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mower_babe
03-17-2003, 12:24 AM
Hello Everyone,
We have been in business for 5 years and this seems to be the make it or break it year. I have a good customer base - and I am trying to pick up more customers, but my efforts have not been successful. I have tried newspaper ads, distributing business cards, sending out personalized letters and just do not receive responses. In previous years, I have asked new customers what drew them to us and the answer was always - word of mouth. So, how can I effectively boost our customer base, in addition to word of mouth? Please me help if you can. Thank you and have a good one!:waving:

TurfGuyTX
03-17-2003, 01:05 AM
First, congrats on making 5 years. Many in this industry don't. A couple of thoughts for you. I'd recommend that you send out flyers. Not a handful, but 3-5 thousand. There are business that'll deliver them for you. If you gotten a good amount of business from word of mouth, then offer a referral program for your customers. Do a search on referrals, there are several ways it can work for you. Good luck.

mower_babe
03-17-2003, 01:21 AM
Hey Bryan, thank you for your ideas. Tried the flyer thing in 2000 and 2002 - I don't think I received one response from that. Sometimes I wonder if there is such a thing as market saturation... The referral incentive sounds like a very good idea. Do you have any personal experience with that? Thanks again Bryan!;)

Darryl G
03-17-2003, 01:36 AM
Have you tried offering your current customers an incentive (i.e. free mow, 25% off next service) for referrals that lead to a new customer?

ABM
03-17-2003, 01:37 AM
In my line of work (home maintenance) I have found the referal method is what works the best. I offer a discount of fifty dollars on any service over one hundred dollars to any customer who sends work my way. It has paid off very well in that new people are getting my name from someone they trust and they are getting something in return for their effort.

Darryl G
03-17-2003, 01:40 AM
ABM - Hah, I beat you to it by one minute!

PaulJ
03-17-2003, 12:49 PM
Try this with fliers

Go to the area around your current customers or any area you wold like to get some/more work in. Go yourself, go to the door and ring the bell or knock. ( late afternoon works best because you catch more people home)
Introduce yourself and hand them the flier, ask that they keep you in mind for this season(don't be pushy) answer any questions if they have any. Take down their name and address if they ask for a bid (a few will).
If they don't answer the door by the time you have the flier rolled up and ready to attach to the door knob with a rubber band then just hook it to the door and move on
If you see a house you know you don't want , skip it.

This has worked ok for me. The calls I have gotten for bids are from the people I handed the flier to in person. I got a couple from just the filer but more from the personal contact. And Some have asked me to get them a bid when I handed them the flier.

I haven't put out a lot of fliers this way but am taking it one block or neighborhood at a time.

I think the one on one contact is what makes a difference. And they actually seam happy that I am not going to try to sell them something right then and there, just give them my info.

I also return to give them the bid in person. I like to give that personal touch but I have so few accounts right now it isn't tough to do.

Hope that helps.

mower_babe
03-17-2003, 02:07 PM
Thanks guys, I really like the incentive idea - going to definitely do that ASAP. You guys inspire me to keep hangin' in there. I have heard the first five years are tough...ain't that the truth! Thanks Again!!:cool:

TurfGuyTX
03-17-2003, 11:28 PM
Originally posted by mower_babe
Hey Bryan, thank you for your ideas. Tried the flyer thing in 2000 and 2002 - I don't think I received one response from that. Sometimes I wonder if there is such a thing as market saturation... The referral incentive sounds like a very good idea. Do you have any personal experience with that? Thanks again Bryan!;)

We have done referral incentives in the past. Right now, between the yellow pages and flyers we can't keep up. If you decide to try flyers again, let some of us proof them for you. Good luck to the new season.

Sean Adams
03-18-2003, 08:52 PM
Provide an estimate for someone on a warm sunny pre-spring Saturday afternoon...if you are in the right neighborhood (small, but affluent), you will be approached repeatedly...neighbor after neighbor....what was supposed to be one estimate will turn into 6,7,8,9 etc.... people like to see the same company working in their neighborhood....they live there for a reason and they hire their service providers for a reason.

SLS
03-21-2003, 06:45 PM
Heres how I do it:

My loyal, long-time customers bring me a new account (that meets my criteria...(in my area of operation, desires weekly service, not a gnarly rock-strewn moonscape, not a grumpy 'ol PITA owner, ect...) and I go and check it out.

Yes, my referral-base has been trained as to what kind of clients I'm looking for...and they don't bring me any crapola situations.

If 'the deal' goes through then the referring customer gets their lawn mowed free the next time. Most of my customer's lawns can be done in 1 hour or less...a small price to pay for a new weekly client, IMHO.


I'm practically booked for the season now (they know this too)....so they better get it while it's still available. :D

Good luck with the upcoming season, mower_babe!

mower_babe
03-22-2003, 12:22 AM
I am sending a personal letter out to all my customers Monday that will explain the referral program and I will send $50(residential) or crediting the account $50(commercial), for each referral that turns into a solid account, not a one time thing. The way I figure, $50 is a small price to pay for a minimum $500.00/year account. Thanks Guys, couldn't have done it without all your help. I hope you all have a very positive and profitable year!!!:D

heygrassman
03-22-2003, 12:37 AM
$50 seems high unless you have some reason to believe something less will not work. I was thinking $25. I guess it would be commenserate with your avg price per cut. If $50 is the right number, you may want to stagger if $25 now, $25 if they stay on for 90 days.

