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redbuckcavs
01-14-2009, 02:51 PM
Next week we''ll be mailing our renewal letter to our customer base (aprox 900 accounts) offering a early bird prepay discount if they prepay prior to March 1st.
In years past we would do the following sequence:
1) Jan 20---mail renewal letter with discount opportunity
2) March 10--send out another letter to the customer base who didn't respond to the initial letter (extend prepay opportunity to March 20)
3) March 30 Any customer who hasn't responded yet would get a call telling them we will be starting soon so "PLEASE MAKE UP YOUR MIND"

I realize alot of companies do the AUTOMATIC renewal, However I've tried this aproach and too many customers refuse to pay for a service they didnt order!!! (with the fert cost being very high I cant afford a NONPAYING customer)

With the economy scaring everybody. I thought about sending out a coupon for a FREE service to all the customers who respond prior to March 1. Hopefully this will prevent them from shopping around and I will receive a great responce, so I wont have to spend time and money mailing another letter.

Now I need to know what I can offer for FREE
** Aeration--too time consuming
** Free Perimeter Pest app ?
** extra fert During step #1 ?

any suggestions would be appreciated

PROCUT1
01-14-2009, 03:08 PM
Thats nuts.

I had 500 customers when I was in business and there was no way at all that i would ask for renewal every year.

When they signed the initial agreement it said in very big letters " This agreement will continue from season to season until cancelled"

My billing was automatic credit card billing. So when we started up the next year, we billed the lawn cut in advance of the day of service. Any cards that came back declined got a phone call.

I found most people would continue on forever as long as their credit card worked. Very few cancellations.

grass4gas
01-14-2009, 03:56 PM
Next week we''ll be mailing our renewal letter to our customer base (aprox 900 accounts) offering a early bird prepay discount if they prepay prior to March 1st.
In years past we would do the following sequence:
1) Jan 20---mail renewal letter with discount opportunity
2) March 10--send out another letter to the customer base who didn't respond to the initial letter (extend prepay opportunity to March 20)
3) March 30 Any customer who hasn't responded yet would get a call telling them we will be starting soon so "PLEASE MAKE UP YOUR MIND"

I realize alot of companies do the AUTOMATIC renewal, However I've tried this aproach and too many customers refuse to pay for a service they didnt order!!! (with the fert cost being very high I cant afford a NONPAYING customer)

With the economy scaring everybody. I thought about sending out a coupon for a FREE service to all the customers who respond prior to March 1. Hopefully this will prevent them from shopping around and I will receive a great responce, so I wont have to spend time and money mailing another letter.

Now I need to know what I can offer for FREE
** Aeration--too time consuming
** Free Perimeter Pest app ?
** extra fert During step #1 ?

any suggestions would be appreciated

How much of a discount do you give to entice them to pre-pay?

This "Free service", is this in addition to the discount on pre-paying, or to people who respond, but don't want to or didn't pre-pay?


IMO this would have to be an either/or offer. I don't offer the pre-pay option to "all" my customers, although I may this year.

I send out my renewals the end of January. I just may add a "freebie" service to the ones that might be on the fence.

This free service needs to be quick and easy to apply. Maybe a Dormant Oil application to their shrubs. Leave material behind showing the benefits, and you may be able to get them on a full season program. Be curious to see some of the ideas members come up with.
Jack

redbuckcavs
01-14-2009, 04:02 PM
We offer a 8% discount if they prepay.
This year I seem to be more worried then ever. I did raise my price 10%(first increase in 4 years) I think alot of homeowners are going to be "on the fence" so therefore I want to entice them with a "FREEBE" to continue their lawn care service

philk17088
01-14-2009, 04:24 PM
Your letters are costing you approx $500 but yet you say you can't afford an application made to a customer that wouldn't pay due to confusion on the automatic renewal. I'd take the chance and save the bucks. On the last service remind them that they are automatically signed up for the next year.
2nd part
Why would you offer anything free?

redbuckcavs
01-14-2009, 05:02 PM
If I decide to do a free service

#1 ---I'm already on the property

#2 -- a free insecticide on the "landscape" plants (Sevin) would only cost a small fraction (I would let them know its a $75 value to make the offer look great)

lawntennis
01-14-2009, 05:09 PM
Just automatically renew them. The cost of a few unpaid applications due to cancellations can't possibly match the cost of a free service to everyone.

