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HeloPilot
06-23-2008, 07:40 PM
I have been working on some ideas for several months. I want to get in, but I want to do it right. I am now ready to take the jump and drop the money for the right equipment. Some background on my community. I live in a nice middle-class community in Texas that requires year-round service. 21,000+ single family households. In my division there are 1600 homes all within 2 mile radius. All of these homes are less than 5 years old. These homes are split between 16 neighborhoods.

Desired Equipment:
12' landscape trailer with 4' walls
36" walk-behind..... undecided brand
21" Craftsman walk-behind....... my current mower
stick edger.... probably echo
trimmer...... probably echo
backpack blower..... again probably echo
misc hand tools

My goal is 60 accounts in the immediate area and this immediate area only averaging $25 per cut. That would total $1500 per week. I know many of you think of this as the Wal-Mart theory and not realistic. If you see a realistic flaw in this with constructive criticism, let me know and help me out.

Here is my idea on gaining these accounts. I have had some great experience with running small business's. This is my first run at the LCO business.
My original plan was to do postcard mailers to all 1600 homes. the USPS cost would be $675 plus $250 for the mailer and the time to address each mailer. I know that there are options to do mass mailers, but I want to focus on this specific small area right now. Instead of mailing I am going to hand deliver these to the doors with the help of my wife and 2 kids.

An incentive that I am planning is a $25 gift card immediately delivered at the "scheduling" of service. I initially said Home Depot, but my wife said I should consider Target in order to target the housewives that we all know make the decisions like that around the house. And what woman doesn't want a "free" $25 gift card to Target which is right around the corner. I think that I offer both and purchase at a 70/30 split to start off. I plan to offer this to the first 60 costumers. But heck, I am willing to give it to EVERY customer if thats what gets the sale. My wife had a concern about people receiving the card and than canceling the service. My way around this is to give it to the with the "scheduling" of service. I am not to worried about losing money on this because one cut covers the immediate cost of the gift card.

Anyhow, tell me what you think. Good, bad or in-different. I am very interested in your thoughts. Im sure its not fool proof, but I want to make it the best I can.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and hopefully participating in the future success of my business.

MowHouston
06-23-2008, 08:06 PM
You're starting off way too desperate for work by offering a $25 gift card to every customer. Do something that isnt going to take away your profit from your -very- first mow. One of the things I offer is 50% of the SECOND service (lawn service only) You're looking at spending $1500 in the gift cards alone for those customers.

1600 mailers will probably get you 16-20 customers. Marketing media such as door hangars and postcards usually get a 1% conversion rate. And to be honest, I cant remember if that is actual customers or just leads (you may not get every bid). At this point, you're looking at spending $80-$100 per customer in the first place.

Thats $105 - $125 per customer if you do your gift card idea. Averaging $25, you've gotta service each customer 4-5 times to even break even with GROSS income. But wait, you've gotta spend gas to get there 4 - 5 times first. See what I mean?

Tell me what part of Texas you are in, I may know another option for you that depends on your location.

MowHouston
06-23-2008, 08:09 PM
Oh yeah. Also. dont measure your average as $25. That better be your minimum. I'd hate to see what your minimum is when averaging $25 per service :)

My minimum is $25 but I average $40 per cut. This is, of course, because I have $60 mows that raise that average.

k911lowe
06-23-2008, 08:12 PM
did you try advertising in the local paper or the yellow pages.more professional than door hangers or business cards in a sandwich bag weighted down with rocks.don't try your get rich schemes in the lawn service.they wont work.have you had any small businesses that provided professional services?

HeloPilot
06-23-2008, 08:13 PM
The gift card idea is a simple business school marketing technique. People don't notice that they saved a little on scheduled service. It means very little. They dont even notice a difference in the billing unless they are on a strict household budget which more than 85% of the population are not. People do remember spending that "free" money.

MowHouston
06-23-2008, 08:15 PM
did you try advertising in the local paper or the yellow pages.more professional than door hangers or business cards in a sandwich bag weighted down with rocks.don't try your get rich schemes in the lawn service.they wont work.have you had any small businesses that provided professional services?

Ehm... I think doorhangers/mailers are a tad bit more professional than the yellowpages and the newspaper.

