If price were the only thing that ever mattered to all customers, every landscaping project would always go to the guy with the lowest prices in town. But that’s not the case. Why? Because some landscape contractors figure out how to deliver the “value” necessary to lead clients to conclude that their prices cannot be beat.
Start by Being a Business Owner
You have to view yourself as a business owner, not just a landscape contractor. Landscape contracting is your trade, but running a successful business is your career. When you view yourself as a business owner, things like professionalism, customer service and operational efficiency become second nature.
Communication is key if you want customers to understand the value you are providing. There are many forms of client communication you can capitalize on.
The owner, or perhaps account manager in a large landscape company, should visit properties at least once a week. This presents an opportunity to not only check on the work the crew is performing, but to touch base with the client. Talk about problem areas, needs and desires, along with opportunities to take corrective action on looming problems.
All good landscape contractors make sure customers have their cell phone number and email. Remaining accessible is very important in this age of instant gratification we live in.
Communication before submitting an estimate or bid is very important. Find out as much as you can about the job and client’s budget. Also, try to figure out who the real decision maker is. Sometimes your initial contact is with someone who is primarily concerned with impressing their boss (or maybe husband or wife) by saving money. But the real decision maker is more concerned about getting the best value for what they pay.
Giving clients a quick “landscaping 101” course can be beneficial. When customers understand all of the necessary steps to accomplish what they want, they can begin to see the value you offer.
In lawn maintenance or lawn care, you’re talking about things like cut height, the importance of sharp blades, proper trimming and edging techniques, how fertilizers and herbicides must be utilized, the importance of aerating and dethatching, etc.
In design/build, you might talk about the importance of quality soils and soil amendments, proper grades, the right plants for the right places, warranty, etc. This helps clients understand the importance of quality at every step of the job.
Showing up on time and returning phone calls seem obvious. But it’s amazing how many contractors are deficient in this area.
Simply do what you say you are going to do. If things change, keep clients in the loop. For instance, a traffic jam can make you late for an appointment. A rain day might knock your crew off schedule. Communicate proactively with the client so they understand what is happening. Never make the client wonder where you are.
Build a Real Relationship
Take the opportunity to get to know clients on a personal level. It’s much harder for people to fire their friends. Also, when a problem arises, jump all over it. When you can show that your primary interest is making the client happy, especially when things go wrong, the client will learn to trust you. And then they can begin to like you.
Present a Value Package
Uniformed employees, clean trucks and good equipment influence a consumer’s confidence level in your organization. Additionally, you can present lists of other satisfied clients to your new clients. Encourage them to visit those properties to view your work. When you show this kind of confidence in your work, the client will adopt that same kind of confidence.
Business cards, invoices, phone and email etiquette, website presentation and social media conduct can all bolster a client’s perception of your company. When you are accurate, consistent and professional from top to bottom, you leave little room for your competitors to place doubt in the client’s mind.
Speaking of “top to bottom,” your employees also represent your company. You need to set a standard of excellence in your company, train to that end, and establish accountability.
Lowballers and overall pricing pressures always have and forever will be thorns in the side of many a landscape contractor. You face a lot of competition, so there will never be a day where you can charge as much as your silly heart desires. But learning how to create value in the eye of the consumer should at least help you avoid engaging in an unsustainable race to the bottom.