Robbins has also continued to generate new residential leads by focusing on referrals from his existing customer base. He says 15-20% of maintenance revenue is coming from new accounts. Robbins Landscaping is hitting existing neighborhoods with direct mail. Job signs (18 x 24) are now posted on all design/build projects; the signs promote the company’s maintenance services with the slogan, “Another happy client relaxes here.”
Prairie Hill’s referral incentive showed some success earlier this year. For each friend or neighbor that ultimately signed a 2011 landscape maintenance agreement, the customer received one free mowing valued at $50.
Out in Colorado, Chris Binkley of Silver Peak Services has really ramped up the incentives in order to generate new leads this year. This Colorado Springs-based company initiated a coupon magazine campaign in April. The mailer goes out quarterly. “The response was unbelievable in both April and June—almost too much to handle,” Binkley says.
The coupons in April and June offered 10% off sprinkler repair. A second, more successful promotion offered four weeks of mowing for $99 with a fifth week free. “We set a maximum of 5,000 square feet,” Binkley points out. “Most of the yards here are 2,000 to 3,000 square feet, so I was comfortable with the price. Many of the residential lots we have are upper middle class. A few are military families where the husband is deployed and the wife doesn’t want to mess with the yard.”
A third successful promotion was a lawn mowing package for $115/month. It included mowing, trimming, blowing, three fertilizer applications, bi-monthly weed control and monthly edging. “This really had a good response and helped us double our accounts from the previous year,” Binkley says.
Customers have been responding well to this type of service bundling in order to get the value they want. As another example, Binkley says there are numerous contractors in his market who perform spring aeration services, but he takes it a couple steps further. “I do aeration, but also offer power raking and spring fertilization.”
Be careful not to “give it away” though
Binkley offers one important note: “The hardest thing we face as a company when offering these types of specials is keeping costs down so we turn a profit for all of the services offered together.”
Robbins issues a more stern warning. “The most dangerous thing we can do is give our services away. When I talk to a client, I explain that we value their business and are confident they’ll be happy with our work—but we just can’t afford to lower our prices, even by 10%. I show them that we must work off of a 10% profit margin in order to sustain our business. If we lower our prices by 10%, we are working for free, and that doesn’t make any sense. We push that ‘one-stop shop’ concept as the added value a client gets from hiring us. Then it’s my responsibility as the owner to make sure the client understands that value.”
In today’s changing market, Robbins says everything has to be about the customer. “Years ago it was all about the work you’d done in the past,” he explains. “That’s great, but now it has to be more about how you are going to solve this customer’s problem.”
In residential maintenance and even small commercial, Meyer thinks clients are looking for someone trustworthy who knows what they are doing and can answer a question when needed. “We make sure our employees are knowledgeable with horticulture, not just how to mow a lawn,” Meyer says.”
In Windsor, WI, the Schall brothers of Greenstripe Lawns & Landscapes say that visibility with clients has been an important part of their early success. “It helps that Adam and I are on properties maintaining quality,” Brandon says. “This makes a big difference in high-end residential. The wife and kids can trust the landscaper. Even the dog can.”
The Schalls started their business a few years ago while still in college. They’ve grown every year, even though things have tightened up a bit over the past year. “Our residential clients are sticking with us, though,” Adam says. “We focus on subdivisions with $400,000 homes and up. When you have families and careers like these people do, you need to hire someone to take care of your lawn.”