Insights on Marketing an 'Unsexy' Business
It was 1947 when entrepreneur Abraham Levitt and his sons, William and Alfred, founded a planned community in Long Island, New York. The Levitts converted rural farmland into a suburban community, named Levittown, and attracted droves of World War II veterans and their families.
For the next few years, the Levitts built more than 17,000 homes — each with its own yard. In fact, the community had specific rules requiring that all lawns be trimmed weekly and shrubs be kept shorter than four feet.
A shrewd businessman, the elder Levitt viewed a good lawn as a form of “neighborhood stabilization.” On adding lawns to each and every home, Levitt said: “No single feature of a suburban residential community contributes as much to the charm and beauty of the individual home and the locality as well-kept lawns.”
The modern history of lawns and lawn care began in 1947 with the building of Levittown — and still continues today. Homeowners across America endlessly obsess over lawn maintenance, including tackling weeds, fertilizer, grubs, mowing, watering, drought and aeration.
And nobody knows that more than Ryan Farley, cofounder of LawnStarter. Since the company’s launch in 2013, Farley and his team have raised more than $7 million in funding and have grown the online lawn care business into a trusted brand across the country.
Lawn care is definitely not an innovative, sexy business, Farley admits. But “being scrappy” is the way to propel an unexciting business into success, he says.
“Find ways to gain more reach by spending more time than money, and focus on achieving growth with what you have. Success doesn’t come from frills, perks, and expensive office spaces. It comes from attitude, being passionate, and growth hacking with a limited tool set until you can start scaling.”
Like lawn care, insurance service and products don’t carry an innate market appeal. And selling an “ordinary” product can be challenging.
The Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only organization for owners and executives of public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Council members offer their suggestions on marketing and selling products that lack sex appeal:
Share a compelling story. “The best marketing — for sexy products or not — happens when there is a genuine, compelling story told … Any product can have an interesting story and that is what drives people to action and keeps them coming back.” — Vinny La Barbera, CEO of imFORZA, an Internet marketing agency
Pull the emotional trigger. “No matter how ‘unsexy’ the product, there is still an emotional reason behind its purchase … Find that emotional reason and play it back to your consumers at every touchpoint possible.” — Jess Cook, executive creative director of branding agency TMV Group
Remember the fundamentals of marketing. “We're selling to a human with an emotion and a desire to fulfill a need … The fundamentals of marketing are the most important things to keep in mind. The product is secondary.” — Jordon Meyer, president of Granular, a digital marketing agency
Differentiation is the key. “Selling benefits will certainly speak to the customer, but how does your product stand out in the pack? … If you can identify and capitalize on your brand or product's strengths over the competition, you'll entice your customers with an important and strong advantage.” — Carm Lyman, president of the Lyman Agency, a PR and communications firm
Educate users and help them engage. “There are always users that need to know more to help them engage with a product, so market it like you're educating someone and provide insight. — Lee Salisbury, founder and CEO of design agency UnitOneNine.
While your insurance agency may not sell an exciting or unique product, it’s still extremely important and valuable. Challenge yourself to be creative when designing your sales and marketing strategy. And always remember the wise words of the lawn king, Ryan Farley: “Success comes from attitude, being passionate and growth hacking.”