Phone book is expensive from what I hear (for the ads that actually catch attention) Unless you wanna name yourself AAAA11111 Lawn Care so you are at the top.

Newspaper ads only work well in smaller cities.

Doorhangers and mailers need to be professionally done (not off of a printer or even 2 color ones from the internet) But the nice glossy ones that make you look like a professional business.

HeloPilot
06-23-2008, 08:21 PM
did you try advertising in the local paper or the yellow pages.more professional than door hangers or business cards in a sandwich bag weighted down with rocks.don't try your get rich schemes in the lawn service.they wont work.have you had any small businesses that provided professional services?


Yes I have operated two very service business that grossed around $150k annually netting around $90K. Both were later sold to customers quit ironically for a healthy payday. I can attribute both of my success's to providing "free" money to my costumers to bring them to the table. remember, it isn't really "free". The mount is immediately returned to the company funding after the first week. This concept is equal to working for a week free for years worth of payoff once you get them in and keep them happy. The goal is to get, or take, the customer with the "free" money and keep them with quality.

I know better than weighing down trash and throwing it on my neighbors driveway. Sad, pathetic and stupid!!


This is my first go at it here in Texas.

MowHouston
06-23-2008, 08:23 PM
The gift card idea is a simple business school marketing technique. People don't notice that they saved a little on scheduled service. It means very little. They dont even notice a difference in the billing unless they are on a strict household budget which more than 85% of the population are not. People do remember spending that "free" money.

Thats not the point. The special is to BRING the customer in. Not to worry about what they remember about how they spent $25.

My customers will ask to double check that they get the 50% off mow. People just care about saving money. However, you're spending 4-5+ times what the customers is paying you just to land the customers. You're starting a small business in the lawn industry, it seems like a waste of time to do a month's worth of work to gain a customer before you start to see any profit.

I spend about $12 landing a customer through my advertising, and then $12.50 - $20 on the 50% special. 35 customers in two months. I'm gaining profit by the second service. I've only got my GED and obviously never went to business school. But I dont think your marketing strategy is a good one.

k911lowe
06-23-2008, 08:30 PM
Ehm... I think doorhangers/mailers are a tad bit more professional than the yellowpages and the newspaper.

Phone book is expensive from what I hear (for the ads that actually catch attention) Unless you wanna name yourself AAAA11111 Lawn Care so you are at the top.

Newspaper ads only work well in smaller cities.

Doorhangers and mailers need to be professionally done (not off of a printer or even 2 color ones from the internet) But the nice glossy ones that make you look like a professional business.

door hangers and other soliciting are not professional.if the yellow pages were expensive,i couldn't afford them.most communities do not allow soliciting,at least in this state they don't.whoever told you door hangers or mailers were professional needs a reality check.that's mickey mouse.people look in newspapers for the area phone numbers or addresses,not for AAAAAAaldrich lawn service.thats what the dumb asses do who are just in a hurry.they don't make good customers either.

MowHouston
06-23-2008, 08:54 PM
door hangers and other soliciting are not professional.if the yellow pages were expensive,i couldn't afford them.most communities do not allow soliciting,at least in this state they don't.whoever told you door hangers or mailers were professional needs a reality check.that's mickey mouse.people look in newspapers for the area phone numbers or addresses,not for AAAAAAaldrich lawn service.thats what the dumb asses do who are just in a hurry.they don't make good customers either.

You need to wind yourself down. Be a man and talk like a gentleman and not like some crazy podunk that knows it all.

Some people that use mailers and doorhangers: Comcast internet, Dominoes Pizza, Scotts (I think they make a bit more than me AND you in the green industry).

And I believe if you'll look back in the searches, you are one of the VERY FEW that has success with the phone book. Many people claim doorhangers/mailers are the best all around media. Newspapers are good if they are small local papers. I prefer the internet because I'm of the millenium generation and live in a large city and I can tell you that it is the BEST advertising out there if you live in a large city.

So like I've been saying, you might want to ASK where they are from before you spout out that you know what is best for other companies, thats why I asked in my very first post. Perhaps since you aren't from Texas and arent sure of our regulations, you shouldnt be claiming that those are the best medias for advertising.

