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addictedtolandscaping
07-19-2009, 06:46 PM
Hi Guys:

Well. my first shipment came in from HBL, all in all it was received in great shape, the important stuff any how. I added on about 1k worth over the material supplied with the membership. Now the tough part.

I have been talking back and forth with Mike regarding marketing, the guy who came in for the training class was one of those "spend it to make it guys," all well and good, but if on a limited cash flow basis, spend it to make it does not fit. So I was hoping to get some suggestions from the seasoned pros.

What we are planning on doing is sending out the direct mailers through the program that HBL is offering now. It is going to cost me about 400 less than it would here, and I actually like the materials they let you chose from, but that is a few months away yet. I can see where this is productive to the residential side, but not the commercial side. Do any of you guys have some suggestions on how to obtain commercial clients? The toughest part of this whole thing is going to be establishing a market, amazingly enough, from what my experience has been - always been a bit of a light nut myself - no one is doing any of this up here. I know there is a Christmas Decor guy about 45 minutes or so away, but can't find out anything about him or anything else. I realize that Christmas Decor does mostly C-9 work, but that is really tough to differentiate between a professional installation and a company installing their own.

Would you guys suggest using a commercial post card, trying to call and speak with a facilities manager etc. We have about 8 hospitals here in the area as well, several malls etc. Prt of the issue I am up against is time availability. I just started building a sub division for a long time plowing customer, so that coupled with the landscape maintenance that we are back into this year, and my job as a paramedic 2 days a week - 48 hours; really limits time availability, example being I got home from working on Thursday night at 2200, back at it 0600 Friday, Saturday moved the trailer with the new shipment to the storage unit, picked up some supplies, and then today back at the station for another 24 which will probably end up closer to 26 as I have a issue to deal with in the morning with a employee. Tomorrow is a full day of mowing, hoping to get some firewood processed tomorrow or Tuesday night after mowing, have to grade off tomorrows septic fill deliveries, mow again on Tuesday, back at the station Wednesday, then final grade septic site #1 on Thursday and then hydro seed a project and move the skid steer to the septic site, then hopefully up to the firewood processor for a few days. As you can see, spare time is something I read about only; total feast or famine.

The above paragraph - sorry about that - is the reason I was considering a commercial mailer, then trying to figure out which types of business to send those to. Good thing I am already bald or I would be.

Thanks guys, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated

David Gretzmier
07-20-2009, 10:50 AM
The commercial market is one that responds to a commission sales person that is self motivated. I am looking for that guy. He basically visits every business withing a 50 mile radius of you trying to find the decision maker for Christmas decorating. it is not that hard, but the close ratio is really tough, probably only one out of 100 business's will hire you cold calling. I am paying 10-15% commission on sales, and the average commercial job is going to be 3000 or so, AND this guy has to make a grand a week to make it worth his time and stay hungry for sales. So he will have to visit 300 business's a week. that is tough.

I have tried commercial postcards before with no success. every one we do came from a person who had heard about us, knew us, knew someone we did work for, etc. The problem with commercial mailers is there is someone who gets the mail, and they filter it. The person who gets the mail rarely is the decision maker. the person who answers the phone is rarely the decision maker. but visiting in person, you ask, "who does your outdoor Christmas decorating?" The answer is always nobody, and then you ask if they would be interested in making thier property more visable for the Christmas light season. Mention that every business you decorate you call the local TV and Newspapers to come and take publicity shots for free advertising. Many times these photo's and film are used as filler in the paper or on the sign off on the news.

I know you are limited on time, and money, but time and money is what it takes to grow any business. with less money for advertising, you have to spend more time.

turf hokie
07-20-2009, 09:12 PM
Honestly, I would stay away from the commercial in the first season. I did not and got burned pretty good. Signed up a parapet job, needed a bucket truck, fake stucco on building it was a nightmare. After it was all said and done I was out of pocket almost 2 grand. And it did not look that involved when I sold it.

