Q4 2019 Sticky Note

Notes at 2:00 a.m. | Q4, 2019

Written by Cody See
Published on October 23, 2019

I shared this idea with Jake several months back — I could write a quarterly blog post covering our growth as a company and changes we’re seeing digitally in the green industry. He liked the idea, but Q2 came and went, then so did Q3, and I had to admit that quarterly updates were a bit too ambitious, but also probably unnecessary.

My goal now is to write this annually, although I make no promises.

I’m writing this as 2:00 a.m. Jake is asleep. I can say that with certainty because I frequently message him at 2:00 a.m. and he never responds.

Normal people sleep at 2:00 a.m., which is why I work. The side of the world that I am on is quiet, and I can focus without distractions.

Jake responds to my messages in the morning.

He will see that I wrote this when he wakes up.

What We Did Well

1. We made money.

We made money this year. Technically, I wasn’t a part of Evergrow last year. Jake and I started seriously talking about a partnership in the fall of 2018. I officially joined January 1st of 2019.

As I write this our net income is up 96% compared to last year. At the current pace we can expect to 2.5x our net by year-end.

It would be easy to flatter myself and say the cause of growth is me, but it isn’t, at least not by myself anyway. I know that because I have pursued solo projects and the results, although decent for a solopreneur, have been small in comparison. We are the Diet Coke to each other’s Mentos — decent independently, but explosive together.

The biggest change that allowed for this growth was killing all custom services and shifting exclusively to productized services. Jake fought me on this, but when I asked him how he planned to manage custom services at scale, he ultimately caved. In return, I conceded greater control over the contents of each package tier. Our smallest package has sold like Botox to rich white girls. It makes up the majority of our revenue with the rest being mostly one-off website builds.

2. We went legit.

This is a side hustle for both of us — something that Jake likes to keep on the down-low (sorry Jake) but I share proudly. I don’t understand why anyone would choose not to work with someone because their business is a side hustle rather than their main gig.

Aside from receiving emails from me on Saturdays and at midnight throughout the week, you’d never know (well, and because I just told you). We filed an LLC, found an accountant to manage our books, and pay ourselves monthly. The only thing I can think of that we don’t have is a formal office, but we are 100% remote, so there’s no need.

We have made some anticipatory updates as well. We weren’t prepared to accept international clients. We are now. Our standard operating procedure documentation is still pretty dismal, but we know what we need to do, and we’re working on it.

3. We became better friends.

When people say business partnerships are like marriages, I get that. Jake and I were professional acquaintances before Evergrow, not friends. We made checkpoints in our agreement to work together, allowing us to reflect and confirm that the direction in which Evergrow is going is the direction we both want. We still have them — the checkpoints, I mean. They make sure our financial progress grows at a pace steady with our trust in each other.

Jake is a good guy. Not always a nice guy (me either) but a good guy, and he continually proves it as we grow.

What We Did Poorly (and How We Plan to Do It Better)

I’ve heard it said that you shouldn’t frame stuff like this in the negative; instead of saying what we did wrong, I should say what we can do better.

That sounds nice, so I’ll do that too, but I refuse to omit admitting that we straight up did a bad job at some things, and by we, I mean me, because the things we did poorly were within my control to change.

Every problem that we experienced can be traced back to the fact that we never made a customer profile.

If someone was willing to give us money, we accepted and disregarded their long-term viability. As a consequence, we onboarded a lot of clients only to have them drop off a few months later. Churn. I hate it. Jake and I met while working at an agency with a ridiculously high churn rate. It was so bad that Google rewarded us for new client spend but revenue remained flat — a revolving door with prizes, which only incentivized the problem. Neither of us wanted this. We didn’t team up to repeat the same mistakes.

We also made a habit of building websites. This was never intended as a stand-alone service. Jake and I aren’t developers — we’re marketers, and we only agreed to offer website builds to make life easier for our marketing clients (and ourselves). It got to the point where we had to make a waitlist for website builds.

