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Marketing a Landscaping Business

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marketing a lawn care business

There are many ways to market a landscaping business and finding the right one takes time because every area and market is different. One thing that doesn’t change is that marketing your landscaping and lawn care business is a numbers game. The more people you reach, the higher your inquiries, because not everyone is interested in your services when they get your advertising but may be a few months from now so repetition is key to ongoing success.

Here are a list of proven methods for marketing your lawn care business.

Flyers
Flyers are an effective advertising method but only expect a 1-5% response rate, depending on your area, and it will probably take a few weeks before you start seeing any responses.

The professionalism of your marketing materials will be perceived by customers as how professional your services will be. Regardless of how good your work is, if you are handing out unprofessional documents you may not even have a chance with many clients. Professional does not mean spend a lot of money. While you can hire a professional or student, templates are available at many online printing companies that look good and are not expensive. Check out your local printer or the following companies for some ideas and pricing.

A flyer with just your company name and contact information is too passive and unlikely to get you many calls. What you need is a “call to action” that gives people an incentive to call you. That incentive can be a one-time discount, soil testing, free offer for one of your related services or whatever, just as long as it makes them want to try you. Also be sure to keep your text and photos to a minimum, people won’t take the time to read one with too much stuff on it or if it is too “busy” looking.

Ways to get your flyers out include:

  • Placing flyers or advertisements in homeowners associations if you have them. These areas tend to not be the do-it-yourselfer and have the money to hire their lawn care.
  • Putting flyers on the homeowner’s door. Please don’t use tape to stick them to the door as this will likely irritate them. Instead put in the handle.
  • Whatever you do, don’t put the flyers on or in the mailbox as it is a federal offense to do so. One way around it would be to put them in newspaper holders.
  • Place them in high-traffic areas such as supermarkets, gas stations and other retail stores that provide a display board. Don’t expect too much through here as most people will pass them by.

Postcards
Postcard marketing is an effective way to reach a large number of people. The price of printing and mailing postcards can cost $500/1,000 depending on the company you go with. You could save the cost of stamps and deliver yourself, but factor in your time and vehicle expense. Also do not put the postcard in mailboxes as this is a federal offense and could wind up costing a lot of money.

Many online printers offer templates for lawn care companies that are pretty nice and you can also have someone design one for you which will cost a little more. Be sure to have it look professional or your response rate will be a lot lower. Check out your local printer or the above online printing companies for some ideas and pricing.

If you are mailing your postcards you will need a list to send them too. List prices can vary in price and availability depending on where you are located. You can have your list segmented by zip code, household income along with various demographic profiles. You can also get a list from the county courthouse with a list of recent home purchases.

Sending the postcards can be done a few ways. One way is to stamp and mail yourself. The other is through a bulk mailing company. Depending on how many postcards you are sending it may be cheaper (not to mention saving you a bunch of time) to have a bulk mailing company do it because they pass along savings by pre-sorting and pre-processing your bulk mail campaign. The post office offers significant savings since their staff will not have to do this work. The savings can be passed on directly to you. But there are rules and procedures that must be followed, and a bulk mailing company will know how to handle this process effectively. Many of the online printing companies already mentioned provide this mailing service as do many local printers.

Like the flyer, you need to have an incentive on your postcard for it to be effective. You can expect approximately a 2-5% response rate from the post card mailing, depending on the quality of your list and your incentive.

Several lawn companies use the post card in the bag with a rock trick and throw them into driveways and lawns. While this is a fast way to distribute, it really puts an unprofessional and inconsiderate image to those companies, not to mention illegal in several states.

Door hangers
Door hangers are another way to promote your lawn care business and are guaranteed to be looked at as the homeowner has to take it off of their door handle. Some will be irritated but some won’t. Another potential benefit to using the door hanger is that they have to be hand delivered so you may be able to talk with the homeowner about their needs. Be sure to be presentable and professional to make the most out of this type of marketing.

Like the flyer and postcard, door hangers can be printed by local printers and some companies online at very reasonable prices. Check out the above online printing companies for some ideas and pricing from online companies.

Word of Mouth
We all hear about how word of mouth is the best form of advertisement but it should not be your only strategy to bring in new clients.

The word of mouth comes from years of providing great service and won’t grow your business overnight. Word of mouth is something that is built on your attention to detail, excellent customer service, expert knowledge, etc.

Referrals
Asking your customers to refer potential customers to you by giving them an incentive to do so is another weapon in your marketing arsenal. This incentive could be a discount or additional add-on service at no cost for every opportunity to do an estimate. By giving the free add-on service (like soil analysis, aeration, etc), you may even get additional work from that customer. Referrals are a great way to advertise because people like to hire who they can trust.

Door-to-door
While door to door sales aren’t well received these days it can be a strategy that works, but only if you have good people skills and don’t come off as creepy.

One approach that works better than most is before knocking on the customer’s door, take a look at their yard and notice problems in the lawn to discuss with the homeowner. That way, instead of trying to make a sales pitch on what you do, you can say that you noticed (type of weeds, fungus, etc) in their yard and here is how you fix it. You can even mention proper mowing, dull blades, deck height, etc. Mention that you can help them do it if they would like and hand a business card. Simple, no hard sale, but giving information to the homeowner makes it for a more comfortable conversation. Maybe take you up on the offer or not, but who will they call if they have a question about their yard and landscaping? By giving out your knowledge and secrets and people see you are trying to help and not just trying to pressure them into a mowing contract, they will be more willing to talk with you. If their yard looks good find out if someone is doing it for them.

Online
There are many ways to advertise your lawn business online and the best part is that many are free.