Good luck.

mower_babe
03-22-2003, 01:15 AM
Hey Grassman,
Thanks for your reply. Ya, I know $50 might sound high.I think I am just getting frustrated with spending mega $ on advertising that doesn't render me any clients. I feel like I am just wasting it, I know I easily spend more than that in a month of newspaper, not to mention my other efforts. Looking at my advertising budget over the last 5 years, I feel comfortable with $50. But, I do like your idea about staggering. Had not thought of that. Very good idea. :)

LCAmerica2
03-22-2003, 11:34 AM
i find refer a freind progam work i tell them refer some one and we will cut you 2 times for free. i know it sonuds like alot but if you think about it now you have that customer for shubrs,fert,gardening,clean-ups. so in the long run you will make your money back on the new customers. hope this helps/
Lawn Care America

outdoordynamics
03-22-2003, 12:06 PM
I did this when I needed to get alot of new customers to give me a higher client base:
Pick out subs that look appealing for you; i.e- wide open spaces for large mowers,easy whiping and edgind and most of the lots the same size.
Then print out door hangers(flyers attached to door knobs) with a note that you are a local company and will give every house the same rate. Start out with a low price(I know this doesn't sound good) but it will get you a large client base quickly,and you can make it up on side jobs. Give the best service you can and raise your prices a buck every year or so. I did this when I started this business and picked up so many customer that I had to start turning down work. Hope this helps.;)

Paradise Yard Service
03-22-2003, 01:45 PM
This is a formula I have used for over 16 years. This could be critical for you especially now when you are considering the serious step of bailing out, and your attitude toward the lawn care business is waining.

Keeping current customers is far more important than getting new ones! You only get a certain number of chances with advertising and promotions. You can screw up and try again-until the money runs out. But if you don't know how to keep customers, finding advertising and promotions that work may only increase the number of people who buy your service and then walk away, quiet and non-complaining, unhappy with the results, and never to return.
Defensive marketers focus their efforts toward fortifying current customer relationships with consistent and enhanced customer care, with the knowledge that happy, satisfied customers return again and again and bring new customers with them.
For instance, checking into one hotel, the clerk enters your name in the computer, looks up and says, "Welcome back Mrs. Jones! It's been nearly three months since your last stay, so you haven't seen our remodeled restaurant. Let us know if we can make you a reservation. I will get you back on the 8th floor in a smoking room just like you requested last time, unless you have another preference."
Compare that to: "Good afternoon. Do you have a reservation? Under what name? Could you spell that? Have you stayed with us before?
Which hotel do you think will end up with loyal customers, as opposed to merely satisfied customers?
I can only speak for myself, and can look back on my failures in the business and it almost always comes down to my not showing enough concern for all of my clients interests. And if I don't adjust my attitude then I can create a snowballing effect.
In particular clients notice if I do what I say. They notice how quickly phones are answered; the accuracy of billing, responsiveness to customer questions, complaints or concerns; and the efficiency, effectiveness and friendliness with which they are handled. I was terrible at some of these essential business practices and it hurt me.
In the fast-paced business world of a few years ago, customers were often willing to overlook service lapses and business sloppiness. Not anymore. Now that the economy has slowed, customers expect an all-new level of appreciation and care. They will definitely leave if they don't get it! Don't you?
So, after applying all the fine suggestions given thus far on this forum, remember its a new market (changed even in just 5 years since you started!), and we all need not just satisfied customers, but loyal ones that bring new clients with them!
No business is without its flaws, but a little tweeking the ruff spots will help entrench your presence in the market. Looking for clients will rarely be an issue. No offense implied and hopefully this has given you a new slant to consider before you jump ship. You probably will regret it if you do. Hang in there!

Aloha,

P.Y.S.

mower_babe
03-22-2003, 07:05 PM
Dear Paradise, don't worry, no offense taken.

The deal is, I have not lost any customers in our five years except for the inevitable, ie. deaths or moving out of our service area. What I am looking for is to see if we can expand on what we already have. We have enough accounts to keep about 4 full timers and several part timers very busy, but I want to see if there is room for expansion. We are always trying to improve wherever we can and each year we analyze our current customer base and our available manpower and try to decide if we can expand, without compromising customer service.

Honestly, I believe the only way that we HAVE survived these 5 years in our small area with the lowballers that are here, IS our customer service, not to mention our quality work. Anyone can cut grass, but I think we all know that not everyone can give consistent, good service and have the customer relations to back it up. I guess I failed to point out that I am in a town of 4K people, and the next town is 20 miles away. So, there is probably only so much expanding that I can do unless I decide to put the miles on.

I completely agree with your points and don't we wish that we could find others with these attitudes in our own day to day dealings - especially sub-contractors. Thank you for putting so much time and thought into your message. I really appreciate it. I even printed it off for my employees to read. Very well said.

Sincerely, Mower Babe :)