But if you are set on it. I have a package we hand deliver. Full color folder, introduction letter, references (hard in the first year I know), proof of insurance, and hopefully the ability to get it in front of someone that matters. Always go with samples to set yourself apart from the guys that buy product at walmart.

Oh yeah, a 4 leaf clover, it takes some luck to get in initially.As David said, 90% of our commercial work has come from a referal, someone got us in etc. We did get lucky and one of our biggest commercial customers had been looking for someone for 2 years and came across the website just as they were about to do it in house.

David Gretzmier
07-20-2009, 10:34 PM
Commercial work is a triple edged sword. very public jobs, and great if they'll let you place a sign, you can usually do them super early as you normally cannot see the bulbs very well during the day, and on a flat roof with parapets or clip strip installed you can get alot of work done in a hurry. I agree with Hokie, i hate stucco with a vengence.

the first year, parapet installs are slow, clip strips need clean metal and expensive glue, and bulbing/cutting/clipping takes awhile. many commercial roofs are hard to access, most likely no power up there or not enough, and getting paid can take 90 days plus, and that is just the way it is with some companies to get the invoice through the "system".

but the ability to get these installs done in September and early October makes me go after them. I have the trucks and I can do way more work in Sptember and October than we currently do. November is already crazy, and the more work we do before November 1 prepares us better for the crazyness.

Try to make it your goal to just visit 5 business a day from now until Nov. 1. I'm betting you'll do 20-30 bids and get a few jobs at least.

addictedtolandscaping
07-20-2009, 11:14 PM
Dave, Hokie thanks so much. You guys have been a God send since I decided to venture into this, I can't say enough. I am just worried about getting customers period.

In the area I live in, as I mentioned before, no one is doing any sort of professional decorating at all, regardless of who's product. There are 8 hospitals right here in the immediate area, several malls, etc. I am inclined to hold off on the commercial end of things, that is until we were in Bennington VT and I saw the strawberry lights literally falling off of the buildings, then suddenly I had the idea that we were going to go into Bennington like a storm. I found the tax rolls, and though I didn't go through every page, there sure wasn't a lot there that hit the 350 margin.

We do have an area here that is one of the keep up with the Jones type neighborhoods, and they have money to burn, so maybe we will just concentrate on them this year. In reality, I am sure there is going to be a huge learning curve with installing, and honestly, I would be happy with 5-10 installs this year. I have the knowledge that I gained from the training class, but know all to well that schooling is one thing, but accomplishing the lesson hands on is something else. I want to ensure that we do a quality job, and that the designs are the best that they can be. I want to have a great reputation not because of the "only show in town" but because we amaze people and blow their minds with what we will do.

I listened very intently to the lectures so to speak at the training class, and I think that is what I am stuck on, forgetting the idea of starting slow and easy and doing it right and getting caught up in what can be made. Hokie's mentioning of his first year commercial install that cost him 2k was a reality check, because I am exactly like that, I would do the job regardless of what it took to honor what I promise.

I am thinking the smartest thing to do would be to do residentials and then look to expand to commercials next year, it is a wide open market, but then with that being said, no reason to try to take it by storm I guess.

Thanks guys.

David Gretzmier
07-21-2009, 07:43 AM
probably the best thing you could do next weekend would be install Christmas lights , a wreath, and some garland above your door at your home. do the whole thing from start to finish and plug in and set the timer. run it one week. put a sign out front. then, the following weekend, take it down, store it at your business, and then, the following weekend, PUT IT BACK UP.

These 3 things will do more to train you than you could imagine. bulbing, clipping, repairing new product, cording, drilling, tools and ladders you need, labeling, storing, and rehanging, etc. The training at HBL is good info, but it gives you a false sense of security. you will learn more on the first 3 installs on what you DON"T KNOW than what you know now.

Start looking at homes, commercial buildings and think, how would I do that? what would I need?

addictedtolandscaping
07-21-2009, 09:06 AM
I was thinking of exactly that, #1 as yo mentioned, it will give me an idea of what I will be up against, and I am quite sure that people will start talking - "hey did you see some crazy guy has CHristmas lights on his house already," LOL it should sure generate some exposure.

