October 17, 2018
Arvils Lukss
Arvils Lukss

Marketing myopia

Do you have a marketing and sales strategy for 2019?


Most design-build contractors struggle with marketing. A presentation I made was called Marketing Myopia — and I discovered it was the title of a 1960 marketing paper by Theodore Levitt, published in the Harvard Business Review.

This is a refresher on marketing, a reminder to review and analyze sales goals. Understand that marketing and advertising are different concepts, although critically, both work together.

First step in a marketing plan is to decide what type of company you are, how you want the marketplace to perceive you. What are you best at? What can you constantly deliver well within a material, labour and pricing budget? Are you a fencing contractor that adds on landscaping as needed, or is design-build more your specialty?

Touting yourself beyond your abilities and accepting work that stretches your financial and technical means leads to poor profits and dissatisfied clients. Positioning your company where you want it be, is far preferable to the marketplace dictating who you are. If your calls never seem to be the clients or type of work you’re looking for, your marketing plan must address this perception gap. 

Think about your passion, and set up a marketing plan positioning your company in line with your ability to deliver a superior result. By doing so, your advertising reflects an image that resonates. Great, quality work and client service will ultimately move your business forward. 

The second consideration is to define your market. How often have we heard our colleagues say they work anywhere and everywhere? AVOID this temptation. Travel time (billed or not), with road construction, slows down productive daily job-site hours. Based on your positioning from step one, prospective clients must be available within your chosen marketed area. Basic market research can determine client demographics by income, home values, etc.

Your marketing and advertising costs will decrease as you become visible and known in a contained geographical area. Spread yourself too thin, and you lose market strength. Greater market share is what we strive for, and is preferable over more revenue spread out over a large geographic area. The old adage of striving to become a larger fish in a smaller pond, holds so true in our business.

Signage is the simplest, easiest way to begin marketing your company and its image. Go for clean, simple vehicle logos, lawn signs and company uniforms. These three components broadcast your image, showing the market you are ready to do business. All signage and logos must be consistent in colour scheme, font, and above all else, cleanliness. Avoid the temptation to over-clutter your signage. Simple and easy-to-read is much more effective than busy, unkempt slogans. How many companies barely make the grade in signage? Over 75 per cent do themselves a disservice, based on my observations.

A major point of a marketing is to plan for revenue growth and profitability. As you hit sales goals and profit margins, your marketing and advertising plans must be reviewed at least yearly. Advertising efforts must be documented and measured against a projected yield. For example, if you invest $XXX for a home show such as Canada Blooms, what is the expected revenue? How many leads should we plan for? Are we tracking year-to-year leads? Are we trending up or down? Why?

Regardless of your company’s age, size or how it generates revenue, ALL of us need marketing plans. A common industry refrain says, All our leads come from WOM, we never advertise, who needs a marketing plan? At some point, growth will stall based on one source of leads, combined with inflation and competition for the luxury dollar. We compete not only amongst ourselves, but for the dollars our clients spend on housing, car leases, vacations, private schools, etc.

IN OUR BUSINESS, it’s very risky and short-sighted (insert myopia here, what a segue!), to rely on chance, meaning a single source of leads. Grow your business based on multiple marketing components; by doing so, you’re ensuring greater odds of long-term success. If one lead source is higher or lower than budgeted, track it, analyze results, adjust expected ratios, and strive for improvement the following year.

Start with at least three new marketing initiatives for your company, with the longer term goal of a solid, well-performing 10. Start smaller, and expand according to your time and abilities. As you track historical data, you have created precedent that helps guide your path to greater financial stability, with greater clarity and vision. 

Yes, my company really does manage marketing to this level of detail. Marketing myopia was identified as a problem 58 years ago. I want your company to enjoy a clear vision of success. 

Arvils Lukss, lucin@bellnet.ca, operates Toronto-Ont.-based Landscapes by Lucin.