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Tips for Managing a Landscape Business

Managing your landscape business in this crisis

Keep Your Customers Close

It costs 5x as much to attract a new customer vs. retaining the one you’ve got, according to Forbes.com. Existing customers are also more likely to expand services simply because they are already familiar with the quality of your work. It’s the low hanging fruit.

Growth may my sitting right in front of you with your existing base. Focus on upselling new services such as new plantings, seeding, fertilization, pruning and hardscaping to your base.

Landscape plantings have changed significantly over the last 20 years with a new focus on sustainability. Xeriscaping, landscaping or gardening that reduces or eliminates the need for irrigation, is becoming very popular in many regions.

This is a real opportunity for landscapers to work with their existing customers to rework their gardens, shrubs, trees, and hardscapes. Build plans with your customers to evolve their landscapes over time to assure long term relationships and better managed cash flow.

Some ideas include:

  • Hardy regional plant materials are favored over exotic or difficult-to-care-for plantings.
  • Less lawn and more rock or garden
  • Replace shrubs with intelligent plantings, purposely placed in architectural rows.
  • Tall grasses spaced generously to retain visual distance between plantings for the long-term.
  • Flower beds enhanced with sculptures
  • Flat walkways so separated flat rocks or forms through and between the landscaping.
  • New trees to fully contribute to even heat and cooling of the commercial building.
  • Protective perimeter walls to gardens and plantings
  • Add slower growth plants to minimize maintenance.
  • New outdoor living spaces hardscaped with gardens.


Tap into your database of existing customers to suggest a facelift for the property. Share your reasoning for the recommendations: i.e. to make walkways safer by removing underbrush, or to make the entrance more inviting. If the project is bigger than the customer anticipates, break the landscape makeover into two or three phases over the spring, summer and fall. Or offer half down and half paid in 45 days after completion.

When you demonstrate awareness that everyone has a budget, your customer will be impressed. Clients are proven to trust the vendor who appreciates the importance of controlling capital improvement costs.

 

Marketing Your Seasonal Business is a Year-Round Effort.

According to Marketing at Work, the average business loses about 10 to 25 percent of its customer base per year. Smallbiztrends.com reports the number of customers a business loses annually is 15% on average. This means you need a add 15% to 25% more customers each year just to stay even. Growth required a real focus on gaining new customers.

The lawn care business is no different. Your business can be impacted by a bad economy, poor service, and competitive undercutting. Focus on the things you can control to retain and gain clients – service, value add, customer relations, and outreach.

Build a marketing plan. A solid marketing plan should include:

  • An Outreach Strategy and tactics
    • A website with services and resources to show expertise
    • Business cards and invoice templates
    • Phone answering service and email outreach to new and existing clients
    • Google presence in Maps and positive ratings
    • Facebook presence with positive ratings
    • Truck/trailers wrapped in branded design
    • Uniforms for the entire crew to wear
    • Yard signs to post when a landscaping project is underway.

Get a website. It’s your online showroom. It validates you and your service. It’s important that your website be responsive (it moves seamlessly from desktop to tablet to cell phone.) Find an SEO/SEM agency to build and market for you.

Have a professional business card and templates for invoices and letterhead.

Look into a phone service that you can train to answer specific questions, teeing you up to speak to the potential customer later. Or answer your own phone…before the third ring all day and in the evening too.

Make sure your address and location is correct in Google Maps. Ask people to rate your services if they like your service. Offer incentives for good ratings.

If you don’t like paperwork or filing reports, find someone who does. This kind of paperwork is not optional. Fines and fees can become an unnecessary burden when you’re late or fail to pay. Submit clean, clear invoices on time and regularly.

Wrap your truck/trailer/car in a professional wrap. This is an effective way to promote your business as you travel a region. Just drive respectfully.

Dress your crews in professional coordinated branded gear. This shows professionalism. Provide safety vests. This communicates you pay attention to the rules a provides client comfort.

Signs at the curb during ongoing projects are a great way for neighbors and passerby’s see your work and know the value add you offer.

Keep your business growing. Develop a good marketing outreach plan.

 

Is your business going to be Big, B2C, or Busted?

Entrepreneur.com says the startup lawn care business typically services 20-30 residential clients any given week. But that many customers don’t guarantee you’ll be profitable.

When you’re small almost everything you make goes home with you. But when you start adding team members, margins tighten to the 5 – 10% range. That is IF you keep your rates as low as they were when you were home mowing alone.

Running a service business is about selling labor and man hours and managing your costs. As your team expands the cost increases are nearly exponential. Think health insurance, business insurance, property insurance, business property taxes, worker’s comp, increased equipment costs, rents, HR compliance costs, legal, and technology.

The point is that if you want to go big, don’t just do it for BIG’s sake. If your goal is to up-size your lawn care business, then pay particular attention to your rates.

If your rate was $30/per lawn when you worked alone, the cost of doing business was minimal, possibly $20 per hour or per yard. Very possibly your net profit half was two-thirds or $20. But when you add new members to the team, the net profit decreases sharply, on average to less than $10/hour or by one-third.

The solution is to increase the cost of your services to cover the loss in margin. Boost the $30 to $40 and you will have covered your loss. But do it with a conscience and don’t go overboard. Too big a price jump can cost you current customers.

You’ve got to have the conversation with your customers about rates. Be prepared to state your fees. If it’s hourly, say it out loud and explain if you have a minimum charge. If you prorate your hourly costs, explain that too. Spell it out on your website and on your contract. Don’t leave it to surprise.

Because price point isn’t the reason most people select your service or you as a vendor over another, your marketing approach shouldn’t focus on price point either. Talk about the benefits of your service. You keep a property looking better than those that aren’t professionally tended and thus your service contributes to the appreciation of the property and the attractiveness of the property. Your service frees up time so that owners or property managers can better spend their time doing what they do to make the business prosper. You provide a solution. Talk about that. Repeat it.

Bottom line, your growing business can be profitable if you understand your business inside out. Know the time it takes to mow each yard on your schedule. Then address if you can increase productivity by having two crews on a street vs. one and vice versa.

Know what equipment you need and how much it costs. For equipment of course contact www.MowMore.com. If you’ve got questions about any detail of the products we sell, we will get you the answers. We’re here to help you make the best decision for your specific operations.