cdqat, ... In my area, franchised applicators, include TG, have probably 98% of the business. I know of two small applicators, one of them legit, the other probably not so. The first one offers primarily other services, such as aeration and stump grinding, but also does applications.
Marketing is part of the equation, but also economy of scale. Effective work requires tanks for weed spraying. The investment of this part of the business makes little sense for small operators. Either somebody has made the substantial investment to have the right equipment, or they have not. Yes, buying a $400 push spreader is not much investment, but having a tank (with truck to carry), pumps, etc, is reaching further.
In most cases of the large applicators, they also offer aeration. For one of my customers, they do it in early March, a time convenient for them, but way too early for being useful. The customer does not know, nor do they care -- just pay the bill. In other cases, the aeration is done in the Fall, very quick, once-over, badly done, but they get their coin for the poor job. The customer doesn't know, or care -- just crank, grind, and collect. They have successfully marketed aeration to go along with the applications, regardless of the quality of work. Despite my pleas the customer hire somebody to do a good job, nobody wants to listen.
BTW, the TG applicator that covers our common properties (about 1/3 of my customers) has been with TG (or former names) for 28 years. He has been at task much longer than I have been working any of these properties.
Using GM to prove a quality matters point is a failed strategy. Just think how well they would be doing if many of those bilked our of their money by the Feds would still be buying GM products.