Jake and Cody Evergrow Marketing First Meetup
Jake and I’s first meetup. Shout out to Sidecar Coffee Shop.

For the website builds, we screwed ourselves over. By the hour we would have done just as well moonlighting at McDonald’s. For many of the marketing clients who dropped off, it was mutually detrimental. We see this now and have made changes to minimize future damage.

We no longer work with startups / new businesses. The same goes for most one-man operations. It’s a bad deal for both of us. If that’s you, keep your money and get scrappier with it. Build your own website with WordPress.com. Try boosting your own posts on Facebook. Despite what every other money-hungry marketer will tell you, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Our price for website builds has doubled. Hopefully this means we build less of them, but if it doesn’t, at least they’re worth our time.

Unless they require a custom plan, all new clients start at our lowest (i.e. cheapest) service package tier. If they’re happy we can bump them up, and if they’re not, then we spent as little as possible for them to learn that.

These changes might slow our growth. That’s ok. We believe they’re the right thing to do in the long run for us and our clients, and if that costs us a few bucks short-term, we’re cool with that.

Google Ads Landscaping & Lawn Care Industry Benchmarks for 2019

Benchmarks suck. If we (i.e. us and other Google Ads advertisers) could all agree upon the same criteria to base our benchmarks, then we could calculate accurate averages. That will never happen. There are too many variables to consider and control. It’s not apples to apples. It’s not even apples to oranges. It’s apples to bacon. That doesn’t make sense. Neither do industry benchmarks.

Additionally, the only reason anyone asks for industry benchmarks is to see how they’re performing compared to the competition. It doesn’t matter. How are you doing compared to your goals? If you’re beating the competition but have more money going out than coming in, that’s still losing.

Generic benchmarks are good for setting reasonable expectations with people who simply don’t know any better. That’s it, and it’s why I’m sharing ours.

These averages include all search campaigns for all of our clients across the United States. The average cost per click and cost per conversion varies dramatically by location. Some accounts see clicks not much over $1.00 and conversions for less than $10.00. For other accounts, we can’t get the average cost per click under $6.00, and the average cost per conversion is over $100.00.

2019 Google Ads Search Campaigns Benchmarks for the Landscaping & Lawn Care Industry
Date range from 1/1/2019 – 10/15/2019. Conversions for us include form submissions to a thank you page, validated click-to-emails, and phone calls at least one minute long, either on the website or through a call extension.

Here are our benchmarks if you can’t see the image:

  • CTR: 3.48%
  • Avg. CPC: $3.21
  • Cost / conv.: $33.22
  • Conv. rate: 9.66%

Changes in Landscaping & Lawn Care Digital Advertising

Google has made massive changes over the past two years. Some we have accepted — all of our campaigns now use automated bidding strategies. Some we still refuse — their recommendations are trash, and about as useful as marriage advice from your aunt who’s going through her third divorce.

For a few of our clients, Google Ads is no longer financially viable. The gold rush is gone and we respect our clients too much to keep selling them shovels. In those cases we have paused their ads and switched to another advertising tactic or just told them to keep their money.

Facebook still works. Microsoft Ads (formerly Bing Ads) doesn’t have enough users to justify advertising for local, single-location businesses. We’re still experimenting with YouTube and Gmail ads.

Moving Forward: Areas of Focus for 2020

Our primary focus is and will always be serving our existing clients. We like them, and we want their businesses to grow and succeed.

We’re considering writing an ebook on how to build successful Google Ads campaigns specifically for the landscaping and lawn care industry. Our main concern is that competitors will use our strategies and spin them as their own. We’ll probably do it anyway.

We’re also looking to expand into other industries. We can offer digital solutions to businesses that depend on local leads, because we’re good at getting them. Jake and I are open to anything from HVAC to plastic surgery.

If you know anyone who’d be a good match, do us a solid and let us know!


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