how much population and years to be full time?

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by David Gretzmier, May 2, 2009.

  1. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,645

    After doing Landscape lighting stuff as part of a landscape maintenance and install business for 20 plus years now,

    I've been dabbling at this thing a little more serious for a few years now, trying to build a full time landscape lighting schedule for myself and a worker from March 1 to sept 1, our essential off season for Christmas lights. We have 500,000 folks in 2 counties, and if only the top 1% get lights ( not necessarily true), that is 5000 potential customers. I have addresses of the top 1% income folks for postcarding, and that number is about right. I really only need 3 small to medium ( 16-40 fixtures) jobs a week, for 5 months, or about 23 weeks. that is only 60 jobs per year. Based on a reasonable close ratio of 30% ( but I tend to close closer to 40 ) that would mean I would need 180 bids per year to get those jobs. so given the revenue for those jobs would be in the neighborhood of 350k, is it reasonable to say that 10 percent, or 35k in marketing cost would yield you that many bids/closed jobs? is that a self sustaining machine? I probably see 40 bids per year and am closing maybe 25, but then that was last year and this year is way slower.

    I have dabbled in postcards but always end up doing less because I tend to treat the profits of my Christmas light business ad the savings account that gets me to the next season, so I never risk the kind of dollars it may take ( 5k per month? 7? ) to truly get enough bids to close enough jobs and so forth.

    anybody out there got a feel for where the number should be? I would rather have a business that markets more and has more sales, but I guess I am afraid to spend that first 35 grand to see what happens. any thoughts ?
     
  2. The Lighting Geek

    The Lighting Geek LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 875

    I frequently chat with friends of mine in the marketing business about what you posted. Most people do not spend enough money in marketing of some fashion to keep the leads coming in. Marketing is a broad term which can include many things not always thought of as marketing. It is a fact that all of the people in my area that are in business for themselves (different trades) who have been consistent in their marketing, are the businesses doing better than most. In landscaping it is even more obvious by looking around at the home shows.

    I would not hesitate in investing more in marketing, and I plan to do just that. I am marketing as much I can and will take every opportunity to do so. It has had a tremendous effect on the quality of my leads and my closing rate. ( I am getting 8 of 10 right now) I will tell you that I am almost always the highest bidder, but IMHO I bring more than just fixtures to the table. I believe the people who are looking for lighting are looking for quality, experience, professionalism, and an emotional connection to the person they are going to hire. As long it all makes sense, I have found price to be secondary. That said, my attitude towards marketing is that I am the best with out actually saying it and I assume the client is willing to pay for that.

    Not knowing how each person promotes him/herself, I can only say what works for me. What I am saying in a nutshell is that it matters as much how you are marketing yourself as much as to whom.
     
  3. willretire@40

    willretire@40 LawnSite Bronze Member
    from VA
    Posts: 1,387

    I do not do lighting at all. So if I wanted landscape lighting done I am not really going to price shop it that much. I would proably pick the best salesman b.c IMO most people arent real salesman. If a real salesman comes to give me an estimate He should sell me and I probaly will not get to many more estimates. That is my opinion because Lighting to me is a BIG PLEASURE. I just dont think people shop prices when it comes to something like that.
     
  4. NightLightingFX

    NightLightingFX LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 581

    This is a sensitive issue with me. Maybe most people do not spend enough money in marketing. However, I can assure you MOST people also are pissing money away on marketing too - I know I have. Maybe my philosophy is wrong. but if I spend $1000 on marketing I HAVE to get at least $3000 in gross revenue from that marketing campain with in a year or I can't stay in business. It doesn't make much sense to shell out $3000 and only get $2000 in gross busines. If you spend money on marketing you need to carefully project what that will do for you and if it is worth the RISK. As far as I am concerned there is a huge risk in spending money on marketing. Marketing=risk
    ~Ned
     
  5. Eden Lights

    Eden Lights LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 805

    While your mileage may vary, Your numbers would be a dream come true for me. I have 5000 homes in a 40 mile radius that I might consider my target customers and I spend about 20K a year marketing to just them, the return is only about 1 job per month on average. I close well over 80% after pre qualifying over the phone. Now if I see or hear about a potential project and make a cold call or cold visit the closing rate drops to well below 50%, but that is where I get my work. Many times I will I go back and look and see that the client has been already marketed to by us, but it didn't work. With all that being said, I will be happy with 50 jobs when this 2009 year is over. Good luck and I hope you kill them.
     
