PDA

View Full Version : Advice for marketing


LawnMowerMan2003
06-10-2003, 12:23 AM
I had to start over this year, and getting customers is going vey slow this year. I've only been able to land about 10 residential accounts, and while this wouldn't be too bad if they were every week, the worst part is that most only need cutting about every other week, due to a lack of rain in South Texas. I've had some success with making my own signs in the past, but this year I haven't done very well, so I tried flyers again. But out of 5 or 6 hours of passing out flyers, I have only found one customer. It's been very discouraging, and I'm not sure what I should do. I realize that word of mouth is the best way to advertise, but with 10 customers I can realisticly expect word of mouth to do the whole job. Any suggestions?

Rustic Goat
06-10-2003, 12:34 AM
LMM '03
Be persistent, remember a good response with flyers is 1 or 2 percent.
If there are any grocery stores or any business that have public bulletin boards, post a flyer with tear offs on it there.
Contact some realty companies for maintenance on their listed properties.
You sound down, hang in there if you can, do a little brain storming for ideas of who else to approach for business, turn through the yellow pages for possible inspiration.
Best Wishes, hang in there

UGA
06-10-2003, 03:29 PM
Having similar problems in Tenn, Natural. I'm waiting on my logo to be finished so I can get my cards/contracts/bid sheets, etc together to start running around getting my name out there. I've already called on some real estate people that I know about doing propertys they have up for sale but as of yet have no calls. I would rather give them a card(S) and list of services in one of my shirts when I go to see them so I can't wait to get that stuff.
Best of Luck
Mark

LawnMowerMan2003
06-11-2003, 10:13 AM
I should probably try going around to some smaller commercial properties and placing some bids.

LawnMowerMan2003
06-11-2003, 10:16 AM
Thanks for the bulletin board idea. There is only one large grocery store chain now in San Antonio, so you can imagine the traffic they have at those stores, and people have advised me to post some sort of flyer there. I think I'll give it a try.

Ajays
06-13-2003, 12:33 PM
I've said this a million times it seems. Flyers work great. You can't just pass out flyers for 5-6 hours and expect some type of good return. I usually get an average of 4 new clients off of 1000 flyers. Thats not even a half % return but for what I put into it, its well worth it. It costs me $60 at kinkos and all day passing out 1000. If you only have 10 biweekly clients and not a lot of rain then you should have plenty of time to pass out lots of flyers. Remember to pass them all out in areas you want to work and areas you already have work. Once your in the neighborhood, thats when word of mouth becomes important. Also remember that the type of clients you are going to get a lot of at the beginning are the PITA clients that nobody else will take. You can forget about 99.9% of commercial business (large or small) if you show up with a pushmower. stick with the flyers. make them seem as professional as you possibly can. pass out as many as you can and you should see the results.

LawnMowerMan2003
06-16-2003, 03:43 AM
Well, if I could pass out flyers all day and get 4 customers I would be happy, but that's not what happened last time.

In the neighborhood I picked, most of the lawns did not look overgrown at all, so I drove around and looked for lawns that needed it. In addition, I even wrote the estimates on my flyers (one price for the first cut, in case it was overgrown and one for a regular basis). Sometimes I would drive past 10 or 15 houses before I found one that looked like it needed mowing.

So, even though my response rate was close to 1%, it took me longer to pass out the flyers, because I was selective about which lawns I picked. I'm guessing it would have taken me a whole week or more to pass out 1,000. And yes, I do have lots of extra time right now, but I was hoping there would be a more efficient way to market, cause at this rate I'll be ready to retire by the time I build up a sufficient cutstomer base! :)

Rustic Goat
06-16-2003, 04:07 AM
You're making an assumption passing out flyers the way you said. You're probably trying to hedge your bet, and material expenses, by putting flyers only on houses where the lawns looked like they needed your services. But, how do you know there weren't more homeowners willing to purchase your services.

Pick a neighborhood that's convenient for you, one with some higher dollar homes, if possible, and put a flyer on each house.

