big city -- few customers

Discussion in 'Pesticide & Herbicide Application' started by americanlawn, Jul 1, 2008.

  1. americanlawn

    americanlawn LawnSite Fanatic
    from midwest
    Posts: 5,860

    We provide service within about a 60 mile radius, but in some towns, we have very few customers.

    Example: Ames, Iowa -- it has a large population (also home of Iowa State University), but we barely have 50 customers there.:confused: Conversely, we have over 1000 customers in Urbandale (a Des Moines suburb) which is about the same size as Ames. Go figure.:confused:

    We actually have more customers in 2 small farm towns close to Ames than we do in the entire city of Ames. I'm talkin' about 2 towns with a combined population of 3000 compared to a city of over 30,000 (and this excludes students:hammerhead:).

    What's up with this?

    Anybody else have "strange" markets?
     
  2. PSUTURFGEEK

    PSUTURFGEEK LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 579

    Yeah it seems every market is so different and driven by the economy, I used to service an area outside of D.C pretty much all city homes and it was unreal, average lawn size was pretty much dead on 2500m2 and the AAP was like 60.00 you could get in and get out by like 1:30 with 17-1800.00 like it was nothing, on top of that if you didn't get out by then the traffic would get the best of you.
     
  3. ted putnam

    ted putnam LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,541

    1/3 of my customers are in my home town...population of about 4,000. The other 2/3 of my customers are in a city about 8 miles away...population 52,000. I have a lot of competition in the town of 52k though.
     
  4. whoopassonthebluegrass

    whoopassonthebluegrass LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,214

    I live in a mountain valley with a population of about 70k (of you don't count the kids at the university). It's interesting, but the parts of the valley where the old people have congregated are nearly impenetrable! Been advertising them for years and only have a half a dozen accounts.

    You go to any of the newer developments (20 yrs old or less), though, and I have plenty. These pre-planned neighborhoods are just loaded with keep-up-with-the-Joneses types who are desperate to show up the neighbors but have no idea how to do it themselves...

    It's just kinda funny that the old folks are so loyal to whoever they use that I can't seem to get a foothold, even after several years...
     
  5. PHS

    PHS LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 724

    I've had that problem before. It seems to me like each town has it's own character and either me or the company or something else just didn't mesh up right to sell a lot of work in some towns. Sometimes I think it's just a matter of "work begets work". If you're in the neighborhood working the momentum builds on itself, your trucks get seen, people are talking about you, you're spending more time there so you get to know everyone and it get's real easy to sell work etc. Meanwhile the next town 10 miles over, you're never there because you don't have very many customers to begin with so it's hard to reach that critical mass that you need to build positive momentum.

    From my experience, in order to crack that market that you're not doing very well in you really have to dedicate to it. Not just increased marketing dollars but be in the area networking with people. In one area I got on a municipal advisory board and did some talks at local nurseries and in a fairly short time I really saw some postivie results from the effort.

    I know you have a large operation, how many people do have that focus on sales?
     
  6. PHS

    PHS LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 724

    That might be a blessing. I got into a high end retirment community for awhile and the money was pretty good but the constant phone calls and the long talks every time someone was on the property really started to takes it's toll after a while:).
     
  7. JohnnyRoyale

    JohnnyRoyale LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 616

    I built my business smack dab in the middle of two big cities (Toronto and Mississauga). Lots of business, lots of competition. I moved to a smaller city just an hour North of Toronto 8 years ago when I got married, and brought my business up with me last year. This is our first year of chasing work up here and I find theres plenty of it, and good prices with very little competition, zero traffic, and great labour force. I still have my work down in the city, but slowly making the move to stay 100% north.
     
  8. Ric

    Ric LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 11,957

    PHS

    I deal with nothing but High End retirees here in Florida. Yes nothing to do and all day to do it, so yes they can be a PITA at times. But they are also in Country club gated communities and talk a lot at the club. The one nice thing is their BMW thinking, If it cost more it has got to be better.You have to produce for them and the same time sell your self. These customers are the best I have found. Word of mouth means no advertising expense and easy sell jobs for full service fert & squirt. They all want the gold plan which includes 14 treatment per years divided between turf and shrubs. I make a point of not charging extras and the payments roll in on time or ahead of time from on line bank payment plans like clock work. BTW These are large homes on small water front properties, so I can afford only the best chemicals.

    So for a tight route, better price, smaller property, great cash flow, and no advertising expense; I can deal with an occasional PITA phone call. In Fact I jump at those calls and carry my cell phone 24/7. Many times being able to just talk to someone about the perceived problem takes care of that problem. So it is more about salesmanship and niche marketing.

    A quick story. For 3 years I kissed butt of a very demanding retired Doctor and finally quit him when he became too overbearing. He went straight to the club and Bads mouthed me. But everyone knew what a PITA he was. They also know me and my work. It became the club joke for a short while about how anyone could keep the old guy happy for three years was amazing. Best word of mouth advertising I ever had. I still get work off of that.
     
  9. americanlawn

    americanlawn LawnSite Fanatic
    from midwest
    Posts: 5,860

    Ric -- That's killer! about the retired doctor:laugh:. And I wouldn't be surprised if he calls you to resume service sometime soon.

    PHS -- We have no salesmen or telemarketers. We figure if they want us, they can mail or fax their sign-up form. I know we have lost much business this way, but we hate making phone calls. Plus the more you try to talk somebody in to taking your service, the more likely they will price shop next year.
     
  10. greendoctor

    greendoctor LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 9,128

    I do not advertise or otherwise do any cold call sales. It is essentially not worth it here. There are too many A$$hole DIYers in Hawaii. A lot of them are amazingly set in their ways for being so young. Or they are locked into using the "landscaper" who installed their landscape, no matter how mediocre the maintenance is.
     

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