Where is my Values-Driven Landscaper?

by cv harquail on April 19, 2009

I don’t get it.

My “Tree Guy”, the fellow who sprays professionally applies pesticides to my hemlock hedge to prevent wooly adelgids from sucking the life out of them, came by to make sure we were renewing our contract with him. Some of his customers are switching to less expensive, less professional solutions, and others are dropping their tree maintenance services altogether. “Landscaping seems to be the first thing to go,” my Tree Guy said, “when people start cutting back”.

His plan to retain my business, bless him, was to scare me with visions of infested boughs and dead trees lining my side yard.

I understand his logic, but there is a much easier way to get me to buy his services, or to chose his company over the guys who mow our lawn.

Billboard Sign Generator Green's Landscaping NonToxic Materials Safe Processes Trusted Workers paid Fair Wages_1239819187134.jpeg That would be: Appeal to my values.

Given the explosion of marketing advice around connecting to customers’ interests in sustainability, you’d think that there would be more than one (nationally franchised) company appealing to my own and my neighbors’ green inclinations. And, you’d think that the enterprising small business, the tree service with 4 trucks and 8 employees, would be able to focus on values as a low cost way of differentiating their services. Why hasn’t my Tree Guy caught on?

It wouldn’t be that hard. All he’d have to do is put the values on his printed materials (like the page where he calculates the estimate and contract), on his yard signs, and on his truck. And of course, he’d have to make sure that his processes and materials complied with his values statement. He would have to be “authentically” green.

I live in a town that is very liberal – it’s so blue you can be sure everyone would also like to be green. So, an appeal to eco-values would be likely to net him some business, and also help him retain customers who might otherwise be thinking of switching to a less expensive (and less expert) option.

I ask this question not just of my Tree Guy landscapers but also of kitchen remodelers, handy-people, housepainters and driveway repavers, most of which are small businesses, independently owned and able to reflect the values of the proprietors:

Where are the signs of everyday service people appealing to consumer values?


Joseph Logan April 20, 2009 at 3:28 am

There are many examples on both sides, I’m sure, but the myopia of this sort of thing sometimes comes from higher up the chain. You don’t say whether your tree guy… uh, landscaper… is part of a larger company or an independent. One of my first jobs out of college was working for a large pest control company in their corporate offices. When people would ask to cancel their services, the call was sent to me, and I would try to convince them to keep the service. It was a soul-depleting job, and I lasted about three months. The mandate was to use kindness, concern, then fear… much like your tree guy did. Sadly, it worked. More often than not. I would like to try that experiment again with an appeal to values (and the intervening years have helped me to understand how that might work). I hope you’ll post again if you see examples.

CV Harquail April 20, 2009 at 7:15 am

Hi Joe,
I should have been more clear… my tree guy is independent… and I know of one franchised lawn service that is “natural” … and I was mushing them together in the text. (Fixed it now).

Interesting that you should have started your career as a governmental/public organizations scholar as a salesperson of pest control… and I started my career as an organization scholar as a salesperson for toilet paper and diapers (P&G). What does this say, if anything, about our perspectives?? hmm.

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