Abe Hagenston is homeless, been on the streets in Detroit for ten years, goes by the name “Honest Abe” and can teach all of us a thing or two about marketing. When Abe first went homeless, he panhandled every day. He quickly grew tired of hearing the objection “Sorry man; I don’t have any money on me.” Abe had access to the library, which means access to a computer and took time to build a website for himself that accepted credit cards. Now when people gave the objection of having no money Abe could direct them to a website where they could use a credit card to donate money to him. Later he advanced to using square so he could take credit card donations on the spot.
A few years ago I was driving home after an appointment listening to National Public Radio and learned about Abe. A homeless man who told his story with an emphasis on being homeless is his occupation now, and he was performing his job in the best most professional manner. As I pulled into my driveway, I saw a sandwich bag, filled with rocks and a business card. The business card was a local landscaper advertising his services. I do not fault the landscaper for trying to develop more business for his company. In fact I encourage it; however, I did want to help the landscaper promote his business in a more effective and professional manner helping to raise the overall opinion of our industry.
A few months ago I was having lunch with Brian Horn, editor of Lawn and Landscape Magazine
and he described to me how visibly uncomfortable parents were during a high school career night. The idea of the career night was to help high school students select a major in college to help them achieve the careers they desired. The parents became uncomfortable when Brian suggested a career in Landscaping. Maybe the parents were nervous because we as an industry don’t promote ourselves as professionally as we should. Perhaps they thought landscaping was something you did to pay for college not employment after college. For those of you who have been in the industry for years, you know that thought is inaccurate and how rewarding a career in landscaping can be.
Landscape Industry Offers Excellent Opportunities
The technology available for our industry is impressive. You can program controllers from computers, use evapotranspiration data to automatically adjust your watering or soil moisture sensors if you prefer data directly from the soil. The understanding of science needed to grow plants is deep and complicated. The business knowledge required to own or manage a business in our industry is no different than most industries. The landscaping industry has lots to offer, and we as an industry must promote it.
Abe was a handyman and lost his business when his truck was confiscated by the police (they found drugs in it). When you are a handy man, your truck is your entire business, so he lost his truck and business. However, he used the tools he still had (ideas and knowledge) to become a professional homeless person. I have told this story many times and am always surprised to see some of the negative reactions from people who hear it. I am also pleased when I see the light go on for others who I know get busy right away promoting their business using digital media in ways they hadn’t in the past.
What does the marketing plan for your business look like? Does it include digital marketing? Are you using your website and other digital media channels available to promote your business or the industry? If you are not sure what your plan is or how to promote your business using digital media you may want to come back to this site in December because in December we will sharing some of the best ways to promote your business using digital media.