How should I deal with a local low baller?

When the economy is slow, there will always be an increase in the amount of low ballers. They may feel their competitive advantage is having low prices, but after a short period of time, if their price is unsustainable, they will close up shop. What should you do though to deal with local low ball competition? That is the question asked on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum. A great response came from it that may help you move beyond them.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I got a call from one of my competitors the other day as we have an agreement not to go after each others clients, which is great. They do great work, and deserve their share. We both agreed that there is one company out here who is bugging the heck out of both of us. They charge incredibly low prices and they are still around from last year.

My ‘friendly’ competitor has been getting calls from their customers asking to lower their price. I have been asked to do the same by my customers. They do ANY lawn for no profit so how are they still around?!?!

My prices were supposed to jump next year, but with these guys around I just don’t know if I will be able to do that. Should I call them up and say, ‘listen, we need to agree on a starting price, a minimum.’ How do I explain to them the negative effects of lowballing? Although the downside to calling them is, it might sound great for them to hear, ‘every other lawn care company is losing clients because of you.’

I’m not exactly sure what to do.

Though I’d assume their lawn care customers couldn’t really complain about quality with such a low price. Maybe they have some quality and a low price. If that is the case it could make things very difficult for me.

I passed them the other day, and saw they are just two guys, not sure about what equipment they use either. I should have took my time when I noticed them, to check out their stripes. The worst part is, because they charge so low, they will need to grab more clients to compensate. Instead of raising their prices and making everyone’s life (including theirs) easier, they’d rather go down this route.

They are really messing up the market. I didn’t think they’d last to this season, but they did. I think I’m going to call them for an estimate. Seriously. I want to get inside of their heads and figure out how they operate.

They just came out of nowhere. They must have second jobs, or something. One things for sure, they aren’t making their business work for them if they have to cut thousands of lawns just to break even.

It’s as if these guys just got out of working for McDonald’s and spent their entire savings on commercial grade equipment, and now they have been getting lucky. They may have impressed a few people in my town, but they haven’t impressed me.

My town used to be a place where quality always came first. Our market is currently destroyed. The bigger companies have even started to lower their prices as well… It’s a real shocker. I’m trying to figure out where I could travel to service properties, that would make it all worth it.

I operate in my entire town, leaving it to service other areas would be too costly. No matter where I go, there are way too many lawn care companies around. Everyone here is a scavenger, friendly on the outside towards other companies, but deep inside - they want nothing more than to see another company burn to the ground.”

A second lawn care business owner said “there are areas around our city that if I get an inquiry, I respond with a ‘we are not able to take on additional work in your area at this time, we do however thank you for contacting us.’ This is due to certain areas being inundated with low ballers.

Low ballers are always trying to get into areas where we are however many of the times they do not have the equipment, professional appearance, or knowledge, to pull it off. I have never lost a client in my life from them but I am wary of entering certain areas that value price over quality. I build relationships with my customers and low ballers tend to do the opposite. Our work is also top drawer.

My advice to you is I would not contact the competition. Let them just burn out from no profit. It will happen. It always happens.

On Friday of last week my crew stopped and I stopper at a local coffee shop. I was pulling our newest trailer which has pretty expensive wheels. The competition had parked beside us while we were inside. When we came out they were having a smoke and their coffee. Their trailer and truck looked like hell. I noticed the front scalping wheels on one of their ZTRs was broken.

This other guy then says to me, ‘is that your setup?’ I said ‘yes it is.’ He said ‘you must have more money than brains to put wheels on a landscaping trailer like that.’ I said ‘well bud you have it backwards, my brains is what gives me the money to afford wheels like that and we don’t beat the crap out of our equipment which is why the clients you are probably after hire us. Just some food for thought, you may want to consider fixing the deck wheels on your ZTR before one of your clients fires you for scalping their lawn….’ We then got in our vehicles and drove away.

Do the best job you can at a profitable and sustainable price. These lowballers won’t last long and will only be able to pickup customers you wouldn’t want in the first place.”

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