Your original method is fine, if you have some really large areas with lots of homes needing lawn service, but like you stated, the way you're going about it will take a very long time.
Obviously no need to go to homes where you might see another LCO at work, or their signage in the yard, but you've got to think mass marketing.
Or, you have to be willing to grow at whatever rate your earlier method is bringing you.

LawnMowerMan2003
06-16-2003, 05:26 AM
I see what you are saying, but one additional problem here is lack of rain. Isn't it a waste to be putting flyers on lawns that homeowners have not been watering?

LawnMowerMan2003
06-16-2003, 05:29 AM
Would you mind posting a flyer for me? I think my flyer is lacking some in professional image, partially due lack of software. I just used Microsoft Word. I realize I can go to the copy place and rent a computer, but it's going to take me a long time to figure out how to use Page Maker, so maybe I should just pay them to desing a flyer? I can post my flyer if anyone wants to take a look at it.

Rustic Goat
06-16-2003, 09:56 AM
Look, LMM'03, I really don't mean to be insulting by this, but just what is your deal, you want to be in the lawn care business or not?
First, you ask for general advise about flyers, saying it takes 5 or 6 hours of passing out flyers to get 1 customer.

You get some good advise from several trying to help. Post from Ajay tells you his return was 4 out of 1,000.

You come back with how difficult it is to pass out that many, and admit that you do have a lot of 'free' time on your hands.

After you get advise covering the each issue you've brought up, now your whinning about how dry your area is, lack of rain. Excuses, go find people that know how to water their lawns.

No, we're not going to do a rain dance for you, cause then you'd complain it was too wet to mow.

There is absolutely no reason you can't make a perfectly good flyer with the software you've mentioned, just another excuse. You want to show yours, you want to see ours, more excuses, instead of working, you want someone to design for you or copy.

Don't know why (doesn't matter) you had to start over this year, or what your business was like before. Is it possible that you've been out of the LCO business for so long you've gotten lazy, no insult meant, just checking.

LMM'03, these posts you've been getting are trying the best that we can to encourage you. In the nicest way I can, I'm telling you to quit finding excuses for why you don't have business and get out there and get some.

Have you forgotten, the advise you've been getting is from guys that have been there and done that. If all you're going to do is sit around and come up with 'reasons' you don't have more work instead of getting up off your butt and getting more work, maybe you ought to go apply at that grocery store for full time work.

Please don't get all huffy, but man, get out there and do it. The longer you sit at the house, the longer it's going to take to build your business.

Ajays
06-16-2003, 11:51 AM
Definately do not skip the houses that already have their lawns mowed. These are the types of people that you want for clients. People that care about their yard. The people with messy yards and tall grass are the least likely to call you because they don't give a ****. Anyway, when you go to a messy yard, it is twice as much work for you.

When I first started in the business, it was winter and I was only working for a church that was basically giving me charity work to keep me afloat. I passed out flyers for gutter cleaning the way you said you passed out the lawn fliers. I passed out 200 and put the price on them, and only put them on houses that looked like they needed it. I got twelve calls and wondered why I didn't get 200. Hey, they all needed it. Right. Well now I know for a fact that people with messy yards will almost never call you and if they do, they are going to be the PITA clients that you don't want anyway.

Green in Idaho
06-16-2003, 05:15 PM
Originally posted by LawnMowerMan2003
? I can post my flyer if anyone wants to take a look at it.

Let's see it...:-) Also how would you describe your appearance when you are cruising through looking for accounts?

If you posted a photo of yourself as you would look at someone's door, some advice may be offered. Or it might be, "you are good to go in that area. The missing piece might be in the flyer. Or...."

Also see post on Just Starting re: this same issue "New Business Advice"

LawnMowerMan2003
06-16-2003, 10:52 PM
Thanks for the help, once again.

Rustic:
I'm not lazy. I've always had to work hard in this business, with the vast majority of my leads generally coming from flyers or signs that I made myself. It has never been something that would appeal to a lazy person. In addition, I have to work twice as hard to make the same money with my 21" than I would with a walk-behind. And that's fine with me for now. I guess what appears as excuses is just me venting my frustrations, because I don't think I've ever worked this hard for so few customers as this year, despite the fact that it's never an easy thing. I posted about 10 signs recently. (which have been much more efficient than passing out flyers in the past) and have not had one call yet. I'm considering placing a lowball ad in the classifieds, because I'd rather mow lawns for $20 than spend all day passing out flyers and get 1 call. At least I should be busy.

