The first year you start your lawn care business can be pretty rough. You spend quite a bit of money on equipment and marketing in the hopes of maybe breaking even that year. But once you get into your second year, you really want to start to hunker down and make some profits. You want to see that this business can and will make you money and provide for you and your family. But what are some of the steps you need to take to do that? That is the question presented to us on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum.
A second year lawn care business owner wrote “I am starting my 2nd year doing full service lawn care for residential customers. And have a few questions and would love some comments.
Last year I had 3 contracts and tons of people asked if I would take on there yard also and I turned them all down. I was doing these yards as a favor. The reason I kept turning down everyone was that I really didn’t have the time and I was really into doing just installs maybe twice a month where I profited $250 to $500 on just small jobs.
But this year I have decided to go full time and try to quit my other job. I have set my full service lawn care price at a average of a dollar a minute. Most of my yards take 35 minutes to do from time I pull up to the time I leave. So I have been charging $35. Do you think this is a good price to charge?
I have seen two other companys in my area advertising lawn cutting for $50 dollars to do the exact same thing for the same yards. I personally think this is highway robbery. However, I have never seen either of these companies work or their trucks in the area.”
One lawn care business owner responded “so you’re basically charging $60 per hour? That seems a little high, yes. We would never be able to get away with that in my area and we service the most wealthy areas of our state. My advice is to do a ton of research regarding your competitors. Get a friend or relative to call 10 or 15 of your competitors. Make a list of the questions you want them to ask each lawn care business owner who comes. For every ‘report’ they create for you, give them a free week of service or something, for their time. That’s the best way to see if your prices are too high for your area or not.”
Question 2: “I have been distributing flyers to my top choice neighborhoods. I have received a response of around 1%. I have also taken the advice from my 3 customers from last year to put magnet signs on my truck. They kept getting other neighbors coming to their door asking who I was and how to get a hold of me.
I also had put ads up on craigslist but so far this year I have pulled them do to all the spam mail.
What else do you think I could do to get more advertising out?”
A business owner responded “I’d keep the ad on craigslist and promote your phone number instead of showing an email address. A lot of lawn care business owners get positive results from craigslist and furthermore it’s free.
If you really want to look professional and make a go of this full time, you should really get your truck professionally lettered with your logo, company name, website, and phone number on your truck. Make it look like a ‘fleet’ truck. That is, make it so professional looking that people just assume it’s one of 10 trucks you own. That’s what I did back when I had just 2 pickups. And even back then everyone always told me, ‘I see your trucks all over town! How many guys you got now??? You guys must be growing like crazy!’ Little did they know, I just had 2 trucks. But because they were professionally done, it LOOKED like I had lots of trucks. Lettering doesn’t have to be expensive either. Once the design is done (costs $100-$300 maybe) then lettering shouldn’t be too much. We pay around $150-$200 per truck, total. I would go with vinyl lettering versus magnetic signs. It simply looks more professional.”
Question 3: “What else do you think I could do to get more advertising out?
Right now I have 10 contracts. I would like to increase this number to 15 contracts for the rest of the month to help pad my cash in the bank. But I would like to have 40 customers by June. Do you think this is reasonable? I have been putting out 400 flyers every week. For the last 2 weeks. I plan on hitting the same houses again in the 1st part of April.”
A lawn care business owner responded “Flyers are good. I basically built my business in the early days with just flyers. Target the neighborhood where you ALREADY have clients. Also, don’t be afraid to do the same neighborhoods over and over. I used to pick certain key areas I wanted to be in and I’d go out and layer those areas with flyers every three months. At first, I thought people would get annoyed by that. But you know what? People get so many flyers they often don’t remember, three months later. I never once got a call from someone upset because I had already left a flyer a few months back. But I DID get a lot of business from it. Sometimes I’d flyer the same houses five times before I’d get a call. It’s just a matter timing. Flyers work, if you work it.
What about a website? Do you have a website? If not, I’d make that your next priority. And don’t bother, unless you’re going to make a really nice one. Your website should make you look bigger and more impressive and more experienced than you really are. There good website designers who are fairly affordable, if you just look. But make sure you get a good one. Don’t just rely on your judgment for this. Ask the designer for samples of sites they’ve done and ask others, ‘Do you think this website looks nice?’
Then get into marketing the website. Make little yard signs. Simple 10″ x 10″ signs you leave in your customers’ yards (with their permission of course) that say, ‘maintained by XYZ Lawn Care. 555-555-1212.’ Simple. But this works. I used to do this a LOT back in the beginning.
Leave business cards on the poster boards at local restaurants, grocery stores, ice cream shops, etc. Where I live, about 1 in 5 establishments have some sort of poster board for local businesses to leave their business cards. Take advantage of that! It’s free!!!
Check into those internet sites that offer to send you leads. Read up on the different companies out there and see which gets the best review. These companies may not be for everyone, but if you use them right, you can get a LOT of leads and new customers from such companies. We probably get half of our new lawn maintenance accounts from such services.
I think your customer goal is very reasonable, if you keep all this up and take some of the suggestions you’ve been given here. Keep in mind marketing should be a multi-faceted thing. Don’t just count on one thing (e.g. flyers) to bring in all your new leads. If you want to grow fast, you should be doing SEVERAL different things to bring in new business.
And as for Craigslist, I have found it can be worth wading through a little spam if it means you’ll eventually get one or two accounts this season. It’s not that hard to hit the DELETE button, and it’s free. Spam isn’t that big of a nuisance. I know plenty of people who get decent work from Craigslist.”