Tom Borg, consultant
Consultant Tom Borg says research shows that it is 10 times less expensive to sell to your present client base than it is to try finding and selling to a new customer. Photo of Texas contractor Jon Zertuche with a commercial client.
A guy named Russell Conwell used to tell the story of “The Acres of Diamonds.” The story was about a farmer who lived on the banks of the River Indus in Pakistan. He had heard about the fortunes being made by people mining for diamonds in Persia, Palestine and Europe. He decided to sell his farm and take the proceeds to go prospecting for diamonds. As the story goes, three years later he ended up broke and destitute, and fell into a river and drowned. In the meantime, the person who bought his farm discovered, you guessed it, diamonds.
Unfortunately, the original farm owner did not recognize what diamonds looked like in the rough, and did not realize he had a fortune under his feet while he had owned his farm.
Many Green Industry business owners are a lot like that farmer. They don’t realize the potential value they have with their present client base. They do not realize that their present customers have other needs that their business could fill for them. They assume that the best place to look for more business is in “new” customers, spending precious advertising money on monthly coupon mailers; advertising in the local newspaper, chamber directories or business journals; and on website banner advertising.
Advertising to the masses is not a bad idea, but you do want to limit it. That's because it can be very expensive. As Jay Conrad Levinson, author of the book "Guerilla Marketing," has taught us, your ratio for advertising should be divided up so that you spend:
- 10% on the universe (that is anybody and everybody, i.e. ads in newspaper, mailings, internet banners, etc.)
- 30% on a qualified prospect list
- 60% on your present client base
Start learning what your clients need
One of the best ways to sell more to your present client base is to discover what their additional needs are. Start talking with your customers on a regular basis. Start asking questions. As someone once said, “It is amazing what you can learn by just listening.” It also helps to take good notes.
One of my clients, Maverick Property Maintenance, started asking the right questions and making a list of the services their customers were requesting be delivered. Once they compiled an extensive list, they decided which services they could start providing. Some were things they had never considered offering. But given the skill sets of his crews, the company owner knew they could easily provide them. Additionally, these were services other companies were providing. But because Maverick Property Maintenance had already established a trusted business relationship with these customers, the customers preferred that Maverick provide the services.
Some of the services Maverick's clients requested included:
- Shrub trimming, weeding and bed edging
- Tree trimming
- Organic fertilization
- Sprinkler system repair
- Repositioning of sprinkler lines and heads to optimize coverage
- Installation of new sod
- New landscape construction
The amount of money some of Maverick Property Maintenance's clients started spending per year was mind boggling. Some had a five-fold increase.
So what kinds of services can you supply to your clients? Now that the market for landscaping services is much, much stronger, it's a great time to start having these conversations with your existing customers.