Because the company is able to take a project from ground zero to completion, Payne says designers can ensure that driveways and sidewalks are incorporated into the overall theme and functionality of the project. The proper plantings are chosen, irrigation systems are designed for proper coverage, and maintenance concerns are well-thought-out. Other issues such as drainage, proper placement of water features, pools and shade structures are not only functional, but add to the overall aesthetics of the project.
“Being able to fully maintain the project becomes easier for our crews, and is a huge selling point for customers,” Payne points out. “There is no finger pointing as to which contractor did what. If there’s something wrong, we fix it—plain and simple.”
Just like with a stock portfolio, diversification can help you weather the ups and downs of changing market conditions. TenderCare has certainly found that out in the past year. The area experienced a considerable amount of moisture in 2007, resulting in stagnant irrigation repair sales. Due to the wet weather, landscaping was also relatively flat. But maintenance and lawn care were strong. “We rarely see two or more departments that are weak in a particular year,” Payne says.
Being highly diversified has also allowed TenderCare to attract skilled employees because it’s easier to keep them fully employed year-round. Crews are cross-trained so they can help out another department that is particularly busy. “Last year irrigation repair techs were helping out with pruning, lighting and drainage work,” Payne recalls.
The biggest benefit of being diversified, naturally, has been the opportunity for upsales. As Payne points out, each of TenderCare’s departments has helped the others prosper.
“We often get a call for a landscaping design and have the customer view a company DVD or visit our website,” Payne tells. “Many tell us they were unaware we could do so many things. We end up installing a cook center and large flower pots along with the landscape.”
TenderCare Lawn & Landscape provides extensive training to salespeople and managers on how to effectively up-sell additional services to existing customers. “This can be so much easier than trying to find new customers,” Payne says.
FEED THE MONSTER
Nonetheless, growing a company like Payne and his staff have done definitely requires some aggressive marketing. Word-of-mouth helped get the business moving, but eventually had to be supplemented with both traditional and non-traditional advertising.
“As we began to really grow, we found that to maintain our current expectations and sustain our growth, we needed to attract new customers from outlying neighborhoods and areas,” Payne says. “As we often discuss in our weekly staff meetings, a business evolves into a monster—and you must constantly feed that monster to survive.”
Payne says TenderCare has developed a cutting edge use of technology to deliver information to current customers and potential clients. “Our belief is that customers need to visualize the beauty we create,” Payne explains. “The use of television commercials and the new digital billboards offer a great resource to show off many of our unique services and projects.”
TenderCare also has a very informative website, featuring seasonal information and advice, along with featured projects and award-winning designs. A special nursery section allows consumers to learn more about the popular plants TenderCare designers incorporate into their plans.
Similarly, a DVD has been developed to allow prospective customers to view any of the services TenderCare offers. There’s even a customer testimonial chapter. “Most clients tell us they watch the DVD from start to finish and end up sharing it with a friend,” Payne says.
A four-page newsletter, sent via email and/or regular mail, helps customers learn more about TenderCare staff members. The newsletter, published once in the spring and again in the fall, also offers design tips and seasonal information that reminds customers of what issues may need to be taken care of. Special offers and award-winning landscapes are also highlighted.
Payne says the bi-annual newsletter has been an effective marketing tool because it helps reinforce the personality of TenderCare Lawn & Landscape. The same can be said for community work.
“Many of our employees grew up in this town, just as I have, so we have a real sense of community pride,” Payne says. “We’ve donated several hours of labor to help with various projects.”