Turfdoctor1
01-14-2009, 05:50 PM
If I decide to do a free service

#1 ---I'm already on the property

#2 -- a free insecticide on the "landscape" plants (Sevin) would only cost a small fraction (I would let them know its a $75 value to make the offer look great)

red,

despite what everyone else is saying, I think you are doing the right thing. A renewal letter done the right way is gold in terms of customer retention. I sent mine out about 2-3 weeks after sending out Christmas cards with a picture of me and my 8 months pregnant wife. I have gotten a ton of unexpected prepays, several new referrals, and countless well wishes back already. 0 cancellations so far.

However, I would have to agree that an 8% prepay discount should be enough in and of itself. If you are wanting to give an additional "free" service, I would definitely go the landscape insecticide (sevin) route.

good luck.

RigglePLC
01-14-2009, 05:57 PM
Sure--send out two automatic renewal letters. State it in no uncertain terms that you will continue automatically. If not prepaying, then send a second letter as a reminder to rienforce the first letter. Accept a few "We didn't get the letter." excuses, and try to retain thame as customers (if you want them) by offering a freebie--like the second ap free. Or the Sevin treatment. Or maybe an overseed with premium seed. Or 15 minutes hand or chemical weeding of their flower garden. Or plant 10 petunias.

LawnTamer
01-14-2009, 06:53 PM
You need to change your service agreement, it needs to be an automatic renewal. We send a prepay letter out, and offer a small discount, but then, they get a notice right before we come, that reminds them that the service agreement is still in effect and we will be there on x date, so they need to have gates unlocked and pets in etc.

Out of hundreds of clients we get maybe one each yr who complains. I point out that the service agreement states in bold, red ink that service will continue each yr until it is canceled. Then if they boob anymore, I ask them to name any other service agreement that self terminates, phone, cell phone, dish, you name it, NO ONE in business has a self terminating service agreement. They usually pay, if they don't they go into collections like anybody else.

sclawndr
01-14-2009, 07:02 PM
Your letters are costing you approx $500 but yet you say you can't afford an application made to a customer that wouldn't pay due to confusion on the automatic renewal. I'd take the chance and save the bucks. On the last service remind them that they are automatically signed up for the next year.
2nd part
Why would you offer anything free?

Amen. Why offer a free service to everyone to avoid the few customers that won't pay for their first app of the year? The reality is that we just tend to remember the ones who don't pay and think it's a bigger problem than it really is.

Barefoot James
01-14-2009, 07:57 PM
Offer something free for referrals - name address and phone's of their neighbors - works great.
The more referrals the more discounts or free stuff - the key is their neighbors not there friends 20 miles in another part of town.

jbturf
01-14-2009, 08:18 PM
i ask alot of customers when i get a chance about little things like this-- and i get
a response split down the middle- 1/2 tell me they rather i just come each year
and not bother them with a renewal/contract
the other 1/2 appreciate getting a new contract and pricing each year
so they can decide

maybe to the OP - your freebie should be a soil test
which could lead to additional sales as well

redbuckcavs
01-14-2009, 09:00 PM
Thanks for the advise eveyone, I think I'm just paranoid going into this year. My best case scenerio would be to get a responce from every account (renew or cancel)so come early March I know if how my numbers look

PS--today we received 5 inches of snow and a national company was going door-to-door with flyers practically offering first app free to sign up!!!!

lifetree
01-14-2009, 09:43 PM
Thats nuts.

I had 500 customers when I was in business and there was no way at all that i would ask for renewal every year.

When they signed the initial agreement it said in very big letters " This agreement will continue from season to season until cancelled"

My billing was automatic credit card billing. So when we started up the next year, we billed the lawn cut in advance of the day of service. Any cards that came back declined got a phone call.

I found most people would continue on forever as long as their credit card worked. Very few cancellations.

This surprises me because personally, I would never authorize automatic charging to my credit card for an indefinate period of time !!

