Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Marketing and advertising your landscape design business ; by Lawrence Winterburn

So, you have graduated from a Landscape Architecture Program and now you wonder what to do next to start off your career?

You think to yourself: I need to design landscapes for wealthy people and they will recommend us to all their friends. I will soon be rich and respected in a matter of weeks—or so we think.

I’ll let you in on a secret. The majority of successful Landscape Architects are from wealthy families—they went to the best schools and may have multiple degrees because that’s how it is done. Their connections from school years will serve them well later on. This passive marketing is called networking. It is genetically based.

This article is about how hard the design business actually is without proper marketing. We all believe the same thing in the beginning; build inspired things, design from the heart, put a premium effort into our work and the world will beat a path.


If nobody sees what you do, the work was a wasted effort.

Remember that kid in high school that never studied but aced all the tests and was crowned valedictorian? He worked his butt off. And so did his cool sister. They studied about twice as much as you did… they were just too hip to admit it.

Now, how many Landscape Designers or Architects will admit to doing marketing?

IT is exactly the same principal!

They all want you to believe that they are creative geniuses that people seek out. They don’t have to do marketing. Many companies can get away with word of mouth marketing if they work hard at it. Working hard at word of mouth marketing means getting in touch with every client whenever you can. Asking for references and referrals. Often they reward for referrals with gifts.

In general it is simply a cop out to say, “All my marketing is word of mouth”. Those that do may be fine for a while; they coast along…until they hit a bump in the economy. Many people that claim word of mouth advertising simply can’t afford to do marketing due to a lack of profit. If they did some marketing…they may be able to afford their marketing.

When the economy gets sluggish and folks stop spending like they used to, there’s a lot of architects, designers, accountants and middle managers sniffing around for work. Being in business for about 21 years now…I’ve seen it happen.

Here’s another secret. When you do consistent and steady marketing you will find that you can choose the most profitable jobs and likely demand a better dollar for what you do.

There are tens of thousands of GREAT landscape designers around. Many are doing phenomenal things. Many will never be invited to headline at a major event. Many will never make a television or magazine appearance or get any free marketing whatsoever.

This is a very simple concept. Reserve 3-5% of gross income for marketing. If you are a startup you need to spend a fair chunk more to get the phone ringing. To gain the opportunities for bigger venues you need to get seen! (ask about our Landscape Designer's Group)

Building a successful design office is hard work. It is 7:27 Friday night as I write this. I've taken a break from editing marketing materials… and presently I’m heading back to that.

Anyhow, I wish you a prosperous and satisfying design career!

Lawrence Winterburn is the Founder and Principal Designer at GardenStructure.com . They Design and Build Architectural Garden Woodwork all over North America. Feel free to inquire with Paul Corsetti (my email is located in this blog's profile section) or contact Lawrence at Gardenstructure.com for more information about marketing your landscape design business. You can learn more about Lawrence at his blog, The Deck Business


Land Architect Studio, llc said...

Lawrence, you are right on in this blog post. I have just started my own firm and marketing is what I am starting to do. The cost run high but your blog helps me understand how important marking can be to a small firm. Thanks again, Joe

Jim Lewis, Landscape Designer Portland Oregon said...

Well said, Lawrence. I particularly like the part where you call out the people who say they get all of their business from word of mouth. I hear that a lot but I always find it hard to believe. We do a lot of marketing and I KNOW we wouldn't be nearly as busy if we just relied only on word of mouth. So when I hear other designers say that, that usually tells me that they either a) aren't very busy or b) are lying. Because I don't see how there is a way to maintain a rapidly growing business without marketing. We do great work and our customers love us and refer us a lot. But that's still never enough to keep us as busy as we need to be.

>Landscape Designer Portland Oregon

Savage Land Design said...

Lawrence, you are so right. I work for a large firm who depended solely on repeat work from several merchant home builders. from 2003 to 2006 things were spectacular but by early 2007, the projects stopped coming in and our back log disappeared. for several years before my time at this firm, no one marketed or networked. The BIA events were used more for partying with your builder budies instead of networking with commercial/ retail, senior housing and affordable housing builders. From what I've seen, our competators who were more diversified and better connected to the industry to a much softer hit that us and the competators who, like us, let the work fall out of the sky, are struggling tremendously. Since I've been part time for quite a while now, I started my own business on the side that focuses on projects too small for the large firm that I work for. It is doing great and I can attribute its success tothe relationships I have been forming for the past 3 years. even though I get some work via word of mouth, a lot of my effort goes toward networking, target marketing and brand exposure as well as understanding my competition and their means of exposure. Good luck to all and I wish you a prosperous 2010.- Mike

Landscape Designer Ontario said...

Hi Lawrence,

This is a wonderful post that is straight to the point. It clearly points out that if you're in the Landscaping business or any small business in particular using the Internet and Marketing are 2 of the most crucial things you need to do in order for your business to succeed and flourish. Thank you once more for this interesting Article.

Cedar Gate Landscaping

Los Altos Landscaper said...

It is true that landscaping is not an easy business to maintain, first you need to advertise, then you have to pretty much rely on the customer referral, the service you provide determines a great deal on how your profit will be made.

Los Altos Landscaper

Lawrence Winterburn said...

Gentlemen... thanks for the notes of agreement. I'll be posting part two to this article and there will be something you may find interesting coming up as well. The hard part of web advertising is putting your information where people actually see it. That has to do with traffic. Most directories have little... or none. The yellow page directories are not supported by Google--they are competing with them. If you are currently paying your phone directory for your web presence you need to install "Google Analytics Code" http://www.google.com/aclk?sa=l&ai=CBAnIy9IQTZf-F4iKsAP-55yrC5Tu2nzMktf5CJ6zrbkECAAQAVCNgbDp-f____8BYP2gloHoA6AB5PD__QPIAQGqBBhP0FGADbq2_TpEBgnhkY2l9Dzeq8fcqAc&sig=AGiWqtxzmAbl4MxGKbqwBlkvsK2fRKqRGg&adurl=http://www.google.com/analytics/%23utm_campaign%3Den_us%26utm_source%3Den-ha-na-bk%26utm_medium%3Dha%26utm_term%3Dgoogle%2520analytics&rct=j&q=Google%20Analytics%20Code&cad=rja , so that you know exactly how many page views you are getting and from where.

Stay tuned!