I have been looking at the houses and buildings all along, and you are 100% right, when we got back looking at things around us it was the "we could do this and that, that and this" then my reality factor kicked in, and I went form I can do that to can I really do it.

I think that the install on the house here is a fantastic idea, it will generate everything from experience from gutter clips to actual mounting and then the power aspect. Great idea.

THanks Dave

turf hokie
07-21-2009, 09:26 AM
I completely forgot to mention the install take down at your house early for the do's and dont's. We actually install my house every year as the first one for training purposes. We have branch wrap, garland, wreaths, c-9, linkables, parapet, stake lighting, canopy wraps, a little bit of everything so it works out great.

You want to take it one step further??

My first year, I decorated my whole house, top to bottom and lit it HALLOWEEN night. Told all the kids my house dressed up as Christmas this Halloween. Kids thought it was cool, neighbors thought I was crazy, but it generated a lot of attention. We left it lit for the rest of the season.

We now do Halloween for Halloween which generates attention too.

hotrod1965
07-22-2009, 08:43 PM
Commercial work is a triple edged sword. very public jobs, and great if they'll let you place a sign, you can usually do them super early as you normally cannot see the bulbs very well during the day, and on a flat roof with parapets or clip strip installed you can get alot of work done in a hurry. I agree with Hokie, i hate stucco with a vengence.

the first year, parapet installs are slow, clip strips need clean metal and expensive glue, and bulbing/cutting/clipping takes awhile. many commercial roofs are hard to access, most likely no power up there or not enough, and getting paid can take 90 days plus, and that is just the way it is with some companies to get the invoice through the "system".

but the ability to get these installs done in September and early October makes me go after them. I have the trucks and I can do way more work in Sptember and October than we currently do. November is already crazy, and the more work we do before November 1 prepares us better for the crazyness.

Try to make it your goal to just visit 5 business a day from now until Nov. 1. I'm betting you'll do 20-30 bids and get a few jobs at least.


Dont forget to look at government bids.

turf hokie
07-22-2009, 09:41 PM
Dont forget to look at government bids.

Never came across one, matter of fact, I never really thought that would be something to look into, if you have any info on where to get this info, would mind emailing me where you got the lead?

David Gretzmier
07-22-2009, 09:49 PM
I was offered a 120k contract my a city close by several years ago. too big for me to handle. this year, 2 towns close by are severely cutting back Christmas displays. the larger city last year and this year raises private donations to help cover costs.

hotrod1965
07-22-2009, 11:39 PM
Never came across one, matter of fact, I never really thought that would be something to look into, if you have any info on where to get this info, would mind emailing me where you got the lead?

Michigan has a website, and you also can check with your cities/counties locally. They post projects they are taking bids for. Also, if you know your city puts up lights/decorations, you can always ask if they do them in house or hire them out.
Sometimes, I'm sure it will be who you know as well...

We did a bid for Detroit metro airport. Fairly painless process. The numbers came back and they are all over the place. We are lowest overall (which is because it's 15mins down the road, most the other companies have 30-60 min drives), but never the lowest per section. So they will most likely have two companies do it to get even a lower price than ours. But you never know...

turf hokie
07-23-2009, 07:44 AM
Thanks, most towns here do the little bit they put up thru the local chamber of commerce which = volunteers . It seems towns in NJ do send some out to bid but they are usually invitation only and usually a local landscaper under cuts because he does not realize what it is involved and ony lasts one season.

hotrod1965
07-24-2009, 12:31 AM
Yeah, the numbers on the job I bid were all over the place. They split it into three section, and they are allowed to award the sections individually.
The bids on each section had a huge spread. Almost seems like some were under bidding the easier sections so they could get only those......


Thanks, most towns here do the little bit they put up thru the local chamber of commerce which = volunteers . It seems towns in NJ do send some out to bid but they are usually invitation only and usually a local landscaper under cuts because he does not realize what it is involved and ony lasts one season.