View Full Version : Everything but customers!

05-01-2009, 06:02 PM
I have been reading posts on this forum for awhile now, as I was planning to go into the business, with my two sons, 25 and 23. So far I think we've gone about it the right way, such as new commercial equipment, custom landscape trailer, cards, pens, matching printed t-shirts & hats, F250 power stroke to pull it all, business license, 2m liability insurance. I have yet to have my doorhangers or flyers printed. Thats next. I realize, and agree that word of mouth advertising is by far the best form, but how do I get to that 1st mouth? I have worked for others in landscaping and hardscape installs, and have been training the boys for years! (they just didn't know it!) so I have confidence in the job we will do, and the courtious dependable service we will provide, so the word of mouth should take off. I have cold call door knocked in several larger subdivions, zero takers. I have cards planted all around at every flowershop, garden center, etc. that would let me. Nothing yet. Anyone have any advice on landing that 1st customer?

05-01-2009, 06:24 PM
It may sound minimal but friends and family first. I actually put my flyer on my myspace page and drew two takers. Flyers with pull offs at local grocery stores brought business as well. Once you get even a single yard it gives reason to flyer the entire neighborhood as well as the path that takes you to it. I own a lot in a well established neighborhood, it was the first place I flyered. A couple of crews already working in it. Even the couple kids I ran into said I was wasting my time. This was in early march. I received my first call and estimate appointment for tomorrow(Saturday.) It sounded positive. Think simple, good luck.

05-01-2009, 06:33 PM
Thanks LaborFriendly, I have printing of flyers on the menu for tomorrow. My daughter-in-law made up a good looking template on word. I'll have all three of us and as many spouses available out flyering!

05-01-2009, 10:47 PM
I just got laid off and went into landscaping full time the next day. My wife made an amazing ad on Craigslist and in the 3 weeks I've been full time have picked up 15 full time customers and have put down so much mulch and dug so many flower beds I'm thinking about hiring someone to help. Try Craigslist, its free and EVERYONE uses it. Gotta be creative though. Let me know how the door hangers work to, please. Only thing I havent done so far, kind of on the fence about them.

05-04-2009, 03:03 AM
LaborFriendly is absolutely right, FRIENDS AND FAMILY FIRST! Low ball costs for these people is the perfect way to get wet in the biz, (i.e. word of mouth) but do exceptional quality work for your friends and fam cause their neighbors are watching EVERYTHING you do, trust me. Along with your cards, pens, fliers, and door hangers the return investment on lawn signs are pretty high, so when others walk or drive by the lawns that you have made beautiful they can see plainly who the caregiver is, and your phone number, opt. for the signs that are of higher quality than those companies who "spray for weeds" check out www.VistaPrint.com they make great marketing tools.

Until consumers know that you exist, you cannot maintain their properties.
Door fliers have the most minimal success rate of all, it takes tons of ink, paper, time, money, and energy for that 0.3 callback percentage.

Friends and Family 1st = Word of Mouth = $ = Career = a big : )

Best of Luck to you and your sons,

05-04-2009, 05:11 PM
Put an ad in the paper.

05-05-2009, 01:12 AM
I always canvas areas that I want to work in with fliers...you should be able to knock out thousands of homes with six people. Also, make contacts...I'm always handing out cards and talking up my company to anyone who will listen. I also started to do work for family and friends and their friends and so on. This is how the word of mouth thing starts. Good luck to you and welcome to the site.

05-05-2009, 11:38 PM
I have used door hangars and they do work about 2-3 people for about every 50 I have put out. they were simple nothing fancy,my pop uses newspaper ads he does get calls from them. Good luck these season.:dancing:

05-09-2009, 10:25 PM
all my customers came from door hangers and referrals. leave a price on the door hanger to make it as simple for the home owner as possible.

05-09-2009, 11:20 PM
Take a look at my start up story thread to see how I went form zero to 10, then 15 accounts the first year, then more than doubled that in year two, 2009.

I don't agree with the friends and family thing at all. Fine if you get a few, but like the guy that opens a pub excpecting to survive on friends and family.... it won't work.

I would suggest getting legal for fert n squirt.... the profit margin is much higher than for mowing, and there is some brainwork mixed in with the brawn work.

I did door hangers... 1200 on foot by myself. Got me 12 accounts. Grew from that. It would have been less if I did not have legal abilty to offer weed and pesticide apps.

Good luck.

05-10-2009, 12:57 AM
I just got laid off and went into landscaping full time the next day. My wife made an amazing ad on Craigslist and in the 3 weeks I've been full time have picked up 15 full time customers and have put down so much mulch and dug so many flower beds I'm thinking about hiring someone to help. Try Craigslist, its free and EVERYONE uses it. Gotta be creative though. Let me know how the door hangers work to, please. Only thing I havent done so far, kind of on the fence about them.

Craigslist is free but I have had an ad on there for 3 months now and not one call, but that is this area too. I had most of my luck from the newspaper and then doorhangers...also 3 word of mouth. Most people are greatful for getting back half of their sidewalks from edging, which the city has started hitting hard on.