MN Lawn Guy
01-14-2009, 11:04 PM
Something I recently learned here in MN is it is against the law to spray or fertilize someones yard without a written contract. The contract can't be longer than twelve months. So automatic renewel would be breaking the law. Just a little info for all you guys

SpreadNSpray
01-14-2009, 11:16 PM
Something I recently learned here in MN is it is against the law to spray or fertilize someones yard without a written contract. The contract can't be longer than twelve months. So automatic renewel would be breaking the law. Just a little info for all you guys

Could point me to that law? Thanks

www.mda.state.mn.us/index.htm

LawnTamer
01-14-2009, 11:22 PM
This surprises me because personally, I would never authorize automatic charging to my credit card for an indefinate period of time !!

Really? People do it all the time, for dish, cell phones, all sorts of services.

whoopassonthebluegrass
01-14-2009, 11:31 PM
I offer a 10% discount with our 2 prepay sendouts. And in a bright red, bold box I print the following:

Reminder: You are automatically signed up for next year!
If, for any reason, you wish to cancel service, you MUST
notify us prior to the 2009 Season. Thanks!!

It's also in bold in the service agreement.

If you want to include a freebie, perimeter sprays are cheap... though when I would do that I'd hate myself when it came time to do them. They're GREAT when you're making money on 'em... whereas they're a total rhythm killer when you're doing 'em for free...

redbuckcavs
01-15-2009, 08:33 AM
It's been suggested that I offer FREE lawn care for a year!!!

Mail the renewal to 900 accounts and anyone who responds prior to March 1 (prepay or renew their account) has a chance to win lawn care service for the entire year.

who knows, the lucky winner may only receive 3 apps per year and have a 2000 sq.ft. lawn (small price to award the winner)

I never cheat the customer with bad service or cheap product,however you can bet any customer who pays over a $1000 PROBABLY wont win

ted putnam
01-15-2009, 09:08 AM
Offer something free for referrals - name address and phone's of their neighbors - works great.
The more referrals the more discounts or free stuff - the key is their neighbors not there friends 20 miles in another part of town.

Excellent idea!

whoopassonthebluegrass
01-15-2009, 09:50 AM
It's been suggested that I offer FREE lawn care for a year!!!

I've done a drawing at the Home & Garden Show here the past two years. The problem with this is that it attracts (for my business anyhow) the wrong type of people. Mind you, you'd just be dealing with existing clients...

LawnTamer
01-15-2009, 10:00 AM
I've done a drawing at the Home & Garden Show here the past two years. The problem with this is that it attracts (for my business anyhow) the wrong type of people.

Yeah, you seem to get all those Cache valley types, the ones that actually live within their income and know how to garden.:laugh:

MN Lawn Guy
01-15-2009, 04:15 PM
Could point me to that law? Thanks

www.mda.state.mn.us/index.htm

This was told to me from a representative of the MDA at my license recertification class. If you have any questions contact them.

DUSTYCEDAR
01-15-2009, 04:24 PM
offer free cash for all neighbors that sign up

americanlawn
01-15-2009, 06:25 PM
Lots of good ideas here. (been watching) We contact all customers each year for several reasons:

Their price may change
They might die
They might get divorced
They might hire another company (explain this after you "double app" a property)
They may want to add services
They might want to refer a friend or business
They might request a personal visit come spring
They might want a tree/shrub estimate
Their address changed due to zoning
They moved
They now have a locked gate or a dog
They have increased or decreased the square footage or difficulty factor
They now have special requests
They seeded
They lost their job
They want to reduce the number of applications
They may have other properties to add
They may not renew until unsolved issues are addressed
They may want to pay for lawn care for a friend or relative

The above are just a few reasons (off the top of my head that we experience every year) why we always contact the customer before assuming they want the "same thing as last year".

Keep in mind that folks often forget to contact LCO's when it comes life's priorities. We never assume anything cuz we lost our crystal ball years ago.