  6. NightLightingFX

    NightLightingFX LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 581

    David,
    Since Outdoor lighting is visual, I think the first thing you need to do is get a website promoting your outdoor talents. Do an e-mail newsletter and drive people to your website. If you have to do postcards (personally I hate them) but your website on them. I good website is a great way to create instant credibility.

    As far as what kind of population base one needs to make a living at outdoor lighting. I think it comes down to demographics. Do the high end prospects in your area know about outdoor lighting? do they think it in fasion to have outdoor lighting? Is there enough high end prospect in your area to keep you busy.

    For me I don't think my area, is big enough to keep me busy. I have found a business partner to help me continue "Night Lighting FX." I have to start working for "the man" again. And between me and my partner "Night Lighting FX" will trickle along untill we get those right jobs that help propel us more recognition and more jobs.

    My marketing resources are: networking and building strong relationships with the right professionals, tricking my website out with all my best work, thinking of ways to drive traffic to my website, doing quarterly e-mail newsletters, try to write columns on outdoor lighting, I am going to get involved with a well respected university in their "Landscape Architecture" program teaching artistic outdoor lighting.
    ~Ned
     
  7. Eden Lights

    Eden Lights LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 805

    I just re-read your post, If I was going to spend 35K right now I would give it to a man to go door to door for the next 6-12 months. I was almost there before the slowdown, but once I can free myself and sell full time, watch out! I wouldn't need to advertise any more so blindly.
     
  8. NightLightingFX

    NightLightingFX LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 581

    Eddie,
    How do you market?... Also we have seen pictures of your great work on the forum, but why don't you have a website? I am sure you would have a bitchin website with all of your great work. Surely if you are spending $20,000 in marketing you can afford to create a website. I am just curious on your perspective. I hope this doesn't sound like I am challenging you or any thing like that.
    ~Ned
     
  9. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,645

    I'd have to agree that some marketing is a loss. back when I owned the big lawn care thing, we spent 10 grand on a full color catalog of our company with photo's, info, a basic hand out piece to give potential clients. we got about 2000 or so catalogs, and we may have closed more jobs because of it, but I don't really remember it bringing more leads or business.

    we did a TV commercial that cost about 5 grand over 3 months. lots of folks said they saw it, but no real closed leads that said they saw us on TV and called.

    I spent 5 grand one year for a 3 phase postcard mailing, and got no response on Christmas lights. to be fair, that was my first direct mail piece and I hired a bad company, big mistake.

    The difficult thing is reaching the 1% folks. Direct mail is pretty much the main way to reach your demographic, but after that, what?

    So you send out 5000 postcards monthly to my top 1%. that would cost about 3 grand a month for coated jumbos 9 using an internet one stop shop, a printer, addresser and mailer. and be about 36 grand per year. If I did it in house, I could probably cut that in half. but oh, the work. I attempted to work with the post office and enlist the help of my wife to figure out a system to use the walking route lists, print massive volumes of cards from the internet printing companies, print the addresses and postage ourselves, and lower the overall cost, but it is such an undertaking that my wife gave up.

    But again, who is dropping this kind of money? I spend heavy on yellow pages because I track the leads from it on Christmas Lights, and that 10 grand over 3 different books is worth it. I'm paying a company to develop a website for me, and that is about 1200 bucks this year. I had some really nice bid folders made up last year, another 2 grand ( but then i swapped that work for lights.) That was marketing, our close ratio went up last year to 50% on Christmas, but was it because of the full color folders?

    I really wish we had a nite time decor or lighthouse, or some landscape lighting franchise person here to tell me what to spend and what to expect. Or I just need the testicular marketing fortitude to just commit to 3 grand per month in postcards and do it for 12 months starting now and see what happens. pretty gutsy move for a guy with very little work on the board, but what else do you do?
     
  10. NightLightingFX

    NightLightingFX LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 581

    David,
    I have to challenge you. If you want to get to the next level of outdoor lighting why don't you get a website? With today's technology it seems like having all your marketing info at a fingers touch away is much more efficient than printing stuff up and snail mail. Maybe post cards work, but you have to mix thing up. You also need to stay on top of the most current technology, IMHO
    ~Ned
     

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