05-10-2009, 02:47 AM
Craigslist isn't for me... from my experience its tough to compete with landscape companies on Craigstlist. I usually see at least 5 new posts a day with companies offering to "beat any price"

George D
05-10-2009, 07:15 PM
my wife got post cards,bus cards paper/magnets,those little calendar magnets with comp logo on them,t-shirts and hats.we have bin opened for a week and we have 6 accounts(1 family member) with the above
i also put on my cards "this is my full time job" to stand out from the weekend guys
good luck and dont give up

05-11-2009, 02:24 AM
Lots of good advice on here. We have done about everything mentioned above. I had a good return on craigslist. mainly spring clean up types, mulching and brush removal. But with that it planted the seed and word spread. This sounds a little ridiculous and gas consuming but just taking the long way thru the neighborhood and having the signage on the truck has brought us some business as well. We have been stopped in the road by neighbors asking for a price. Even with all the rain here lately we have had to mow on the weekends to get back on schedule. We have found and a lot more potential clients on off work and home and have asked for estimates. Not to mention when we make a bid we sell them on our service and allow them to have the first cut free to give them a demonstration on our quality of work. We have had some people very determined to pay us and asked for our cards. On our current clients we bring thier paper to the door for them and bring the garbage cans up to the house. its the little things that seems to stand out to our clients as well. as far as getting the first customer i dont have a exact answer. i started with my own yard making it a canvas of my work. and talked up the business to anybody and everybody that would listen. so far so good. we dont have all the brand new trucks etc a lot of guys do. last year we picked up the first new mower. its a cub cadet tank m60. our over head is low and we make sure our older equipment and truck look good. appearance makes a difference.

05-11-2009, 08:40 PM
Thanks to all for the words of advice and encouragment. So far I've put out flyers in several upper class neighborhoods, only to find out later...( a little research wouldn't have hurt.) that it is againt city ordinances to post flyers or door to door soliciting! Good thing for me the calls I got was for service, and not a "notice to appear." I got a 4 cu. yard weed and mulch job, and a twice a month mowing. I got two other calls, one for a new planting bed, and one simple drain basin and about 30 ft. pipe installed, from cards placed at a local convenience store. Haven't heard back from them yet. This morning I got a call from another flyer left at a local Interstate-side motel for a cut and edge every three weeks, with a twice a year mulching. ( This isn"t a very high end or a very busy motel, but hey, the way I see it, IT'S WORK!) I have applied for my chemical applicators license for weed control. Hopefully that will be a logical addition to the services I offer. Heck, if I advertise lawn service and get a call to install a drainage basin...just call me Daryl and Daryl! Thanks again for your time and for your responses.

05-11-2009, 11:57 PM
I also did alot of advertising with very little return on effort/expense.

My biggest payoff was mowing on the cheap for friends (with non-disclosure agreement) in the neighborhoods I want to expand in. I get most of my work from their neighbors seeing my work, seeing me out there and stopping to ask for an estimate. I also made quality signs to place in their yards for when I'm not around.

If the friend doesn't really want the service, I charge them only $10-20 just to cover gas and wear/tear and I look at it as advertising. One of them likes to mow his lawn, but agreed to let me mow the front yard for free (who wouldn't). I picked up two regulars from that lawn alone. They all offer to let me put my sign up while they mow it themselves, but their work doesn't meet my standards. :)

I drop them when I pick up the number of clients I want in that neighborhood (which I warned them about initially).

Works great for me.

05-12-2009, 12:24 AM
its always slow going picking up accounts when you first start off, i started with family members lawns, and a few of my parents neighbors, tried the flier idea, put out like 700 fliers and didnt get one call, biggest waist of a day, and gas driving around ever!!

believe it or not i got the biggest turnout of clients from a hamburger stand in the middle of town, they have a peg board right where you wait for your food, i made up a nice flashy flier, and a little business card holder. we got like 2 calls a week from there, mostly for weekly mowing services. that was a few years back, but i still go back weekly and make sure my fliers still up and its full of business cards, i still prolly get a call a week from it. i also advertised in the town paper and have had decient luck from that.

George D
05-12-2009, 09:58 PM
you could also try trailor parks,i got 4 accounts (granted they are cheap acc)

05-13-2009, 12:46 AM
I hope you get a bunch of accounts quick to pay off all that equipment you bought.
I am new too and knock doors on foot and spend lots of time with people who will talk to me. Also if they do seem to mind, I move on quickly. I keep a journal of each address, if contact y/n, left card, dog barking, price left etc. (I don't do big dog poo)

Just about everyone who I ask about those flyers taped to their mailbox say that it is tacky and trashy and they would rather be bothered by a knock on the door so that they don't have that crap flying around the neighborhood. I've never done flyers but sooner or later, I would guess that you are bound to put one of your trashy flyers on the mailbox of the president of the homeowern's association and they will call the cops on you for littering their neighborhood.

All that being said, flyers do work but results seems to be mixed depending on a lot of variables. I think walking around being seen shaking hands is the best.

