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Stephanie Early, chief of strategy with Timberline Landscaping in Colorado Springs, says technology has always been an important element of the business and something they still focus on growing.
“Timberline has been an early adopter of technology for quite some time,” she says. “We began mobile timekeeping almost 10 years ago. And, from what we’ve seen, we were one of the first companies to really dive into that. We’ve had mobile timekeeping, GPS, estimating software systems and accounting for many, many years.”
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a crucial component of Timberline’s technology use. Early says she works with Timberline’s marketing coordinator to develop SEO and keyword research into the company’s strategy.
“I’ve been with the company for seven years and we’ve had an SEO focus since that point,” Early says. “We have continually worked on that. What I love is that we’re at the point now that we are continually ranking well organically for most of the search terms that we want.
Early says Timberline, which has slightly more than 200 employees, targets a mix of short-tail and long-tail keywords. Examples of short-tail keywords would include “landscaping” or “lawn care,” and a long-tail keyword would be something along the lines of “Should I mow my lawn in the winter?”
She also suggests incorporating keywords into the title, image alt. text and headers of a post.
According to Early, ranking well in terms of SEO has boosted Timberline’s business.
“We’ve been able to create this free, organic pipeline of work, just based on search results, that is feeding a whole lot of business our way,” she says. “We measure our sales by marketing sources and internet search is our number three, just underneath current customers and referrals.”
Early attributes the company’s ranking to an aggressive in-bound marketing approach.
“Outbound is your cold calls, mailers and things of that nature,” she says. “In-bound is about creating content that people are already searching for and having that available on your site and giving them the opportunity to convert from there.”
Timberline’s website features blog posts and other gated content, where users must provide an email address to access it. Early says this content is rich in SEO keywords.
“When people sit down to do keyword research, they say, ‘Well I think people are searching this way.’ We actually plug it into a software and determine exactly how people are searching for each service and seeing what words they are using so we can make sure we are making our content rich in those keywords,” she says.
Early says the company determines the keywords internally but uses the software to determine which to go after. When choosing an SEO software, she suggests “looking for something that allows you to track performance analytics and plays nice with Google analytics and social media. Keyword traffic and ranking difficulty are great tools to have.”
It’s been an effective approach for Timberline, and Early says traffic to the website continues to increase.
“Our website traffic continues to rise year over year, every year,” she says.
Early adds there is one annual post that drives a large amount of traffic to the website every year.
“We do Christmas lighting as a service over the winter, so we prepare a Christmas lights map of the local area where people submit their house,” she says. “And that map drives 65,000 people in the month of December to our website. That amount of traffic helps our website authority for the rest of the year.”
The Christmas lights map, which you can view at bit.ly/xmaslawn, also keeps users on the web page for a while, which Early notes is important for improving SEO.
“On average, people are spending five minutes per unique view on that Christmas lights map,” she says.
Early says the company recently purchased a new business management software to help consolidate all the technology they were using in hopes of streamlining operations.
“We found we were limited by our estimating, job costing and CRM system,” she says. “We were using items that were working decently but weren’t cloud-based. We wanted to make sure that all this software was available to our field staff. We wanted to keep things moving quickly without having to come into the office.”
The new software, which is designed specifically for landscape companies, has helped Timberline.
“It brought out CRM, estimating, job costing, timekeeping and billing all under one umbrella,” she says. “The only things that are still separate are our overhead and our balance sheets and income statements. But there’s a bridge to connect those.”
Early says getting all the software onto one platform was great, but getting everyone on board with the new software posed a challenge.
“Anytime you move people’s cheese, they will struggle a little bit. We had a lot of conversations with our team as we were vetting out new software,” she says. “As we were demoing software, we narrowed it down to two and then brought in a lot of our team to watch the demos and learn what was going on. There is a ton of setup that goes into it. People not only have to learn the new software but also adjust their workflows.”
Early says Timberline’s C-Suite business unit leaders and estimators were all involved in demoing the software options. While no formal vote was taken, a general consensus was made by all parties.
While it might have been difficult early on, Early says everyone is adjusted to it now and sees the benefits of the process.
“We pulled the trigger almost a year ago,” she says. “A couple of months in, people were still struggling, but by this point they say they get it and see why we made this change. We had to get used to taking the good, letting go of what we were used to do and just move forward.”
To help everyone transition, Early says Timberline took an employee who adapted to the new software early on and used him as a trainer for others.
“(He) helped train our team, setup the system and troubleshoot,” she says. “He continues to help us in that role still and we could not have done it without him.”
Research & request referrals.
Early says any company looking to implement a new software or technology should make sure they do their homework.
“Make sure you do your due diligence,” she says. “Look at multiple options, talk to people who are using the software and take your time with the decision-making process.”
Early also suggests getting good, reliable referrals.
“If a company is not willing to give you referrals, then we would likely steer clear,” she says. “Those referrals make a huge difference.”
While software can be expensive, Early says it can be an investment worth making if it’ll improve business operations.
“You’re definitely going to have costs associated with these things, but you have to think about that return on investment over time,” she says. “For us, it’s been worth it.”
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