Going further

Once you’re up and running, cross-selling to your clients just skims the surface of what landscape lighting can do for your business. For those who are ready to invest some serious time and energy, landscape lighting can offer much, much more. Lighting a landscape requires a lighting design, and can command designer margins. Billing only for parts and labor is selling yourself short. But how do you start making a name for yourself? More planning, more marketing and more training.

For Jonathan Adams, owner of Twilight Solutions, designing systems for longevity is the smartest move a contractor can make. His company works in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where a number of Chicago’s elite have their second homes.

All lighting systems need annual maintenance, mostly consisting of cleaning fixtures, checking connections and repositioning those that have been nudged out of place. “There’s no such thing as a no-maintenance system,” Adams said. “A lot of these manufacturers are making fixtures, transformers and LEDs that they’re offering 10- year warranties on.

They’re not going to hold up for 10 on a regular basis.” This yearly years if you’re not maintaining them your maintenance plan, just as much lighting check should be included in as snow removal or seasonal yard cleaning.

When you’re selling lighting, expect some resistance, and plan ahead. Clients are quick to cut lighting from landscape plans as an un- necessary add-on, so bring some photos of your work. Show your clients the difference between the LED fixtures. It can be persuasive old halogen lighting and the newer and engaging.

Keener brings one of the old, cantype well fixtures to his potential clients, and compares them with the modern-looking LED fixtures. “You’re not going to say, ‘I’m interested in buying a new car,’” said Keener. “You go look at a car before you buy it…well, it’s the same with lighting.” Letting them see the fixtures can only help your case.

According to Stephens, roughly one-third of the opportunities for landscape lighting come from cross-selling. The other two-thirds are people looking for ‘aftermarket’ add-ons to enhance their landscape. “You get to know that people appreciate this type of thing,” Stephens said. “They invest in their property, they invest in their landscape, and when shown what landscape lighting can do for their enjoyment, they will invest in that as well.”

“We find that about 20 percent of our customers who purchase landscape lighting will add on to their project within 18 months,” he said. Make a point of checking in on your client when you’re doing your annual maintenance. Perez says that the emotional connection of lighting will drive client purchases. “Once they see good lighting, they add it to their front yard, and then extend it to their backyard; it’s a cycle,” he says.

The industry has changed quite a bit in the past decade. Low-voltage LED lighting has replaced halogen lighting as the preferred fixture. “A typical halogen lamp is 35 watts, and a typical LED is 5 watts,” said Chris Davey, senior marketing manager of Unique Lighting Systems. “That’s an 85 percent differential.” This means that smaller transformers and thinner gauge wire is necessary than when halogen was king. More importantly, LEDs use less energy.

As a landscape lighting contractor, you’ll benefit from the ever-improving technology coming out of the market. “You can’t correlate lighting with construction; you have to correlate lighting with tech,” said Tobias. That means a new generation of LEDs could be coming out every nine months.

Although LEDs with voltage regulators make it harder to over-volt a fixture, voltage drop is still a factor. Although it’s unlikely, take care that you aren’t pushing the transformer’s maximum capacity for your application. Make sure the transformer you install has a multi-tap.

After all, you want to leave room for later installations, to add on lights without swapping out the transformer.

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