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What is more important: Reputation or Advertising Budgets?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by DFW Area Landscaper, May 17, 2005.

  1. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Posts: 2,116

    I know some guys on here insist that word of mouth advertising is by far their number one method of gaining new clients.

    I would guess that over 95% of my clients are finding me via a paid advertising source...door hangers, truck signage and yellow pages. If I were relying on word of mouth to gain new clients, I would have failed at this business a long, long time ago. It just doesn't generate new clients for me.

    So my question is this: Does reputation even matter? It's a given that if you do **** work and provide ****customer service, the customers won't tolerate it and they will cancel. It's impossible for an LCO to stay in business and do schitty work.

    When a customer finds an LCO via a paid advertising source, they have no idea what your reputation is. Since 95%+ of my clients have found me via a paid advertising source, should I conlude that reputation does not matter?

    Two questions:
    1.) If you have to choose between one and the other, and I'm not saying you do, but if you had to choose between a good reputation or a good advertising budget, which would you choose? And why?

    2.) What percentage of your clients found you via a paid advertising source? What percentage were word of mouth? (Note: I don't count a neighbor who sees you working and asks for a quote to be a word of mouth client.)

    Later,
    DFW Area Landscaper

    language
     
  2. GreenUtah

    GreenUtah LawnSite Senior Member
    from SLC, UT
    Posts: 866

    I'm guessing that would depend on your client type. Large corporate and governmental clients will not hold much value in your marketing pitch if there is not experience and references to go along with it. The masses? The example set by the largest US lawn company says marketing counts more than reputation..and you should thank them for creating the market and leaving giant holes in customer satisfaction to be filled by the companies willing to put their service first.
     
  3. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,181

    I think there is a lot of factors. Some of us don't wanna outgrow a small operation.
    A lot of it depends on where your from too. 90% of my business comes from word of mouth or refferals from the landscape materials center. I put a nice ad in the paper. Got a bunch of calls but seemed to be just price shoppers.

    If your happy with size of your business and your running near full why would you pay to advertise?? If you need more customers and the phone aint ringing you better spend all you can advertising. My truck signs have worked a bit. Got a few off people seeing me work. Most just call and say well so and so reffered me. I may go for the yellow page ad next year when I'm ready to go full time.

    Bottom linne is no matter what you spend getting customers the only thing that's gonna keep em is good work and a good rep. Why spend money getting customers if your not going to work to keep em? Seems stupid
     
  4. Markf

    Markf LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 407

    The question, both parts are inter-related and, in my opinion cannot be separated. If you are small or just starting out, marketing and advertising are a must. How else will you generate the revenue to keep your company and yourself afloat. However, part of your marketing should ALWAYS be that you do quality work regardless if you are big or small. (what constitutes the difference between big and small , I do not know. Any suggestions? Is it $ or # of employees. That is another thread.) Once your business starts to grow though advertising, it stands to reason that a number of clients that you picked up through advertising, if your quality is good, will give out the referrals. You get enough of that over time, you will not need to advertise. Although I would never stop to advertise and market yourself. I hope this helps.
    Mark
     
  5. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Posts: 2,116

    Pro-scapes,

    I have found very little correlation to happy customers and them staying on the schedule long term. The number one reason a customer cancels service in my area is because they want to start doing it themselves...they've decided to spend the money elsewhere. The number two reason I lose customers is because they have sold their home.

    I always ask customers when they cancel if they are cancelling because of a quality issue. I lose very few customers to that reason.

    Some customers will cancel because they're not happy with the service, but it's not a quality issue. Example: Some cancel because they can't stand the thought of the lawn being mowed every week in April. They want to dictate the mowing schedule. I've lost a customer because she thought lawn mowing should have included cleaning up enormous amounts of leaves for free. Some cancel because they think our lawn applications are making their dogs sick. Some cancel because they think our applications are causing asthma with their kids. Some cancel because they think all the poa annua, fescue and dallisgrass should be killed with the very first application. Some cancel because we charge too much to trim shrubs and clean beds. But far and away, the number one reason people cancel service is because they want to spend the money differently. Maybe they just got laid off. Maybe they have a big wedding to pay for. Whatever. The number one reason I lose customers is out of my control.

    Bottom line is, if you are in business, you are going to get cancellations. There is just no getting around it. You have to have a way to replace those cancellations or the business will die.

    I have found that reputation pales in comparison to advertising budgets. And when customers find you via a paid advertisement, your reputation doesn't even matter. They aren't calling you because they've heard about you. They are calling because you have offered your service and they are interested.

    Later,
    DFW Area Landscaper
     
  6. BCSteel

    BCSteel LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 876

    My advertising budget...$0 My work schedule...Full, 7 years running. Customer turnover not under my control... less than 10%. WOM is my only form of advertising and I turn down enough work to hire someone on full time every year. Why you may ask, I like being the small guy.
     
  7. jbell113

    jbell113 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 654

    Im with you on this DFW I have had very little luck by word of mouth and run solely on yellow page ads. The people in my area want someone dependable....I dont think many of them care about quality but when you say your going to be there on a certain day you better be there......reliable and dependable is where its at in my neck of the woods.
     
  8. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Posts: 2,116

    JBELL,

    When these customers find you in the yellow pages, they have no idea if you are reliable or not. A company in the yellow pages is assumed to be reliable by most consumers, but it's not like they heard about you from someone who knows you are reliable.

    When I first got into the business, this old man told me succes in this industry was very simple: Just show up when you say you are going to. I wish succes in the lawn mowing business were that easy.

    Later,
    DFW Area Landscaper
     
  9. DennisF

    DennisF LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Florida
    Posts: 1,381

    Your work is your calling card. No other form of advertising will produce better results than your reputation. Unfortunately...the opposite is true if your reputation isn't top drawer.
     
  10. Kelly's Landscaping

    Kelly's Landscaping LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,259

    Advertising budget helps the only thing that drives me nutts its there is not enough time to grab up all the fish you catch with the ad blitz. I run into times when I got 40 people wanting estimates as soon as possible and I have to get the work done so I have to let them slip away. Rep is a good thing but I think Rep means different things to different landscapers. To me I do the best job I can and after May we are usually pretty reliable with the same cutting day week after week. We charge a fair price and we are polite too most people we are very knowledgeable and it shows when we are asked all sorts of questions about their lawns and shrubs. I like that Rep the Rep I could not care less about is with pitas I fire a few every year I get backed up and some jobs cancel before they will let us get there or I get someone try to stiff me and they do not like my collections methods. We try to call people back but some call you 2 dozen times for nothing and you have to make a judgment call sometimes are they worth this.

    Does Rep matter yes is it important when they are looking for a landscaper, not really most do not even know you. If you see the industry leader in this trade their Rep is awful yet they do like 1.5 billion a year. McDonalds does not make the best hamburgers yet they have been #1 for as long as I have been alive. Clearly advertising can go a long way to overcoming a bad Rep. I think if I was happy where I was I would still spend 3 k a year just to maintain our size as with house sales and competition we do lose 10-20 accounts per season.
     

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