Specialty Paver Applications
To make customers choose your business over others, you must offer unique services unavailable elsewhere. An easy, cost-effective way to do this is through specialty paver applications—small, customizable add-ons your company can offer to a customer in order to enhance the original design or capture more work in the project scope.
“It takes [your business] from ‘everybody does it’ to ‘only a few select people can do it,’” says Aaron Wolfe, vice president and CEO of Wickenburg Landscape in Arizona. “It sets you apart, makes your company the leader.”
What’s in stock
What exactly can you sell to a potential customer? One unique specialty application is down-lighting, Wolfe says, which is lighting installed into trees that casts shadows over the branches and leaves, creating a pattern on the pavers below. “It takes [the design] to another stratosphere,” Wolfe says.
Because the lights are installed and positioned during the day, when the expected shadow design isn’t visible, Wolfe says you must start the project knowing roughly what you’re going to do. “We don’t run the lights until the entire project is complete,” Wolfe says.
An added advantage of down-lighting is that it can be applied at any time, so the service can be marketed to people with existing installations as well as new. Plus, the extra lighting can even improve safety.
Custom paver designs are another specialty option to consider. Wickenburg Landscape recently installed a Cadillac logo measuring 10 ft (3 m) in diameter using pavers in a residential driveway. Wolfe says the company has also installed horseshoes, flowers, inlaid circles and mosaic patterns.
Make the sale
Added services mean extra costs to customers that they may not initially be willing to pay. To effectively market specialty applications, Wolfe says there is a good amount of customer research that needs to be done.
“You need to understand the history of your client as much as possible. A lot of people don’t get anywhere because they’re recommending the wrong thing to the wrong person,” Wolfe says. “Matching the customer with the specialty product is one of the big keys that contractors miss.”
This includes being realistic about budgeting — if the client clearly cannot afford an add-on, don’t try to sell one. However, if you think your customer may be willing to spring for extras but hasn’t mentioned them, consider upselling, says Bill Gardocki, president of Interstate Landscape Company, Inc., in New Hampshire.
“I include upsell items in every quote, even if the customer doesn’t ask for it,” Gardocki says. “Most people aren’t aware of what’s available, so you have to show them.” Gardocki’s secret is getting customers to the showroom, where they can actually see what a sitting wall or custom paver art looks like. After that, he says, 18 percent decide to purchase upsell items—despite having no initial interest in them. Another approach is presenting examples of lighting design, custom paver designs, or other unique options using high quality photos in your project portfolio and company website. The portfolio can be used to show design capabilities on sales calls and the website examples can be referenced anytime.
Be the expert
While the extra revenue gained from offering specialty applications is tempting, extra legwork is required to successfully sell them.
“It’s a landscaper’s responsibility to learn about the industry, the technology [and] the new advances and then take those ideas and find ways to incorporate them,” says Wolfe, who uses trade shows to get ideas from manufacturers or distributors and make contacts with creative people.
If you’ve done the proper research, you can have confidence in your product—and that attracts customers, Wolfe says. “If you have a passion to do this, it comes out. It makes it easy for me to sell this stuff because I talk to somebody and they can hear that I love everything I do.”
Wolfe’s enthusiasm and creativity sets the context for presenting design ideas to potential clients. As an existing condition to upselling projects, attitude and the ‘vibe’ you bring to future clients is probably the strongest selling tool, next to showing actual project examples. It’s easy to ask a client for business and then upsell when you energetically provide design ideas that delight them as well as provide useful features.