Using garden design to win more work

 In My Trade

Any landscaper will know all too well the pain of quoting for a garden makeover but not winning the work. This article looks at how garden design can persuade your customers that you really are the best firm for the job.

As a landscaper myself, I’m only too aware of how long it takes to organise a quote for a customer. First, there’s the site visit to get an understanding of what the client needs. With travelling time, that takes an average of 3 hours each time. Then there’s calculating the quantities materials needed, working out the labour cost, and getting prices for slabs, aggregates, machinery hire, etc. So I would estimate that each quote takes upwards of two working days to complete.

If the customer changes their mind or awards the work to my competitors, I’ve worked for 2 days or more and earned nothing. Not good.

The cost of quoting for landscaping work

using garden design to visualise a new garden

A garden design certainly helps clients and landscapers to visualise the new space and feel confident that they are both working towards the same goal

What I’ve found is most helpful in converting enquiries into work, is garden design. Helping the customer to visualise what their new garden will look like. In other words, a visual representation of what their budget will buy them.

Have you ever watch Garden Rescue on the TV? In some ways, the program gives people a false impression of what their money will buy. But what I do like about it, is the beginning of the program where the client chooses between two garden designs.

If you’ve not seen the program, two celebrity garden designers are given a brief, a budget, and an insight into the client’s personality. Each designer then creates a drawing to show how they would re-imagine that space. The designs are presented to the client who then chooses the style and layout that they like the best.

It’s the design that decides who gets to build the garden.

Competing for jobs – what’s your USP?

Here’s the thing. When I quote for work, I know that more often than not the client is talking to other landscapers. That makes sense, I wouldn’t invest my savings into a project without getting more than one quote.

I don’t want to compromise my professional integrity by competing for the work purely on price. I feel that my prices are fair. They allow me to buy good quality products and pay skilled craftspeople to do the job. I don’t make huge profits, but I can keep my business running and keep a roof over my family’s head. I’ve got two decades worth of experience, so to work for nothing kind of de-values all of that learning. And it devalues the landscape industry as a whole.

To compete for any type of sale, whether it be a bar of chocolate, a haircut, or a Mercedes-Benz, the supplier has to offer something that the competitors don’t. It might be a lower price, a better customer experience, or a unique product. It’s called a Unique Selling Point, or USP.

Your job, as a landscaper, is to decide what your USP will be. Do you want to win work by undercutting your competitors and making less profit for yourself? Or do you want to win work by impressing potential clients from the get-go? I choose the second option. The tools in my arsenal include a very smart portfolio of work and the power of garden design.

Show your customers what their money can buy

Would you buy an expensive item without looking at it? No? Me neither. Yet as landscapers, that’s what we are asking our customers to do. We can’t show them the work until it’s finished but we CAN show them what their garden will look like.

driveway design

A 3D visualisation created by MyGardenDesign on behalf of Gunns and Roses. This design helped Hugh to secure the work.

This is how my sales process works

  • A potential customer gets in touch to ask about a new garden
  • I’ll ask them to complete a short questionnaire about their current garden, what they’d like done and what their overall budget is. If I feel I’m not the right landscaper for them, I’ll politely tell them so. No point in spending time preparing a quote for work that I definitely can’t win.
  • I’ll organise a site visit (or a socially distanced Zoom meeting) to chat with the client and learn more.
  • On my visit, I’ll nip onto, pop in the maximum width and length of the garden and get a quote for garden design.
  • At that visit I’ll stress the importance of a professional garden design and ask the client to invest. Having visited MGD I’ll know the RRP to design this garden and I know what I’ll be charged. So I can negotiate a price.
  • I’ll take site photographs and measurements while I’m with the client and then together we’ll complete the brief on MGD.
  • As soon as I’m back in the office, I’ll review the information on MGD, add to it if necessary and then press “buy”.
  • 2-3 weeks later, the design comes through with my logo on it.
  • I can estimate the build cost based on the design – Alan Sargent’s Landscape Library has loads of information about pricing a job.
  • I present the design to the client. This is where I sell the dream and really accentuate the value for money. (I’m always careful to stress that any costs mentioned are an estimate.)
  • When the design is accepted I can then spend the time to produce an accurate quote and draw up contracts.

Using this process means that I’m more likely to win the work and therefore less likely to waste my valuable time.  By paying for a garden design, the customer has more or less shown that they are committed to working with me.

Could a garden design service help you win more work?

Marketing guru’s claim there are 5 “p’s” in selling. Promotion, Product, Prospects, Promise, and Price. Get the right balance between them and you’ll be OK.

To win landscaping work, I believe you need to

  • Have a good website and gather lots of testimonials (Promotion),
  • Consistently work to a high standard (Product),
  • Pick your potential customers with care (Prospects),
  • Use garden design to sell them the dream (Promise)
  • Pitch your price so that it’s fair to you and your clients.

Garden design is definitely an important part of the sales process, however it’s a very different skill-set to landscaping. Some landscapers enjoy it, others have less confidence (or patience). However, offering a design and build service will definitely give any landscaper a competitive edge. It’s more convenient for the customer to deal with just one person, and that seamless process is far less stressful for everyone. gives landscapers the opportunity to outsource the design process without needing to find and work with a garden designer. It’s fast and easy.  There are no waiting lists and no artistic “differences”.  Best of all, the finished design gives no clue at all that you have outsourced the service.

What does MGD cost?

It’s completely free to log onto MGD and use the tools on there. Use MGD at any stage of the sales process – to get a quote for garden design, to build a client brief or to store site photographs. There’s nothing to pay until you hit the “buy” button, so if you don’t happen to win the work, you’ve lost nothing. Oh, and did I mention that the site is VERY secure. None of the information you upload will be shared.

Try MGD today

Work out your design fee

A landscapers guide to good garden design 

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