Ajays:
Well, I see your point, so I'm just going to hit every house next time. I still think my flyer needs improvement however, so I may attmept to revise it first. BTW, even at 2 flyers per page, the copy place charged me around .09 a copy last time, so it would cost $45 just for the copies. I guess I should get some discount for 1000. If it's anywhere close to $40 I suspect I should just spend $80 and take out an ad in the service business section of the paper. It's not that I'm lazy, it's just that I think I'd have a better return without working all day in the hot sun.

Green In Idaho:
Well, I could use a haircut. I don't have uniforms yet, so I usually just wear jeans or cargo pants and a decent shirt. I wear clean clothes and shave. I don't think people are expecting me to wear a suit and a tie. I imagine most people don't even see me, as I don't stop and talk to them, and they're usually at work during the day. Now, I'm a little worried about my vehicle, because it honestly couldn't be more ghetto. I'm using all I have at the moment though: A large '81 Olds with my mower thrown in the trunk. If this wasn't bad enough, the car has been hit from behind. Well, I can't complain, cause without it I wouldn't be in business at all. I know I used to drive beat up '68 Chevy pickup and have hair down to my shouders at one time, and still didn't seem to have a shortage of customers overall. Although I realize I should have a more professional image, there is nothing I can do about the vehicle until I get more business, so there's no use debating how much it effects business. In addition, the majority of the people that would see my signs would have no idea what I look like or my vehicle, and the main point is that they aren't calling in the first place.

Anyway, I'll post again with my flyer.

LawnMowerMan2003
06-16-2003, 11:07 PM
Here's my flyer. I think it's rather bland, but I don't know how to do anything fancy.

Turf Medic
06-16-2003, 11:57 PM
I have seen a lot worse fliers. Are you licensed to apply pesticides like you offer in your flier? I would lose the pricing, change the superior lawn "logo" looking thing with your phone number and replace it with just block lettering until you can come up with a better logo. To save costs on the printing you might want to make them smaller and put two to a page. Then find a neighborhood that you want to work in and put them on all the doors and then go back in a couple of weeks and do it again.

MacLawnCo
06-17-2003, 12:19 AM
Originally posted by LawnMowerMan2003
Although I realize I should have a more professional image, there is nothing I can do about the vehicle until I get more business, so there's no use debating how much it effects business.

Im sorry if i come off like a prick, but if you need a new ride, lawncare isnt the only way to make money. Get a real job, like a waiter that is flexible, and get yourselve a newer ride.

This business isnt for everyone, contrary to popular opinion. It may not be for you.

Rustic Goat
06-17-2003, 12:47 AM
Excuse me if I got radical on you earlier, your comment about the dry conditions coming after all the other 'problem' reasons just didn't set right.

Poster critique, and remember, these are just my opinion type suggestions, I'm no graphics artist.

Font size is good, easy to read, but think you're trying to say too much. Whatever you end up with, try aligning to the center for this type flyer.

Font color, I assume it's one color to keep the price down. That's fine, but pick a COLOR, if print shop will let you use bright red, try that, or forest green, look at samples printer will have and pick something you like, but use a color other than black if it's going to be all one color.

Wording-
Need more free time?
Try something like -
Would you like more free time?

For the two lines-
Need a better lawn service?
Hire a "superior" service!
Try shortening somehow, like-
Are you ready for a Superior lawn service?

For the next three "You get" lines, try-

You get:
Reliability
12 years experience
Quick friendly service

Leave out all the other wording you now have under each "You get," especially "lawn guy".

I'd leave out the written estimate parts. You're narrowing your possible calls too much. You want them to call you, have you come over and look at their yard, talk to them a little, then go into your pricing.
If they will agree to regular service, you might consider getting rid of the 'first mowing' price, unless it's knee deep of course.

Just put FREE ESTIMATE !, or the like.

