO of Landscape Development Inc., a green industry leader for over 35 years with offices throughout California and Nevada. He can be reached at ghorton@landscapedevelopment.com.