By the way, we dont even own a phone book. Got 5 of them last year and they made good fireplace kindling.

Now to stop hijacking, we can get back to HIS business plan and HIS marketing.

HeloPilot
06-24-2008, 12:57 PM
Well it looks like interest died after the first 30min of my post. Any other thoughts?

Raider
06-24-2008, 02:28 PM
I like the plan, providing you have the capital to get through first month or so and start making good money. This plan shows you are in it to truly start a business, not just make some quick cash. Like you, I have owned, and still own a couple of different business's. Most people realize that if you do things right at first, the business will be successful long term. On the other hand, most small business's fail due to lack of capital at beginning. Good luck with plan

HeloPilot
06-24-2008, 02:31 PM
Thanks. I am bringing Capital to the table. I do want to do it right and not just make a couple of bucks to survive. I have set myself a budget to make it happen with and I am working inside that budget. A business can not make it long term without a business plan and a STIFF budget

cbtexas
06-24-2008, 08:51 PM
I like the idea of the 25.00 gift card but not for the first cut with the chance of them skipping on you. I would only do it if they agreed to sign a certain length contract such as 6 months or a year. That way you can at least recoup your money. Can you afford to give 50.00 a way each year? If you can, with a 1 YEAR CONTRACT, you may offer 25.00 when they sign and then put them on a birthday list for an additional 25.00. Nothing is really free so you can raise your weekly mow a few bucks to cover the "FREE" cards. It wouldn't hurt to do a test run and see what response you get.

CB in Odessa

HeloPilot
06-24-2008, 09:17 PM
I like the idea of the 25.00 gift card but not for the first cut with the chance of them skipping on you. I would only do it if they agreed to sign a certain length contract such as 6 months or a year. That way you can at least recoup your money. Can you afford to give 50.00 a way each year? If you can, with a 1 YEAR CONTRACT, you may offer 25.00 when they sign and then put them on a birthday list for an additional 25.00. Nothing is really free so you can raise your weekly mow a few bucks to cover the "FREE" cards. It wouldn't hurt to do a test run and see what response you get.

CB in Odessa

Love it. I like the Birthday Idea. Yes, $50 is nothing when we are talking about making the customer happy and keeping them. Making them love you and your quality of service. Thats the stuff that means alot!! Thats what makes word spread to a neighbor. Paying a customer $50 bucks a year for a $1000 or $1250 payday per year is WELL worth it. Thanks. Keep it coming

Where in TX are you?

cbtexas
06-24-2008, 10:18 PM
I like to give unique stuff away so people think of me when they use the item. Pens, hats, notepads, ect. get lost in a short time. I would suggest getting some rain guages with your company contact info printed on them. Advertising specialty companies sell these. Should be less than 5 bucks each. I would leave one after my first mowing even if they didn't go for the yearly contract deal. At least they got something useful besides a good mowing and it has your company contact info so they will hopefully call you again or give referrals. Do something other than mow,blow, and go which I can guarantee most other people are doing, even if they do an excellent job on the yard work. Make yourself stand above the competition. Make them say hay the last yahoo I had didn't give me anything. Just make sure you always do an excellent job and the little extras will put you on the top.

By the way, I am in Odessa (West Texas)

CB

hr lawns
08-06-2008, 11:15 AM
started with 2 customers. did some agressive advertising with door hangers got me up to 18 solid year round customers. took care of them and word of mouth netted 12 more year round customers. working 2-3 days a week bringing in about 4500 per month gave nothing away.

BartonLawn
08-06-2008, 12:24 PM
I like to give unique stuff away so people think of me when they use the item. Pens, hats, notepads, etc. get lost in a short time. I would suggest getting some rain gauges with your company contact info printed on them. Advertising specialty companies sell these. Should be less than 5 bucks each. I would leave one after my first mowing even if they didn't go for the yearly contract deal. At least they got something useful besides a good mowing and it has your company contact info so they will hopefully call you again or give referrals. Do something other than mow,blow, and go which I can guarantee most other people are doing, even if they do an excellent job on the yard work. Make yourself stand above the competition. Make them say hay the last yahoo I had didn't give me anything. Just make sure you always do an excellent job and the little extras will put you on the top.