You're talking about weed and feed for your application offer I guess. Remember the 'weed' part only works at a limited growth time, pretty late for that now.
Plus, as mentioned, do you have a license for that?
You can probably get by with just doing a decent fertilizer application. Check around though for license requirements.

Whatever you end up with offering for an application, don't quote a price, you don't know how large the yard for one thing.
Make it more of an implied incentive.
Try-
Call today for our new customer special of blah blah blah.

While I do like your logo, until you can put it in a color, and one that is different from the rest of the flyer, try just putting
SUPERIOR LAWN in a rather large font size then the number.

If the above leaves you with more blank space than you'd like, just increase the font size on the major words.

I know what you said about passing out flyers, I feel that doing so is your best bet. Just get your mind made up that it is something that you MUST do. Make a game out of it, pick something you like and decide you can't have/do anymore until you've passed out 1,000, then do the same for the next 1,000. Be Honest with yourself about it. Pick something you really do like, cigarettes, video games, TV, sex, beer, ice cream, it has to be something you really would miss.

Please DO NOT waste $ on newspaper service ads, yellow page, and the like.
If you have Thrifty Nickel down there, that might be the only other type I'd try, But it depends on your neighborhoods price bracket. You know they will see your flyers.

I'm really tired of typing now
Best wishes

Ajays
06-17-2003, 09:34 AM
First of all, do you have to support yourself 100%? Do you still live with parents or do you have a wife that works. If you have to support yourself 100%, you should get a part time job while you are picking up business. First thing is to get enough money to buy an affordable truck. Save, Save, Save, then trade in or sell the car and pick up the truck. Doesn't have to be fancy, just get yourself something. Next, if you can try to get a Lowes or Home Depot credit card. They will give almost anybody credit although the interest rate is about 20%. If they don't give you a very high line, just call and tell them you want to make a major purchase and usually they will increase the line. They sell some small landscape trailers for around $800(REMEMBER, ALL THIS IS WHILE YOU ARE WORKING PART TIME AND PASSING OUT FLYERS DURING ALL SPARE TIME. )and if your client base has grown a bit and you can buy a cheap riding mower(THIS IS IF YOU HAVE TO USE CREDIT BECAUSE IF YOU CAN GET THE MONEY, GET A 36" WALKBEHIND) Now the rider will only last you about a year worth of use so be saving for your upgrade. Set a minimum price of say $25/cut. When someone asks you for a quote, and they think its high, you just tell them thats your minimum. Try to stick with the smallest properties possible for right now because that is where your current equipment is going to be profitable. (DON'T RELY ON WORD OF MOUTH WHILE YOUR USING YOUR CAR BECAUSE PEOPLE DON'T SEE YOU AS RELIABLE YET. KEEP UP THE FLIERS.) I hope all this helps.

ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT THIS IS YOUR BUSINESS. IF YOU DON'T LOVE IT, GET OUT NOW. IF YOU LOVE IT THEN DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN FOR IT.

LawnMowerMan2003
06-17-2003, 10:07 PM
MacLawnCo:

I'm in this business because it's something I actually like doing. While it's not the only thing, I'm rather limited on other jobs because I have not finished my associtates yet, (Computer Information Systems) and do not have much work experience because I've mainly worked at least part time mowing or worked at resteraunts. I've waited tables and I while I have heard of people making good money at it, I don't think I have the personality to do do well at those type of jobs. Plus, those type of jobs don't give you much useful experience. It takes a while to save up for a truck making $6 or $8 an hour, and with the economy the way it is in San Antonio (one of the lowest income-per-person) it would be difficult for me to make more than that. Why would you say the lawn service is not for me?