Perhaps the most important thing......Too often, most customers never hear from us except for the 'bill in the door'.....so much for customer service or acting like we care. :confused:

We send out renewal forms around January 1st. Also includes a handy little calendar which is very popular. We offer 8% off (5 apps) & 4% (4 apps) if they prepay by March 1st. It used to be 10% & 5 %, but we cut back. For apps over $100, it's a 5%/3% prepay discount. But if you figure the time frame being mid March thru November, it comes to more than that per annum.

My 2 cents worth. Keep in mind we're in 'corn country' (Midwest) :usflag:

p.s. We had one come in today....Their house was foreclosed on. So they called & cancelled their prepaid account. We'll be sending back their prepay check tomorrow.

Turfdoctor1
01-15-2009, 07:09 PM
Perhaps the most important thing......Too often, most customers never hear from us except for the 'bill in the door'.....so much for customer service or acting like we care. :confused:

great post!

and, I agree 100%, the most important thing about the renewal letter is acting like we care. cause we do. I've already gotten back about 15% of mine that started going out last Friday, a good majority of them with complimentary notes and about half with upsales.

Seems to me like it is a great way to touch base with the customer. That was a great list, Larry. great post.

americanlawn
01-15-2009, 08:11 PM
Thanks Turfdoctor1. Send me a PM & I will send your some of our little calendars we send out to our customers (if you want).

There are over fifty LCO's in our Yelow Pages. Only advertising we do is yellow pages & television. We never call back estimates cuz most folks hate being telemarketed (I got one tonight from AT&T) ...in fact, our estimate brochure tells folks that we will never call them unless they ask us to. I know this is probably not the best way to gain "accounts", but in the end, we gain very loyal customers that seldom cancel. (received a renewal today thanking us for NOT telemarketing). Sure, we could grow our business by calling them the evening after the estimate (like TruGreen does), but we prefer not to. (plus we're probably too lazy) :laugh:

About five years ago, we picked up a customer... She received repeated phone calls from TruGreen trying to get her to renew. Often times, she received up to four calls per day. Problem was, her husband was in the hospital. The straw that broke her camel's back was when she got more TruGreen calls at her home during a reception of family & friends right after her husband passed away. (bad time to telemarket)

She lives in a mobile home park, and since she switched to us, she has referred more than twenty accounts to us. That's right -- over twenty lawns we picked up in this mobile home park cuz we did the right thing -- respecting privacy & the right to choose.

DUSTYCEDAR
01-15-2009, 08:15 PM
That is how i run my biz also larry is the man
i hate calls and i dont bug people just because i can.
They know how to find me.

SpreadNSpray
01-16-2009, 01:17 PM
Something I recently learned here in MN is it is against the law to spray or fertilize someones yard without a written contract. The contract can't be longer than twelve months. So automatic renewel would be breaking the law. Just a little info for all you guys

This was told to me from a representative of the MDA at my license recertification class. If you have any questions contact them.

I think you might of got some miss information regarding the automatic renewal. This is from the horses mouth at the MDA.

Subd. 4.Annual notice to property owner.If a contract is for more than one year, then the commercial application company shall each year provide written notice to the property owner that the contract remains in effect and that landscape applications will resume according to the terms of the contract. The written notice must be provided to the property owner at least 15 days prior to the first landscape application of the year.

Runner
01-16-2009, 05:56 PM
In Michigan, we are required to inform the customer that the service agreement contract is continuing (ongoing), or else we are only able to hold a service agreement for no longer than 12 months. If we do it as an ongoing, they have to be informed annually. Also, we have to inform the customer on how to cancel the contract if desired.

LawnTamer
01-16-2009, 06:16 PM
Here is the cover letter for our spring prepay form.

Criticism welcome.... always want to improve things.

They get one of these in the fall, with a little better freebie for prepaying that early, but the same 6% discount.

Dear……………..

We hope you’ve had a wonderful holiday season! We certainly appreciate all our clients.
Spring is just around the bend, and we are already preparing for our 2009 season. We have found some excellent, premium components for our custom fertilizer blends this year.

Enclosed you will find your 2009 spring prepay form. As always those who choose to prepay for the season will receive a 6% discount. This year, they will also receive a $20 coupon which can be applied to any add on spray for your home, or your shrubs and trees.

