You can start growing your residential maintenance and/or lawn care business when you stop ignoring these four critical marketing considerations, says Mike Dauer of Real Green Systems.
1. Identify Your Budget Early
Quickly identifying how much you are capable of spending on a direct marketing effort will allow the other pieces to fall into place much more seamlessly.
Start with an amount equal to 8-12% of your total annual sales from the previous year. This is the amount many successful lawn care operators spend on their total marketing efforts each year, Dauer says.
Next, determine how much you’re going to need to spend on other components of your marketing campaign. These could include yard signs, door hangers, phone book ads, paid online listings, your own website, etc. Total this amount and subtract it from the number you came up with in the above paragraph. This will give you the amount you should have available for a direct marketing effort.
2. Identify Your Strongest Locations
“Generate a report that shows you how many customers you already have—by zip code,” Dauer advises. “This is not guesswork. You must run a report to get the exact information you need.”
Building route density is a highly effective strategy for lawn care operators, which is why this information is important. “It makes sense to focus on those areas where you already have a lot of customers,” Dauer points out. “Half of the contractors I’ve worked with couldn’t tell me their top five zip codes. Don’t be one of those contractors.”
3. Analyze The Housing Market
Are home values going up or down in your area? This is important because, in a depressed real estate market, the owners of newer, more expensive homes might not be the hot prospects you think they are.
“You might be better off targeting older, more established homes and neighborhoods,” Dauer says. “In the past two years, I’ve found that the more established areas (homes built in the 1970s to 1990s) have homeowners who are still willing to pay for a lawn care contractor. On the other hand, people who’ve built new homes in the past few years are often strapped to their homes and don’t have the disposable income for lawn care.”
4. Weed-Out Bad Leads
Once you’ve identified your strong zip codes and areas you want to market to, you can ask your list provider to give you a mailing count. But your work is still not done.
“Ask the data provider if they can break the list down by home value,” Dauer says. “How about lot size? You need to weed-out the homes that don’t fit your target customer profile before investing a lot of money in a huge list.”
Be on the lookout for foreclosed homes. When you mail to a vacant home, you’re wasting money. You also want to be able to weed-out renters, who obviously aren’t in a position to hire a contractor.
“You have to double-check any list before you buy it and market to it; that’s the bottom line,” Dauer says. It’s typically free to do an assessment before buying a huge list—so it’s really up to you.