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David Gretzmier
09-05-2009, 09:40 AM
Well, the time has come to get started. we have the rest of September booked for 1 crew starting Sept. 14, and all of October booked for 1 crew. We are actaully overbooked slightly for both, so I am trying to have 3 guys kinda floating though the weekends a bit as well. November, of course, is insane.

Am I ready ? Yes, but not as well as I'd like. Many items are not and will not get done like I had hoped, but we are more prepared this year than ever. Shop foreman from last year will work 7 days a week, part time to make sure all trucks are loaded or unloaded and gassed up. He hopefully will run a crew on Saturday and Sunday. I have one crew foreman from last year that will be my go to guy during September and October, and hopefully the other 2 guys that run with me will turn into crew foremen by Mid-October. I also have one guy part time this year that has ran crews and was awesome for 3 full seasons.

How are you guys setting up?

TexasFire221
09-05-2009, 10:08 AM
IM JELOUS! I want to get going on the lights but being only my second year I only have 7 rehangs. I thought I had my first job sold last week but I got so pissed at the guy because he was more less wanting it for free. He is a lawn maintenance customer of mine and I did about 200ft of C-9 for him last year. I have already handed out 20 of the catalogs and can't wait for the phone to start ringing. I know it will, its just a little early around here. I have 8 spots on the radio station here starting Monday to get my name out. I am really excited about a new family that moved into the area recently. my crew helped out the landscaper that was working on the project that was under deadline for a huge party they were having. The general on the job was told, once you get to $1,000,000 stop and call me. Can't wait for them to call. Im still the small guy so I run my crew during the hangs. I have a roofer that helps me during his off season and is a great help. Have you found a sales person yet?

David Gretzmier
09-05-2009, 02:42 PM
Oh yeah, I have found a dozen or so, and they are all losers. I had an appointment with a gentleman this morning, 9 am and told him I'd buy his breakfast at the interview, never showed. called him, his wife answered the phone and said he was at the house, she had the car. go figure. I am used to plenty of installers not showing up for interviews, I always over schedule those, but this is a professional position with a guy having the potential to make a grand or more a week. sad.

addictedtolandscaping
09-05-2009, 09:27 PM
Geez Dave; sorry to hear you are still running into that with people, you would figure with this economy, people would be reliably knocking your door down.

I have my first estimate on Tuesday, the trucks go in to get lettered this week, my main estimate truck will go Thursday - they want it for a minimum of 24 hours to ensure that everything adheres correctly, then my maintenance truck will go the following Tuesday.

I have 5200 fliers being printed for the Chamber of Commerce mailer, that will go out in October and November. Direct mail program through HBL for residential October and November.

Lawn signs should be shipped form Design 8 this week, so planning on them the beginning to middle of next week.

Website is up and running, so hopefully will get some hits there.

We just finished printing a cover letter so to speak to slip into the catalogs.

Apparel ordered through HBL, hopefully will be here before the end of the month. Am waiting to see if I won one of the auctions on Ebay for the custom shirts you mentioned a few weeks ago.

Will be contacting the local papers within the next week or so and offerring to do a public serve spot so to speak regarding Christmas light saftey etc, hoping to get my name out there more.

Am considering contacting local TV stations for the same as above, possibly radio as well.

I am pretty much fresh out of thoughts of how else to get things going other than knocking on doors, which time is still extremely tight. Trying to get this first house site finished up, and then though late is better than never. Even just a couple commercials would be great to get going, then hopefully the mailer through the Chamber will generate more calls.

Tonneau cover went on the truck the other day so the demo kit will go into the truck as well as a 4' Noble wreath as recommended by yourself. I have to go through the other threads and pm's, I could swear there was something else you recommended as well. The demo kit has a piece of noble garland, I have 2 cases of clear mini's in stock now, a case of the new catalogs on the way.

Hoping and praying that all falls into place. Once the signs come in, I am going to strategically place about half of them or so at busy intersections, higher end housing areas.