Rustic:
You were right, I was complaing to much. No sooner did I finish complaining than business started to pick up. We had some rain and I just mowed my first referal. This lady's house has got to be over $500,000. And I just found out that she isn't one of those rich tightwads either. I was going to do it for $60 originally, cause I'm not used to bidding such large lawns. The first time I cut the grass too low, not knowing her husband cuts it at the highest setting, and it took 4.5 hours. She paid me $70 and said "It looked like it was more work than you thought. I told her I underestimated it, but I thought I could do it next time for $75. Well, today I mowed it again, and she wanted it bagged. I didn't even have a bagger so I used her Craftsman, which turned out to be faster than my Troybilt mulcher! I finished the lawn in a little over 3 hours and she said she would pay me $135 for that lawn and her daughter's lawn, which I was only charging $25, because it is really small. Definitely a customer I should keep! :)

Thanks for all the advice.
One question though:

I have used the Thrifty Nickle, but comparing the Thrifty Nickle to San Antonio's only newspaper, in terms of circulation (poulation is over 1 million), why would my ad (with only 5 or 6 other lawn services advertising) generate less business?

Ajays:

Due to my car accident and loss of business, I've been staying with my parents, so I don't have many bills. I feel that a part time job making $6-$8 would be a waste, since the time should be used to build my business instead.

I have already set a goal of saving $125 a week, which would leave me with around $2000 at the end of the grass season, hoping to purcahse an older truck and do some light tree trimming.

I could check with Home Depot, but my credit is terrible, and I've had outstanding debts on 2 credit cards for a long time. I even lost my cell phone and now they want $500 or more deposits. I think that I still have a Sears Card that I never have used however. Are any riding mowers small enough to get through 36" gates?

I will revise my flyer and post it again soon. I always appreciate advice, and despite the difficulties I really want to build a decent lawn service, maybe more.

jeff_0
06-19-2003, 11:54 PM
if u have the money put a credit card size add in the yellow pages.. i've picked up 20 new reguler clients this year (had about another 20 that i did clean up work for or a one time cut) not including ones that left a msg that i didn't call back and some that i told that i was too busy to do. Yellow pages work the best in my option.

Rustic Goat
06-20-2003, 01:31 AM
Jeff,
Is there anything in LMM'03's posts that lead you to believe that he has money for a yellow page ad? NO !

LawnMowerMan2003
06-20-2003, 03:10 AM
An add half the size of a credit card in San Antonio was going to cost $400 a month years ago. In addition, the book comes out in the fall, which is not the best time for a lawn service. So, I certainly can't afford a yellow page ad now.

Interesting that you brought it up, however, because it may be something to consider in the future. 20 new clients-per-year sounds pretty good. How much do you pay for your ad?

Most people on this site seem to advise against yellow pages, so I assumed the response rate wasn't typically that great.

jeff_0
06-20-2003, 07:45 PM
wow.. advertizine out there is expensive. I pay $127 a month for a credit card size ad. and Rustic Goat that's why i put if you had the money. when i first started someone told me the same thing i asked ask the fastest way to gain clients and they told me if i had the money to use the yellow pages..

LawnMowerMan2003
06-21-2003, 01:16 AM
I assume you get a better price because your local popuation is less? Do you know what it is aproximately? I know San Antonio is over 1 million.

Ric3077
06-21-2003, 02:05 AM
Don't pass by the houses that are freshly cut, maybe they have a friend that lives 2 streets away that needs a LCO...I've seen worse flyers but it's a start...need a new logo

LawnMowerMan2003
06-21-2003, 02:55 AM
I still haven't revised the flyer, although I took notes on reccomended changes. We had some rain and I've been working hard this week, which is great, but it looks like I'll need to resume the flyers next week.

The 10 to 12 signs I posted have worked pretty well with the rain, although there was a delayed response. I've had about 7 calls from the signs, and 1 more from my flyers. I'm pretty sure I picked up at least 2 new customers this week, and I grossed about $560, not counting more expected jobs this weekend, making it my best week this year.

I realize I should have put more work into the logo; it was really just a last minute thing I threw together, in a hurry to get the flyer out.

I'm considering adding some grass to the background and going with full color, using paintshop pro, then printing my own copies with a color inkjet. This should help to make my flyer more attractive and professional, at an affordable price.

Considering my recent sign repsonse rate and low material costs (about $2-$3 per sign), I'm debating whether I should just focus on more signs for now. The signs probably take me less than 5 minutes per sign to make. One disadvantage is that there are limited sign locations, so maybe I should do both types of marketing.