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HighGrove aims higher with new marketing tool

July 2, 2014 -  By
Gib Durden

Gib Durden

A firm develops a research report to spur new customer leads.

In the years following the Great Recession, many building managers have kept a tight grip on their landscape design budgets.

The belt-tightening trend has given way to stale, boring landscapes, says Gib Durden, vice president of business development for HighGrove Partners. In 2013, leaders at Austell, Ga.-based HighGrove decided they needed a new marketing approach to encourage commercial clients to invest in their properties. The company, which does about $17 million in annual revenue, serves a 100 percent commercial client base. Its business is about 85 percent landscape maintenance, 10 percent construction and 5 percent landscape architecture.

In past years, the Atlanta-area company targeted its marketing toward the end user, which was typically the property manager or developer on construction projects. HighGrove wanted to reach higher-level decision makers who have an interest in improving the value of their properties.

“We wanted to broaden that reach to asset managers and building owners,” Durden says. “If you wrote a report on growing fescue in the summertime or planting seasonal color, that’s not going to resonate with these guys. We wanted to get to a higher level than our ultimate end user to generate more business.”

Company leaders held a brainstorming session in December with Landscape Leadership, a marketing agency HighGrove hired in November 2012.

The team decided to publish an annual industry trends report that would highlight ways building managers can make their properties more marketable. Landscape Leadership produced the report as part of the firm’s annual retainer fee, says Paige Worthy, director of client services for Landscape Leadership.

Photo: Highgrove Partners

Photo: Highgrove Partners

HighGrove released the inaugural report in February as a 32-page downloadable PDF on its website. The company emailed a link to the report to 400 current customers and about 1,500 prospective clients, Durden says. HighGrove also posted a news release on its website and promoted the report on social-media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook.

To download and view the report, interested parties must complete an online registration form. HighGrove receives an email alert each time someone does so. Once the company receives the alert, a representative follows up with the person who filled out the form.

As of mid-May, it was too early to measure the impact on overall business, Durden says. But the company had already tracked 250 visitors to the site’s landing page, Worthy says.

At least 29 of the visitors were new contacts, and 25 of the visits were from people who had previously accessed information from HighGrove’s site, Worthy says.

Lead generation is one of the key benefits companies receive from custom-research materials, she says. This approach also positions the company as a “thought leader” in the market.

“Creating longer-form content is a great way for our clients to generate leads throughout various stages of the sales funnel,” Worthy says. “It helps prospective clients learn more about what they need and want as far as services go, and they’re more informed by the time they have an in-person chat.”

Coming together

The report highlights 13 key commercial landscaping trends in 2014, which include eco-friendly landscape practices, the benefits of water conservation and the latest color and design options. For example, Durden notes in the report that water conservation is important in the Atlanta area because of ongoing shortages.

“Atlanta commercial property managers are interested in new landscape irrigation technology, including smart controllers, the latest valves and nozzles and weather station-enhanced systems, as long as they can see ROI that comes with water savings,” according to the report.

The trends are supported by data from official sources and research firms, such as the National Association of Home Builders, the U.S. Census Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers. The report also features colorful pictures and renderings to provide visual context.

HighGrove spent about five hours working with Landscape Leadership to create the document, Durden says. Most of that time was spent answering interview questions from the marketing firm. The HighGrove team related some of the trends it’s seeing in the industry based on client feedback. Landscape Leadership added data from its research and wrote the report.

Photo: Highgrove Partners

Photo: Highgrove Partners

The firm has received positive feedback from people who have viewed the report, Durden says. He’s hopeful it will change some customers’ and prospective clients’ perceptions of the company and increase the company’s market share.

“People who may only know us as their landscape maintenance provider might realize we’re a lot more in depth when they view the report,” Durden says. “They see we have a landscape architecture division, and we can talk to them about lighting, signage and Wi-Fi capabilities outdoors.”

HighGrove is the fifth-largest landscape company in the Atlanta area but has less than 5 percent of the market share, Durden estimates. The company will use the report to reach customers who may not be aware of the firm or its offerings.

“Right now we have this good group of customers, so how do we get to everybody else?” Durden says. “We felt this document would give us an opportunity to connect with them in one of our disciplines.”


About the Author:

Katz is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.

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