David Gretzmier
09-05-2009, 11:11 PM
it sounds like you have a lot of pieces in place to help you get jobs. The signs and graphics are what really work for us. I've never tried a chamber mailer, I hope it works great. I have probably told you before, a great place to get color flyers, postcards, etc, printed is gotprint.com. Getting 2 sets of 5000 postcards printed there and taking them to a mailing company to saturate rural routes of my choice for the end of september, middle of October and beginning of november .

addictedtolandscaping
09-06-2009, 04:37 PM
As far as gotrint.com do you find it is fairly economical to deal with. In all honesty, it is costing me about 1500 for the chamber mailers, roughyl 1k for 5200 color copies, and another 550 for them to be included in the October and November issues.

The biggest headache I am dealing with right now is the t shirts. I want to get them together and going prior to it getting cooler it is already dropping into the 50's at night here, obviously the sooner the better.

I find that I am running almost on a mania set up. one day I am absolutely convinced it is all going to come together and do well, then I look at what I have invested so far the next day, and then not so much convinced any more. I am really hoping you are gonna tell me that this is normal.

hotrod1965
09-07-2009, 12:58 AM
wow, $1K for 5200 copies?
We use http://www.docucopies.com/
0.06 per copy, and most the time orders over $150 ship for free...

I like the chamber mailing idea, I'm going to have to look into that.

addictedtolandscaping
09-07-2009, 06:58 AM
Boy wish I knew about that. On the other hand though, it was a bit short notice as well. With any luck, it will pop some business. It is still incredibly tough to believe that there isn;t anyone here doing this.

I was actually talking with friend of mine last night, and he can;t get over it (from NYC) that it isn;t done here. He takes it for granted as he put it, exposed to it all his life with the companies doing it down there. All I know is I have about 15k into everything right now, and starting to get worried all over again. I go through almost mania stages, one minute I am convinced it is going to be huge, then when i think about what I have wrapped up in it, it scares the h$ll out of me all over again. Next month should b a good predictor. There are 5200 mailers going out through the Chamber, and 4500 through HBL. Chamber obviously commercial, and HBL residential. I actually have an estimate on Tuesday. I was playing with the price lists last night trying to put together a mark up percentage. Any suggestions there from you guys>?>

TexasFire221
09-07-2009, 12:37 PM
The chamber mailer is awesome. I have 900 flyers per month go out through them. They also list you on their website and new residence that move in do look them up and call. I recieved 5 lighting jobs through them last year and its on $120.00/year to join. No brainer in my mind.

addictedtolandscaping
09-07-2009, 08:17 PM
Wish I could say that was all it was, cost me a little over $400. However, my thought process is that there is no one here doing any sort of Holiday Lighting, on a professional level any how. I was rather shocked when I saw the mandate for 2600 flyers per month, but even though I ended up paying through the nose it seems, I can not justify in my mind passing up the opportunity. I had originally thought of both October and November, then had thoughts of just October as it is mailed to the commercial prospects, but with the thought that people work at these places and read them as well, I figured even though it was going to cost a boat load more, that it may just be worth it. Fingers are crossed any how.

turf hokie
09-08-2009, 06:37 AM
Those that did chamber mailers.

I am not aware of my Chamber doing mailers for members. How does it work? Maybe I can get it set up for them. You can email me if it is easier, just click the second nature link below.

Bryan

David Gretzmier
09-08-2009, 07:49 AM
Getting 5200 copies done local for a grand is cheap. That is 20 cents a copy, and nobody here will do that. but go on the internet and the docucopy website above will do one side in color for 6 cents, or about 300 bucks. two sided bumps it to 11 cents per copy, or closer to 600 bucks. gotprint is $269 for 5000 both sides, folded in half or trifold is the same price. shipping is not free though.

addictedtolandscaping
09-08-2009, 09:40 AM
The retail price we were quoted was $.35, but since we were doing 5200, and we were Chamber members, the manager dropped it to $.19. Still a boatload of money, but a lot better than $.35.

