A picture’s worth a thousand dollars (or more!)

A photo book is a great way to show clients the work that went into their project and boost referrals.
A photo book is a great way to show clients the work that went into their project and boost referrals.

Q: Do you have any ideas to help me increase my referral business?
A: Most landscape contractors give their clients holiday gifts in December to thank them for their business. It’s a nice gesture, and I’m sure it’s somewhat appreciated. But let’s be honest, how many calendars, company mugs, bottles of wine or gift baskets does anybody really want or need?

I’m sure you’re a little confused about why I am talking about customer gifts in June, but soon, you won’t be. As I’m sure you know, you can give customers gifts any time of year, not just during the winter holidays when everybody else is doing the exact same thing. What’s so great about my gift idea is that not only will your customers love it, but it will help you generate more referral business than you’ll know what to do with. Plus, this gift is inexpensive, perfect any time of year and for any size project.

As landscape professionals, we’re used to ripping out overgrown trees and shrubs; demolishing patios, decks and driveways; and driving around people’s properties in skid-steers, excavators, pick-up trucks and pretty much whatever else we want. We’re also used to transforming people’s properties from overgrown, dysfunctional wastelands into lush, colorful and desirable outdoor spaces. That’s why people hire us.

On the other hand, upon hiring us our clients often have no idea about the reign of terror we’re about to inflict on their properties. Fortunately for them, they’re at work during the day can’t watch as we turn their little slice of heaven into something reminiscent of a tractor pull (something they’ve probably never seen, either). All they usually see is our equipment parked in their backyard when they leave in the morning and again when they get home. They miss all the cool in-between stuff, like having a giant crane swinging trees over the roof of their house, a 300 Series Cat excavating a crater-sized hole for their new swimming pool or a fully loaded tandem driving around their property each day like a life-sized Tonka Truck in a sandbox.

My point is they never really get to see everything that goes into their project or appreciate the various stages of its transformation. And, truthfully, once the project is completed, they usually have no recollection of how horrible their property looked before the work began. Given the opportunity, most people would really enjoy seeing all the work that goes into the transformation of their property if they had the time. (Thankfully, they don’t.)

Enter photo books—the modern version of a photo album, which you can create easily with an online service.

Websites like Shutterfly and Snapfish have preformatted or template books that let you drag and drop photos into place. It’s easy even for you technophobes. Photo books can be just a few pages or many pages long, and they costs as little as $10 or $20 per book. You can have one picture per page, several pictures per page or any mixture you’d like. In addition to photos, you can add captions or text on the photos or on separate pages. The opportunities are unlimited.

Most photo books come with a hard cover, making them feel much more expensive than they really are, unlike your drugstore calendars that look cheap and feel cheap.

So, what do you think would happen if you took before, during and after pictures of your client’s project including photos of the demolition, the equipment, the people involved (employees, subcontractors and, of course, the homeowners) along with the materials necessary to complete the installation?

Then, what do you think would happen if you turned these pictures into a photo book, added some subtitles, called it “The Thompson’s Landscape Renovation 2016” (if their name is Thompson) and gave it to them once the job was completed? Do you think they would like it? Do you also think they will be amazed at how much work went into their renovation project and appreciate it even more?

Finally, do you think they would take any and every opportunity to show this photo book to everyone they know? Do you think that might generate some serious referral business?

For those of you playing along, the answers are, “yes, yes, yes and, uhm, yes.” I think I’ve made my case. Now get out there and starting taking pictures.

Photo: ©istock.com

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Jody Shilan

Jody Shilan is a landscape design/build sales consultant, editor of FromDesign2Build.com and former executive director of the New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association. Reach him at 201-783-2844 or jshilan@gmail.com

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