8,000 lawn care customers and want more, but how? Pt.2

To continue on with our discussion on direct mail marketing from the post on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum a member wrote about her attempts to help push her lawn care business past the 8,000 customer number.

She wrote “The 300K mailings we send out per year is not 100% targeted. I would say maybe 20% of that is targeted. The rest just went to any homeowners we got from our mailing list supplier. I would love to do just the 100% targeted and do a split test on my marketing material. But I have found it very hard to get people to change their habits especially when it comes to their marketing and all this has to be approved by my boss who seems to not welcome change.

I have been trying to compare the results of previous Spring campaigns over the last 2-3 years. Each year the piece that was sent was very similiar with little changes. This year I want to completely change it up because I believe we need to focus more on how everyone looks at things. Like what is always said about marketing, you need to catch the readers attention within the first 10 seconds, if you fail to do that, your marketing material will most likely find it’s way into the trash.

Looking at a printed piece of marketing material that has a too much information on it, may be speaking over their heads. There is no way I would even attempt to read the marketing material this company previously had sent out. This time around, I am trying to make it more eye catching and easier to read for those that may be a first time homeowner and have no clue what it takes to get their lawns looking great.

When it comes to newsletters, we send our customers email newsletters from our email database. I tried to get a hardcopy newsletter mailed out a couple months ago, where the technicians would leave it with every stop, but they never did it. We are going to start the hardcopy newsletter again next Spring and a new one will be going out with each of our 7 fertilization spray rounds.

A lawn care marketing expert responded  “To improve your response rate, I would definitely target ALL of your mailings. By doing this, not only will you significantly increase the response you get, you will do this even if you don’t change anything else.

If you really want to increase your response, you MUST do more than just branding. If you’re targeting your mailings, then you already know you’re sending your piece to people that are qualified and interested in what you have to offer.

However, you’re probably not the only one communicating with them. So you’ve got to do more than simply capturing their attention. Yes that’s important too, but you’ve got to differentiate yourself from your competition and there’s no way you can do that with the same tired old marketing everyone else is using.

Don’t be afraid to use more text than what you think you should because IF you are targeting your prospects correctly, assuming you capture their attention within the first 10 seconds, they’ll read what you have to say.

Now that’s not to say you write a whole bunch of fluff they won’t read. You write as much as it takes to convince them to take you up on your offer, which should be a very low-risk offer that allows them to identify themselves as someone interested in what you have to offer.”

The member then responded “I tried running my marketing plan by my boss yesterday. I don’t think she will go along with it. Her concern is that the purchased lists are not accurate.

For example: We send out to only the targeted homeowners with our qualifications. So this means one person on a block may get our marketing material but what happens to the neighbor that didn’t get one? My boss’ view is that the other larger lawn care companies are going to send mailings to everyone, so they WILL receive a piece from them and not us. I told her if the homeowner that received our mail piece becomes a customer, the neighbor will see our trucks & techs working on their neighbor’s yard. They will also see our yard signs. If our customer is happy they may even refer the neighbor to us.

I don’t know what else to do to try to convince her that we should go more targeted. She’s done it her way for 10 years. She knows what her response rate should be if she mails so many pieces. I am continuing to draw up my plans to show her the possibilities, but I have a feeling it will go in one ear and out the other. They brought me on because I have the marketing experience and all of the new ideas and plans but she is very hesitant about letting go.

We do have an in house mailing list that we work every year. We also purchase a list, it is targeted towards only single family dwellings. Last spring this company tried doing a ‘tiny bit’ of targeted mailing. They targeted 2 different groups. Homeowners with income of $50,000 and homeowners with income of $70,000 with a home value of $100,000. But it was maybe 20% targeted. So some of those that were targeted may have only received the piece once.

As far as direct mail goes, this is what we SHOULD be doing. I would ideally like to target in on a specific area every week to 2 weeks. Not concentrate on the WHOLE metro area. I would take it one zip code at a time. Analyze the needs in each area and focus my mail pieces on them. I would concentrate my efforts on tightening the routes to help make the techs become more efficient. Currently we cover about 70 zip codes. Out of that, 20 of them have a good to decent penetration rate. We could make it even better by focusing on it further. I would like to rotate focusing on each area about 3 - 4 times a year.

When I say I would analyze the needs of each area this is what I mean.

Example: In the NE part of the city the ground is mosty a sandy loam. In the SW part it is clay. Just like in any city there are areas where the homes are more high class. Those areas normally have more to their landscaping. We could offer a special on plant health care. Each area has something distinctive about them, so I would focus on that quality. On the east side, the homes are older and smaller. On the north side they are expanding and new subdivisions are popping up all the time. Each area has more of one type of grass than the other. We could put a focus in the spring on Bermuda hydroseeding for the area where Bermuda grass is most popular. In the fall we could focus on the Fescue hydroseeding for the area where fescue is most popular.

While I am battling with my boss to institute these changes I am also working on other methods to improve our marketing. I have optimized our website for the search engines, so we are starting to get a steady stream of customers finding us on-line.

I am in the process of hiring a sales manager. I want to have it where I will be able to work with the sales staff on contacting homeowners associations. I also want them to go to other businesses that could be connected to us, like lawn mower repair shops, real estate agents, builders, mortgage companies, etc. to work with them on sending us referrals.

Next year I would love to have an ‘open house/family day’ where we invite our current customers to the shop for a day of fun and information and to help them learn more about their lawns. We would have a BBQ, drinks, games, bouncy castles, etc.

Starting in January, I will be creating a hard copy newsletter for our techs to pass out to their customers. It will go out with each round. In the newsletter it will promote a new supplemental for the round, like flea & tick, aerations, seeding, soil testing, etc. This will help the techs sell more supplementals and keep our current customers informed of any changes.

Two months ago I started sending out a ‘Welcome Kit’ to new customers. It is in a nice green folder with our logo on it, saying “Welcome to ____ Lawn Care”. In the kit on one side is a letter welcoming them to the company, our mission statement, a list of FAQ’s. On the other side is information on all the services we offer, along with a brochure on each major program we offer like plant health care and bug barricade. Also included is information on the supplementals that we are currently promoting, a referral card to pass on to friends or family, and our newsletter. I started these welcome kits to help the new customers understand who we are and what we have to offer.

When researching our cancellation history I found that most of the cancelled accounts had been cancelled within the first 3-4 months. If they had been more informed from the beginning, maybe we could have saved the sale.”

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