Bryan what they do (as I am told anyhow) is they have a mailer, newspaper so to speak that is distributed to all members. So from there, they offer out to members the ability to advertise, the only requirement is that the member provides the flier, either color or black and white. With the idea of the holiday lighting not done professionally here, and trying to get established, plus the newspaper so to speak is black and white, I figured that the color would really make it jump right out.

The advertising with the mailer cost me $275 a month plus the fliers, but I am getting 5200 pieces distributed, we went with October and November. I don;t know it will be worth while or if I will do this again next year, but figured it was worth a shot.

I sat and thought about it briefly the other day, the amount of money I have wrapped up in doing this, and that is without buying any tools yet, 15-20k, I am starting to wonder if I am totally out of my mind. I have a couple other aspects of the business that are driving me nuts with time availability, and the people that are supposed to be involved in getting this going are lacking motivation so to speak. I am getting to the point that I am disgusted, almost ready to cut my losses so to speak and walk away. Each and every time I turn around it is 500 or 1000 for something, got 1200 in graphics for the trucks downstairs and an appointment for the first truck to get done on Thursday. The only thing keeping me going right now at this moment is I had a guy follow me to a job site last week, we got chatting gave him a couple business cards and then got a request for an estimate, that is scheduled for tonight. I just finished loading the truck with the HBL light link sales demo kit, all the spare light link demo's I have a 4' wreath and an 18" starburst. The camera is charging, and I am going through trying to find an estimate form as mine are not completed yet. I feel like each time I get a foot up, my other is getting knocked out from under me. I am amazed at how much it actually is costing to get this up and running, and as I said, no tools yet, and the trailer isn;t getting lettered either. Hopefully I have all the tools, except the ladders of course, looked at them at Lowe's yesterday and cringed.

Suddenly feeling like I have a gigantic hole in my sail, and the wind is not only going straight through, but what was in it to begin with is escaping.

M&N Maintenance
09-08-2009, 10:51 AM
You know I have been in the lighting business for four seasons, I am usually hyped up and already listening to christmas music! But last year we hardly had any sales and with the way landscaping business was this year I am wondering if people are going to spend on something like this, this season. I did do advertising with direct mailers, web site, flyers, and cold calls. Was thinking of lowering my prices. Any thoughts guys?

TexasFire221
09-08-2009, 12:27 PM
WOW! It doesnt cost me a dime to have them mailed out from my chamber. Only cost to me is the flyers and I actually print them myself. I have 300 lawn maintenance, 300 mosquito management, and 300 HBL flyers go out monthly. Its $120/year and all I do is take them the flyers. If I didnt mind sending out black and white copies hell they would even print them. So all it would really cost me is NOTHING.

Don M.
09-08-2009, 03:43 PM
You know I have been in the lighting business for four seasons, I am usually hyped up and already listening to christmas music! But last year we hardly had any sales and with the way landscaping business was this year I am wondering if people are going to spend on something like this, this season. I did do advertising with direct mailers, web site, flyers, and cold calls. Was thinking of lowering my prices. Any thoughts guys?


Maybe change your target demographic?

David Gretzmier
09-09-2009, 01:16 AM
I have raised prices every year for almost a decade here. just slight increases some years, more in others.

I think you mail postcards to the right demographic, put out yard signs in the right places every week from Oct. 10 to Nov 30, and have obvious lettering ( Christmas Lights Installed ) with nice color on trucks, the jobs will come.

And no, you are not out of your mind. The first year we went through neighborhoods and hand delivered flyers right into boxes, and got 12 new jobs that year, along with an earful from the postmaster general as well.

addictedtolandscaping
09-09-2009, 06:25 AM
LOL, got to love the Postmaster General's.

Plan to do some cold calling to morrow and Friday, after talking to Mike lat night, I suddenly recognize that for most of us, Dave excluded obviously, the season is still basically a month away. Truth be known, I would ather be in the position that we would be installing right now, but don;t know if honestly we could with everything else that is going on currently. This week is rather screwy, so I am going to try to get us to where we can do some installs right now, pick up some of that gravy money so to speak. The estimate last pm seemed to go well, actually have soem final touches to put on the design, then I am going to break it down into 3 different estimates, boring, nice and outstadning and send them to him. Will follow up immediately after sending the design, then a day later to close the sale. The customer did inform me that the CFO of General Electric lives across the lake from him, so I am also thinking if he can aim me in the right direction on the neighborhood, he may see something as a bonus added as well.

