Yard Projects and Marketing Advice

by Abby Lambert


Last year, my neighbor decided to install a large stone patio in her backyard. She decided to complete the project on her own, without help from contractors or her husband. Her motivation was twofold: save money and get in shape.

I watched as she dug turf from the yard, shovel by shovel. A large mound of grassy dirt took shape in her driveway. Later, a small sign appeared on the street in front of her house: “Free fill dirt.” It sat for weeks until someone eventually came and hauled it all away.

In its place appeared piles of sand and gravel. She shoveled and spread the gravel and sand into the patio area, and gradually the piles in her driveway diminished. As fall approached, she worked with renewed vigor, hauling slate tiles and placing each piece carefully. The patio was finished before Thanksgiving.

I saw my neighbor recently and asked what she was going to do with the small pile of sand that’s still sitting in her driveway. “I’ll put out a sign for FREE SAND,” she said.

As a marketing professional, I pointed out that she might get better response by being more descriptive. I suggested CLEAN SAND PERFECT FOR AMENDING GARDEN SOIL. My neighbor mentioned that her cats had been using the sand pile as their personal litter box. “I guess you can’t say it’s clean,” I replied.

“Sure I can,” she said. “I’ll scoop out the chunks and the rain will wash the rest away. That’s the same as clean. Besides, it’s just for gardens, not sandboxes. Thanks for the idea!”

Wait a minute, I thought, that’s not what I meant…that’s like false advertising. Unsure how to respond, I said nothing.

Due to the rainy weather, the sand pile sits untouched. When spring kicks in, my neighbor will try to get rid of the pile, and I wonder if she’ll take my advice with the sign. In the meantime, I’ve learned my lesson: just because I can give advice doesn’t mean I should.

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