Please fill out and return your 2009 prepay form with payment by February 15th in order to receive the 6% discount and $20 off any add on spray.

Also a reminder; the service agreement does not self terminate. If you are moving, or need to discontinue service, please let us know by phone, mail or email. If we do not hear from you, service will continue and be billed per the service agreement.

Thank you for choosing Evergreen of Utah. Please feel free to call or email us with any questions you may have concerning your 2009 services.

Sincerely,
/////////////////////
Evergreen of Utah
///-//// SL County
///-//// UT County
////@////////////.com


Included with the letter is a sheet that has their specific price for all the services we offer. I also take time to highlight the services they have done in the past and what I recommend for their landscape. They just mark what they want, total the right column and either send a check or mark the proper card info.
I have been very happy with the results so far. Year in and year out, it seems to work very well. I get a couple calls from elderly people who can't read it, or need to be walked through it, but 90% of our clients just take care of it and send it back in.

americanlawn
01-16-2009, 06:57 PM
LawnTamer -- sounds like you're doing things right. In our renewal/prepay form, we have a section for "COMMENTS". This allows folks to make adjustments regarding their property's needs.....

Don't treat the back yard anymore cuz of dog, pool, construction,etc

Added a driveway or landscaping, so please remeasure.

Dog died, so please add the back yard for 2009.

Etc, etc,etc. Seems life goes on & changes ocurr.

The "comment section" also allows customers to tell us how we're doing. Often times they tell us how pleased they are. Often times they write in a "referral" (a friend or relative who is interested in our service), and if we need to improve or change their program & address problem areas.

I can't say enough about the "comment section". Too often, the folks that really need something, NEVER call in during the season. The "comment section" is a necessity. IMO..

sedge
01-16-2009, 07:12 PM
Thats nuts.

I had 500 customers when I was in business and there was no way at all that i would ask for renewal every year.

When they signed the initial agreement it said in very big letters " This agreement will continue from season to season until cancelled"

My billing was automatic credit card billing. So when we started up the next year, we billed the lawn cut in advance of the day of service. Any cards that came back declined got a phone call.

I found most people would continue on forever as long as their credit card worked. Very few cancellations.

You need to change your service agreement, it needs to be an automatic renewal. We send a prepay letter out, and offer a small discount, but then, they get a notice right before we come, that reminds them that the service agreement is still in effect and we will be there on x date, so they need to have gates unlocked and pets in etc.

Out of hundreds of clients we get maybe one each yr who complains. I point out that the service agreement states in bold, red ink that service will continue each yr until it is canceled. Then if they boob anymore, I ask them to name any other service agreement that self terminates, phone, cell phone, dish, you name it, NO ONE in business has a self terminating service agreement. They usually pay, if they don't they go into collections like anybody else.

what they both said.

when i worked for my brother, we only did credit cards, works wonders.

lawn king
01-16-2009, 07:18 PM
We send a renewal letter every january. We take this opportunity to sell aeration, tractor service and snow services, as well as inform clients of the state of the industry, new laws & regulations, etc. This seasons letter also informed clients of a price increase.

PROCUT1
01-16-2009, 09:54 PM
I have no problem with sending a letter in the spring. I used to do the same thing as an additional reminder that the contract is still in effect and when we would be starting.

The difference is that your way makes the customer HAVE to respond to receive the service.

My way the customer would HAVE to respond to CANCEL the service.

People are naturally procrastinators.

I used to do it your way and found it was extremely difficult to get people to send back the confirmation in a reasonable time to plan ahead. I would get a very low response rate and then as soon as the grass started growing, I would get flooded with calls. Even with that, the "no response" rate was very high. The customer would me much more inclined to call the flyer sitting in front of them at the time vs. looking for your number to call you back this year.

Once I switched it to automatic, very few people ever canceled from season to season because that took effort to call.

I always set things up so that people dont think about their service any more than necessary.

Once you make them have to actually do something, and make it simple to cancel by not renewing, I found the non renewal rate very high.

Make the contract auto renewing until they cancel. Send a reminder in the spring when you will be starting, and problem solved.