By the way, I am in Odessa (West Texas)

CB

I too had thought of the rain gauge idea, it would play right into your educating them on how their lawn needs to be watered.

I think before I'd hand out gift cards I'd offer a free mow and trim with a yearly contract.

Also I think $25 is too cheap for a minimum charge per lawn.

CkLandscapingOrlando
08-06-2008, 07:59 PM
Most of us could never do this due lack of money.I get gift cards from alot of places that want to bring me in the door and it works if i need something from them.What I would do though is offer to maintain at 30 a cut or 100 a month.They think the 100 is a deal but the grass slows down around oct. in the south and picks back up around mar if it rains.Thats a good 5 months of blow of the drive or trim a myrtle every other week.I ave. about 1 1/4 ac. house every 30 min.that time can come down to 15-20 min. if there next to each other or 0 lot line.In the winter you can cut that in half.I find that this keeps people from paying by the week which means you dont get paid if the grass dont grow.I would also make them wait till the month was complete before they got the card.Or maybe offer it when they ref. you to someone else thats willing to sign up for monthly.You'll have to put out way more door hangers to net your 60 though and your production will have to be on point to get it done in a manner that translates into retention.It's easy to pick up tire kickers but the qaulity clients expect quality service.Also be aware of the market.In some places guys are making 100 an hour and in others their making 25.If your way under the market all you'll get are tire kickers and the problems that come with them.Never listen to any of our prices unless we live with in 50 miles of you.Really out side of 2 miles can make a big change in price.If you can afford big money marketing out the gate then good for you and good luck.Let us know what you do and how it works

HeloPilot
08-06-2008, 11:16 PM
WOW. It has been a long time since i started this post. I havent been back to post in some time for a few reasons, but one thing i can say is that I learned that each location is VERY unique. Many of you here did shut down the marketing. That was good, because it taught me one big lesson. That lesson would be to not "shop" your marketing ideas with people across the country because few are in the same strategic market as you may be in. I do thank those of you here for your insight, criticism, and educational advice. I revised my marketing plan just a little, but nothing different from what I posted here. I can say that the initial success of the marketing has been great, but it has cost me some money. Not a lot though. Not a lot at all. I decided to jump in full force and rented an office space and hired a marketing/sales director. This was the best thing that I ever did!! Hands down! I will not let you in on the strategic marketing we came up with, but it has been very successful much faster than planned.

I will leave it with this. Dont create a business if your simply looking for a job for yourself. Create a solid business plan, a solid marketing plan, and build a budget that you operate within. Good luck to you all and Thank you for your input.

TomberLawn
08-07-2008, 04:10 PM
HeloPilot, I'm curious to know why you need a 12 ft trailer for a 36" and 21" walk behind. Have you seen MowHouston's rig or Lawn Jockey's?
Here's Lawn Jockey's
http://www.lawnsite.com/showthread.php?t=109431&highlight=most+efficient+city+truck

And here is MowHouston's
http://www.lawnsite.com/showthread.php?t=239978

With 1600 homes within 2 miles of yours, it sounds like a Ranger with a landscaper body or ramps would be easier to handy and cheaper to run. Are you doing the work yourself or do you have crews out working now? Is your marketing director full time or more like a consultant? What equipment did you end up buying? Sorry for all the questions, but I'm very interested in this type of business model.

Captain K
08-07-2008, 06:09 PM
Thanks. I am bringing Capital to the table. I do want to do it right and not just make a couple of bucks to survive. I have set myself a budget to make it happen with and I am working inside that budget. A business can not make it long term without a business plan and a STIFF budget

HeloPilot, your ideas of marketing sound like something I think of doing...Or I might do this "first 2 mow is free if they sign up for 1 YEAR CONTRACT...But, I have learn that in the past people do business with me is because of me just the way I talk to them if u now what I mean..I am too starting out new in the spring...Now, just making my plan of how I am going to introduce my self to the client and get them to switch from other company to sign on to me....Glad to hear that I will not be the only one;I am looking at the long term and very important for me to also to start out wright....So, go out there and make that money and alot of it and remember to that along the way don't for get to give some back....