Website
A website is pretty a much a must have if you plan on looking professional. The good news is that the website hosts have made it really simple to put a website together in a matter of minutes, even if you don’t know anything about building a website. The cost is about $10/year for a domain name (usually free with a hosting account) and $5-$10/month for the website. With your website up you have a number of free and paid options to get your business noticed. Also when you get your website up, be sure to put the address on all of your marketing materials. There are a ton of hosts, but here are just a few respected webhosts.

Local Search
The major search engines have the ability to put your business on the map, literally. You can sign up with them for free and they give the ability to put in your business information. When someone in your area searches online for the category of business you are in, your information is displayed. For best results you should have a website so people can learn more about you easily.

  • Google
  • Yahoo
  • MSN/Bing

Paid Search
Paid search marketing is also called other names such as Pay Per Click (PPC), sponsored marketing and search engine marketing and is the advertising you see on the side of webpages (such as this one). The primary providers are the search engines themselves such as Google Adwords or MSN AdCenter. Google is the primary source of internet traffic with around 70% of total internet traffic so that is where you would probably want to put a majority of your paid search budget. The paid search will also allow you to target your advertising in a geographical range so your message is going to people who are actually in your area.

Depending on your area, expect to spend from $.20 – $2.00 per click if you want to be in the top five listings.

  • Google Adsense
  • MSN AdCenter

Blog
Blogging is a hot topic these days and many of the webhosts mentioned above provide it in their hosting packages but the thing to remember for a bog to be effective is continual content. If you can’t come up with 50 interesting topics to write about off the bat, a blog may not be for you.

Facebook
Another popular way to advertise online is through your Facebook business profile. With the same idea as the blog, unless you aren’t going to be putting fresh and interesting content on a regular basis, you are probably wasting your time.

Craigslist
Craisglist.org, the popular free online classified website is a way to get your business in front of local people looking for lawn care at no cost. In some areas, typically small and rural, Craigslist works fairly well, while more urban areas it does not work as well (not always but it seems to be that way). Craigslist isn’t going to make you rich and you will get several calls for one time clean ups and low ballers, but you will also get good contracts as well, provided your ad is professional.

If you don’t want the one time cleanups and low ballers place your minimum pricing and that you are not currently accepting one time service calls. This will keep a majority of the time wasters away.

Signage
Vehicle Signage
Your truck and trailer make a perfect rolling billboard. You can use magnetic signs for the truck or plastic signs for an open trailer that cost about $40. To really stand out you can do a vinyl wrap for the truck or enclosed trailer for around $500. Professional signage looks great and will really draw homeowners out and talk about your services and get occasional calls when driving in traffic.

Yard signs
Sometimes called bandit signs are an inexpensive way to advertise in a high traffic area. If you are putting in a high traffic area be sure to keep the message very short in big letters so it is easy to read. Yard signs cost around $1 each in 100 unit packs.

Other Advertising

Back of receipts
Many grocery and some retail stores offer advertising space on the back of the receipts and is an inexpensive way to advertise.

Newspaper
Newspaper offers wide distribution to a wide audience for your lawn business and depending on your area can be cost effective. The newspaper advertising on average works better in small, rural areas, especially when placed in the free community papers. Not to say it won’t work in larger areas but you are competing with a lot of noise and distraction in the larger paper and your ad will likely go unnoticed unless you go for a half or full page which may not end up being cost effective.

Poaching
Another way to advertise your lawn care business is to make a note of the houses being serviced by other companies and approach them to take the business. While the incumbant company has an advantage becasue they are already there you can make note of things they aren’t doing well and give sell the homeowner on those benefits.

Attire
Believe it or not but your attire will say a lot about your business. While a suit and tie isn’t real practical for mowing lawns, it would be appropriate for workers to be in a company shirt with a logo and phone number and if you are doing sales calls then a polo with a logo is great. Shirts will cost you $6-$10 while a polo will cost $20-$25.

Professionalism
You already know your professionalism will be judged by the end result of your work but also consider your and your employees behavior while at the customer’s home and while in the public’s eye when driving in a company vehicle with your logo.

When you are at the customer’s home they are watching you while you work so mind the language, especially with your higher-end clients. Also when driving with the company vehicle, it’s best not to drive like a maniac because someone will see you and could mean a lost customer.

Phone Etiquette
A last point on professionalism is that once the marketing materials are sent out and calls start coming in, your professionalism on the phone is important. Answering in an agitated or hurried voice isn’t going to give the customer much comfort, so take the time and talk to them. If you don’t have the time, especially for the solo operator, consider using an answering service. For $50 and higher per month depending on the call volume you can have someone pleasant answer the phone at all hours and they can take a message for you or even set up appointments during a certain block of time or day, giving you time to call client’s back when you are able to do so without hurrying. What’s worse is if you just let the calls go through to voicemail and it takes awhile to call back. Just having someone answer the phone makes the customer feel important and gives the smaller operation the appearance of being a bigger business for a very minimal cost. Many are based in U.S. based if that is important to your market and just a few are listed below.

Final Thoughts
With all of the different ways to advertise, it is important to track what you are spending money on as advertising is expensive. While some methods are more difficult than others, you need a way to calculate the return on your investment (this also means the time you put into it as well if you value your time) and focus on what is working. The easiest way to track is to ask, “how did you hear about us?”

All of the methods need one thing to be successful and that is repetition. If you run an ad once and doesn’t work, it may have not reached the person at the right time or they even may wait awhile before even calling. Whichever methods you choose, give at least a four month period and send out multiple times. The person looking at your ad may not need your services at that exact time but may later. Repetition is critical to be effective and research shows between 3-7 times points of contact are needed, depending on the industry and media type, before a customer acts on an advertisement. Without ample time to test, it is hard to make a decision on the effectiveness.