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To Design or Not To Design: Simplifying the Landscape Design Process

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There is much conversation and debate in the outdoor living industry surrounding the best way to get from the initial sales meeting to the installation contract. Every business has a different way of approaching the design process, including who produces the design, how much-if anything-it should cost, or whether to offer it at all.

With the use of technology in the home improvement industry becoming increasingly common, many homeowners expect a 3D design before beginning the installation of their new landscape. Offering 3D landscape designs is no longer a luxury, but a necessity for companies that wish to remain competitive and financially viable.

But what is the best way to offer professional landscape design services efficiently and affordably? Let’s explore the options.

Partner with a Landscape Architect

Customers want to feel confidence in their landscape design before you break ground, and the best way to ensure that is by working with a trained, experienced professional. If no member of your team is truly qualified for this task, you should partner with a landscape architect or designer to fill the void.

Many landscaping companies have experienced great success with this method. For each new large-scale project that requires a full design process, the contractor brings in their landscape architect partner to work through the planning and design phase, and then once the plans are finalized, the contractor begins the installation. Depending on the arrangement, the customer may be required to hire the landscape architect and installation contractor separately. Some contractors fear the possibility of losing the install in this process, but numerous U.S. companies are employing this methodology with limited hiccups. Forming solid working relationships with design partners is the key to success with this approach.

Partnering with a professional landscape architect can also generate more leads for landscape contractors. According to HGTV, many homeowners are becoming more sophisticated landscape shoppers and are beginning to consult directly with a landscape designer first before hiring a contractor. If you’re partnered with an architect or designer, each time they receive a new lead and the design is accepted, they can immediately pass the install along to you, the partnered contractor. A referral from a partnered architect is not a guarantee, but referrals from respected professionals are among the top leads a landscape contractor can receive. In fact, according to Heinz, “87% of frontlines sales reps, 82% of sales leaders, and 78% of marketers surveyed agree that referrals are the best leads your business can get.” (Source)

Pro-Tip: Create a formalized referral deal between your landscaping company and your partnered landscape architect. Whether it is an email referral program, social media cross-collaboration, or a more formal union, “companies with formalized referral programs experience 86% more revenue growth…when compared to the rest.” (Source)

Expand the Team

Over 300 schools across the globe offer landscape architecture and design programs for students, nearly one third of which are in the U.S. (Source)

One solution for meeting landscape design needs is simple: hire a recent landscape architecture graduate. Recent graduates require experience to hone their skills and to establish a reputation within the outdoor living industry. By providing this experience, not only does the architect benefit, but also the landscape company benefits in the following ways, by:

  • Adding credibility to the team with a licensed professional trained in the most recent, innovative software and techniques.
  • Expanding its reach with a wider range of services offered.
  • Reducing red tape, middlemen and time wasted in contracting external designers, thereby increasing revenue.

With a landscape architect as a part of the team, customers can rest assured that they will take fewer steps to complete the process – that is, they no longer have to worry about hiring an architect, then hiring a contractor, and bringing those two together. Customer satisfaction also increases because with a dedicated designer, there is more time for plans to be developed into stunning projects with accurate field take-offs and impressive design details.

Become Trained in 3D Landscape Design Software

If hiring or partnering with a landscape architect is not financially feasible, there is a lower cost alternative: become trained in 3D landscape design yourself. There are multitudes of online and in-person training courses to assist those landscape contractors that wish to bring the 3D design process in-house.

Many 3D landscape design programs are user friendly and can be seamlessly integrated into a company’s existing systems. For example, Unilock Uvision 3D Landscape Creator allows landscape contractors to easily learn how to design realistic representations and elegant presentations of project designs.

Taking courses in 3D design increases landscape contractors’ credentials, which leads to easier sells and higher revenue.

Pro-Tip: Contractors often worry because there is no guarantee of receiving an installation after offering a design. A large number of contractors offer the design for free in hopes of landing the install, only to lose the job – and the corresponding revenue along with it – to another contractor. How can landscape companies ensure a profit on a design even if they lose the install? Many offer the design at a price to be deducted if the installation is accepted. That way you’re paid either way – and as a bonus, the client is incentivized to contract you to install the design.

Outdoor Living Is an Investment

The outdoor living industry continues to grow rapidly each year and the sophistication of homeowners is growing, too. This industry has reached the growth, revenue, and customer demand that warrants a new understanding of the outdoor design process. For customers, that means demanding a fleshed-out, formal design and installation process. For contractors, that means realizing the shift in customer expectations and delivering beyond those expectations, while effectively educating the customer about the costs involved.

Related Read: Selling Hardscapes: Connecting Concrete to Homeowners’ Emotions

Fortunately for landscape contractors, a more elaborate design process should not be completely foreign to homeowners. Homebuilders work with professional architects to create beautifully-designed and constructed homes, and the consumer’s price list reflects the effort – including the design process. Many of the same homeowners that purchase outdoor living spaces also hire interior designers for the inside of their homes. And since the outdoor living industry has reached a value comparable to these other related industries, the cost should reflect that value as well.

Adapting to the needs of homeowners, expanding the knowledge and expertise of your team, and providing a simple, streamlined design process that customers will be excited to install will help set you apart from the competition.

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