Truck number 1 goes in tomorrow for lettering, finalized a sale last pm with a company on Ebay for the t shirts - Dave thanks so much for that suggestion. They will have the Celebration Lighting logo on the front and on the back will say Holiday and Special Even Lighting, then below that in bold letters Christmas Light Install Crew - again thanks Dave, then below that phone number and website. Was rather reasonable I believe, 100 for 24 printed front and back.

So now, I think the marketing set up is complete, I have 25 catalogs in stock right now, another order on the way of the new ones, to ensure that when we start getting the calls form the higher end homes that we have them to present as well, and believe I will be placing an additional order on Monday if all goes right.

After talking to Mike last pm, and then thinking about one of the comments Dave had made, the more you put into marketing the better your return, I think we should see a nice return on 20k, at least I would hope any how. We have now covered each avenue, I will list below what we have done if any one has any suggestions please do not hesitate.

Trucks will be lettered starting tomorrow
Chamber of Commerce mailer is completed, fliers were dropped off yesterday
Business cards have been printed are are actively being distributed
Website has been running
Direct mail is set to go with HBL next month and November for Residential
Lawn signs should ship from Design8 this week
Shirts are ordered
HBL apparel is ordered, should be here by the end of the month

I think I hit everything, anybody got any more suggestions>?>

addictedtolandscaping
09-15-2009, 09:24 PM
Well. the first one was a total bust. Have called the guy a few times, no answer, email no answer. What a disappointment. His wife wasn't enthused at all when I was there, maybe that was it, she's the boss, opposite of what I expected.

I now have both trucks lettered, truly they look awesome. I like them so much, I actually called design 8 and told them. I have to get some pictures, want to get your guys opinion, and I talked with Chuck at design 8 about doing something for the front.

However, once again, my thoughts of going bust are racing through my head. I really needed this one, I went with three different designs, minimal, decent and really nice, ranged from roughly 800 to 3k. Light links, garland, star bursts, Bethlehem star, and giant snow flakes. I personally thought everything was really reasonable, these included install, removal and storage as well. Guessing I must have done something wrong.

hotrod1965
09-15-2009, 09:56 PM
You wont win them all! Don't get down. It's september and you are doing a lot of things right. Your phone will ring over the next two months.

I did just finish reading this book, it may be worth the read to get you to think about your sales pitch. I take our LED flashlights to gunshows and I changed my sales pitch after reading it, and I am making more sales because of it.

http://www.amazon.com/How-Sell-When-Nobodys-Buying/dp/0470504897

turf hokie
09-15-2009, 10:18 PM
Dont get worked up over a non-sale or the fact that David is installing already.

David plays at another level. He is one of the big boys. For most of us we start installing after Halloween. November 1st is our start date for installs. We run about 60 customers and are trying to get to 100 this year. If we do it will match our best growth ever. We get our reinstalls up by thanksgiving and from there out it is new installs as they come in.

Economy withstanding we are finally putting money into real advertising and pushing the commercial market. Looking for a break out year.

That being said we are 0 fer 2 on new customers this year. 2nd estimate even set an appointment to pick up a deposit, never returned my confirmation calls.

The upside is that we sent out renewals last Tuesday and have 4 paid in fulls, 1 confirmation and 50% deposit with $900 in add-ons. It's early but that is a good start.

you seem to be light years ahead of where we were in our 1st year.

David Gretzmier
09-17-2009, 08:18 AM
Oh, I'm a big boy? I do need to lose some weight.

we did get a good start monday, got a very large job done except for 7 wreaths ( up in November) but rained out tuesday and wednesday. 40 percent chance of rain tomorrow. we may work saturday if the weather is good just to catch up ( HOW am i already behind ?)