The magic time for door knocking is Saturday from 1-5 pm
I know you can't get a lot done in this small time, but you should get at least 1 new weekly customer per week per block of time spent. AT LEAST 1

You need to offer them something as well. It is obvious when people cut their own, but knock anyway. Tell them who you are and what you are doing and give them your card anyway. Do some kind of birdog fee for new business. When they hear someone needs their yard cut who you think they are gonna call? The guy who taped a flyer to the mailbox or the guy who stopped by introduced himself and told you he would give you $ if a referral pans out.

05-13-2009, 02:36 AM
Trying to start up this year is really tough. Don't get discouraged and don't allow yourself to get hoodwinked into low pricing because you need customers.
I have been in this for over 20 years and actually cut loose 2 of my PITA customers that wanted their lawns done cheaper because of all the 1st year guys running around willing to mow a 1/2 acre for $20.00 to $25.00. I have been swamped with landscaping and rototilling jobs so far this season. I have gotten a lot of work from neighbors of my clients that come out while we are working and ask us about our services. Referral has always been my best source of new clients. There is some good money to be made out there besides mowing. Let them other guys trash their equipment on those $20.00 lawns. I will save mine for when things turn around and when all these guys finally realize there is no money in mowing for $25.00 they will be gone.
Good Luck :weightlifter::usflag:

05-13-2009, 03:54 AM
Hey bpw60,

Another thing to help with pricing the yards... I had this problem too at first not charging enough; it's been 9 years since I was a cutter. Someone else on lawnsite told me how to do this I'll call it yard preview and it's working well.

This is not for everyone, it depends on how good you are with people.

When you do get the call to do an estimate, show up ready to cut it right then and don't give them a price on regular service until you are done, meaning you have done everything they want, and then you also know the intervals they want you to cut at.
This is where the selling part comes in...

For instance, you say: I like to time myself on each yard the first cut and really clean up some of these bad edges etc... show them what's been neglected and tell them how you are going to make it look like a golf course. This way I know how much to charge in the future for everything you want me to do."

You will have to give them a price up front before you cut that 1st time, but explain that this is what you will charge the 1st time and reiterate that you are going to get the place back under control that it may take a little longer because it's been neglected.

Also let them know that you may have to charge more, less or the same for future cuts. Always aim high, this gives you a good negotiation point. Make sure you say that I would rather charge you correctly up front than have to come back to you in a few weeks and tell you that I need more money. When that happens, I don't feel good about the yard because I am not making enough and it makes me look bad for asking for more money. I simply want to avoid that kind of situation.

It can be as simple as you think you would do it for $40 weekly but you say how's $50 sound?
If they say ok at the $50, roll with it, if they say that is a little high, ask them if they will at least pay $50 this first cut so you can break in the lawn so to speak and then see if they are happy with it. That way you will know how long it takes and if you really are willing to do it for $40 like they want.

Say something like: For this 1st one, I will only charge you $50 and then I will let you know if I can continue to do it at that price. Does that sound fair?

I've found that it is hard for people to say NO. But you can see by their reactions and make a good guess as to whether or not you would keep them at that higher price or if they are the type to just call you and say, we don't need you anymore.

Doing this is actually quite fair and people are receptive to this way of doing business.
You get paid for the extra time it takes to do it right the 1st time. If weekly you will shave time off next go around and you get to preview the yard.

So far the customers that I've done this for have not called anyone else yet.

Believe me the first time you say to a customer I'll do it for $50 and they saw WOW that IS a good price you will kick yourself. For whatever reason, I still obsess over this one tiny yard that I probably could have squeezed another $5 out of years ago.

Another thing is that you can fill up your account list fast by offering the promo rates but if you are planning on going up on them next year expect to lose those same people because they will just go with the next promo-rate guy thinking that they will do the same job as you.

Sometimes they call back and then you are theirs forever. Other times you should suck it up and call them too see how the new guy is working out and see if you can have their business back at your old price.

05-13-2009, 03:55 AM
i type fast.. sometimes I don't realize how much I put down in a post sorry for long post

05-13-2009, 08:34 AM
This is my first year as well. I started a little late but I am only part-time. I found a great way to get business.

We have a thriving historical district in our down town area. There is 1 woman that does 95% of all of the real estate there and most of the buildings have been bought by investment companies from out-of-town.

She is really big into preserving the historical look of our downtown area and keeping things clean.
I emailed her to ask about keeping up a property beside one that I already maintain and she told me that she already had someone but that she would send me some business.

Since then (2 weeks), I've landed 2 landscape jobs and a regular mowing account. All of this business is done through email and phone calls. One of the customers lives over 600 miles away! Investment properties is a tough sell because the investor usually doesn't want to "invest" anymore money than they already have with out a reasonable return. But then again, they wouldn't have bought it if they didn't already have money. But this woman has so much "say" over the look of the properties, that her power of suggestion usually makes the investor say ok. In the end, she gets what she wants, I get what I need, investor has a better chance of selling the property, everyone is happy!

Not my ideal neighborhood to work but it's better than nothing and keeping the drive time down is good.

Moral: Find a real estate agent with power of suggestion.