Jill Guarino Brown is a talented landscape architect (and personal friend) who worked for a reputable company contentedly for several years. Then she had a bunch of babies. She tried working part-time for a while, but soon realized it was more important for her to be there when her son learned to ride a bike or to say his first words in sign language (true story—all three boys learned simple signs to communicate before they used words).
She decided a home-based landscape design biz would provide flexibility and some income while utilizing her talents. The idea was born, and she launched Brown Green & More in 2011.
From the beginning Jill has invested in the online aspect of her business including a blog, a newsletter and weekly tips. I asked her a few questions about her online marketing recently via chat.
Cristina: Why did you choose to promote your business online?
Jill: I was not rocking it the traditional ways and I had read an article about how landscape architects were not utilizing social media to its fullest extent. I had an “aha” moment and realized I needed to jump in and figure out this whole online marketing phenomenon and see where it may take me. I’ve since buried myself in books, podcasts, webinars and research to learn all I can.
I’ve been invited and paid to get into Facebook groups where there are other entrepreneurs just like me trying to figure it all out.
How did you find these resources?
I started following a stylist’s blog, in part to celebrate the last six years spent nursing my three boys. I loved the stylist’s website design and was beginning to design my own. The more I followed her, the more I realized she was also providing tips on how to create a successful online business. The more I dove into her content, the further it took me into the world of online marketing and entrepreneurship, and it snowballed from there. I knew I needed to figure out how to run a business that would be flexible and would make me feel accomplished. That motivated me to learn and devour as much as I could.
What have been some of the most effective ways to promote your business?
So far it’s been to create content on my blog and share it with my social media networks. The most successful posts are my “Tuesday Tips,” which provide sustainable living and design pointers. Another good way has been to be featured on other websites that I can then relate landscape architecture to.
How do you get featured on those sites and who are they?
Some are sites you can opt into because you are a service provider, some are blogs, and others are associated with local events. For instance, the website houzz.com provides traffic, but I joined for no cost to promote my business to the residential community. I’ve also approached other DIY blogs to feature crafts I’ve created.
I also speak locally to groups that have linked back to my websites. Before I speak with them, I say “hello” to the group on their Facebook page, then provide them a link back to a page on my website that has a recap of the presentation and links to additional information. Finally, the images from my site are all pinned to Pinterest where they are re-pinned and traffic is driven back to my site. It’s all about strategy and hustling.
Have you had any unexpected outcomes?
The connections I am making both online and offline have been fantastic. Online, I’ve been invited and paid to get into Facebook groups where there are other entrepreneurs just like me trying to figure it all out. These groups have been so helpful. That stylist I mentioned, every other month we do Google Hangout calls with 10-15 of us and share our business questions. It’s been invaluable.
I learned that an editorial calendar is a must.
Because of all the speaking I am doing around town, I’ve reconnected with folks I hadn’t seen in years and met other local business owners. It’s been very relatable and turned into such a supportive network. It’s all helped me learn more about myself, create the business I want, and really understand my clients so I can provide valuable content to them. I wouldn’t change anything—all the hustling, focus and strategy has allowed me to feel accomplished, continue to be creative, and has provided me with so much joy.
How do you stay on top of it all?
Who says I stay on top of it all?
I feel you. How do you attempt to stay on top of it all?
I learned that an editorial calendar is a must, and I jumped on it because I am such a strategic person. I prepared a big-picture six-month calendar at the end of 2013 that discusses the big topic of the month and breaks up related content for the week. Being a landscape architect relates to the seasons and what people can learn from them accordingly; so I have four categories: Living Outdoors, Places to Play, Sustainable Design and Building Community. Everything I write about relates to one of these.
Then every other month I put even more detail on the editorial calendar—like what will be posted on Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tuesday Tips and my weekly blog post. In regards to Facebook, it might be Wednesday when I upload photos of jobs and Thursday I promote my blog post of the day. It could be celebrating a holiday. It’s all thought out ahead of time and scheduled. Otherwise, I’d go crazy. Wait, I already go crazy because on top of all the social media stuff I need to first and foremost take care of my clients.
It’s a balancing act of careful multitasking. Being a project manager for eight years and having three kids has prepared me for all of this and I absolutely love it.
Photos courtesy of Jill Brown.