I do appreciate that you guys think I play at another level, I will say this- even though we have yellow page ads out in all 3 phone books, have 4 1/2 of 6 trucks with graphics now, have been on TV news for 3 years as the Christmas Light Safety guy, and we ran our first radio spots during the Arkansas razorback football game, And our website just launched a month ago or so, AND we have run postcards every year for a zillion years. we have exactly zero new Christmas clients for 2009. We have new sales, mind you , from replacement product to add-ons, probably around 10 grand. but no new sales from new clients. about 80-85% of our new clients come in November. I am going for 50 new ones, so 15% of 50 is only 7 new clients before November 1. Bear in mind I've never had 50 new clients. only 40 is my old max. so 15% of a reasonable proven number is closer to 5-6 before November 1.

So even with a solid reputation, and years of existing marketing in place, I have not closed any truly new customers. So I would not worry too much.

turf hokie
09-18-2009, 07:49 PM
[QUOTE=David Gretzmier;3191232]Oh, I'm a big boy? I do need to lose some weight.

QUOTE]

Sorry, did not mean to insult you:laugh:

If I were to gain 50 new customers we would almost double our business. We are looking to net 20-25 new this year. Considering how last year went that would be huge.

good luck.

addictedtolandscaping
09-18-2009, 10:45 PM
NO, not getting worked up, just a bit disappointed. Things got better yesterday I think though. I was able to get all my trucks picked up, the other pick up that was lettered for the lighting looks really good, and my dump truck is functioning again after one giant log crushed the door like a pretzel. I did talk to the guy that took care of the door, he looked through one of the catalogs, likes what he is seeing and is interested in having us do the front of his store, this would be great to get going, fairly easy install, would be all lightlinks and mostly gutters so the S clips would be perfect. It won't be a lot of money, but he and his Dad own homes in the higher end of the area, so could end up doing them as well. That would put me where I think we need to be, and we would have a popular location on a main road done up that people will see and there will be our signs. Fingers crossed there.

I see Dave as kind of the God Father so to speak, don't know if I ever want to be that big. I am sure it great to grow there, but being so new to it, I am afraid of that kind of size. though the potential is there. When the guy I mentioned above was looking through the catalog (they are also a large landscaping equipment dealer) his exact word were no one is doing anything like this. That is exactly hat I am banking on.

Thanks for the encouragement.

David Gretzmier
09-19-2009, 05:23 PM
If I went back in time 6 years ago when we had around 25-40 customers, The thought of doing 4-5 times that volume would freak me out. I had one helper back then. It truly has been, and will be for all that do the same kind of growth, a huge trial and error, figure it out on your own type deal. even now, I struggle to meet folks that run the kind of volume that I do, so I have very few folks to learn from. This is the very large drawback of not being connected to Christmas Decor. I know they have probably a dozen guys that run more than 160 customers. Even then, most of those guys have 7-12 landscape/lawn crews that do most of thier hanging in November. They already have the trucks, guys, shop, etc.

The odd thing is, I really like the higher volume since I want things a certain way. I really want to cross the finish line of having a true warehouse setup, where we have 12 or so garage doors on a loading dock set up, where guys back up thier trucks at the end of the day and have all empty boxes and spools on the pallet from yesterday in thier truck. the forklift then takes the pallet, puts in in the pallet rack at the proper location, and then loads the pallet for the next days work.

laschin1
09-24-2009, 09:40 PM
Hey, I have been tinkering with holiday lights for years. I love doing them and my partner does not. Anyhow, we have developed a few differnent ways to launch our websites (70 in all) to the tops of search engines. I would love to trade our marketing knowledge for the details of the Holiday lighting market. We own a landscape developement company which installs outdoor kitchens and patios, etc..we also own a property service company who services niche services..anyway the only marketing that we do is online..Im looking for get the right vendors, right products, and more or less rigght sell packets. Last year for fun I developed a holiday lighting website and sure enough it is on the first page. We have already set up appointments for major hotels that the competitors bids are in the 80k range. We can talk the talk but I would love to get the best quality pricing, and gain skills.. any one want to trade so ideas?