‘Cautiously Optimistic’ Doesn’t Mean Complacent

It’s another new year—one that will hopefully prove to be productive and profitable for all of us. If things unfold according to what the experts are forecasting, the Green Industry should climb a bit further out of the hole it fell into a couple of years ago.

Most major lawn mower manufacturers anticipate sales growth this year. OPEI expects commercial riders to grow 10%. OPEI also projects modest growth in consumer rider shipments, along with the usual 5-8% growth in handheld equipment. Even manufacturers of construction equipment (AEM) are anticipating double-digit sales growth in 2011, and even bigger gains in 2012 and 2013. That’s right—things are looking up.

You have to remember one thing, though: Demand for commercial mowers has been sliced in half since 2006. So while things are indeed looking up, it’s still very competitive out there. It’s a buyer’s market, and both homeowners and landscape contractors realize that.

Homeowners and contractors are also coming to the realization that value goes way deeper than price. Yes, price point is very important, which is why many manufacturers have made sure to include “affordable” commercial-duty machines in their product lineups over the past couple of years.

Now we’re also seeing the addition of “super-duty” models that are a bit more expensive, but will also last a long time. That’s because consumers, namely professional contractors, understand that you get what you pay for. And since many contractors are looking to get another year or two out of a mower, they’re more receptive to a sales message that revolves around the concept of total ownership cost, not just sticker price.

When selling to contractors, remember that they’ve also been hit hard, financially speaking, the past two years. They’re struggling to hang onto customers and recover overhead. Many have had to let employees go, so the employees who are still working are working longer and harder than ever. Creature comfort features that can help improve safety and productivity will resonate loudly this season.

Smart contractors are also looking to strengthen vendor relationships. Just like dealers have focused on their vendor relationships and streamlining their businesses over the past 10 years, leading landscapers are now looking to do the same. Conveying and displaying your ability to make a contractor’s life easier and help him improve his profitability is extremely valuable right now.

Here’s the thing. Most consumers are working and have money. Most lawn maintenance contractors are busy and have money. You just have to give them a reason to come spend some of it with you this season. Good luck!